Several months ago (all right, January 2016 to be precise!), the gift of a luncheon deal voucher from a thoughtful friend allowed HunterGatherer and Yours Truly to fulfil a long-held dream – a meal at The Peat Inn Restaurant in Fife. Precisely why it has taken me until now to write this blog post is a mystery, and I’m not even going to attempt to excuse my appalling tardiness at putting pen to (virtual) paper. However, I’m now going to right that wrong, and what speaks volumes about that long-distant luncheon is that so exquisite was the whole Peat Inn experience that, even after all these months, memories of the panoply of flavours which tantalised my palate that day are still indelibly printed in my mind.
As anyone who knows me well will confirm, I appreciate good food – and I positively adore great food. So as we drew up in the car park at The Peat Inn Restaurant that January day, anticipation was rife in the Sparrowmobile. Unfortunately, the weather had been far from inspiring during our drive across from neighbouring Kinross-shire, and an East coast smirr (a mist-like precipitation, for anyone unfamiliar with Scots) was doing the Fife scenery no favours.
However, if we felt a tad sad on account of the dismal climatic conditions outside, our melancholy was banished the moment we entered the comfortable and spacious lounge at The Peat Inn, where the warmth of the blazing fire was surpassed only by the warmth of the welcome extended by the team of immaculately presented staff.
Our coats were whisked discreetly off our backs, our order was taken efficiently and unobtrusively, and within a matter of minutes a slate adorned with assorted amuse-bouches arrived with our drinks. It was an auspicious start, and to our delight the gastronomic good times just kept on coming.
Having heard so much about the culinary genius of Chef Geoffrey Smeddle and his team, we should not have been surprised. Over the next 90 minutes (we were in no rush, and neither did the staff rush us), one delicious dish followed the other.
An amuse-bouche or three, anyone?
To mark the imminence of Burn’s Day, a soupçon of haggis was delivered in a quaint little dish, accompanied by a delicious creamy sauce, and not long after this, our starters arrived. HunterGatherer’s penchant for onions saw him select a whole baked Langside Farm (near Kennoway) onion stuffed with oxtail, onion purée and finished with Parmesan chips. I opted for the Anster cheese mousse– although the said mousse came in the form of a parsnip. Yes, you read that correctly – a parsnip… For this dairy delicacy had been sculpted in such a way as to resemble a bona fide parsnip (see the photo below if you need proof!). It has to be said that I’m a huge fan of Anster cheese anyway, but this fabulous and unusual presentation merely enhanced the flavour.
For our main courses, HunterGatherer opted for roast breast and confit leg of wild mallard duck, while I favoured the pork fillet; both dishes were served relatively simply compared with our more ornate starters, and were accompanied by a scattering of perfectly cooked vegetables. HG seemed delighted with his duck, and my choice certainly didn’t disappoint either. The superlatively smooth parsnip puree (you may have gathered that I’m a fan of parsnips!) was a particular triumph.
HunterGatherer opted for the duck main dish
Despite being married to a ‘sugar gourmand’ such as Yours Truly, my better half doesn’t ‘do’ desserts, which left me the weighty (no pun intended!) responsibility of being the sole partaker of pud. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it… And I was very glad that I did, as the tangerine sorbet which accompanied my chocolate parfait was a veritable treat for the taste buds – neither too tart nor too sweet. However, just to ensure that my sugar levels didn’t fall too low, I felt obliged to sample the cuboids of luxurious fudge and the triangular 3-D fruit jellies which were served with HunterGatherer’s coffee. They created a fabulous and fitting finale to a meal that ticked every gastronomic box with gusto.
The utterly delectable tangerine sorbet was a big hit with Yours Truly.
Bravo to the entire team at The Peat Inn! Their service was faultless from start to finish, and Chef Smeddle’s menu was simply outstanding. Even had I not been fortunate enough to have been in possession of a gift voucher, it would have been well worth the cost of £22 per head incl. canapés, amuse-bouches, homemade bread and homemade butter. We will certainly return.
