We find that it is always a good idea to arrive at a food show when you are feeling hungry, as you can really appreciate what is on offer just that little bit more. Caroline, my Swedish co-writer at The Edinburgh Foody Blog, and I were definitely not disappointed at the last Speciality Food Fair in Glasgow, as there was an overwhelming selection of artisanal food products. I remember a time, however, when this show first started, when you could almost count the stalls on one hand, but now that regional interest in good quality food has grown, there were many excellent producers really keen to communicate with consumers and impress the chefs and shops of Scotland to stock their produce. Here is our round up of our top four favourite highlights from the show.
Taste of Bute (www.tasteofbute.co.uk)
How about a picnic supper? I was so impressed with Brian and Janet of Taste of Bute’s wonderful smoked products. If you’ve not tried smoked lamb (Caroline tells me this is a Swedish speciality) you really should! The sleeping warrior sausage is an instant winner. This is not over powering in smokiness, but subtle and full flavoured.
Simple Simon’s Pies (www.simplesimonspies.co.uk)
I have a particular penchant for pies. If you’ve not tried a Simple Simon’s Pie, please seek one out (you can mail order from the website). You don’t need separate potatoes or vegetables, these are all contained within the wonderful flaky crust. I thought I hadd sampled most of the flavours, but I hadn’t – there are up to 40 different ones available. Christina Wild let us into some of the secrets of how they’re made, as the pastry is created using a very particular method, and choosing the right potatoes is extremely important. Firm favourites are Mediterranean Vegetables and Feta Cheese and Chorizo sausage with black beans and more traditional ones such as Chicken and Tarragon.
Little Pod (www.littlepod.co.uk)
Of the more unusual items, Little Pod Madagascan vanilla in a tube really caught the imagination. It’s a great idea, and much easier to use than the whole vanilla pod. As to the taste, unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to try the product as there were no samples available.
An Cuig Seafoods (www.ancuigseafoods.co.uk)
A stall visit we shall not forget was to some very endearing Irish gentlemen from An Cuig Oyster Farm, a family business dating back 100 years. We really fell for their charm and their remarkable oysters farmed in a warm, clear bay off the unspoilt cost of Donegal in North West Ireland. Rather than use distributors they’re successfully working with some of our top Scottish chefs who are rightly buying up heaps of their stock.
Artisanal flavours and tastes definitely go in waves, and this was definitely the year of rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegars. It was the personalities that won us over and in particular those artisanal producers who really know how to present their products and had all the information to hand, such as where their products are already stocked in Scotland. We were rather stunned at one reply we got when quizzing the producer about where we could buy the products he made. “Oh I just send it up to my Scottish distributor!” he replied. It is rather difficult for us to write with passion about a product that we might just be able to pick up, maybe, somewhere, but we are not really sure where.
Do try some of these wonderful products yourselves, and get your local deli to stock them too.
The Speciality Food Show will be at Harrogate in June 2011.(www.specialtyfoodfair.co.uk)
Caroline and Danielle write a food blog at www.edinburghfoody.com