My neighbouring county has a very strong food culture and boasts some of the most fantastic food producers in Scotland. Situated in South West Scotland, Ayrshire can be rightly proud of it’s food. With a strong farming community, artisan food producers and freshly landed seafood, the area is well known for the quality and provenance of its food.
A visit to any of the weekly farmers markets is testimony to the dedicated and collaborative network of food producers, meat, fish, cheese and eggs, along with coffee, chocolate, bakery and vegetables can all be found on the market stalls.
From the best quality beef and lamb, delicious award winning cheeses, the famous ‘Ayrshire’ bacon, and ‘Ayrshire’ tatties, along with the freshest of fish, it could be said that Ayrshire has it all when it comes to good food. At the forefront of promoting the area’s Food Tourism is Taste Ayrshire, a group led by the area’s top hospitality businesses, producers and manufacturers.
A recent invitation to Scotland’s Creative Places Awards in Kilmarnock, gave me the opportunity to speak to some of the great producers who are part of Taste Ayrshire and to taste some great food products. With entrants to the awards along with their supporters attending from the length and breadth of Scotland, it was great opportunity for Taste Ayrshire to showcase the best of food and drink in the area.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the producers I met.
Dunlop Dairy owned by farmer and cheesmaker, Anne Dorward produces an award winning range of 8 cheeses from the dairy’s small herds of Ayrshire cows and goats. The cows milk cheeses include the hard Ayrshire Dunlop and the Smoked Dunlop, along with 3 soft cheeses, Aiket, a Brie,Camembert style cheese, Clerkland Crowdie and Paddy’s Milestone. The goats cheeses, made with milk from Anne’s Saanen and Toggenburg goats include the extremely popular Bonnet, a hard cheese and the two soft cheeses, Ailsa Craig and Glazert.
The cheeseshop and tearoom at Dunlop Dairy is well worth a visit. It offers the very best in simple fresh homemade food and of course stocks the full range of Dunlop cheeses. You’ll also find Dunlop Cheese on sale with Petrie Fine Foods at Ayrshire & Glasgow farmers markets. A full list of stockists can be found at http://www.dunlopdairy.co.uk
Everything Chilli owned by Lynn Duthie, makes a range of chilli spreads along with a selection of chilli based seasonings. The spreads include Pepper & Pear, Lime Shred and Original Chilli, and I particularly liked the range of seasonings designed to add flavour and an extra chilli kick to a range of dishes. A full range of Lynn’s products, stockists and the farmers markets Everything Chilli attends can found at http://www.everythingchilli.co.uk
Fencebay Fish, situated at Fairlie on the Ayrshire coast is a firm favourite of mine. Not only do they catch and harvest their own fish and seafood, they also have their own smokery and ‘Fins’ restaurant on site. Fencebay is very popular with customers at farmers markets, not only in Ayrshire but throughout the West of Scotland where there’s always an extensive range of fresh fish on sale. Check out http://www.fencebay.co.uk to see the full range of smoked & cured products, fresh fish & shellfish and to find out more about Fins Restaurant.
Barwheys Dairy is another of Ayrshire’s award winning cheesemakers. Owner Tricia Bey makes the award winning Barwheys Cheddar at her dairy in Maybole. Having visited the dairy and made cheese with Tricia last year, I needed no introduction to this delicious cheese. Barwheys is an unpasteurised cheese, and is made with milk from the dairy’s own herd of pedigree Ayrshire cows. No more than 45 truckles of the hard cheese are made each week and these go on to mature for between 12 and 18 months. In 2012, the first truckles of the now popular ‘Barwheys Beastie‘, a 24 month old matured cheddar were released for sale and occasionally a smoked version of the cheddar is available. For for further information and stockists, see http://www.barwheysdairy.co.uk The full blog post about my cheesmaking experience at Barwheys Dairys can be found in the January posts of this blog.
Little Doone Foods is another firm favourite of mine. I’ve been using their balsamic dressings since Colin and Tanya Hanna started the company back in 2007, with their Original Sweet Balsamic Dressing. Since then, another 8 dressings have been added to the range including, Orange Zest, Raspberry, Ginger, and an appropriately Scottish flavour, Whisky. All are based on the Original Sweet Balsamic Dressing, a product that sits somewhere between a balsamic vinegar and a reduction. With a good range of flavours, the products have great versatility and can add quickly add an extra depth of flavour to a recipe. Use as a dressing for salads or add to cooked dishes for extra flavour, use in marinades or simply enjoy with crusty bread.
Little Doone Dressings are available on line at http://www.littledoonefoods and from delicatessens, specialist food stores, farm shops and garden centres, nationwide.
Round Square Roastery Although coffee is not a locally grown product in Scotland, this is Ayrshire’s only roastery and wholesale supplier of ethically sourced coffee and ‘Directly Traded‘ beans from family farms in South and Central America. Owner and Head Roaster, Heather Stevenson, started Round Square Roastery in August 2013 and now supplies hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, delicatessens and the public with 100% Arabica bean coffee. Heather’s small dedicated team are passionate about the whole journey from farm to cup. There are currently 7 blends available in the Round Square Roastery range including their own house blend and ‘The Gentleman’s Blend’. All are available from the on line shop. Find out more about Round Square Roastery and the stories behind their coffees at wwwroundsquareroastery.co.uk
To find out more about about Taste Ayrshire, the many food producers, restaurants and hotels in the area, visit http://www.tasteayrshire.co.uk