Well Enjoy the taste of Scotland was last Friday and only now have I had time to stop and write a report on how it all went.
It all started at 5.30am on Friday when I woke up and got ready for the day then started the drive up to the airport for my flight on sleazy jet. As I arrived in the queue for check in I turned around to see who was behind me and to my surprise there stood an old school friend. We ended up chatting all the way to Glasgow - in the departure lounge, on the plane, waiting for luggage and on the bus into Glasgow, then we went our separate ways but I really enjoyed our chat and it did keep me awake seeing as I'm not used to being awake at that time of day!
I arrived in Glasgow about 9.30am and the event wasn't starting until around midday so off I went for a walk down Sauchiehall Street - this street became famous for me when I was working in WHSmith because we were almost always in tight competition with the Sauchiehall Street store for all sorts of things. Anyways, I had a walk round and decided that although I'd be spending all my afternoon eating and nibbling that I was rather hungry. I had to laugh at myself because I had travelled to Glasgow to try some new and different food and I end up going into McDonalds for a Sausage McMuffin and OJ - yes I'm ashamed but I far prefer the breakfast menu in McD's to it's main menu.
Noon rolled round and I had just arrived at the big white tent in George Square.
There were lots of people running around like mad trying to set up last minute bits and pieces and me standing wondering where on earth I'm supposed to go or who I'm supposed to see. I end up grabbing someone who was trying to rush past me holding a radio (that must mean they're important right?) and asking where the press go, I was pointed in the direction of "Reception" while the girl rushed on to her emergency. I walked up to the desk feeling a little out of my depth and said who I was and that I was looking for Craig (my contact). Craig turned round to greet me, he handed me a press pack, a press USB pen and a press badge.
I was sent off to play round the various stalls and taste lots of different samples. I first arrived at Kingsmill and despite having a big bag for collecting samples and info was given another bag full of loaves and baps - a very generous gift and gesture but unfortunately I had to give the bag away because there was no way I would be able to get it on the place home. Warburtons tried to do the same but I had to refuse.
I went on and chatted more with lots of other food companies and brands including Border biscuits who sent me home with some lovely butterscotch crunch and chocolate chip shortbread (they went down well with a cup of tea!).
I got chatting to Greenvale - a potato producer - who mentioned knowing Wilsons Potatoes here in NI to which I replied "oh you know Angus? He's a good guy" and the guy looked at me blankly leaving me thinking that either my friend Angus Wilson is a liar (highly unlikely) or that this guy was just clueless.
Patterson Arran have also sent me home with enough oatcakes to last a life time! May need to use them to cater for youth group a few times.
I was still walking round nibbling almost anything people were offering and ended up feeling like something a little fresher than Mrs Tilly's Butter Tablet or Dean's Shortbread or some First Milk cheese - don't get me wrong I loved all of these tasty treats but my mouth was just a little dry and in need of something a little sweeter. I stumbled across Good Natured Fruit with some tasty strawberries - they're a pesticide free strawberries and raspberries. I got talking to a girl about how they go along the rows placing ladybirds on each of the plants to get rid of nasty bugs out to destroy. You could really taste the difference!
I also stopped by Oleifera who apparently are posting out a complimentary bottle of rapeseed oil, which I'm quite excited about. It has half the saturated fat that olive oil has, can help to lower cholesterol, has your essential omega 3 and omega 6, and even has a high smoke point. I'm really looking forward to getting to use this in a few recipes.
I went into the kid's zone for a nosy and got talking to a girl about an education scheme by the Royal Highland Education Trust for schools that is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of red meat in a healthy balanced diet and teaches children about the journey of cattle, sheep and pigs from farm to plate including animal husbandry, basic nutrition and what various world religions believe about red meat. Being the nerd that I am I was quite excited about this scheme.
I came across R & K Drysdale who were giving away a sample of peeled swede in a plastic bag that can be microwaved in the bag then mashed or sliced or whatever. So expect a blog post shortly about the results!
I decided after all that walking around Sauchiehall Street and then all around the exhibits that I needed to take a seat and the only seats I could find was the rowed seating for the cookery theatre so I got comfy and rested my feet for a bit. I had a look around and spotted Nick Nairn, who had almost run me over a few minutes earlier by running around the place pushing a trolley and being followed by a camera crew, getting set up to film a cookery demonstration.
It was also at this stage that I had spotted the walking Macsween haggii looking like happy chappys but I'm sure the people inside the costume were melting with the heat. (I also spotted a Baxter's soup man walking around waving and skipping too).
As I was sitting resting weary bones I also spotted someone sitting on her own also chilling out a bit. I decided to go over and introduce myself and it turns out I'd just met Lynn from Lynn's Cooking Blog! We ended up being buddies for the rest of the day. We hung around for the opening speeches then headed out for some tea and came back to do a little more browsing of the displays again.
This time round I got talking to a guy in a kilt giving out flyers on how to cook steak to perfection - I'll be sticking that up in my kitchen for future reference! I tried some Mackays marmalades and preserves and really enjoyed the variety of flavour and the natural flavours that came through in them. And also got talking to a girl from the Really Garlicky company who gave me a great press pack that included a bulb of smoked garlic (again expect to see some blog posts including this!). Then stopped by the Tunnocks stand to get some tea cakes for Rob who I had left at home alone with Stewie for the day.
Not all of the food on display has originated in Scotland - but then I suppose that's a difficult thing to do anywhere now. I came across Monaghan Mushrooms, who have some farms in Scotland too apparently. I also was given a packet of Yeungs chinese curry mix which I'm pretty sure isn't traditionally Scottish, but they are Scottish based and have been for over 18 years! There was also a stall for Edinburgh Tea and Coffee which prompted us to ask exactly where in Scotland they were growing the coffee beans and tea leaves.
There were also some cookery demonstrations on in the "Cookery theatre". I sat, watched, listened and even smelt my way through one by Joe Queen from Macdonald Hotels which I really enjoyed. I would have loved to have seen more cookery demos and in particular by some of the exhibitors themselves to show the versatility of their product and also introduce new ideas for using their product.
It was an interesting day, particularly when exhibitors asked "Which publication are you from?" - I eventually learned that saying I was 'freelance' was much less complicated than saying 'I'm a blogger' (which the writer for Farmer's Weekly who I got chatting to for a while at the airport on the way home told me was much easier than saying any publication sometimes). All in all I really enjoyed my day, despite my flight home being delayed a few hours and making my day that little bit longer. I enjoyed talking with food producers and cooks and bakers about food and learned quite a bit about the Scottish food scene, however I really would have liked to see more primary produce instead of the sweets companies, bottled water companies, and a few other random companies. And as I said earlier in this post I really would have liked to see more cookery demos and things from the actual exhibitors themselves as well as the scheduled cookery theatre program.
It really was quite an adventure for me trying out some products that are either hard or impossible to obtain in Northern Ireland. There were so many other companies there that I could talk about but this post is already long enough, so check out the Enjoy the taste of Scotland website for more details on that.
I really hope something like this can happen over here sometime! It would be great to see some more of our local produce getting a plug.
Thank you to Craig from Denvir Marketing for helping me work out how to get over to Glasgow and also for making me feel all privileged as "Press" for the day.