Feature Article: On a trail of discovery at the BBC Good Food Show Scotland

A busy East Lothian stand.
In my last post on the blog I indicated just how much I was looking forward to my first experience of the BBC Good Food Show Scotland (GFSS). Well, I am pleased to report that my anticipation was duly rewarded by, what turned out to be, a really informative and highly enjoyable Friday at the SECC.

The scene was set upon arrival, when immediately after picking up my blogger accreditation I was invited to attend a demonstration on the merits of a new, craft-distilled gin. I should point out that it was after midday (just) and given the fact that I am a big fan of small scale food and drink producers it would have been rude to have refused – ahem… The gin in question is produced with an obvious passion by the Warner Edwards Distillery, based in the English Midlands. Sniffing, then sipping, a neat shot of the award-winning spirit left no doubt that this was a stunningly-good nip of “mothers’ ruin” – ripe with juniper berries of course, but having a distinctive nose of black pepper and citrus peel and a great hint of cardamom in the mouth. I can safely say that the Harrington Dry Gin truly holds its own amongst the other – often Scottish distilled – small batch gins I have sampled, and I plan on getting my hands on a bottle forthwith.

Moving into the main exhibition space I was suddenly taken with exactly how big an event this was. The SECC plays host to some major gigs, and the GFFS more than filled this cavernous container. The Supertheatre was exactly as billed – a huge space where The Great British Bake Off judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood provided expertly witty demonstrations of, well, baking. It was rightly packed. The Interview Stage served punters with the opportunity to learn what makes their favourite chefs’ and foodies’ culinary hearts go aflutter. Yet the real “grab” for me was the main exhibition space, where stand upon stand was populated by producers showcasing a fantastic array of food, drink and culinary paraphernalia. I wish I could summarise all of these, but that would be infeasible. Instead, please find below some of my highlights. Frankly, I can’t wait until next October when I have another opportunity to visit the GFSS. If you live in Scotland and like food it’s an event not to be missed.

Feature article: Glasgow bound for the BBC Good Food Show Scotland

This weekend, food and drink lovers from across Scotland (what is the collective noun for a group of Scottish foodies – a “snashter”?) will be descending upon Glasgow, as The BBC Good Food Show Scotland (GFSS) comes to town. I’m very pleased to say that I shall be joining their ranks, in what will be my first visit to this particular culinary festival.

So what might I expect / be looking forward to from the show? Well first off, I think GFSS might be quite different to other large food events I’ve previously attended insofar as it takes place indoors – at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). This may well mean it has less of the “country fare” feel which some outdoor food festivals seem to emanate. This might be a positive thing, as taking place in a dedicated exhibition space is likely to mean that exhibitors at GFSS have more technology on hand to better demonstrate their products and services.

Taking place at the SECC also allows the GFSS to play host to a Supertheatre, which will be home to cookery demonstrations provided by a number of cooks and chefs, the majority of whom will be very familiar to regular viewers of the BBC’s culinary output. I’m delighted to learn that on Friday – the day I shall be attending GFSS – the Supertheatre will feature a Great British Bake Off Masterclass, fronted by none other than Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. This will be a must for me, as I hope to get some tips that may alleviate my frequent baking-related anxiety, as well as helping me to achieve a “good rise” and avoid the dreaded “soggy bottom”…

Another part of the show I anticipate I shall be spending some time visiting is the Producers’ Village, which will feature the very best of local and regional produce from across Scotland.  I’m hoping it will mean that I get to sample, first hand, products I have only heard about online or – almost even better – great produce I was previously unaware of. In a really nice touch to this area of the show the GFSS organisers have established a Producers Bursary Award, which will allow selected small artisan producers to exhibit free of charge, giving their products a level of exposure their marketing budgets might not ordinarily be able to secure.

As well as exhibiting, food and drink, GFSS is also ensuring that visitors can sample some “…deliciously satisfying breakfast and lunch dishes from BBC Good Food’s recipe collection” at the BBC Good Food Kitchen. The dishes available include: cardamom butter chicken with Indian cucumber salad; and roast pumpkin and parsnip cassoulet. Diners also have the option of enjoying a glass of specially matched wine with their meal, courtesy of the Kitchen’s sponsor, Hardy’s.

Bite Magazine Review: Calistoga – Raise a glass to Californian cuisine

Delicious Californian wine.
Tasting delicious Californian wine.
My latest review for Bite Magazine is now available in the publication’s October edition (both online and in print). Under the spotlight this month is a great wine tasting and dining experience with a Californian theme, thanks to a visit to Calistoga (70 Rose Street Lane North, EH2 3DX). A taster of the review can be read below, with the full article being available for download from Bite’s website.

Calistoga – Raise a glass to Californian cuisine

Preconceptions aren't good things. Take American cuisine and wine. It’s basically burgers, hot-dogs and sickly-sweet pink Zinfandel, isn't it? A recent wine-tasting / dining experience at Calistoga – Edinburgh’s Californian-inspired restaurant – certainly exploded this myth.

Our evening started in the restaurant’s tasting room, where sommelier Alastair Henderson took us through the “Congressional” sampling of two red and white wines (£32pp including a 3 course dinner). Previously working in California’s viticulture industry, Henderson’s experience gives Calistoga exclusive access to some impressive wines, and he imparts real insight into how the Napa Valley’s geography and history influences these.

The 2011 vintage wines sampled were: Freemark Abbey Viognier – lightly scented and dry, but bursting with peach and vanilla flavours; Scott Family Estate Chardonnay – tastes of smokey pineapple and mango; Napa Cellars Pinot Noir – a cherry burst on the nose, luscious soft red berries in the mouth; and Gnarly Head Petite Sirah – scented with nuts and richly flavoured with coffee and raisins.

Feature Article: Bakers, get fundraising! Supporting The Great Pink Bake Off

Neil Forbes and Mark Greenaway.
Chefs Mark Greenaway & Neil Forbes get baking.
It would appear the whole of the UK is baking mad – well those bits of the UK fixated by food, at least. It’s impossible to open a food magazine these days without finding their pages filled with drool-inducing photos of exquisite patisserie, and recipes that allow you to recreate this confectionary in your very own kitchen. But it’s not only cakes, oh no. Tips on starting a sourdough culture, or kneading bread until the gluten is perfectly stretched are all over popular food blogs, too.

Personally, I blame Mary Berry (no relation). Well not just her but that Paul Holywood, too. And whilst I am at it… j’accuse Mel Giedroyce and Sue Perkins! I speak, of course of the phenomenon that is The Great British Bake Off, which I’m actually pleased to admit has made a form of cooking that was falling out of fashion very much in vogue once again.

Now, as I have posted here previously, I’m not an intuitive baker. It scares me a bit, to be honest. But this month I shall be donning my pinnie and flouring my rolling pin for a very good cause. And I hope, dear reader, that you might join me in participating in The Great Pink Bake Off – a new fundraising initiative to help support the battle against breast cancer.