12-5 The Table Restaurant – Edinburgh

Prior to getting to Edinburgh, I checked various listings for restaurants to try and make reservations for our stay. The number one restaurant was called The Table. It seems this place releases reservations months in advance and books solid almost immediately. Not wanting to let this get past me, I e-mailed a note and asked if there might be any openings and was surprised to hear there was! Seems a party from London wasn’t going to be able to make it up for their reservation and I was able to grab two spots.

One counter, 10 chairs and 2 chefs.

The Table is a small place, only 10 seats, and we sat at the counter watching Chef Sean and his assistant Keith work magic before our very eyes! It is a BYOB place and we had hoped to get an idea of wine selections prior to arriving, but didn’t get them until the day of the reservation so had already picked up a bottle of Champagne and Burgundy. We figured both of these wines would go with just about anything they put in front of us and we were correct.

The menu is determined based on seasonal ingredients. No choices are available and you get what is prepared that evening. The process is not fast – we were there for almost four hours – and the interaction between the Chef and all the guests is frequent and animated. Doors open at 7, not before, and we arrived finding several couples waiting anxiously to get in out of the cold. Very soon we were all there, the doors opened and Chef Sean started the experience.

View of the counter from the back of the place.

We were able to snag seats in the middle of the counter – 2 couples to my left and 2 couples to Janeen’s right – giving us a prime spot to watch all the action. To my immediate left was a couple from Edinburgh enjoying the evening and texting or emailing to their daughter throughout to let her know what was happening. The couple to Janeen’s right was from a village outside of Cambridge, England and had flown in for the evening! Next to them was another couple from London who were celebrating his birthday having taken the overnight train. We felt really lucky to have scored a reservation.

Amuse-bouche Deep fried pasta with pigs cheek and tomato sauce on the bottom right. IN the middle was braised fennel with sour cherry jelly glaze and the upper left was Cracker with blueberry jell with foie gras.
Ain’t Easy being Cheesy – Potato, Ham Hock and Autumn Tarine with Different Ages of Cheddar
Here’s Chef Sean plating the Lord of the Anelli course coming up!

Throughout the evening there was increasingly lively conversation between everyone present with questions asked of Chef Sean like “How long have you been doing this?” pause, “28 months”. “ What kind of pig is this pork?” “Mangalisca, the Wagu of Pork” Who thought up a teaspoon of caramel powder with Anglesea sea salt as a course? A chef in Chicago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone asked about the source for the hawthorne sauce (local scavenged); and Janeen learned what the red berries hanging on bare branches of trees are called.

Lord of the Anelli – Lobster Anelleti with Lemon and Chervil before the sauce is poured
Lord of the Anelli – Lobster Anelleti with Lemon and Chervil after the sauce is poured
Glasgow Scallops – Scallops with Curried Cauliflower and Buckfast
Chef plating the next course of Sow Your Oats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sow Your Oats – Port with Celeriac, Apple and Porridge
Blame Canada – Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Bacon
Werther’s Not so Original – Caramel Powder Inspired by Grant Achatz
Not a Lighter Way to Enjoy Chocolate – Textures of Chocolate with Malted milk
Final taste of sweets
Janeen and Chef Sean

Throughout the evening the items presented were well prepared and plated wonderfully.

 

11-4 The Scotch Whisky Experience

I admit it, I like a good single malt whisky – and we were clearly at a place that has a lot of these. Specifically we went to

The entrance to the Scotch Whisky Experience building.

The Scotch Whisky Experience. This included a “barrel ride” through the process of how whisky is made, a tour of the largest single Whisky collection in the world and a tasting of the wonderful elixir called Whisky.

 

The Whisky Experience (WE) is a several story building on the

A cut away showing the various areas of the building.

Royal Mile just before the forecourt of the Castle. We opted for the Gold Tour that included the basic tour, with one tasting, and an additional four regional single malt tasting flight in the lounge. On top of that we also get a one-year membership in the Scotch Whisky Appreciation Society (not sure I will be able to use any of the benefits but fun to have anyway).

 

The Barrel ride car. Nothing fancy for sure.

