black isle

Are you having Christmas locally?

This year I have set myself a challenge to not buy any Christmas presents online. With retail units closing every day this is more important to me than ever before. Amazon won’t pay my neighbours wages, a local business will. In fact, Amazon and co will just lead to more shops in the area closing down. Money being spent locally is good for our local economy, money not spent locally pulls it out of the circle. I can’t imagine Inverness with no shops, what a horrible thought. Not to mention the hassle of returning things bought online, or forgetting to return them in my case and ending out of pocket. Many local businesses also support charities in the area such as food banks so it is a win all round. Last but not least, I love the feel good factor of using a small shop- it is good for my soul.

As well as presents, there is food to consider. During lockdown we made a point of meal planning around what was in the fridge instead of letting it rot so we started spending our food money better. We started using farm shops and thinking more about food miles, seasonality and flavour than before. Since getting back into the work and school routine we haven’t been as good with this but it has definitely changed our shopping habits for the positive. I wanted to share some of the independent businesses that you can buy presents and food for the festive period.

I have been picking up gifts when food shopping to avoid going to so many places. For instance, my local farm shop in Inshes, the Cow Shed at Druid Temple Farm, has local fruit and veg as well as their own meat, locally baked bread and cakes, eggs and milk alongside boozy gifts, charcuterie, hampers and more. Open on Saturdays (and some Sundays in December) they have been a fabulous addition to our community.

Druid Temple sell my favourite Bogrow charcuterie…try the fennel salami and N’duja sausage, you will not regret it. Bogrow are based in Tain but they go to many food markets and events or they can post out some products – perfect for Christmas presents.

Another company that we will definitely be using is Connage cheese pantry in Ardersier. Their cheese room is packed full ready for you to choose your cheeseboard offerings and the staff are really helpful.

Every week you will find an update from Black Isle Brewing co on their Instagram about what organic produce they’ll have in the farm shop. Their beetroot is my favourite and obviously we always end up getting some beer when we are up. Spider Monkey is my new favourite.

Local events are another way of finding gifts and food such as the one at Ross County football ground this weekend. Businesses like Culbokie Cake Fairies and Loch Ness Honey will bring the food alongside artists and trades like Jack Spowart Illustration.

You may also have heard about Farm Ness, a pop up past Torvean Golf Club with a small farm/gift shop and outdoor cafe with tractor toys for the kids. Don’t forget your jacket and gloves.

Bad Girl Bakery in Muir of Ord can do your Christmas baking for you if you are working on Christmas Eve like I am. They are doing a selection of items like layer cakes, tray bakes and Christmas cupcakes for Christmas snacking at its finest.

If you are not a fan of christmas cake on the 25th you could get an ice-cream cake instead from Mieles. And I’m sure you’ll see them near you as they tour the local area. On the subject of Mieles – have you tried their waffles? Delicious.

I avoid supermarket fish counters since watching a documentary a few years ago about re-labelling products. And why would I need them anyway when we have a great fishmonger in the Victorian market, Duncan Frasers. We got deliveries during lockdown, a service they still offer. They have a great selection on the counter and we always keep a bag of their frozen prawns in our freezer for quick pastas and risottos. They also sell game if you get bored of turkey. Closed on Mondays.

Or if you are out Smithton way you can use Fish n Collect to get your fresh fish from the Redshank Catering Co. Along with these there are several fish Van’s like Bells Seafood, Mark’s Fresh Fish and RK Shellfish that do routes around Inverness and surrounding.

Woodwinters will be providing much of our Christmas tipples as they have done in the past. This little shop in Church Street has a large wine and spirit selection, handy for gifts and day drinking alike. If you are torn between gins or clueless about which whisky to get as a gift ask the staff, they haven’t failed me yet.

Black Isle Berries helped us this summer when lockdown was easing. Picking berries was a lovely family activity and the shop is so well stocked. Heaps of veg, fruit, jams, meat etc as well as well made coffee. They had flour when it was hard to get so kept us in sourdough. Now they have the goods to get through winter too and are open until 6pm on the 24th.

In between all of the meat fest, I’ll be ordering some spinach and feta pies from Trome! They are lovely with a salad and the baklava from there is 10/10. He is based in Milton of Leys for collection or delivery. In the absence of a work night out this year we will be treating ourselves to a Trome lunch delivered (to eat separately but it’s something!).

I can remember as a young child going into Duncan Fraser butchers on Queensgate and seeing the cheery trademark statue. Now my daughter says hello to him when we go in, before chatting to all of the staff! This is a true traditional Inverness shop and I love it.

I find that products like chicken go further in a meal from the butcher as they aren’t full of water so even although the initial outlay is more I use less.

