Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Haggis, Tatties and Neep

Ok so I didn't actually have a traditional Scottish serving of haggis, tatties, and neep (haggis, mashed potato, and turnips) but I did have haggis and several other traditional foods on my trip to Edinburgh this weekend. I surprisingly enjoyed it very much, which makes me a little reluctant to tell those of you that don't know what haggis is, but I guess I can't live in denial. Haggis is basically several different parts of a sheep, namely organs, mashed up with oatmeal, onions and spices, and then prepared in a casing. For my first haggis experience, I ordered fried haggis balls from a nice little pub and they were really good! Once you get past thinking about what you're eating, the breading gave a nice crunch but wasn't overpowering and the haggis was creamy and incredibly flavorful. The oatmeal and some sort of thickening agent, probably a stock, gave the filling a consistency almost like a rice ball. The haggis balls were a great start to the meal and I am happy to be able to say I have now tried haggis, and liked it! (Oy! Me a year ago would have died to say, or even think, about something like that!)

Besides haggis, probably the most well-known Scottish food, Edinburgh has very good seafood because of its proximity to the water. My second night, I had a very fresh serving of salmon accompanied by hearty leeks and potatoes. I feel like the dish was very characteristic of Scottish food with its hearty nature but fresh fish. I also had mussels which were perfect! Each one tasted fresh and was well cooked while the sauce was a to-die-for concoction of butter, white wine, and garlic that I proceeded to soak up with bread after enjoying the mussels. And I had all of that from a pub! What also made the meal so great was the local beer I enjoyed alongside the food. The Caledonian Brewery is a landmark in Edinburgh and has been since it was founded in 1869. As soon as I stepped out of the train station, I could smell the beer brewing in the nearby brewery and I knew I was going to love this city. Their most famous beer is the Deuchars IPA which was a great brew and the perfect accompaniment to my meal. Caledonian's second-most popular beer is the Caledonian 80/- which is much darker but still very good. Many of the pubs and bars in Edinburgh served more unique, locally-brewed beer than I have seen in the rest of the UK and so I made sure to try a healthy sampling of Scotch Ales.

Another really cool place I went in Edinburgh, although not quite as Scottish, was Elephants and Bagels. This is a smaller and more food-oriented restaurant run by the same people that own Elephant House: the famous coffee shop where JK Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter. Elephants and Bagels was cozily tucked away in a little square and offered a unique menu of bagel sandwiches including the classic cream cheese and salmon to a homemade pesto chicken. Being a traditionalist, I opted for the cream cheese and salmon and was not disappointed. Later in the day, I walked past the original Elephant House and saw how the warm inviting atmosphere, combined with the spooky, old surroundings definitely gave JK Rowling inspiration for the epic series.
Elephants and Bagels on Urbanspoon

I had a wonderful time exploring all the winding streets and closes of the beautiful old city and wish I'd had more time in Edinburgh. I do feel like I accomplished some of the Scottish musts though: beer, salmon, and haggis.

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