The ride doesn’t compare to anything Disney might do, but it was at least clever in its presentation of how whisky is made with an interesting narrative. Having some idea of the process it was a refresher not anything new. After the ride we went into the Sense of Scotland room where a very enthusiastic guide – John, explained the history of where whisky is made. The video included visuals of all the areas of Scotland, the types of country and a general overview of the climates of Scotland. Clearly the video was done during the spring or summer, nothing like the weather in those areas in early December.

From there, we entered into the tasting room. After a brief introduction, we were given the option of tasting a Scotch from one of the six regions of the Country. I chose a taste from Islay and Janeen choose a Lowland pour. Before actually tasting the golden beverage we were taken into the magnificent Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection room.

Hard to believe all these are unopened.
Only one wall of 5! Filled with unopened bottles

This room holds over 3,000 bottles of UNOPENED Scotch Whisky that Diageo collected over the years – living in South America! Seems he liked the stuff so much he didn’t open any of the collection. It was purchased for an undisclosed amount about 10 years ago and is now part of the WE collection. It is with this backdrop of bottles that the guide explained how to smell and properly taste a whisky – a lot like drinking wines actually. Now we tasted our whisky.

After general tasting we end up in the “bar” where we were served our additional flight of four whiskies.

Janeen with her tasting flight

 

A  nice culmination of the tour. The exit being, of course, through the gift shop we looked at a number of different bottles available, took a few pictures and left to grab some lunch downstairs in the Amber Restaurant.

Barrel stave tree in the shop.

When we were here in 2014 we didn’t take the tour but did have lunch in the Amber Restaurant and had a whisky or two at the bar. Our lunch was nice – local fare and filling. From the restaurant, we went to the Bar to look through and taste a few whiskies.

Yours truly – a very happy guy.

 

 

The “book” is divided into regions listing everything they have available. There are more than 350 different bottles to choose from! Impossible to get through more than a couple at a time really but an effort was made to try something different. Our educational take away from all this was the true nature of “blended” whiskey.

Here we are getting ready to taste more whisky

True, there are some blended single malts, but a true blended wart is made from a grain other than malt, then a small portion of a compatible flavor single malt is added to make the blend (the decision to start blending other grain whiskey was to compete with Irish and American whiskeys, perhaps?). Generally, blended whiskey is considered less “harsh” than the single malt that was distilled in the 19th century.

Old Pulteney – Navigator -Softly sweet & fragrant with light tropical fruits & a creamy finish my taste at the bar
Old Perth in Sherry cask – A bit hit of sherry and rich treacle.  Spiced fruit on the palate with dry, nutty finish.  Janeen’s taste at the bar

There are a LOT more blended whiskeys then there are single malt bottled every year.

 

 

 

 

 

Thyme Well Spent in the glass.

While at the bar I mentioned a cocktail made with Dalmore that I quite enjoy. The barkeep said they had one too – called Thyme Well Spent. Naturally I had to try it and it was quite delicious, a great end to our meal and tasting.

How to make a “Thyme Well Spent” . Enjoy!

 

So, having finished with the Whisky Experience we went out to the street, bought Janeen a cashmere sweater and caught a taxi home.

12-3 Edinburgh Sites & Christmas Market

Castle Rock, the volcano that spewed lava rock in a mound, became King Edwin’s Fort (Gaelic burgh) sometime in the 12th century. The Castle built on and into the perpendicular lava stood a strong defense for centuries.  People have lived on Castle Rock since the Bronze Age, around 850 BC, and there has been a royal castle on the site since at least the 12th century.

We “attacked” the City from the train station, after our 60 minute ride from Glasgow to the west.

Just across the street from the Train Station. Nice to get a spot to eat before going to our apartment.

The area around the Waverley Station is accustomed to wheel-bag dragging, hungry travelers, so we found a brew and steak just across the road for our Thursday evening meal. After a brew and some tasty food, a black cab delivered us to Lothian House our VRBO.

Lothian House covers most of the upper floors of this building.

 

 

 

Arriving around 5:30, well past sunset (3:45PM here) and already dark we found our way into the building and connected with the owners for the key and instructions on stuff in the apartment. A nice one bedroom, with separate bath, entrance hall and living/dining/kitchen area was to be our base in Edinburgh for the next week.