If you live in the south-east of Sneck you will find A&I butchers working hard to supply meat, veg and pies.

As I mentioned earlier there is also Druid Temple for meat and I recently tried beef from Cairnurenan Croft, a farm in Muir of Ord, and I was enthused to see the passion that goes into giving the animals a happy life. They sell meat boxes that will keep you stocked up over the festive period.

If you live in or around Nairn then One One Two on the Brae has reopened and they have reinvented the place. They now have a retail side with more than before and some tasty looking offerings to takeaway.

I get excited going into the Drawing Room gift shop in Crown as there are so many nice things to choose from. They have a dedicated child area that is good for newborn gifts and beyond, as well as gorgeous scars, jewellery, mugs, purses etc. A little late but they have beautiful Christmas decorations.

My colleague recently told me about Above The Flame Candle Co. They are a local company selling beautiful products and I might just buy myself one for Christmas.

I can’t miss out Peat jewellery. I found this designer in the Highland Farm Cafe and the jewellery is so wearable – classy and stylish. The fact that it is made locally is a massive bonus.

Most of the farm shops mentioned sell gifts such as alcohol, socks, toys, sweet treats, decorations so perfect for stocking fillers.

I find that the best way to find out when events are on or what new products places have is by following them on social media. Maybe even share a post if it is a product you really like. They might get one extra sale from your share. And boy will they be grateful for it.

IV10 Fortrose

If this isn’t the first post of mine that you’re reading, you’ll know that my family like a day off drive and explore. My parents work hard and growing up Sundays were a family day. We all love holidays so I guess it’s like going on mini holidays to brighten up the week. We often cross the Moray Firth then go along the Fortrose/Rosemarkie/Cromarty road (A832). We go to Rosemarkie beach and Fairy Glen is calling us, or at least the little person. It takes me back to beach days in the 80’s and 90’s at, as I called it, Markierose. We soak in Cromarty’s arty vibe and go dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point. And the day isn’t complete without a coffee, an ice cream or sometimes lunch.

Last year a new place opened in Fortrose called IV10. Granny Foodie and I went for coffee & I knew that I wanted to go back for food.

When you walk in you’re greeted with a display of cakes, cheese and charcuterie – my favourite kind of welcome.

The menu is impressive reading and they are not just playing it safe here. You can tell they have a real love of food. We had decided to share and Miss S is going through her fussy three year old stage so played it safe. Next time I’m digging into a couple of small plates and I’ve definitely plans to leave the car at home so I can try their impressive beer, wine and cocktail list.

We chose one of their wood fired pizzas – a Margherita with rocket. Mr S makes pizzas and is very critical but this one bowled him over. We all loved it. The dough was tasty and seasoned and the toppings were good quality. It went straight into my top three pizzas up here.

The spaghettini with slow cooked traditional ragu made with beef, pork & veal sounded great so we ordered one to share. We were kind of taken aback when it arrived as there was pasta and meat but no sauce. The pasta had olive oil on it so it wasn’t dry but no tomato sauce. My understanding of traditional ragu is that it is cooked in a broth and tomato sauce or tomato purée – I could be wrong though. Am I being really British?!

Anyway, I enjoyed the dish once it had grown on me but I’m not sure it bowled Mr S over. I think it was an expectation thing for him and if he’d known he would have been more keen. My thoughts on it would be to change the description but I’m not sure what wording would be best.

The actual ragu had lots of flavour to the meat and I loved the finer spaghettini instead of the usual spaghetti most places serve. Fresh herbs on top gave it a clean, peppery taste and balance to the rich meat.

We had gone in thinking we wanted fish and chips before seeing the menu so we ended up ordering a side portion of hand cut chips with aioli. They were soft and fluffy inside & crispy and salty outside…perfect. The aioli was also great and full of punchy garlic.

We couldn’t manage a dessert each but wanted something sweet to round off the meal so chose the salted dark chocolate tart. I think it was creme fraiche that it came with (I think we asked if it came with anything so maybe check this) and you needed it to balance out the rich tart. It was so rich and dark and velvety and salty – all round gorgeousness.

I liked it so much that I’ve been back since but they were full so we couldn’t get a table. Somewhere to phone ahead at the weekend. As disappointing as it was that they were full, it’s nice to see small, local businesses thrive and (rather selfishly) I hope that means that they will have longevity because I want to go back.

It was time for a walk along Rosemarkie beach and a play in the park…like it’s 1989.

Jocktoberfest – a barrel of fun 

Ten years ago I went to my first festival. Ten whole years ago- that makes me feel so old! I remember all of the planning- buying an 85 litre rucksack and a camp stove, buying as much cheap booze as we could and getting my wellies on. Most of all, I remember the bubble that we were in when we were there. You become so immersed in your surroundings that you almost forget about the world outside for a weekend and feel totally de-stressed. Dancing and singing in a field makes you feel free, there’s no doubt about it. I love it.

