highland food

Purchasing The Highlands

One of my favourite things to do when Mr S has a day off is to go for a jaunt in the car and stop for a coffee or lunch somewhere. If this can be in conjunction with a farm shop or shop where I can buy local produce then there will be a big smile on my face. I wanted to write about a few things that we have bought recently on our little day trips that I’d recommend. 
First of all, I have to go to Duncan Fraser & Son Butchers on Queensgate in Inverness. My husband is in love with this place. I think that it’s important that a butcher can be knowledgable and advise their customers. A while back we were looking for some skirt (flank) steak and another butcher didn’t know what it was- we’ve never been back. On the other hand, there is a particularly friendly and helpful butcher in Duncan Fraser’s that Mr S speaks to before coming home with a lump of beef, pork or whatever his current notion is. Luckily he hasn’t come home with any baby pigs as yet! My mum has always bought her steak mince there and the meat we have tried has been excellent. 
   
 

Across the road is the Old Victorian Market, and within that is Duncan Fraser Fishmonger. We try to go here as often as allows- I hate the thought of Tesco being the only place in Inverness to buy fish. They sell cracking prawns, mussels, hake… I could go on but I won’t bore you. They also have a game section so we tried some venison recently. 

Homemade prawn saganaki using Duncan Fraser prawns


Logie Steading is a country estate near Forres, which houses a lovely cafe and shops to tempt you. I’ve written about Logie previously here. My favourites are the gin and coffee, and we had a tasty pate from there too. Logie is a good place to take visitors so they can view local produce all in one place. 

We bought a bottle of Crossbill Gin- this stuff is far harder to buy than it is for me to drink but luckily Logie saves the day again. 

  

Connage Highland Dairy is also somewhere that I’m full of praise for. I am a cheese lover so mum wanted to introduce me to Connage- what did I do before they were in my life?! 

It’s basically a massive refrigerated room of cheese with a side of biscuits and chutney and a cappuccino to drink. Go, go and tell me what you thought. 

The shop is on the outskirts of Ardersier, perfect if you’re on your way back from Nairn, Inverurie, Keith, Inverness airport, Elgin, Logie Steading (above). Let’s face it, I use any excuse so that I can eat more of that creamy black cheddar. 
  

Finally, this was never going to be written without a mention to The Egg Box Shop at Cromarty. I don’t know who John & Donald are but Cheryl & I would like to extend our personal thanks for creating your shop. If you want to extend it to sell other produce, or if you start doing other things please let us know. We almost had you out fixing the car recently but that’s a whole other matter! I never leave Cromarty without stopping for eggs here and they sell the elusive double yokers. 

Where have I missed out? I’ll do regular local favourite posts if you tell me where to find the best places. 

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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I’ve Hopped! : North Hop 2015

You can read my before event piece on North Hop 2015 here if you haven’t already.

North Hop – a beer, gin, food and music mini festival – was THE event in my social calendar this August. It was a chance to go to an exciting, adult only event in Inverness that involved some of my favourite things and, to make it even better, I was going with some of my favourite people. The only fly in the ointment was my abstaining of alcohol due to the imminent appearance of my own little egg but I had taken plenty of tasters along and didn’t rest my feet until after the midnight hour. 

Along with 1500 others, we waited in the queue in anticipation then collected our branded North Hop glasses that came complimentary with your entry ticket. We were all rather confused why we had been given them at the start of the event and not at the end until we went through and realised that these were our tankards to use for the night to sample all the beer.
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We started off downstairs where the main music stage, a host of beer producers and some foodie stalls to feed you through the night were located. Beer could be bought in half pints or schooners (2/3 pint) to allow you to sample as many different ones as possible without ending up on the floor.

First stop was Cromarty Brewing Co as they had developed a special North Hop session IPA with raspberries – a glass of this was included in the ticket price. Mr S billed it as ‘surprisingly nice’ because he’s not usually a fan of beer with a berry type fruity flavour. For someone so serious about beer this is praise indeed. For the record, Cromarty’s beer bottles are regularly found in our fridge & Happy Chappy Pale Ale is one of my favoured tipples so look out for it around the Highlands and even further afield.

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Rock Rose gin from Caithness had also created a limited edition North Hop gin especially for the event. It had notes of strawberry and rhubarb and was delicious. They were selling this along with bottles of their classic gin – something I had seen in bars but not in any shops yet so I treated myself to a bottle for when I can indulge again.

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The world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan (Bavarian State Brewery), were at the event to extend the beer selection to further afield. The drinkers loved the tipple and especially how cold it was. At least two of our party said that it was their choice stand of the night.

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Barney’s Beer from Edinburgh was also a hit, especially the Volcano IPA.

