Cail Bruich sets the bar high for Scottish cuisine

Cail Bruich sets the bar high for Scottish cuisine

“We serve wild game and it may contain shot,” cautions a note at the bottom of the tasting menu at Cail Bruich (725 Great Western Rd., Glasgow; 0141 334 6265; cailbruich.co.uk). For those who like their meat nice and brown, the menu further advises, “Some ingredients are cooked sous vide.” With warnings like that, who could resist? (Against my mother's admonitions, I was always the child with beans in his ears.) It's a bit of a schlep from Glasgow central city out to this bohemian stretch of West Glasgow near the Botanic Gardens, but it's worth the pilgrimage. Now in its 10th year of serving elevated Scottish cuisine made with classical technique in a semi-casual setting, Cail Bruich (Gaelic for “Eat Well”) continues to amaze....Read More
Alchemilla brings sunny, exotic touch to Finnieston

Alchemilla brings sunny, exotic touch to Finnieston

Alchemilla encapsulates the emerging identity of Finnieston as the hip side of Glasgow. When the port was still bustling, lonely sailors used to head to the western neighborhood for professional company. But ever since Zaha Hadid's punk-glam Museum of Transport opened a few years ago—and now the Clydeside Distillery—Finnieston has emerged as Glasgow's answer to Brooklyn. It's where the cool kids hang. If they happen to be foodies, they probably eat lunch at Alchemilla (1126 Argyle St.; 0141 337 6060; thisisalchemilla.com). We did, and we were glad of it. The small restaurant is painted in the bright, glowing colors that those of us who live in wintry northern cities associate with the Mediterranean. The professed concept is “simple, fresh Mediterranean food for sharing, with sustainably...Read More
George Mewes makes us smile and say ‘cheese!’

George Mewes makes us smile and say ‘cheese!’

Few things make us smile as readily as a taste of great cheese. The best local cheeses represent the apotheosis of milk. A top cheesemaker can take milk from a ewe, goat, or cow and bring out both the characteristics of the breed and the flavors of the place where it grazed. To say that Scotland makes world-class cheese is an understatement. The browse may be scrubby, but the cheeses are rich and layered with subtle flavors. George Mewes Cheese (106 Byres Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 5900, georgemewescheese.co.uk) launched nearly eight years ago in a modest, temperature-controlled shop in Glasgow's West End. We stumbled on the shop almost by accident while exploring the neighborhood. We literally smelled the aged cheese aromas wafting out the door...Read More
Clydeside shows Glasgow history through whisky glass

Clydeside shows Glasgow history through whisky glass

Glasgow's Clydeside Distillery began operation late last fall and opened to tours just after Christmas. The attraction was so new when I visited in late January that my taxi driver didn't know how to find it. But once I finally arrived, it turned out to be worth the effort. Nearly a century after Glasgow's last old-time whisky maker closed, the Clydeside is the second new whisky distillery to open in the last year. It sits at the site of the Old Pump House at Queen's Dock (100 Stobcross Road, Glasgow, 0 141-212-1401, theclydeside.com, tours £15). The River Clyde provides the best protected deepwater ocean port in the west of Scotland. The world's goods flowed into the United Kingdom here—and fine Scotch whisky flowed out around...Read More
Willow Tea Rooms perpetuate a grand tradition

Willow Tea Rooms perpetuate a grand tradition

We look forward to the ritual of afternoon tea wherever we land in the British Isles. Stopping in a homey tea room for an afternoon “cuppa” is such a genteel tradition that it's hard to imagine that it was once at the forefront of a social revolution. But in the mid-nineteenth century, tea rooms were one of the few places where women could gather and socialize. Miss Kate Cranston was one of the pioneers of the movement when she opened her first tea room in Glasgow in 1878. She went on to operate four tea rooms in the city before she retired in 1928. Miss Cranston proved to be a visionary as well as a shrewd businesswoman. To provide her patrons with an uplifting experience,...Read More
So … what’s the big deal about haggis?

So … what’s the big deal about haggis?

Canadian comedian Mike Myers once observed that Scottish cuisine is basically based on a dare. He was likely referring to Scotland's national dish, haggis. We have to admit that we didn't know what to expect of this traditional delicacy that Robert Burns hailed as the “great chieftain o' the puddin'-race.” After all, it consists of minced sheep's heart, liver, and lungs combined with onion, oats, and suet—all cooked up in a sheep's stomach. That makes it the most extreme of savory puddings to have survived into the modern era. Yorkshire pudding is little more than pancake batter that soaks up the juices of a roast. Black pudding is a type of blood sausage with a lot of oatmeal in it that is usually served at...Read More
Tastes of Scotland light up a winter visit

Tastes of Scotland light up a winter visit

We wonder if the Scottish diet was invented sometime at the end of the last Ice Age. On our recent late-winter visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh, we found that such Scottish specialties as cullen skink, neeps and tatties, Arbroath smokies, Scotch pie, and even the ubiquitous haggis have a special appeal when the temperature hovers around the freezing point and the weatherman won't commit to whether it will rain or snow. Nordic cuisine continues to have a moment on the international gourmet scene. We found that eating in Scotland was an excellent way to get in touch with the roots of high-latitude foodstuffs before the trendy restaurants of Copenhagen and Bergen started tinkering with them. There's a pure honesty to a cuisine based on short-season...Read More
The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

The lavender lady of Aix champions the scent of Provence

“This is the 'gold of Provence.'” a lovely older woman exclaimed us as she handed us each a sachet so that we could inhale the minty-floral aroma of lavender. To us, the purple blossoms are the signature scent of Provence. But, according to Béatrice, not all lavender is the same. She insisted that the best is grown in the fields surrounding the ancient fortified village of Sault in the High Vaucluse. She is dedicated to spreading the word. “I want to keep the tradition alive,” the former French teacher told us. “The family has been growing lavender for 400 years. The soil and sun around Sault impart unique flavor.” Béatrice's table at the Tuesday produce market in Aix almost overflowed with sachets stitched from traditional...Read More
Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Sun-splashed markets make Aix a shopper’s dream

Just 45 minutes north from Marseille by train, Aix-en-Provence is incredibly cute and utterly Provençal. It almost seems fabricated by a clever group of artisans to send tourists home with suitcases full of the accoutrements of French country design and the ingredients for the celebrated cuisine of the sun. Since it was our first opportunity to visit one of the great market towns of Provence, we scheduled our trip for a Tuesday for the broadest range of open-air markets. Also available on Thursdays, the produce market, flea market, flower market, and textiles and crafts markets are less crowded during the week than on Saturdays. Or so we were told. It's hard to imagine if any more people could have crowded into the mostly pedestrian streets...Read More
Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

Seeking supreme couscous in North African Marseille

The North African caste of central Marseille had us jonesing for a great couscous before we left town. We investigated a number of casual and posh spots before we simply took the suggestion of our landlady and of the server at La Marsa. Everyone seemed to agree that we should go to La Fémina (1 rue du Musée, 04 91 54 03 56). Founded in 1921, it is one of the most established North African restaurants in Marseille. North African doesn't mean Arab, though, explained Mustapha Kachetel, the fourth generation to operate the restaurant. His family are Berbers from the mountainous Kabyle region of northern Algeria. There's no question that the food is authentic—the recipes come from his great-grandmother. The family orientation continues—a fifth generation...Read More