This is the second year that I have been to the Burns Supper at Barley’s Smokehouse, where the Burns Supper is a well established and obviously much loved tradition. This was the 10th dinner that they have held and it is one of my favorite food events. There is such a wonderfully warm and fun atmosphere and the owners obviously really enjoy putting on the event. I also love haggis. A Burns supper celebrates the birthday of Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, the scottish equivalent of Shakespeare and writer of Auld Lang Syne and many, many famous poems. This year would have been his 250th birthday, although the actual date is January 25th.
You arrive at Barley’s and mingle in the bar, possibly enjoying some of their fine micro brewed ales. The bagpipers enter and haggis is processed through the restaurant. The Burns dinner guests join the procession and follow through the restaurant cheered on my the restaurant patrons, to a special event room at the back (it is a great venue). Proceedings commence with the Address to a haggis and the spearing of the haggis…. and the eating and joking begins. Much of Burns’s poetry is very bawdy and you know that any event where the guests are shouting out ‘cock up your beaver‘ (it refers to a hat) and ‘fornicator‘ is a) not the for the faint hearted and b) going to be a riot. You sit at long communal tables and it is very convivial.
Dinner starts with the Selkirk Grace
There is a speech in tribute to Burns, this year with a political theme and we learned about the links between Burns, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and the American Revolution. The rest of the evening comprises of more eating, drinking, the tapping of the firkin, whisky toasts (with some whisky education) and poetry reading. Anyone is welcome to stand and read a poem from the Burns supper veterans, who bring books of Burns poetry they have been practiced to the uninitiated Burns supper virgins, which included one of my brave friends.
Tayside Tang (composed orange and grapefruit salad)
with Scotch Egg
Phyllo Wrapped Salmon with Spinach Filling
Honey and Whiskey Cake
with MacLenny’s Scottish Highland Liqueur
Three Single Malt Scotches for toasting
Tapping of this year’s Robert Burns Scottish Export Ale
The haggis was flown in from Oregon and is made to a traditional scottish recipe, but without the lungs which are not allowed by the USDA. Haggis is served with neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). Did I mention that I love haggis? Luckily there are usually a few people who don’t like it, so I was happy to help clean a couple of plates.
The home made scotch egg was excellent. A scotch egg is a hard boiled egg encased in sausage meat, with a deep fried bread crumb crust. It is most often eaten in England as a cold picnic food. Here it is served warm and I could happily have scoffed a few more. The Tayside tang was the only thing I didn’t like. The cock-a-leekie soup was very tasty and the main course which differs every year (last year I think it was venison sausage) was delicious.
Whisky and honey cake (very fragrant with lots of orange zest) accompanied by MacLenny’s special Highland Liqueur, a home made version of Drambuie. The cake was especially good dipped in the liqueur.
The three scotches that we toasted with were Glenrothes private reserve (Speyside) which was my favorite of the three, Auchentoshan Three Wood (Lowland) and Glenmorangie 10 year (Highland). The meal was also accompanied by the annual Robert Burns Scottish Export Ale which Barley’s only make once a year. Our beer came from a special Firkin where it has been maturing and so was a little different to the beer that you get on tap in the bar which is filtered. It was dark, malty and fragrant but I am having trouble remembering the details of all of the special malts that were used.
There is much heckling and hilarity. The evening concludes with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne and the guests stumble happily into the night.