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Thistly Cross cider company were there for those who prefer their beverages more appley than hoppy. I arrived prepared with a cider fanatic on hand to be my tester. She reported back that she liked them all and was very happy with the selection but wanted them colder next year (although she did say that was nitpicking and was raving about what a fab night she had).

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Aye Love Real Food was my first nourishment stop of the night because I couldn’t walk past the scotch eggs a minute longer. I chose one with black pudding and it came with a dollop of mustard mayo. The egg had retained its slightly soft centre and there was a substantial meat layer to keep me going – wonderful. It could only have been made better by slightly heating it up and I’m sure they’d sell more this way in the future.

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The Lochness Inn at Drumnadrochit were also there, selling Highland Crispy Beef. This was a hit with our party – tasty and as crispy as promised with the added crunch of veg. I tried some early on but when I went back later it had changed from beef to chicken so I got to sample both. After trying their fayre at North Hop, I’ll be making a trip out soon to sample their menu.
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The beer was in full flow and I even had a little sample of my favourite Drygate Outaspace Apple Ale – I can’t wait until I’m allowed a whole bottle of this again! As former Dennistoun residents, we are well acquainted with Drygate’s other offerings – Bearface Lager and Gladeye IPA – and if you haven’t tried them yet then you should. Preferably in their lovely bar/brewery in Glasvegas but anywhere would do really as long as they are cold.

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Wooha’s wheat beer went down well, as did St Andrews Eden Mill Bunker IPA, Six Degrees North, Loch Ness Brewery, Fyne Ales and all of Windswept Brewing Co’s lot.

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Fresh revolution were offering a few dishes on the night and my group tasted the Thai curry and the meatball sub. The sub was fantastic and the Thai curry was super flavoursome but needed more veg. My biggest regret of the night was not getting a mackerel fish cake, which I am sure would have been delicious.

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Upstairs had more of a feminine touch with tables decked out with gin centrepieces and the music stage hosting softer acoustic sets.
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I loved watching 10 Dollar Shake making up their selection of cocktails using the finest gins and they had even concocted some beer cocktails for the weekend. They adapted one for me into a mocktail and it was as lovely as it could be minus the gin!

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Later on I sampled another mocktail from Berry Good that was also tasty and served in a prosecco glass – bonus. Next year I’ll be drinking their mini bottles of actual prosecco with a straw!
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Also upstairs (but out on the balcony) were Aberdonians The Adelphi Kitchen barbeque-ing sausages to go with Angus & Oink sauces. The very spicy sausages were a hit with the boys, as were the sauces, but the white sliced bread and tortilla chips were strange accompaniments that could definitely be improved upon.

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Also with a prime balcony spot was La Tortilla Asesina, a local restaurant serving up freshly made paella. It’s one of my favourite places in Sneck so we had to have a bowl. We had actually already been to La Tortilla before North Hop as we used it as our meeting place. Warming up our tummies with boquerones and Estrella (Galacia 0,0% for moi) can never be a bad start to a night.
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With upstairs going for the decadent feel, downstairs was decked out like a barn with hay bale seats. This was a great way to make it feel outdoorsy without having to rely on Scottish weather for the night to go ahead. It also provided somewhere to listen to the musicians gracing the stage whilst sampling all the event had to offer.
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Not all the beer was for drinking on the night and a few breweries, such as Eden Mill, had take home packs. I wish I’d bought a few of these as presents now. North Hop should do a special Christmas event for me to get all of my presents for the grown ups!
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Brewdog kept us amused with their novel advertising ‘tattoos’ to brand us… something to make you smile the morning after. Along with their chilled Jack Hammer and Hop Fiction, they were a hit with my lot at the festival.

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Poporopo popcorn also stood out for my non-drinking-but-eating-everything-in-sight self and I sampled the lot. The sea salt and peanut butter flavours were my favourites from this luxury popcorn brand and I came home with the sea salt (not that there’s much left now, nom nom).

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Tipplebox were there showing off their mail order cocktail making kits that would be good for birthday presents. The stall was busy when we arrived so they are obviously going down well.
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The Storehouse at Foulis had a large selection of gin, vodka and other bottles for those thinking of taking home momentos or adding to their spirit collection. The skulls were attracting all the attention and I had to stop myself from buying everything.

