When thinking of incredible cuisines, Scottish food is rarely on the top of that list. But do most people know what Scottish food really is? For me, I love discovering a place through its food. And what better way to do it, than through a food tour?
Guest post by Lannie Su from Lannie’s Food and Travel
What is a food tour?
For those who have never been on a food tour, it’s a really nice combination of a guided tour, with tons and tons of food. The best advice I can give you about a food tour is to come hungry! You’ll stop at a few places, doing tastings along the way, and hearing stories about the place and its food. Additionally, food tours give you food recommendations (sometimes with discounts) for the remainder of your trip!
An expert tip is to take the food tour at the beginning of your trip, to make use of all your newfound familiarity with the city and its food.
The best of Scottish Food
On my first trip to Scotland, my sister and her husband recommended a food tour with Eat Walk Edinburgh. Knowing not much at all about Scottish food, I enthusiastically signed up. I did the Old Town and New Town tour. On your average Scottish day, there can be all four seasons. So, be sure to check the weather forecast and bring a jacket, just in case!
For us, it was a brisk winter morning, but sunny and dry. Perfect weather to eat my way through Edinburgh.
First stop on our Edinburgh Food Tour
We started out in Old Town, at Hotel Du Vin. We sampled some gorgeously fresh smoked salmon. Scotland has a large salmon and seafood industry, but most of it gets exported. So imagine how fresh it must be, eating it in its home country! A hotel may not sound exciting, but the building plays a role in Edinburgh’s darker history. It was once the home to… an insane asylum, the town’s poorhouse, and suspiciously a science laboratory and blood donation center.
A Scottish Comfort Food
Next up, Makars Gourmet Mash Bar for some healthy, Scottish comfort food. At this stop, it was ox-tail braised for over 5 hours, served with mashed potatoes and black pudding. The ox-tail was melt in your mouth delicious! We also sipped our first Scottish spirit – gin. A delightful raspberry-flavored Edinburgh Gin with prosecco!
The National Scottish Food
From then, we made our way into New Town and onward to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. For those who don’t know, Scotch is a whisky, made in Scotland. I’m oversimplifying it, but there are government regulations to follow if you want to make whisky in Scotland. At the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, is where haggis makes its first appearance.
So, what is haggis?
What is haggis, by the way? Well, it has sheep “insides” to start – the heart, liver, and lungs. These are mixed with some minced meat, oats, herbs, and spices, and traditionally boiled in a sheep stomach lining. Because of its contents, it often gets a bad reputation. But not only that, it’s actually illegal to import haggis into the United States – blame the sheep’s lung!
If you’re kind of grossed out, don’t be. I actually really like haggis and will either order it on a menu or buy it from a butcher every time I’m in Scotland. Of course, it’s a personal preference. My uncle shared with me some food wisdom a long time ago –
“If it looks or sounds gross, you should still try it anyway. One bite, and then if you don’t like it, it’s over. But if you never take that bite, you’ll never know if you actually like it!”
So keep that in mind, because there is no more traditional food in Scotland than haggis! And, in case you forgot, we are at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, so of course, ours gets paired with a whisky.
The bubbly gin and my low alcohol tolerance meant that I was already buzzing. Enter a whisky with 62% alcohol. Be careful not to get properly drunk. There are still two more stops. Although I wasn’t a whisky fan at the time, I am now. Whisky is a complicated spirit, with layers of smells, tastes, and finishes. My appreciation of whisky took some time to cultivate. And as with most alcohols, everything becomes more interesting with whisky.
More local products
If you consider haggis and whisky to be Scotland cuisine’s piece de resistance, hold that thought. I haven’t introduced you to its incredible livestock and dairy industries. No, we didn’t visit a farm, but we did sample meats and cheeses on an incredible charcuterie platter at Le Du Vin. There was also the option to sample a local beer, but man – I was buzzing at this point! It’s a good thing we’ve been eating a ton of food to pad that stomach!
Dessert, of course
From there, a short stroll to the Ghillie Dhu for dessert. A Scottish Cranachan, made from cream and raspberries. I don’t have to tell you how tasty that combination is!
And that’s it for our culinary adventure through Edinburgh! This is one of the best food tours I’ve taken. My favorite had to be the oxtail at Makars. In fact, I went back to Makars a few days later and tried another dish of theirs, and received a discount for taking the food tour. See what I mean? Taking a food tour is a gift that keeps giving!
Hope you learned a lot about Scottish cuisine and are properly hungry for some haggis or whisky now!
For those able to safely visit Edinburgh before 30 June 2021 (likely to be extended), Eat Walk Edinburgh and Lannie’s Food and Travels are excited to offer a special discount on their food tours. Use code LT5OFF for 5£ off tours!
Actual locations and discounts may vary depending on tours, time of day, and covid restrictions.
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