Suddenly our summer (such as it was in Scotland!) is virtually over and on the arable farms here in Kinross-shire the combines have been revving up as farmers hasten to snatch their harvest in between the showers. And as another summer comes to an end, so does another showing season for all the livestock farmers for whom summer weekends mean trekking round Scotland on the showing circuit.
In the 1980s, when Yours Truly used to show Shetland ponies all summer long, the fun and friendly finale of the showing season was always Kinross Agricultural Show, which traditionally takes place on the second Saturday of August. In those halcyon days, the show used to be held in the walled garden of Kinross House – an idyllic setting, with the eponymous Neoclassical country mansion providing an almost surreal backdrop.
However, in life all good things generally come to an end, and several years ago the sale of Kinross House necessitated a move for the local agricultural show. But where on earth (or at least within the bounds of Kinross-shire!) could they hold the show that would ever compete with the previous unique location? The answer lay in an unassuming grass field, right next door to the RSPB’s Vane Farm on the shores of Loch Leven – with the Sleeping Giant (a local hill, so christened because its profile resembles a sleeping giant) as a backdrop and a breathtaking overview of the loch. It was an inspired choice.
When the sun shines, as it did this year, there are few places in Scotland that could rival this stunning rural show setting. For any of you who haven’t been to an agricultural show before, know this: the showing of sheep, cattle, ponies, goats and dogs is taken extremely seriously by those who participate. The exhibitors will have been up since the crack of dawn to make their final preparations before loading their budding animal beauty queens into lorries and horseboxes and making their way from far and near to the showground.
Having had experience of judging classes at local shows in a previous life, I know how precisely how nerve-wracking that particular task is. One thing is a given: there’s usually only going to be one happy person after each class, and that’s the owner of the animal who received the coveted first prize rosette. Everyone else will be muttering under their breaths what a fool the judge was for failing to appreciate the finer merits of their fabulous sheep, cow, goat or horse!
Unsurprisingly, now that I attend shows purely as a spectator rather than as an exhibitor or a judge, the whole occasion is vastly more relaxing. Instead of feverishly polishing ponies or weighing up the respective merits of entrants, I can take time to enjoy these couthy* rural gatherings which are as eclectic as they are entertaining. Here’s a quick photomontage compiled at this year’s show to give you a flavour… Hope to see you there next year!
* For any readers not familiar with this Scottish term, couthy (or couthie) means "warm and friendly".
|Another canapé? Don't mind if I do...|
HunterGatherer and I rounded off our 25th anniversary celebrations in gastronomic heaven on Saturday evening when our lovely bridesmaid G. cooked a fabulous dinner for us and a small group of close friends.
|And there were more! This time smoked salmon and
crème fraîche blinis
From asparagus and parma ham canapés to a molten goat's cheese starter to sumptuous beef bourguignon stew to delicate orange and mascarpone ice cream (served with chocolate torte) or lemon mousse, each dish set our taste buds tingling anew.
|Perfectly cooked goat's cheese for starters|
|HunterGatherer doesn't feel he's had a proper meal
unless he's eaten some beef (which was no bad thing,
as a member of the Quality Meat Scotland
team was in attendance!!)
|Our first ever taste of orange and mascarpone ice cream.
The verdict? Yum!!
|Lemon mousse as well? Rude not to... (though the pedant in
me is reaching out to move that errant raspberry!)
And after all that there was still an appetising cheese platter followed by divine, melt-in-the-mouth tablet (the latter courtesy of our other bridesmaid's kind mum) to come. Suffice to say, we both remained fairly replete for most of Sunday (though we did manage to squeeze in another couple of pieces of leftover tablet!!)...
|There was even some Isle of Mull Cheddar on the plate
(reference to the fact that we originally met on the Isle of Mull)
|The tablet didn't last long ;-)|
It was a happy, hilarious, harmonious evening – and one we'll certainly treasure for a long time to come. As American designer Zac Posen puts it: "Food, friends, family. These are the most important things in life." Add to that good health, and you won't go far wrong.