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Queen Mary's ScotsFestival featured great food, drink, music this weekend

Martin and Kieron, Brand Ambassadors for The MacCallan, Cutty Sark and Highland Park Scotch whiskies, led a tasting of fine Scotch at the ScotsFestival
Martin and Kieron, Brand Ambassadors for The MacCallan, Cutty Sark and Highland Park Scotch whiskies, led a tasting of fine Scotch at the ScotsFestivalEdward Simon

This weekend, the Queen Mary in Long Beach held their 21st Annual ScotsFestival. Chef Kevin Haggard was asked 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!”.

A Scottish cornish Pasty, Bangers and Mash and Haggis were delicious foods found at the Queen Mary's 21st Annual ScotsFestival this weekend
A Scottish cornish Pasty, Bangers and Mash and Haggis were delicious foods found at the Queen Mary's 21st Annual ScotsFestival this weekendEdward Simon

“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”, said Chef Kevin Haggard, of Heritage Meat Pies. “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”, he said.

Chef Kevin talked a bit about the HP Sauce, a traditional English bottled sauce. “We'll always know someone has a familiarity with it when they ask for brown sauce or they just ask for 'sauce'. We know just what they're asking for and where to point them to”. 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 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”.

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 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”.

Earlier, several people that were seen eating the haggis were asked about their opinion on it. One woman, who came from an old Scottish family, said that she wished her mother was here because the haggis was so delicious that her mother would really enjoy it too. For generations her family has eaten haggis and she felt this was a delicious version of it. Another woman was offered a taste of the haggis but declined several times based upon what was in it. Finally trying it, after others at the table had told her how delicious it was, she commented that it really was delicious and that she was ready for her own plate of it. The haggis was a bit 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!

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. Like many of the vendors at the ScotsFestival, the McDanels came from out of the area, hailing from the California Gold Rush town of Fiddletown on the edge of the Western Sierras. Both flavors of the Scotch Tablet were delicious, made in the McDanel's They keep a steady list of events that they attend, bringing their Scottish Tablet as well as toffees to each event. 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.

The 21st Annual ScotsFestival

February 15 and 16, 2014

The Queen Mary

1126 Queens Way

Long Beach, CA 90802

Phone: (877) 342-0742

www.queenmary.com