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Rebel Tattoos had made the trip from Aberdeen and were selling custom artwork as well as chatting about their tattoo skills.
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Ovenbird’s ‘in coffee we trust’ slogan couldn’t have been more true for me as it gave me the energy to last the night. I stepped away from the decaf and the Foreigner (flat white) pinged me back to life like only a good coffee can. My tasters of the Bad Girl Bakery cupcakes said they went very well with the coffee. I’ll be looking out for the gin and tonic cakes next year as they’d sold out by the time I got to them.
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I liked that the event had enough people to create a buzz but that it wasn’t packed so full that you had to wait an age to get served and were squashed up like sardines. It was pretty much sold out and I think that the number of tickets allowed per session was spot on for maximum enjoyment.

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Our beer gaggle’s award for beer of the night was a tie between Cromarty Brewing Co’s AKA IPA, Six Degrees North Wanderlust Wheat and Weihenstephan’s ice cold Hefeweiss. A special mention also has to go to Brewdog’s guest beer, Mikkeller Pale Ale Swindle, for being so gluggable.

All of us loved the night at North Hop and the general consensus was that it exceeded our expectations. It was a refreshing change from the usual weekend events and I’d be a contented lady to see more like this in Inverness.  As long as it was well promoted to spread the word, I feel that there is a buoyant market for it. We left as Happy Chappy’s indeed.

Thanks for reading. To keep Highland Foodie going, you can support & follow this blog by clicking on the ‘follow blog by e-mail’ button for more Highland posts (I won’t send you spam and don’t post that regularly so won’t clog up your inbox).

More photos if you haven’t had enough-

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Thumbs up for the sausage roll but it would have been nicer warm

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Paella from La Tortilla Asesina

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The Adelphi Kitchen’s Spicy BBQ sausage

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Culloden House Afternoon Tea

 


Back at the end of February, we went to Culloden House Hotel for afternoon tea as part of a girly day ahead of my sister having her baby. We had been to see Laura Sim at The Gallery for pedicures beforehand so were feeling all relaxed & ready for food. 

I’m not doing a lengthy review on our afternoon tea at Culloden House Hotel but couldn’t not do a quick post with some photos as it is my favourite place in the Highlands for it. 
 

 

Hats off to their patisserie chef – what a talented individual. They always present us with the freshest, tastiest dainty treats that look so pretty. 

We started with the traditional sandwiches (no crusts here!), which were a selection of roast beef, ham & egg if my memory serves me correctly. This was swiftly followed by a scone that is served with jam and cream. The homemade cream-filled meringues were delicious and set us up nicely for the work of art that was a chocolate caramel slice. It was delicious. 

By that point we were onto the gluttony stage but the top layer was still to be tackled and we weren’t leaving without a fight. Tea was refilled & toilet trips taken – you could easily get lost in the wonder of the venue with its grand decor when returning. It is a beautiful place to visit & they encourage you to walk round the gardens when the weather is nice. They have even shown us some rooms before so don’t hesitate to ask. 

Back to the matter in hand, their little flapjack style nibbles are tremendous & have the perfect gooey but still holding together balance. Finally, a raspberry mousse was sweet yet tangy and the perfect finish. 
 

 

If you are doing the tourist trail, you’ll find the hotel near to Culloden Battlefield & Clava on the east of Inverness. It also can be reached by bus or ten minutes in a taxi. Afternoon tea must always be booked ahead so that they can make the delicious cakes. 

I sound like I’m doing advertising for them but I can assure you that I’m not affiliated with the company or have received anything for this! I want the place to do well because I’d be very sad if it was no longer there to visit & because it’s often overlooked due to being further out of the centre. 

Not long before my pre-baby afternoon tea will be due and I’ll be enjoying every minute of the peace and relaxing while I can. 

You can read about a previous visit to Culloden House Hotel for afternoon tea here on my other blog, Girl Around Glasgow. 

Dores Inn – On The Shores Of Loch Ness

We’ve been lucky to have the sun out recently and it spurs me on to ignore the hoovering & get out of the house – not that it takes much. Dores beach is only a 15-20 minute drive from our house, the lucky sods that we are, and I intend to visit as much as I can this summer. If you’re a tourist then Dores is the place to start your Loch Ness adventure and if you’re a local it’s where you go for a wander along the beach and a pint. The crazy winds this year have left debris all along the beach & it would be a shame if this isn’t cleared for summer days. 

 

Dores Inn has been here for longer than I can remember and is popular with the locals. If the sun is out or it’s the weekend then you really want to book in advance. Their website doesn’t have a menu on it but Dores community website has one. 

The owners have retained the inn look and feel, and I love the old church chairs with the inscriptions. It feels cosy and comfortable and there’s a fire lit on cold days. 

