Where better to start than a cheeseboard…. for elevenses? For me, cheeseboards are solely reserved for Christmases and other special occasions… like this visit to St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company. Jane Stewart along with her husband Robert, started making cheese in Fife in 2008, and have won numerous awards year on year for their Anster, Smoked Anster, Red Anster and St Andrews Farmhouse varieties of cheese from their herd of Holstein Friesian cows.In Jane’s own words;
“I’d rather make a couple of cheeses, the best that I possibly can, the cheese that people want to buy”
… and these are really tasty cheeses! The company take their place in Scottish cheesemaking very seriously, being members of Scotland Food & Drink; the Specialist Cheese Makers Association; the Fine Cheese Makers of Scotland; Food from Fife; and the Scottish Cheese Trail (yes, I’m away to google that too!). Jane was very proud to be based in Fife too – the location overlooking the Firth of Forth is unique and the characteristics of such a setting (the clay soil encourages growth of lush green grass, and the sea-salty breezes) are very much incorporated into the flavours.
With quotes like “Age is not important – unless you are a cheese” and “Cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality” adorning the walls where we were gathered, it’s quite obvious you will have a choice of cheesy refreshments in the cafe – perfect for a post-walk lunch after a walk along the nearby Anster coast.
We enjoyed cheese platters, accompanied with oatcakes, cheese biscuits and scones.
Onwards we travelled, back towards St Andrews where it was time for a leisurely lunch at Balgove Larder’s Steak Barn.
A huge space, with long communal tables and benches, and wooden potato boxes making up the walls of this former sawmill.
After we had settled onto our table, there was no time to start chatting because ALL THE FOOD started appearing on our table!
As well as starters, the main attractions were the burgers and steaks, accompanies by twice-cooked chips, beer battered onion rings and an assortment of sides ‘n’ sauces. All the meat was beautifully cooked and even the sceptics agreed that the humongous mushroom ‘burger’ was incredible, a worthy meat free alternative for vegetarians. It was indeed a feast in the truest sense of the word.
After lunch, we had opportunity to visit Balgove Larder’s flower shed and farm shop. I wanted to buy all the things but settled on some foodie cards and local ales for Mr B as my bag had been weighed down by a generously filled goodie bag from the conference organisers. So there’s no option but to return for a second visit!
After our wander round, it was time to split the party into gin and whisky fans. I went to sample the hospitality of Eden Mill which is well and truly on the Scottish gin scene. This below infographic gives some idea as to the resurgence in gin consumption in recent years. My favourites to date (and I’ve tried about half on this list, which isn’t quite up to date) are Caorunn, Rock Rose, and now Eden Mills Love Gin.
We arrived promptly for our brief tour around the site followed by a gin and chocolate pairing. The site was much smaller than I expected, despite being Scotland’s first one site brewery (for beer, whisky and gin!).
The whole process of distilling gin is a lengthy one, with many of the stages carried out by hand (including dipping the bottles into wax to seal the lids).
This is the experiment station, complete with its mini-still!
Then we were back off into the visitor centre and shop, ready to be gin critics for half an hour! Not only that, we could enjoy some truffles alongside, courtesy of Iain Burnett, a chocolatier based in Perthshire. Tasting all the gins neat, followed by a bite of truffle and then repeating the gin alongside some tonic or other mixer, was a great way of tasting the flavours.
A key part of making gin are the finding of the botanicals that infuse the gin, and there’s a legal requirement for juniper to be present – otherwise, it really isn’t gin! So although we weren’t on the lookout for any juniper, our final activity in our ‘feast of Fife’ was a foraging walk along the Eden Estuary with two foragers from Jamie Scott’s team. There is so much to know when it comes to foraging, as the difference in appearance between some plants (such as edible cows parsley and poisonous hemlock, for instance!) are almost non-existent – so you really have to know your stuff when foraging out and about. Just going on the walk has made me think about what I possibly could be passing during my regular walks down by the Caledonian Canal!
The foraging walk brought my two day feast of Fife to an end, and what a packed 48 hours it was. However, when I got home to Inverness, I still had a goodie bag to open! These are most of the items as I didn’t get round to taking the photos immediately, and you’ll understand that it was only right that we sampled the macarons from The Old Course Hotel and truffles from Heavenly Goodies… right?! As well as an assortment of vouchers for restaurants in St Andrews, I received:
Blackcurrant and Thyme vinegar from The Little Herb Farm//An assortment of condiments from Trotter’s//Chocolate from William Curley///Gingerbread Caramel Sauce from The Very Lovely Sauce Company//Black IPA from BrewShed
Big thanks to the Fife Tourism Partnership who invited me along, to all the businesses who were beyond enthusiastic to share their products and love of the area, and to my fellow bloggers who I really enjoyed meeting (and eating, so much eating!) with.
Disclaimer: I was invited to take part in Feast of Fife tourism weekend. I paid £25 to attend the event and covered my own travel and accommodation expenses. All opinions are my own and are an honest reflection of what I enjoyed over the weekend.