Melanie's Food Adventures

Nairn Rocks

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Food Fairs are always something I look forward to immensely. Lots of food goodies, lovingly displayed to catch the eye of all that walk by, particularly people like me, who also have rumbly tums!

I couldn’t wait for the Food Fair at Nairn Book & Arts Festival last Saturday. I’d seen a list of producers who were due to attend the event, and I was excited in equal measures about the producers I knew already, and the ones I’d yet to meet. The morning started with a very dark sky and rain and got steadily worse as the hours went by. By the time I’d left the house, it was torrential and I ran from the car to the Community & Arts Centre  with my pennies, large shopping bag and camera, all struggling with each other to stay, relatively, dry!

Inside was warm and inviting, and I wasted no time in working my way round the stalls. I headed straight to see Elizabeth, of Capability Brown’s and The Wee Croft Shop. I had read on her Facebook page a list of all the fantastic treats she was bringing along with her, so I had a mental note of what I was going to buy as soon as I arrived! It was lovely to chat with Elizabeth again and I just wish I lived nearer Inverness so I could treat myself every week to her delicious baking! For now though, I consoled myself with a morello cherry & coconut slice and a couple of dark chocolate & cranberry butter cookies.

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We continued chatting while she pointed out the producer next to her, The Chocolate Place, who are also based in Inverness, and about to celebrate their first birthday. What a mouth-watering selection of chocolates! All of their Belgian chocolates are handmade in their shop and contain no preservatives. I was able to try some samples and as we chatted, I mentioned my food blog. Debbie explained that chocolate works really well with tomato based recipes (I can’t wait to try that one out!!). The chocolates tasted divine, so smooth and creamy and I knew I had to buy everything on the table…… I quickly snapped to my senses and realised that would be rather greedy on my part as no one else would be able to take their little piece of chocolatey heaven home! I bought a fair selection though (to be shared *honest*)

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Onwards to the next table where Bad Girl Bakery had the most incredible display of cakes I’d ever laid my cakey eyes on! I’d recently come across Jeni’s page and positively drooled over the pictures of her amazing creations. To say I was spoilt for choice is an understatement, lime & pistachio cake, clementine & star anise cake, lemon shortbread, custard creams and cupcakes galore. I’m a massive sucker for cupcakes so I bought four (not all for me, honest!) vanilla with sprinkles, lemon curd and a couple of chocolate & raspberry. All got the thumbs up!

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My shopping bag was filling up nicely and I wasn’t done yet! Next was Berry Good, who are based up in Caithness, and produce flavoured gin and vodka using fruit picked from a farm just outside Nairn called  Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm, who were also at the event. After a couple of wee samples I happily left with some of their blackberry gin…  Utterly delicious!!

Ooooh… I do love cheese, so I was really looking forward to visiting my next producer, The Cheese House, although I was now wishing I’d brought a pack of crackers with me! Emmy was incredibly helpful and was happy to let me try a selection of her Dutch cheeses. After much deliberation, I went with a Gouda with cumin, a Prima Donna (similar to Parmesan) and Gatenkaas (a great alternative to Emmental).

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That was it…. When I got to the stage that my shopper was filled to the brim I decided it was time to stop and have a cuppa. I sat down with my tea and delved back into my bag until I found my chocolates, it was the perfect combination!

My seat was on the front row as Carina Contini from Contini’s restaurant in Edinburgh was going to give a talk and cookery demo and I didn’t want to miss a thing. As the ingredients came out on trays you could actually smell the wonderful aroma of the basil from where I was sitting. What was wonderful about the demo was that she brought her husband Victor and daughters Carla and Arianna. It was lovely family affair as Carina chatted about their main restaurant, opening their Scottish Cafe at the http://www.nationalgalleries.org/ and their newest venture at the top of the Royal Mile, while Victor and their daughters made Pesto Genovese. Carina explained that they deal with 70 artisan producers throughout Scotland, so if they have fish on the menu, they know exactly where the fish was landed. It was, as Carina said, “Our duty to know the food journey”. I loved that quote, it represents how passionate they are about food, but more importantly where it comes from and supporting the local economy.

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Carina recently launched her book Kitchen Garden Cookbook : A Year of Italian Scots Recipes and she talked about the large Victorian garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh that the family have lovingly restored to its former glory. The book is utterly gorgeous, with over 100 recipes, divided into what is grown during each month of the year. The garden’s produce is now used in their restaurants, completing the circle of garden to table.

Four gorgeous salads were made using ingredients including, raw courgette with chilli, celeriac, apple, Crowdie and tomatoes. Myself and Nicola of Something Sweet Something Savoury managed to sample them all between us, and we were suitably impressed!

After a great demo, which lasted over an hour, it was time for me to leave…. I couldn’t wait to start working my way through all these goodies!

Melanie, Food Adventurer

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