Celebrating Christmas in Edinburgh

Friday we headed out to get a lay of the land – we had been here in June 2014 so had some idea of the general area but it’s Christmas Time and there is a huge Christmas Fair happening in the Park. That night we had dinner reservations for a place we had been while here in 2014 – Mark Greenaway Restaurant (review separately). Chef Greenaway uses local and cultural foods in innovative ways in his tasting menu, and has matching wines to complement his creations. A great way to end our first day in this city.

Saturday, being cloudy both in skies and heads, we decided it would be a laundry, nap, and relax day in our 1930’s decorated VRBO apartment.

Hop on Hop off bus

Sunday we purchased the 2 day Hop on Hop off (HoHo) bus pass and sat up top on a clear, sunny, if chilly, tour of the highlights of the City. Stop 1 started at the Christmas Fair, 2 whisked us by our VRBO neighborhood, and we were headed for the hollow of Grassmarket.   Stops 5/6 were bookmarked for return Monday for Castle and Whiskey. Stops 8/9/10 reveal both Georgian tenements and 20th century Parliament architecture of the Royal Mile and culminate at Arthur’s Seat, (the other dormant volcanic mount). Stops 12/13/14 found us back at the Waverly Train Station, passing the National Gallery and having crossed Bridge Streets which are engineering marvels, we had come full circle.

David on the top of the bus with the Castle behind him.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen’s Gallery an art gallery. It was opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II, and exhibits works from the Royal Collection.
Streets of Old Edinburgh with the Castle in the background.
The Grassmarket Square – used as a market square, execution spot and general gathering place for centuries.
The Scottish National Gallery
‘Haunted’ pub which claims to be the city’s oldest. Live music nights, real ales and Scottish food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of the Christmas Market Fair – several rides that I wouldn’t do even if it was warm! Crazy people live here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HoHo bus brought us back to Princes St. (“New “Town, new circa 18th century) and many options for a late meal.

Lovely Janeen next to some Lovely Christmas Trees on Queen Street
This Blue Dome takes up an entire intersection along Queen Street. Used for light shows in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dome Restaurant had LOTs of Christmas decorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We found the beautifully holiday-decorated restaurant called The Dome and cued up for a bit in the warm, and enjoyed the elegant café lunch (the high tea was completely booked). After our late lunch or early dinner really, we walked through more of the Christmas Market area and back to our apartment

Here we are again.

12-2 Restaurant Mark Greenaway – Edinburgh

Janeen at the front of the restaurant.

When we first visited Edinburgh in 2014, we had tried to get a reservation at a nice restaurant but it was fully booked. The Concierge at the Sheraton suggested the Restaurant Mark Greenaway not far from our hotel so we went. Our evening at this place was very pleasant with good service, an interesting menu and nice wines. So, as we were coming back, I made a reservation for one evening to see how it had changed over the last 3 and half years.

 

Nicola, our waitress at our original visit – now married to the Chef.

The Restaurant Chef and Owner, Mark Greenaway, has been listed as one of the best 100 chefs in the UK. When we first visited, in 2014, the restaurant had not been open very long but was already gaining positive recognition. Our reservation this December was for 5:45 and we were a bit early but that wasn’t a problem. Our table, in the main dining room, was well positioned to watch the other diners arriving and getting settled in. After reviewing the menu options, we selected the tasting menu paired with wines. We were sitting at the table remembering the waitress who had served us on our original visit and realized she was now the hostess who greeted us when we arrived.

Here’s Nicola now as hostess and now married to owner/chef Mark Greenaway

I came to learn she was not only the hostess but had married the Chef and was now acting as the general manager.

 

Over the course of the 3 hours we sampled a variety of items over 7 courses. The presentation of the amuse bouche was delightful; eggshell porcelain cups held oak smoked salmon flavored cream and were presented in an egg carton with explanation and flair.

The Amuse-bouche presentation.
Amuse-bouche eggshell porcelain cups held oak smoked salmon flavored cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course one encapsulated lobster in a smoky infusion, topped with a green pasta roll of crab with cubes of cucumber.

Course one encapsulated lobster in a smoky infusion, topped with a green pasta roll of crab

 

The paired white wine (Macabeo) enhanced the light freshness of the dish.

