Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bacon foam...

DAY FOUR - 4/30/12

Another sleep-ful night. The alarm clock I brought ran out of juice the first night, so last night I downloaded a new app on my Blackberry as an alarm. I awoke to some sweet jazz music this morning – sweet jazz, some drizzle outside, and cold toes. Crawling out of bed, I pulled on a thick sweater, layered some leggings under my jeans, and washed up to head downstairs. Lora had mentioned she’d let me borrow her straightener, which she bought from a Turkish man at the airport recently, but the prongs on the plug were for an American outlet, not a UK outlet. She called Graham in to help us figure out what to do, and after some investigating, we discovered that all we needed was the adapter, not the transformer. In Scotland, it is illegal to have power outlets in a bathroom, so I ended up straightening my hair in the laundry room!

We gathered back around the fire and lounged around for a bit - Lora and Graham worked on their laptops, and I curled up on the couch with Catching Fire. Isn’t it delightful how wrapped up you can get in a book? The world around me disappeared, and I got lost in the world of Katniss and Peeta and the Hunger Games.

Later, Lora and I retreated to the kitchen for some breakfast (Graham had eaten his toast earlier, as his body tends to follow the Turkish timetable, which is two hours ahead of Scotland). I had cornflakes with blueberries, and this seems to be my go-to breakfast during my stay at Charleston Steading. Lora surprised me by heating up a bowl of mushroom soup for her breakfast. I remember her saying she preferred savory for breakfast, but I was not expecting soup! We visited over the breakfast table for a few hours while Graham worked in the living room. She told me more about her work experience, starting with a stint in the Marine Corps. I had no idea! Conversation moved from her job to mine, from her family to mine, and on to our plans for the next two days. Tomorrow night, we’re going bowling, and I confessed my concern that my shoes would not be appropriate for the venue (outdoor bowling). She took a look at my ballet-like flats and rendered a semi-positive verdict. I hope they work okay - that they don’t tear up the lawn and that they provide enough support! Guess we’ll see tomorrow night.

We settled down in front of the fire again, all on our laptops, and bided our time until lunch. Lora made us a Mediterranean risotto and sautéed wild mushrooms – yum! She had calamari with hers, and while she gave me a ring of it to try, I only ate a polite bite before easily allowing her to take the rest off my plate. After lunch, we headed out for our next adventure: an overnight stay at the Cringletie House Hotel, an almost 2-hour drive from Charleston Steading. Upon pulling up to the old house, I decided it was more like a mini-castle. Tucked away from main road and surrounded by rolling hills, this gem of a home is the perfect getaway. Ultimately, the service was excellent, the views unforgettable, and the atmosphere serene. My room was the perfect single with a love seat in a rounded cove that begged me to curl up with a book. I could have spent the whole day in that tiny, cozy room with a book and room service. Instead, I met Lora and Graham in the drawing room for tea, and then we took a walk around the grounds. Although still quite chilly, it was not as cold as St. Andrews. After the walk, I went upstairs and read until dinner.

A walk around Cringletie House.
Dinner was quite the experience. We met downstairs in the bar, where we were served an appetizer of sorts. It was a small plate with a tiny ball of pan-fried haggis (a bon-bon, really), a shot glass of asparagus soup (it was quite a bit more involved than soup, but I can’t remember the name of the dish), and a small bite of crab salad. It was downstairs that we ordered our dishes before heading upstairs to our table. After asking a number of questions about preparation, etc. I decided on the following menu items:
  • Fresh English asparagus with a cheese and arugula salad
  • Grilled halibut fillet with golden chicory, red cabbage marmalade, smoked potatoes, and bacon foam
  • Banana ice cream
Yes, I’m sure you’re a bit surprised that I didn’t ask for any alterations (seeing as how that is my M.O. – asking for substitutions and the like). Once the bacon foam was explained as an emulsification (is that a word?) of bacon which has had the fat removed but still retains the flavor of the bacon, I decided to leave it as-is since I was told it was a critical part of the flavoring of the potatoes that are served underneath the halibut and foam. The bacon foam did, in fact, make the dish. The red cabbage marmalade looked like little raisins dotted around the plate. The potatoes were thinly sliced and sat underneath the chicory, which is a fibrous, woody vegetable, and on top sat the crispy-topped halibut under the bubbly bacon foam.

I cleaned the plate.

Lora ordered the lamb. On the menu, it listed lamb and then sweetbread, followed by some vegetables, etc. Now, I knew from watching Food Network that sweetbread is not bread, but the gizzards of some animal. I wasn’t 100% sure how this would be served with the lamb. I mentioned it to Graham, but he and Lora were certain it was a type of “sweet”bread. When the host came out to take our order, he did in fact confirm that sweetbread is not bread but IS the thymus (throat, gullet, or neck) or the pancreas (heart stomach or belly) of the calf or lamb. Interesting….Anyway, so Lora got the lamb and Graham got pork.

The dining experience was very up-scale (or as Lora would say, “foo foo”). Each plate was delivered with care and described to each individual by the server as it was placed before them. The presentation of each plate was splendid. Small portion sizes, but filling enough to satisfy. Dinner lasted almost two hours, and was full of interesting tastes and good conversation. It all made sense to me why Lora wanted to make sure we spent plenty of time at the hotel (check-in to check-out). This is not the sort of hotel where you check-in and then go out to find something to do in town.

Now, I sit here, comfortable in my bed, and I’m prepared to read some more Catching Fire. Another fantastic day in Scotland.

Enjoying a world-class dinner.

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