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Mull & Iona Food Trail

Posted by True Highlands in Kit and Caboodle, Scottish Recipes | 0 comments

There are many places in Scotland that would lay claim to being its foodie capital, in truth there are Michelin starred restaurants to be found all over the country and fresh produce available in even the smallest of villages. With such a wide variety of choice what is a holidaying foodie to do? A new food trail launching this summer has the answer and at the same time will attempt to establish Mull and Iona as Scotland’s new culinary hotspot.

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Fresh and local are the current fashionable marketing terms that are seemingly banded around by every restaurant or café trying to attract customers, but what do they really mean and why is it important? In a way these words have lost some of their meaning, when a supermarket can describe something as freshly frozen, when it has also been transported half way round the world, how can we ensure that what is on our plate comes from the waters or the fields we can see around us. Part of the ethos of the Mull and Iona Food Trail is the strict criteria for inclusion. Restaurants, farm shops and producers must be able to demonstrate a connection to the islands, it is this, rather than the repetition of marketing buzz words that will ensure the best possible experience for visitors to the islands.

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Spain and France have traditionally bought up the majority of shellfish caught in the unpolluted clear waters of the west coast but thankfully the market at home is slowly realising just how spectacular these delights can be. With a supply chain as simple as a fisherman delivering live shellfish he has caught that morning, direct to the restaurant to be served on your plate the same afternoon, then its hard to imagine just how much more fresh or local you can get. This kind of arrangement is of benefit to everyone involved, food miles are kept to a minimum, your carbon footprint is reduced benefiting the environment, restaurants get top quality ingredients and customers can indulge in the very best the country has to offer. In addition to shellfish the islands have a variety of game and other meats, such as croft reared organic lamb, exquisitely tender and with a unique flavour. And don’t forget the free range eggs from hens that roam the machair, destined to form the basis for traditional home baking.

The second quality ingredient to add to our foodie holiday recipe is the personal touch. The islands have a long tradition of hospitality so the warm welcome afforded visitors is as natural as it is heartfelt, a night at The Tobermory Hotel will verify that. Just having the best food in the world isn’t enough if you don’t have an inviting place to stay or a relaxing atmosphere around you. There is something special about eating outside, whether it is a picnic on a beach or just a terrace outside a restaurant then it somehow gives you a connection to your surroundings. A view over the Atlantic, the sun setting over the endless sky, mountains or white sandy beaches, these are the views from the Mull dinner table, you could describe them as priceless but in truth they don’t cost a penny. Dining in this part of the world can be an immersive experience, you don’t just taste it, you experience it.

The final touch of spice is innovation and imagination. It’s one thing to have the best ingredients but it is what you do with them next that differentiates Mull and Iona from many of their competitors. Two great examples of this are the Ninth Wave restaurant and the Moveable Feasts festival. The award winning Ninth Wave specialises in creating extraordinary dishes with influences from around the world but with their roots still planted firmly in the croft garden. Ulva Oysters, Mull pork cheeks, sea lettuce, seaweed, octopus and raw Iona honeycomb cheese all feature in an amazing fusion of styles and spices, an approach that has garnered them many awards and led to them producing their very own cookbook. Advance booking is essential, for an unforgettable place to stay afterwards Seaview B&B is just walking distance away.

One of the highlights of the moveable feasts line up of culinary events this summer is an Evening with Cyrus Todiwala. The celebrity chef and proprietor of Café Spice Namaste will be preparing a special Indian themed 5 course dinner at the Isle of Mull Hotel, accompanied by the finest malts. It will be a unique opportunity to see what one of the finest Indian chefs in the country can do with the distinctive flavours of the west coast. Therein lies one of the final reasons why Mull should be regarded as foodie destination no.1, if you want something as simple as a crab claw sandwich from a shack at lunchtime then you are covered, home baking made with local eggs and cheese, look no further, award winning fusion cooking in the most amazing location, no problem.

It’s that blend of simplicity and sophistication that it is at the heart of the new festival, with 13 course tasting menus at Duart Castle sitting next to street food extravaganzas, and local producers working with celebrities such as Lady Claire Macdonald. It’s a bit like stepping briefly back in time when home cooked meals were the norm, to an era before supermarkets and online shopping when people largely ate local and organic without even thinking about it.

An addendum to the bottom of the menu of the Galleon Grill in Tobermory salutes the local farmers and fisherman as heroes and urges you to do the same. The new Mull and Iona Food Trail gives you just the excuse you need to do exactly that. See you there!

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