I spent last Sunday enjoying the wares of the Highlands at Natural Retreats John O’Groats, who hosted this year’s Taste North festival! If you follow me on Instagram, I was popping up over the course of the day with my escapades! The marquee was crammed with food, drink, accessories and art, all made in the Highlands. Many of those are within Caithness and Sutherland, although others had travelled afar from the Isle of Skye, Aviemore and Orkney.
I spent some of the morning helping Ruth of Caithness Chocolate get set up, before getting a sneak peek before the crowds descended. Even despite the threat of high winds and heavy showers, you can trust the people of Caithness to come out and support local events! Over 1600 people entered the Exhibitors Market and it was a real squeeze round during the middle of the day with everyone trying to get a taste of the free samples on offer, whether that be cheese, gin or oatcakes.
I split my time between the Exhibitors Market and the Chef’s Theatre, where Tony Singh did three demonstrations throughout the day. The first was a Caithness Beef salad, made with ribeye steak from Cairn Hill Agriculture. We get a monthly beef delivery from these guys and the quality is fantastic! The second was haddock (from Scrabster Seafoods) with a curried hollandaise sauce, and the final demo showcased Caithness strawberries with meringue and a strawberry, cinnamon and peppercorn jus. Tony was very popular, ably assisted by the winner of the 2017 Taste North challenge as his assistant, and kept us all entertained with his tips, jokes and answers to our questions. Heading up the Taste North judging panel, he was also busy sampling the baked goods of the 2018 Taste North Challenge – which this year had a baking theme.
Annie Millswas the winner of the youth section with her lemon and gin cupcakes, and Lili Mackenzie was the winner of the open section with her Apple cake made with Caithness Apples from Lyth Arts Centre garden!
Of course I came home with a bag fit to bursting with goodies, although a special mention is deserved for the Wild Highland Drinks Tuk-Tuk which was doing a roaring trade serving up prosecco sweetened with candy floss, sweet mocktails for kids, and Thompson Bros Gin which I last sampled at the Dornoch Hotel back in April.
One for our larder are these mini Christmas puddings from Caithness Summer Fruits, ready for the festive season!
Seeing the Barony Mill stand helped me to reminisce of your trip to Orkney almost two years ago, and our trip to Westray to meet Louise from the Westray Bakehouse, formally known as WFM Brown, (see this post for lovely photos of this Orcadian island) so of course some of their beremeal crackers were going to be bought, along with Barony Mill’s beremeal ginger crunch biscuits!
Of course Caithness Chocolate were going to feature, and i chose a selection of my favourites, which included raspberry and mascarpone, and these beautiful domes filled with passion fruit! Not to mention the chocolate dipped dried peaches, and dates stuffed with nuts and covered in chocolate!
We are keen on mustard so I chose Saladworx Deli variety to add some flavour to our sandwiches and salads.
I absolutely love Lindsey Gallacher’s scratchboard art, and her depictions of classic Caithness scenes are stunning. Initially bought to send to friends, I don’t think I can part with them now!
Finally, a very local company who are just starting up – Shore Seaweed who harvest up to 18 varieties of seaweed from the north and east shores of Caithness to produce these seaweed puffs. I also am in love with the ‘Kelp me!’ bag!
So that’s it for another year – my first Taste North event! The whole day was really well organised, and apart from choosing a bigger marquee for the exhibitors market to enable a bit more space for people to move around in for next year, I can’t think of much to improve on!
Congratulations to all the team of Venture North and Taste North for a great event!