About Me

My photo
I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Maybe the Scots Can Cook (Three in a Three-Part Searies)

The Journey Begins
©2016 Chris Terrell
I’ve never been to Scotland, and I’m about to travel there from the most famous literary train station in the world: King’s Cross Station.  
This station doubles down on Pottermania!

In the main hall, there’s an imitation Platform 9 3/4 (likely because there were so many tourists trying to ram luggage carts into the wall between the real Platforms 9 and 10). It is complete with a dummy luggage cart partially submerged into the wall with a cage and stuffed owl perched on top. Young and old stand in line for at least an hour to have their pictures taken. There’s even a Harry Potter store right next door. Yes, I broke down and bought one of my kids a reproduction of Dumbledore’s wand. 
About 40 feet down the main hall from the Harry Potter Store is a smaller version of Waitrose, a British supermarket chain. It is well-stocked with prepackaged foods and drinks to carry onto to the trainseverything from gourmet sandwiches and salads to cheeses and wine. My favorite? Delightful, pre-mixed gin and tonics in twee little cans. They came in regular and diet. And they were cheap. About £2.50 (about $3.00). I grabbed several for the ride north to Edinburgh.
The more we distanced ourselves from London, the more the landscape resembled Scotland, or the Scotland I remembered from books and movies. North of the once-mighty industrial metropolis of Newcastle, the fecund, undulating hills of the Scottish lowlands obliged the train to rock gently. I fell into a brief sleep. When I awoke, Edinburgh’s Victorian Old Town filled my window. “Harry Potter!” I thought.  The Scotsman Hotel really does resemble Hogwarts Castle!
Edinburgh deceives the casual visitor. The architecture, especially in Old Town, is uniform in its Victorian-facades. It’s as if the city were designed and built by a conglomerate to be the ultimate European tourist destination. But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Edinburgh is very much it’s own town—eclectic both culturally, artistically, and especially culinary.
Speaking of food. Scotland is all about surf and turf. One night, you can have the most tender, flavorful Angus beef steak; the next night, scallops the size of your palm or braised pheasant; or the night after that, salmon that tastes as if it just arrived off a boat docked outside the restaurant. 
We even experienced a bit of Paris with the discovery of the Café St. Honoré. I don’t recall how we found this little Parisian gem in the heart of Edinburgh, but I’m glad we did. Using a combination that never fails, Café St. Honoré combines French technique with locally sourced food and local tastes. Here’s the lunch menu in its entirety. It’s no wonder it took us nearly a half bottle of beaujolais to decide on what to have.
Rollmop Herring, Heritage Potato Sal, Dill
Pelham Farm Organic Pig’s Head Terrine, Organic Vegetable Slaw
Endive, Walnut, Lanark Blue Cheese & Poached Pear Salad
Shetland Coley, Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Spinach, Tapenade
Scotch Pork Belly, Braised White Beans, Local Greens
Local Summer Vegetable Risotto
British Gooseberry Foo, Shortbread
Scottish Summer Berries & Elderflower Jelly, Langue du Chat Biscuit
Arrington’s Lancelot Cheese, Chutney, Oatcakes

The Journey Ends
While waiting for the train that would take us back to London, I noticed a group of women in their late twenties all wearing T-shirts with the name “Amanda” or something similar printed on the back. They were holding what we call “go cups,” some in the shape of male “parts.” Slowly I realized that this was a bachelorette party or, what they call in the U.K., a “hen party.” Frankly, I prefer the British term. But I prayed “please don’t get on my car…no, not that way…” I wanted peace and quiet on the train—the previous night involved a lot of food and wine.
"Again, please stay away from our car…." Yep, they marched right in.
We were surrounded. A Hen Party that I failed to spot occupied the car behind us—an escape route closed. We were reminded of our predicament each time the connecting doors opened and the cackling, inebriated laughter scampered into our car like rats abandoning the Pequod. The only true escape route was forward through the gauntlet of Hen Party #1 to the snack car, also know as the bar.
As an American, it is always interesting that Europeans (and the post-Brexit English) can so readily assess whether one is an American. Some of the clues are good (friendly, open); others less so (fanny packs and cargo shorts). When I wandered up front to the snack to order a G&T, I asked for a double (meaning two of those twee little miniatures). The pretty, young girl behind the counter pointed and said “one?” I replied rather sheepishly: “No, two.” 
“Oh, that’s right, you're American.” 
I guess we have a reputation. 
©2016 Chris Terrell
Our last meal in London was Indian. It's hard not to find good Indian in London. So, we headed over to Indian Express in West Kensington. We were not disappointed. Later, Laura and I dropped the kids off at the hotel and had a few whiskies at a hotel that likes to keep its whisky bar under wraps. I wore the kilt I bought in Edinburgh. And yeah, it’s flattering to be asked by two French women if you’re wearing underwear. Even a faux Scotsman never tells.… 
The next day, while sitting on the plane listening to the jet engines spool up, I began to reconsider my opinion of food in the UK. It had certainly improved since the last time I had visited, but then again that was on a student’s budget. 
Let’s hope I don’t have to wait so long for the next culinary upgrade.

No comments:

Post a Comment