Guest post by Andra Dănilă
Hello everyone! My name is Andra and I was studying in Scotland, at the University of St. Andrews. This is my guest blog post about some of the food and drinks I had the pleasure to taste in Scotland. Hope you will enjoy reading about all the following deliciousness and perhaps you will be inspired to travel and try them yourself!
Chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream at The Central, one of the best pubs in St Andrews. This dessert has easily become one of my favourites during my semester in Scotland. I have had the opportunity to try chocolate fudge cakes on multiple occasions these months, but this was probably the most delicious. The vanilla ice cream perfectly complemented the richness of the chocolate flavor. I can still remember the taste of chocolate. Yum!
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon in St. Andrews. Salmon is frequently served in Scotland due to its proximity to the seas and this was one of the few particularities of Scottish cuisine that I truly enjoyed. Salmon is not only healthy but extremely delicious, especially if prepared in the right combination. This meal was definitely a hit. If you want to add something special to your breakfast once in a while, add salmon and wheat toast to your scrambled eggs and you will have a great start of the day!
Whiskey is everywhere in Scotland, even in some hotels.
Italian food in Edinburgh. This is a delightful Sicilian dish called Arancini and elegantly served in this restaurant on a hot wood slab. Arancini are delicious breaded balls of rice filled with tomatoes, mozzarella and peas. The name comes from the food’s resemblance to small oranges (the literal translation of arancini is „little oranges”).
Whiskey tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh. The Scotch Whisky Experience is not a distillery, but one of the greatest collections of rare and expensive whiskey in the world. The tour offers tourists the chance to learn about the process of producing whiskey, to distinguish between different types of whiskey according to color, taste, texture, and weight, and last, but not the least, to taste some very expensive whiskey.
The tour began with the story of creating whiskey: we were seated in large wooden barrels attached to a rail which took us through a few dark rooms filled with a series of screens and animated installations. The effect was very similar to what you would experience in an entertainment park or a house of horrors, minus the terrifying atmosphere, of course. The fun part only began at the end of this narrative section. After we descended from the barrels, we were met by our very friendly instructor and taken to the tasting room. Here we were asked to observe the differences in color that occur with the passage of time. Whiskey grows darker as it ages, but the type of wood chosen for the barrels in which the whiskey is kept also affects the color of the liquid. For instance, whiskey kept in sherry casks tends to look darker than whiskey kept in bourbon casks. However, the choice for the barrel wood is very important not because it changes the color, but because it influences the taste of the whiskey.
The tasting experience. In all honesty, I have never truly liked whiskey. I much prefer wine not just to whiskey but to any other kind of alcoholic beverage. As opposed to wine, whiskey always seemed to me too strong, too masculine, and too pungent for me taste. However, the Scotch Whisky Experience changed my opinion, even if only slightly. I came in rather reluctant and unwilling to taste more than one type of whiskey, and I came out with a better understanding and a greater appreciation of this drink. Although the tasting experience did not convert me into a whiskey fan, it did show me why some people may be very enthusiastic about it. In the end, my lesson was that there is not one secret behind an appreciation of whiskey. There are two: first, be open and ready for a change; second, add some water. At the tasting, we were first asked to smell four flavors and then try each of the two whiskeys provided. Of course at the beginning I was too overwhelmed by the strong smell and alcoholic taste and I could not tell whether there was some specific flavor, but I took the advice of our instructor and added just a few drops of water. This dilutes the heavy alcohol that first hits and drives your taste buds insane and allows the true flavor to emerge.
After the tasting, we were led to the fantastic room where the bulk of the rare collection is kept. To my surprise, although none of these super expensive bottles have never been opened (such a waste), many of them were partly or even half empty. Our instructor explained however that the missing liquid, known as „the angels’ share” had evaporated in time, or, as the expression implies, claimed by the angels. The most interesting bottles to me were those with unusual designs.
For instance, this set of chess, which would make for one intoxicating but amazing match.
A great selection of whiskeys was available at the gift shop….
... including bottles for every taste and budget.
For the moderately prudent…
… for those willing to spend a bit more….
…. and of course, for true whiskey-lovers, as well. Something for everyone.
At the end of the tour, I was rewarded with a diploma for having been such an excellent student and having fulfilled my duty to taste as much whiskey as I could.
I also got a map of all the distilleries in Scotland, around 100 in number. These are the only places in the world where true scotch whiskey is manufactured, and all of them produce whiskey with a characteristic taste and flavor that savvy whiskey drinkers are able to distinguish.