Last month we nipped over to Jocktoberfest and found ourselves back in that place again – feeling free and… singing and dancing in a pile of hay. Jocktoberfest has been going on for a few years now but this was the first time I went. It runs in September every year at Black Isle Brewery and pays homage to good beer, music and food.

They sell tickets by the weekend instead of by the day but they are incredibly good value at £35pp (under 13s go free). We just went for the day but next year I think we’ll do the whole weekend, ideally in a campervan if we can get hold of one.

The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how many children were there-maybe about 15-20 or so. Very family friendly. This isn’t the kind of festival for a group of 18 year old lads to get smashed, create a mosh pit and get rowdy so if that’s you then don’t bother showing up. It’s about appreciating some fantastic live music whilst drinking a craft beer and eating an organic lamb burger. It’s a festival for grown ups, some with kids to tag along. 

We started at the bar, where there was an impressive beer selection to work our way around. My favourite was Anything Gose followed by Goldeneye ale. For non beer drinkers they had cider, wine and a few spirits.

We then lined our tummies for the night ahead by sharing some pizza and a lamb burger. Woodburns Sourdough pizzas had a little wood burning oven to freshly make pizza and you created your own toppings.

The lamb burgers were Black Isle Brewery’s own using their own lambs and we’re full of flavour and juicy. Both were perfect for a night of beer and dancing.

Then it was time for the music to start. Calum Jones, a Scottish 17 year old, put on a superb set and we were mightily impressed. Of course we got our dance on! Definitely a name to look out for in the future.

Calum Jones

It’s not a big festival, and on the Friday night there was just one stage then two on the Saturday. I liked how intimate it felt with being so small and how close everything was. There was plenty of sheltered space if it had rained too.

Weekend Set List 2017

Ho-Ro really brought it with the Jock vibe with a modern upbeat ceilidh style set. Perfect for dancing round in the hay lined barn and the atmosphere was amazing.

We even managed to get a first dance arranged for a couple that had got married that day. Everyone created a circle and it was a lovely touching moment feeling the festival love.

For Jocktoberfest there was less prep, but all of the atmosphere that we could have hoped for. We stepped into that bubble for the night and loved every minute of it. It was a whimsical and free night with some pretty damn good beer, food and music. I felt like I’d stepped back to being young again, not a bad thing once in a while. See you next year.

The Storehouse at Foulis

It’s been a busy time of late at Highland Foodie HQ so I haven’t had a chance to do a full post on our Christmas lunch at the Storehouse of Foulis. But I wanted to get it out before Christmas so that you can try it before it’s too late….
  

We wanted somewhere baby friendly for lunch on the outskirts of Inverness. The Storehouse appealed because they also have a premium food & booze shop on site so it felt like a little day out instead of just lunch. 

It’s about 20 minutes in the car from Inverness following signs to Alness. You’ll see it on the right after the Cromarty Bridge. 

We arrived on the dreicht Wednesday afternoon and the place was heaving. It has a large seating area but we still had to search for a table. Luckily there was a couch free, which turned out to be handy for feeding the babies and pram space. 

It is self service and the queue was long but went down fairly quickly. 
We both opted for the Christmas turkey lunch but were tempted by the homemade soups, beef stew, baked potatoes and salads. 
  

The food was fantastic- much better than I was expecting and not like a self service meal at all. They gave us plenty of white and dark turkey meat, which wasn’t dry, alongside a pig in blanket and lovely stuffing. My favourite bread sauce was followed in the middle, surrounded by carrot, broccoli, green beans and courgette. I particularly liked the courgette and green beans because they still had a nice crunch and you don’t normally see them on a roast dinner plate. I might rethink my veg options this year. My only complaint is that there wasn’t quite enough potato for the amount of meat. Saying that, I just loaded up with veg instead. Finally, I have to mention the cranberry sauce because it was delicious. I’m not one for cranberry sauce after trying to many jellified versions that are lacking in flavour but this one tasted fresh and fruity and the cranberries were juicy with no jelly in sight. 

  
I like a wee Firefly drink too so that earned them bonus points. 

I finished with a rich chocolate mousse and a coffee, albeit two hours after we came in because we were chatting so much. The relaxed nature is a major plus for the informality of self serve – we loved our chilled out afternoon. It can get loud in there because it is such a large room so we felt at ease incase there was a baby meltdown (thankfully there wasn’t!). 

Since we had two babies to contend with, I forgot to take more photos but I’ll do a full post next time I go back. Because I will definitely be back. 

