Eating in Scotland

Gardenstown-5857
Seatown houses, Gardenstown Banffshire Coast

Some might think that it is difficult to eat well in Scotland, but I’ve got the ‘now too tight pants’ to prove otherwise. Not to mention the numerous photos that I am sharing with you. The availability of good wines from all over the world didn’t help with maintaining a balanced, healthy diet nor did the clotted cream fudge or the divine chocolates from the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem and Iain Burnett, Highland Chocolatier in St Andrews.

In Fife we stayed at Dairsie Castle and enjoyed gourmet evening meals provided by Christopher Trotter, a local chef and Fife ambassador. Meals were prepared using local, seasonal ingredients including nettle, wild garlic, seafood and lamb. Scottish cheeses such as Crowdie and Clava were served with oatcakes and fresh fruit, the wines chosen by individuals at the Cupar Tescoe. Day trips to seaside villages such as Crail, Pittenweem and St Monans gave us the opportunity to try more local specialities in spectacular settings. Surprisingly, I did manage to get some painting and sketching done in between all the tasty food stops, there is only so much one person can eat 😉

Gardenstown is a fishing village in the highlands, located on the Banffshire Coast not far from Macduff and Fraserburgh. There is no supermarket in the town apart from a small convenience store and only three choices of places to eat: Teapot One, a nice little cafe serving homemade soups and cakes; The Garden Arms Hotel, a cozy little pub open for dinner a few nights a week; and the Harbour View Restaurant, for fine dining near the pier. We ate regularly at the Garden Arms, the atmosphere was cozy and congenial and the owners looked after us well. The Teapot One was the perfect spot for grabbing fresh fruit scones as a snack or an afternoon pick-me up hot chocolate, and the Harbour View Restaurant was a nice change and they served a most delicious sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream. On one wet and misty day we ventured into Macduff to wander around the woodlands near Duff House, it was the perfect weather for sitting down to a bowl of delicious Cullen Skink, a soup of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The smell reminded me of the smoked fish my family in New Zealand served up, one of the few fish dishes I ate as a child.

When staying in Edinburgh I ate at the Cafe Rouge and at the restaurant in The Place Hotel, I couldn’t resist the charcuterie platter or the duck or the mussels or the snails so I tried a bit of everything. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, so why a French restaurant? After a couple of weeks of enjoying traditional Scottish fare and ingredients I was looking for something a little different and I’ve always been a sucker for french food. It wasn’t only the food I enjoyed but the coffee, it was relatively easy to find a decent macchiato or espresso although the service was a little hit and miss in some places, much like here in Australia.

Enjoy!

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In love with Orvieto

Vineyard and Orvieto in the background

Our accommodation in Orvieto
Our accommodation in Orvieto
Our room at B&B Villa degli Ulivi, Orvieto
Our room at B&B Villa degli Ulivi, Orvieto

Our last day in Orvieto and after stressing about money all afternoon because we couldn’t withdraw cash from either of our accounts, we discovered that there was an actual limit of 250 euros on the bancomat machines in Orvieto. Problem solved, we’ll pay our accommodation with Visa and withdraw more money when we get to our next destination. The fees St George Bank charge us are killers – about $75 AUD in conversion and foreign withdrawal fees to withdraw about $2000 over the past 5 weeks. It is the little things that often drive us nuts, however it isn’t enough to spoil our stay in this wonderful hill town north of Rome.

Anyway, we walked into Orvieto at about 7pm this evening, our B&B accommodation isn’t far but it is all uphill, we walked to the nearest carpark and then made use of the escalators to take us to Piazza Republica. It is Saturday night and the town is packed with locals and tourists, the bars and streets are full, Italians think nothing of standing in the middle of the road while carrying out a conversation. We walk towards the Duomo and along Corso Cavour checking out the menus of several restaurants and trattorias, it is the Zeppelin Restaurant menu that gets our attention, variety of choice at a good price and not far from the escalators that brought us into the old town. Lunch had been an excellent selection of goodies ranging from peanuts and olives to panini, all free with the wine that we drank, it was cheap, tasty and we met a couple of wonderful ladies from Brazil and an English author currently living in Orvieto. Although good and filling, lunch had left us seeking a good solid meal of typical Umbrian fare and we found it at the Zeppelin on Via Garibaldi, not far from Piazza della Republica. The girls that served us at Zeppelin were from the US, friendly and helpful they sent us special help when we asked about wine. Our meal was superb, our waiter (Vito?) recommended several dishes, Marty ordered the wild boar with spaghetti and I the Ravioli stuffed with Asparagus and cheese and covered with a black truffle sauce and almonds, the wine recommended complimented our meals beautifully and it was probably the best service we had experienced since arriving in Europe. Our secondi (mains) were pork stuffed with prunes and rosemary and wild boar with olives, tomatoes and red wine sauce, another excellent choice guided by Vito (please forgive me if I’ve gotten the name wrong) and topped off by Grappa and Limoncello. Not once were we made to feel like tourists, it was a fabulous evening and I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who appreciates good food and service. If you think it sounds expensive, think again, for a good bottle of red wine, a bottle of water, 2 first courses of pasta and 2 mains it was only 56 euros, the liqueurs at the end of the meal were ‘on the house’.

Orvieto has been an extremely wonderful and positive place for us to visit, our accomodation is among the best we’ve had in Europe, the rooms and breakfast are very good and the owners are delightful, very friendly and helpful. I booked online through expedia.com.au and the wonderful Bed & Breakfast Villa degli Ulivi is highly recommended through TripAdvisor as well. If you don’t want to walk up the hill (about 10 mins) you can drive and park near the escalators, it is a great location and the rooms are very comfortable – we wish we had booked for longer. Breakfast is an assortment of cakes plus toast, pastries, cereal, ham, cheese and boiled eggs, their coffee is so much better than the majority of places we’ve stayed that we usually have two or three cups.

In addition to the good food and service, Orvieto is a pretty and easy town to navigate, the facade of the Cathedral is one I could sit and stare at for ages, it is truly magnificent and it is a magical sight when the sun is setting and the light changes from bright to warm and golden. Underneath Orvieto is over one thousand caves and/or tunnels that have been used for keeping pigeons, as WWII bomb shelters and many moons ago, for the production or milling of olive oil. The short tour we did was worth the 6 euros they charged, the tour guide had a great sense of humour and was extremely knowledgeable, plus the caves provide a cool escape from the heat of the day. I didn’t make it into the Cathedral or any of the museums open to the public however, the town itself is worth spending time in without having to visit such attractions, we enjoyed people watching over a glass of Orvieto Classico and plate of nibbles/tapas/bruschetta and met the loveliest people while doing so.

If I sound as though I’m rambling I apologise, this is written on a belly full of wild boar, truffles, red wine, limoncello and a tiny sip of grappa so my senses are pretty much overloaded.

Ciao and good night!