Bagpipes, Burns and Haggis
I love when a Bucket List item goes above and beyond my expectations. It’s happened a few times. Once when checking Indiana off my list and instead of just visiting Indiana, I walked into a Civil War reenactment! And just last week, when I just wanted a taste of Scotland at The Highlands, a NYC Scottish Restaurant, I instead got a full Scottish experience: bagpipes, poetry, whisky, kilts and Scots included.
I had never tasted Scottish food and in fact, I am not sure how to even describe Scottish food, but when I saw that OpenTable had an open table for a special event called a Burns Supper at The Highlands I booked a reservation. It was a prix fixe meal and event celebrating Robert Burns, a man I never knew I knew.
So Robert Burns? He is known as the national poet of Scotland and turned 258 on January 25. To a little ole American girl like me, he’s the guy who wrote “Auld Lang Syne.” Ah, yes, I know him! A Burns Supper celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns on his birthday and is a yearly event in Scotland and Ireland and has been since the end of the 18th century. The Burns Supper consists of readings of his poetry, bagpipe entertainment, a traditional Scottish meal, and toast to the Lassies.
Before our meal was served by our Scottish waiter/host in kilt we first were read a traditional Scottish Grace and then we were entertained by the most serious of musicians, a bagpiper. He marched up and down the tiny aisle expressionless and winded, which I suppose is the point. He was impressive.
The menu was outlined for us, which was perfect since I had no clue what I would have ordered. In fact, even after reading the menu, I still had no clue what I was about to eat. Really, what is Haggis?
Our food finally arrived …
The Smoked Salmon came first. I could taste the freshness, but I just don’t like salmon. Second was the Cullen Skink which is a soup, a very hearty soup, perfect for the cold winter’s day. Tasted like a creamy potato soup. The main meal of Haggis with Neeps and Tatties finally arrived. Neeps and Tatties are Turnips and Potatoes – easy enough and delicious! Now on to the Haggis. Why did we ask, I do not know, but once we understood what we were eating we proceeded with caution. This how Wikipedia describes haggis: “savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.” Our waiter pretty much described it the same way; however, ours was made with lamb liver and they now cook it differently since FDA banned cooking haggis in the “casing of the animal’s stomach” in the 1990’s.
Well now, I supposed that’s good news. So what did it taste like? To be honest, I liked it. It was a little greasy, and the lamb taste, which I do not like lamb, was hidden by all the spices they use. It was good and if I didn’t know what it was before I ate it, I probably would have enjoyed it more. It reminded my of my Mom’s eggplant dressing she makes for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving makes me happy, so I suppose Haggis makes me happy too. So, it’s not as scary and disgusting as it sounds. I recommend you try. Finally dessert, my favorite course! The Cranachan was a very light and refreshing dessert of raspberries and cream. And the Salted Dark Chocolate Bark which is not picture, but you know what it looks like, right? Oh delicious, but really, it’s chocolate. Yum!
The dinner was exception and the experience was more than I could have ever imagined. To learn about Robert Burns and to participate in a Burns Supper is to experience Scotland.
To conclude the evening and the Burns Supper (and this post) we were entertained with the familiar, “Auld Lang Syne.”
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.
On Old long syne my Jo,On Old long syne,That thou canst never once reflect,On Old long syne.