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.
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.