Well, what a weekend that was. A weekend of music, camping, dancing, drinks, midges, more drinks and, most importantly, delicious food at the Kelburn Garden Party. More than three meals a day, and all from wonderful, friendly vendors selling food from around the world. We were spoiled for choice. That’s why I’m writing two posts – there was so much to choose from, and between four of us we tried to choose it all… We didn’t exactly succeed, but we did get a good sample of what was available. On the second day I even plucked up the courage to approach people and describe myself as a blogger – only the second time I’ve ever done that, and the first time it was sort of surprised out of me. Everyone was so friendly, and happy to have their photo taken for inclusion in one of these posts, I am truly grateful and quite abashed by everyone’s enthusiasm. A couple of the vendors even took time out to talk to me about their products, which they were obviously and quite rightly so passionate about, and I’ll try to remember the details here.
It’s probably important to say that I was offered a sample of chocolate from one vendor, but no other incentive to write this post – in fact, I approached the vendors for photos because either I or a friend had purchased and enjoyed their food over the course of the weekend. The opinions are honest and my own.
I’ll go in more or less alphabetical order, because it seems a fair way to do it. We will begin with the fine coffee merchants Artisan Roast. I had a Rose and Black Pepper Hot Chocolate, which was warm, sweet, delicate and beautifully crafted. This is the first time I’ve had a pretty shape on top of a beverage, and I truly believe that it tasted better for it.
Next on the Kelburn Alphabet is The Chocolate Tree. This was the place I took the most photos, and I chatted to Ali for a long while about the products they have, about the importance of supporting local business and about his new baby – congratulations! I really appreciated the time Ali took to chat to me, and it’s clear how much he cares about the quality of the products he and the rest of his team sell. I took a lot of photos of the range of chocolate bars and of a couple of hot chocolates that some lucky customers were treating themselves to.
I tried one of their diabetic chocolate bars, which was made with Peruvian cacao beans and xylitol instead of sugar. It was excellent, without the unpleasantly waxy texture that diabetic chocolate can have. Miss K tried two of the gelatos – mango and chocolate – and pronounced them amazing, and ate them while I was off gallivanting around so I don’t have a photo of them. I do have some photos of the gelato being scooped though, which is actually better:
Ali explained to me that you scoop the gelato several times not only for shape, but also to introduce air into the scoop and improve the volume and texture. Gelato is richer than ice cream, and whipping it up a little with air prevents it from being too heavy. It was an educational stop, The Chocolate Tree! They are a company dedicated to Fair Trade, organic, high quality chocolate. On one hand, they sell chocolate made to traditional methods – one of the photos at the top shows one of the oldest known chocolates – but on the other hand they work on new and contemporary flavours and presentation. It’s the best of both worlds.
Next I’d like to mention the Courtyard Cafe. This place is a fixture in Kelburn, not like the other vendors who were there only for the festival. I was a little worried that the full time staff at the Country Park would be a bit fed up with us festival go-ers and our shenanigans by the end of the first day, but the staff in the Courtyard Cafe were welcoming and friendly the whole time we were there, and served us up some really hearty, home-cooked food. Alas, I have no photos of the food itself (we ate it all tooooooo fast) but it included a barbecue of burgers, chicken or vegetable skewers and corn on the cob. Inside, there was chicken or veggie curry with pita bread, chips and curry sauce and if I recall rightly a big pot of soup. On Sunday morning they were selling breakfast rolls, which is precisely what your average sleep-deprived, hungover or possibly still drunk person requires of a morning. There was also tea, coffee, soft drinks and cakes. All the food that we tried was great, but more to the point the service was wonderful. In particular I’d like to thank Joanna, who was there all weekend and who I never saw without a smile on her face. I hope I have spelled her name right – she’s the lady on the left. Go to Kelburn. Visit the cafe.
The last of today’s highlights is Haggis Haggis, a stall selling (you guessed it) haggis, but also stovies, hot and cold drinks and some sweet snacks like cookies, doughnuts and muffins. The chaps at the stall were very shy, as you can see.
I think all of us ate haggis at some point over the weekend – as far as I’m concerned, haggis is one of the perfect festival foods. It’s warming and spicy, it’s filling and satisfying and frankly, it’s as Scottish as the midges and the drizzle. This particular haggis was really peppery, available in original and veggie varieties and came with rustic mashed neeps and tatties in abundance. Huge portions, cheerful staff and all round happy campers.
Let me round off this first post with a few of our own, tent-made creations… I brought the trusty camping stove and we had tea with powdered milk, which took a bit of work to get right but, by Jove, I got it in the end. We also toasted marshmallows over it with medium success (the trick is to actually set them on fire), and we drank tent drinks out of matching blue plastic glasses. The boys had tumblers, the girls had cocktail glasses. This is not because we conform to gender rules, just because we liked the glasses.
As you can tell, we had a wonderful time at the Kelburn Garden Party. I have another four vendors plus a brief discussion of the available booze coming up on Friday, come back then and check it out. If you’re at a festival this summer and you see any of these guys, go and sample their wares – and by all means, tell them I sent you! I handed out business cards to everyone, which made me feel like a bit of an 80s throwback but people were so receptive to them that I felt much less self conscious by the end of the day.
Many of the vendors have real life shops you can visit, too. Artisan Roast have shops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Kuala Lumpur (true story). The Chocolate Tree has a shop in Edinburgh and regularly visit two farmers markets in Edinburgh and one in Haddington. The Courtyard Cafe are open from 10 – 6 throughout the summer, and can even host a private party for you if you’re of a mind.
Our tent was a temporary fixture, I’m afraid to say, so you’ll have to fix your own toasted marshmallows.