Course two was decorated with flowers and fresh buds of winter vegetable over a custard

Course two was decorated with flowers and fresh buds of winter vegetable over custard. Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux paired pleasing with this mix of fresh and rich.

Thyme infused beef broth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course three supplied a timely pause while we waited for the thyme infused beef broth to distill. Cabernet Franc (2016) was presented, and except for Janeen’s dislike of the grape, went well. The heated broth was poured over beet leaves and herb infused cream.

Gently steamed Hake

A New Zealand Gewürztraminer accompanied the fish course, gently steamed Hake, on a striped pasta bed with shrimp stuffing dill sauce and carrot puree.

Smoked pork layered with crusty skin, grilled corn, and garlic mash

Then, at five, there was savory; smoked pork layered with crusty skin, grilled corn, and garlic mash, piped onto scot pudding.

With a shell of meringue, a lovely custard

Course six, bridged savory and sweet, once the shell of meringue was cracked, lovely custard was flavored with Tokai wine in our glasses.

Dessert – four chocolate flavors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, and almost too much, a late harvest dessert wine accompanied four chocolate flavors, whipped, moussed, and jellied but all Choco late.

Mark Greenaway, Chef and Owner.

This would have been a lot more accurate if Nicola would have sent me a copy of the tasting menu as promised.

 

 

11-27 Glasgow Scotland

Glasgow Scotland – A UK couple on our Portuguese Douro River tour insisted we needed to see what Scotland looked like from here. Glasgow has hosted communities for millennia with the River Clyde providing a natural location for fishing and is said to have been founded by the Christian missionary Saint Mungo in the 6th century. In the 18th century, after the British  Acts of Union in 1707, Glasgow became prominent as a hub of international trade to and from the Americas and a major ship building port. Today, while the River Clyde still flows through the City, the trade and shipbuilding are all a thing of the past. Today the city seems to have a large insurance company and finance presence and of course ,tourist visits.

Glasgow Tower is a free-standing and holds a Guinness World Record for being the tallest tower in the world in which the whole structure is capable of rotating 360 degrees.

We flew into Glasgow and took a cab to our hotel close to the City Center. After settling in we walked around and got a brief ‘feel’ of the place ending up with a lovely dinner at a small restaurant and then back to our hotel. Let me say at the outset that the hotel  a Best Western Historical refurb, was still a work in progress.  First, we were in the basement level, not really a problem but no elevator or lift, and the heating was intermittent, making the room very uncomfortable. We got up the first morning to find the heating completely off – the radiator cold to the touch and the single pane windows not helping a bit. The response from the front desk – “we had complaints that it was too hot, so we turned off the heat”. Well, that didn’t make me happy and they clearly knew that but enough about the lousy hotel.

Part of the Christmas Village set up including lots of shopping opportunities too.

Our first full day, we walked down to the main square and picked up a couple of tickets for the Hop on Hop off bus tour around the City. This was a really good way to learn about the sites of the City and learn some of the history.

The Glasgow Cathedral

The tour hits all the highlights and gives some details.   We did a complete tour and got off at the stop closest to our hotel. We did hop off a couple of times and checked out the local sites.

On our way to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery

Onesite was the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This was a lovely museum with interesting displays of Edinburgh history.

Central hall and Organ of the Kelvingrove Museum
Lots of hanging heads on display at the Kelvingrove Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely picture taken of the front of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery by Janeen.

The next day, we walked down to George Square and the main (pedestrian) shopping area of the City and just walked around looking at the sites and taking in the holiday cheer of the shops.

This shopping mall could have been virtually anywhere in the world! It looks just like all the other malls we have been in.

As we really aren’t looking for anything in particular it was fun to just window shop (although a bit cold for us SoCal folks).

Lots of hats!

 

 

 

 

 

While we didn’t visit many of the historically significant sites of Glasgow we did get a nice feel for the City and didn’t feel badly when we left by train to Edinburgh.

Tiki Bar close to our hotel
Beresford Hotel built in 1938. The first “sky scrapper”.
Janeen on the upper deck of the bus.
David taking in the sites.
Main fountain in the Glasgow Green