Sutor Creek Cromarty

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I’ve written about Cromarty before here so I’ll not bore you by repeating myself except to say that it is our go-to place for a date day. We love the quaint little place. Last time I wrote about Cromarty it was about a cafe called Coupers Creek & this time the subject is its sister venue, Sutor Creek. 

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I first heard about Sutor Creek online in a write up by The Guardian. It was the only place up north being mentioned so I thought it must be worth a visit. I’ve since seen that they’ve won awards for their Sunday lunch so we’ll try that soon.

Inside it is teeny weeny with about ten tables. We have always gone during the week but I imagine you need to book at the weekend. On this occasion we arrived in the middle of the day so the lunch menu had finished and dinner had not yet started. They run the pizza menu all day & it was the pizza that I wanted to try so I was more than happy. We will come back for lunch because the food sounds great, and I can’t wait to have a steaming plate of mussels in Happy Chappy ale.
Talking of Happy Chappy, they sell the range of Cromarty Brewing Co beers and have a selection of malts for those so inclined.


Now, for the pizza. We shared two between us to try what we could. The ‘Gregors’ pizza (£12.50) had lightly spiced pepperoni mixing with sweet sun dried tomatoes and salty olives. A little red onion provided a sharpness and the basil left a fresh taste. All of this mixed with the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella was just delicious.

The standout quality for me was the base of the pizza, which had been cooked in the real wood fired oven. These are a rarity, and I could taste the difference. The base was crispy and held all of the toppings well.

Our second pizza choice was the Hawaiian (£10), a favourite of mine. A pizza with ham and pineapple is not authentic at all but I love it all the same and, at Sutor Creek, they added Parma ham to the mix. Why I hadn’t thought about doing this before I just don’t know because the Parma ham made this pizza. It took it from ‘that’s nice’ to ‘silence whilst I eat this whole pizza’!

I’ve since been back and had the Hawaiian again but added olives and I’ve decided that this is the pizza for me.

They have now gone down to their winter opening hours so there will be less visits from us Wednesday lunchers but we’ll make time for them elsewhere. They are open on Wednesday nights & all day/night Thursday-Sunday so we’ll swap things around.

I have to mention the selection of cute pottery jugs that they serve water from because it is touches like this that make me like this place.

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I’m starting to feel like an advert for the people who own the two creek places, who I don’t know by the way. I tell people about them all the time and recommend them on here – a happy customer indeed. I’m just passionate about places that are doing things well. Maximum effort and quality ingredients shine through above other establishments with a quiet confidence that is rare.

A Sutor Creek lunch followed by a walk along Rosemarkie Beach is one of my favourite days.

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Couper’s Creek Cromarty 


Cromarty has fast become one of my favourite day off drives since returning to the homeland. I originally fell for its quaint character and houses with tiny doors on the shore and then I was further drawn in by their eateries, gift shops, Cromarty Bakery and arty feel to the place. I just love it.

My ideal drive down this way involves lunch, the bakery and Rosemarkie beach on the way back – maybe even Chanonry Point for some dolphin spotting. 

Coupers Creek Cafe is right in the hub of Cromarty on Church Street, one of those tiny streets. If you are taking anyone with mobility problems then I’d consider dropping them off and then parking the car than the other way around. That applies to most places in Cromarty!

We settled at one of their cute tables and both ordered teas. I’ve had Suki Tea before and really like it – you can’t beat a nice cuppa and a catch up.

The first food to arrive was a peri peri roasted chicken panini with Swiss cheese and sesame mixed greens. I never tasted it but, judging the contented noises across the table, I’d say it was a positive report. A clean plate at the end further emphasised this. £7.50 is not cheap for a panini and salad but the portion was on the large size and they seem to use quality ingredients – I’d much rather pay a little bit extra for this than get something substandard.

My lunch choice was a panini filled with Tain cheddar and seasonal chutney with watercress (£5). The cheese was gorgeous, a proper cheddar loaded with flavour and the chutney was equally tasty with sweet and tangy notes. The accompanying salad (maybe they were out of watercress?) had a lovely sesame oil dressing on it to liven up the leaves.

My lunch date selected a lemon and lime cake from the daily specials cabinet. I was reliably informed that it goes well with a cuppa.

I was eager to try their ice-cream and ended up with the toffee and tablet sundae. They had overdone the skooshy cream on top so it took a while to get through to the good stuff – but when I did it was very good indeed. I’d recommend it if you have a sweet tooth.

After our relaxing lunch we perused the local gifts that they have on sale and bought a couple of wee things before a wander around Cromarty.

I’ll definitely be back to Coupers Creek & have visited their sister venue, Sutors Creek, too. Both of them are worth a visit if you’re in the area or would even warrant a drive down that way.