This weekend, the Queen Mary in Long Beach held their 21st Annual ScotsFestival. My project was to try all the tasty Scottish delights that I could. First, I met up with Chef Kevin Haggard, of Heritage Meat Pies. “It’s extremely traditional to have the Scottish Meat Pies with HP Sauce, as well as a lot of times at the events, we’ll serve it as a meal plate with a side order of mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy, which is very traditional”, he said. “The steak pie is more English than the Scottish Meat Pie. The Scottish meat pie obviously comes from a Scottish heritage. If you notice the background of most Scottish foods, they originated when Scotland was under the rule of England and the Lords and controllers of the estates in Scotland pretty much gleaned anything of value, so anything that was left over was developed into food products. That’s why you’ve got haggis, bread pudding and the Scottish meat pies”. Chef Kevin continued, “We always get the question from the inexperienced,’what’s HP Sauce?’ and we’ll always direct them to it and recommend it. It’s the best flavor profile that I usually describe it as being like an A1 Steak Sauce with a little malt vinegar in it, so it has that vinegar tang but the richness of a steak sauce”. Indeed, the taste of the meat pies was excellent, nice and flavorful. The HP Sauce added just enough of a spicy kick to really enjoy it.
Martin and Kieron, the Brand Ambassadors to the United States for The MacCallan, Highland Park and Cutty Sark Scotch whiskey, led the Scotch tasting. On a balcony overlooking the event, bagpipes and drum corps playing Scottish music drifted up, adding to the special feeling of this tasting, which also acted as an introduction to the Peerless Spirit Scotch Dinner that will be held on Thursday, February 20 in the Queen’s Salon on the Queen Mary. Cutty Sark Prohibition was the first Scotch to taste. “The reason we’re having this”, Martin said, “is that it’s one hundred proof. We’re starting with the strongest whiskey right away. It’s kind of a litmus test to see who survives the first whiskey. Some people drop like flies!”. It seemed however that not only did no one drop, but that the excitement over the whiskey made for a great start to the tasting. Kieron and Martin then proceeded to explain how whiskey tasting is different from the procedure that people use to taste wines and then led everyone through the tasting of The MacCallan and Highland Park Scotch.
Martin also told the group that was assembled for this excellent Scotch tasting, “Rest assured we’ll tell you all about whiskey, all about the knowledge we have of Scotland, a wee bit about Scottish history and such and about the Scotch itself. The most important thing, however, is to raise the glass and say, ‘Cheers!’”. Then everyone in the tasting group raised their glasses and responded with a resounding “Cheers!”. As the group went through the rest of the tasting, the clip-clop of horses and the sound of the band playing, as well as the cheering crowd for the Highland Games, made it an afternoon to remember. Martin and Kieron are both from Glasgow and really provided great insight on everything they spoke about.
Chef Todd Henderson, the Executive Chef of the Queen Mary, spoke to me about the food at the Queen Mary’s booth. “Haggis; hearts, lungs, kidneys, oatmeal spices and onions, put back into the sheep’s casing, cooked off with potatoes and turnips”. Chef Todd topped the haggis off with an excellent onion gravy. The texture of the haggis was similar to a nice country-style paté or meatloaf, with a nice amount of spice. This is definitely not bland food, but hearty and delicious. Chef Todd explained that “Traditionally, that’s what haggis is, they butchered the sheep or lamb, sold off the good parts and made the haggis from the offal that was left. You could feed a family with that”. They also served an English Banger along with it’s traditional accompaniment, mashed potatoes, to make the dish Bangers and Mash. A Scottish Cornish Pasty, basically the Scottish form of paté en croute, was served cold, the delicious pork filling making a nice contrast with the flaky puff pastry enclosing it. Chef Todd explained that it consisted of “ground up pork, some bacon, spices, a little bit of cream and a little bit of egg to bind it all together and it’s baked off”.
The haggis was a big hit overall, a perfect example of how humble ingredients can make a delicious, hearty and flavorful dish. It is also a great example of why it is usually worth trying a taste of something different to expand your horizons. You never know how it tastes until you try it!Personally, I count myself as one of the converted, since I was a little scared to try it, but thoroughly enjoyed haggis and look forward to having it again.
One of the tasty sweets at the ScotsFestival was sampled and sold by Carl and Marilyn McDanel, of Browns’ English Toffee. Their Scottish Tablet has the consistency of fudge in a rectangular ‘tablet’ the size of a small notepad. The original flavor had a nice, not too sweet taste, with a hint of shortbread. An interesting variation was the Scotch Whiskey Tablet, where a mild, slightly smoky Scotch note infused the delightful candy treat. Both flavors of the Scotch Tablet were delicious. With the traditional Scottish Tablet, however, it was just the right thing to finish off a day of delicious food at the Queen Mary’s 21st Annual ScotsFestival.
I asked Chef Kevin about the fact that he was standing here, looking at the Queen Mary, which was built in Clydebank, Scotland in 1936, what he thought of the location. “It’s one of the best backdrops to the Highland Games that we can have. Everything about the ambience, the setting is fantastic!”. Fantastic fun, music and food—-a hard day to beat!
The 21st Annual ScotsFestival
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Phone: (877) 342-0742