Pat and David

Tea with a Scottish burr in the Balmoral’s Palm Court

Tea with a Scottish burr in the Balmoral’s Palm Court

Any visitor who relishes the Scottish baronial architectural style of Edinburgh's central core has imagined a night at The Balmoral Hotel (1 Princes Street, Edinburgh; + 44 (0)131-556-2414; roccofortehotels.com/the-balmoral-hotel). The grand railway hotel opened in 1902 to complement Waverly Station and remains the most storied hotel in the city. With rooms starting around $325 and quickly rising, its elegant comforts are out of reach for many. But the hotel offers one sweet, not quite so dear indulgence. Book afternoon tea in the Palm Court, one of the classiest, most elegant rooms in Edinburgh. You can take in the surroundings as you linger over a tiered tray of sandwiches and savories, hot scones with clotted cream and preserves, a seasonal selection of pastries, and a choice...Read More
Sweet surrender at Mrs. Mitchell’s Sweetie Shop

Sweet surrender at Mrs. Mitchell’s Sweetie Shop

Sweet nostalgia is the stock-in-trade of Mrs. Mitchell's Sweetie Shop in Glasgow's Trongate neighborhood (117 Trongate). Out front, a giant swirled lollipop on the sidewalk lures in Glaswegians eager for a taste of their childhoods. “Everyone asks for the old-fashioned candies,” said Mercedes Thompson, niece of proprietor Beverly Mitchell. She gestured to shelves filled with jars of chocolate lime satins, barley sugar, rhubarb rock, butternuts, and rum and butter toffees. The wrapped candies are great to stuff in a pocket for a quick pick-me-up during a meeting or a ride on the subway. But some of the favorites are good for sharing. Beverly told us that MB Originals (chocolate-covered white fondant) and Chelsea Whoopers (chocolate- covered soft fudge) are among the most requested candy bars....Read More
What to buy in a Scottish grocery store

What to buy in a Scottish grocery store

It's really no surprise that we bring foodstuffs home from all our travels. It's not just that we love reliving taste memories. There's a practical side to grocery shopping on the road. We live in a small space and we don't have to commit to long-term storage (or dusting) of nifty food items that we buy as souvenirs. Even the lovely city of Glasgow (above) couldn't tempt us with durable souvenirs. Consumables also make great gifts. Much as we enjoy prowling specialty food shops, even a chain supermarket can yield a shopping basket full of goodies for yourself and your friends. That's just what we did at a branch of Britain's largest retailer, Tesco, on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. Here are a few of the...Read More
Here come Vidalia onions, squat and sweet

Here come Vidalia onions, squat and sweet

Vidalia onions are among the fruits and vegetables that mark the seasons of the year. We always love the challenge of eating our fill of such seasonal produce for the few short weeks that it's fresh. We've been a little impatient with the official state vegetable of Georgia because the harvest came late this year at the end of April. The onions are just starting to flood into the market. It's not that hard to eat a lot of them in their short season. Their combination of high water content and low levels of the sulfur compounds that make other onions pungent means that you don't tear up when you slice Vidalias. Moreover, they impart a sweet onion flavor to dishes even before they are...Read More
Gourmet pioneer Cafe Gandolfi a Glasgow must

Gourmet pioneer Cafe Gandolfi a Glasgow must

Every city's gastronomic revolution has its pioneers, and one of the most important in Glasgow is probably Cafe Gandolfi (64 Albion St., 0141-552-6813, cafegandolfi.com). When photographer Iain Mackenzie opened the restaurant in 1979 in the city's old cheese market offices, he was running against the tide. Adventurous foodies would take a taxi from Central Station, about a 10-minute walk, because the old Trongate neighborhood was so shady. Now Gandolfi is one of several good restaurants in “Merchant City,” the newish moniker for the redeveloped district. The current owner, Seumas MacInnes, came to work as a kitchen hand in 1983 and took over the reins from Mackenzie in 1995. By all accounts, it was a seamless passing of the baton between two Gaels whose families hail...Read More
Glasgow street fare: Morton’s Rolls and fried Mars Bars

Glasgow street fare: Morton’s Rolls and fried Mars Bars

Wherever we go, we try to stay open to serendipity. We like to think of our approach as open-minded, but it might be better described as open-mouthed. Our goal is to discover local foods, however humble. So when we spotted the Morton's stand in Glasgow, we knew we'd hit paydirt. As scripture reminds us, “man does not live by bread alone.” The folks of Morton's Rolls would agree. You really ought to split it, spread it, and put something between the halves. Founded in 1965, Morton's remains one of the two bakeries making the crispy edged, pillowy soft white bread rolls so beloved by Glasweigians (or “Weegies,” as they sometimes call themselves). Morton's even has a small fleet of self-contained stands that sell the rolls...Read More
Raise high the glass at The Pot Still in Glasgow

Raise high the glass at The Pot Still in Glasgow

We weren't a bit surprised to see The Pot Still show up in a listicle of great whisky bars. (The Telegraph rated it #9 in its daring investigative report called “10 amazing whisky bars to drink in before you die.” How do we get a job like that? Oh, right, we already have it.) The exterior of The Pot Still (154 Hope St., Glasgow; 0141 333 0980; thepotstill.co.uk) has just the right plain-Jane face for a classic pub. Inside, whisky lovers mill around in a rather crowded entry level, while those of us with an eye for perspective climb the stairs to the little balcony in back with a clutch of low tables, stools, and banquettes. For some reason, the owners refer to this elevated...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
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