black isle

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.

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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.