 

 

There’s something about being next to water that makes me order fish and chips – call it the sea air or what you like. The confit duck leg and macaroni cheese were also tempting, and I would have ordered the mussels had I been allowed them right now. On this occasion we both ordered the fish and chips (£10.95) and I asked for bread & butter to really make it feel like high tea. We were presented with a big portion that was served with peas, tartare sauce and a lemon wedge. It was sustainable haddock (extra brownie points for that) and had that lightly flaked texture without being overcooked. The chips didn’t seem homemade but were tasty and the fish itself was lovely. The batter needed seasoning and/or something to inject some flavour into it. Adding it at the table never quite does the same thing. Never be shy with the salt & pepper in the kitchen! 

 

 

The bread was crusty, flavourful and came with plenty of butter – great alongside the fish. 

 

 

We shared a rocky road with a cuppa afterwards and I thought the cake was delicious. Too much dried fruit for Mr S but I liked the fruit, and the fact it didn’t contain nuts was a bonus because we couldn’t have ordered it otherwise. So many cakes & desserts are now made with nuts even although around half a million people in the UK are allergic to them and it really limits what Mr S can have. So thanks to whoever didn’t put nuts in that one! 

 

 

A long beach walk helped to burn off some calories and I’m not ashamed to say that I even stopped by the play park on the way to the car for a shot on the swings. Surely that’s a perk of having days off whilst kids are all in school. 

 
   

 

Cafe 1 Take 1 

Cafe 1 piqued my curiosity after several recommendations and being told that it’s owned by a chef. Then I looked at their website & I saw that they rear their own Hebridean sheep & Highland cows to use in some of the dishes *swoons*. Is this the place I’ve been looking for up here? We ended up going in for an impromptu midweek meal to see. 

First impressions were positive – coming in to the restaurant facing the bar was a great element of design as it allows staff to instantly greet customers in the ‘hive’ of the restaurant. Decor is simple and we were sat at the back in a romantic little corner. Low lighting added to the effect but meant that my photos came out rubbish, can’t have it all!

After deciding on red meat for mains, the wine list was studied. They do reds ranging from £15 to £175 so it’s fair to say there’s a good selection. 

Quite boring but we chose the same starter, it sounded too good a special to miss. Roast partridge, chicken liver pâté, crouton, Marsala sauce and watercress – reads epically but could they pull it off? In short, yes. 

The partridge was flavourful, not dry and boosted by the rich pate whilst the watercress gave a freshness to cut through this. Most importantly for me, (personal bugbear time) the Marsala sauce was both savoury and sweet. It was a sauce for a dish like this and not a dessert. 

This is my favourite Inverness starter so far. I would happily order two of these with potatoes next time I go and that would be me content. 

  

In a strange turn of events at main course ordering time, I had singled out the fillet steak & Mr S had elected the lamb to fill his tummy. 

The garlic and thyme rump of lamb (£16) was nice & pink so we were off to a pleasing start. It came with rosemary sautéed potatoes but there was not enough for the amount of lamb so Mr S ordered a portion of chips that arrived just as he was finishing them. The haggis bon-bons were lovely with the lamb and some of the red wine jus. Carrot ribbons, sun-blushed tomatoes and spinach lent a hand but it was the meat that stole the show.

 

I had heard glowing reports on their steaks and their description and accompaniments sold it to me. I can’t lie, it was the duxelle (Or duxelles) that reeled me in. A duxelle is a fancy word for very finely chopped mushroom, onion, shallot and herbs that are slowly cooked in butter until they are soft and intense. Mushroom duxelle immediately leaped out of the menu and I wanted the steak. 

My Aberdeen Angus fillet steak (£24) was massive, not that I’m complaining. Mr S was gleeful when it arrived, knowing that I’d never finish that much so he could have some. Steak and duxelle are a delicious and long-term marriage that should never split up & I loved it. The crisp fried potatoes also went well, as did the spinach and shallots. Pepper sauce wasn’t too overpowering and was perfect for my taste but, as a personal preference, I like my steak sauce in a jug so I can decide when & where to put it. 

 

 

I was stuffed and now regretting telling Mr S about how the Cafe 1 Malteser crepes are famous in the Highlands. He was ordering one and I knew a spoon was coming my way. I wanted something sweet to accompany it, so we ordered a couple of glasses of Sauternes dessert wine. 

The crepe (£6.50) arrived and we took our time starting so that we could wait for the dessert wine. I couldn’t see any staff nearby to ask so it must have been busy. After a while the ice-cream was melting so we had to eat the gooey, sweet dessert that is worth its fame. I nipped down to the bar & cancelled the dessert wines and this was the only time during the meal that I felt a bit disappointed. The service besides that was attentive and friendly, with the dessert wine thing probably being more of an organisational error. 

 

We left Cafe 1 delighted that we’d found another go to place and have since been back. Definitely one to recommend.