A Winter’s Feasting at Ballintaggart Farm, Perthshire

Uncategorized, Winter

My husband and I had the most amazing, restful break away last weekend. It was the first night away without the kids, our eldest is 5 and a half!, so it’s been awhile! For ages now we have been dreaming about heading up to Ballintaggart Farm in Perthshire. After going to their pop up supper club in Edinburgh last February,  we have been trying to find the time to head up to Ballintaggart Farm to relax and feast. The push we needed came last week; 2 spaces at their feast table AND an available room (the holy grail!) so we could stay overnight coupled with catching up with the lovely Hilary @Mymonkfish who urged me again to head up to Ballintaggart Farm ASAP. So we grabbed the opportunity by rallying friends and family to look after our little ones, booked our spaces and headed up the next day. Well, all I can say is it was everything that I had heard it was and hoped it would be, and then a huge dollop more. It was phenomenal; the whole experience completely blew me and the husband away. So I have felt compelled to write an insight in to our fabulous time at Ballintaggart Farm in order to share a little of our wonderful experience, and hope that you love the sound of it too and go and visit the Highland gem!

I first found out about the amazing Ballintaggart Farm, and the lovely owners Chris and Rachel, in February 2017 when we managed to grab a couple of tickets to their sell out Pop Up Feast Night at DRY Edinburgh, Stockbridge. It was a fabulous communal dining experience where Chris, the Head Chef at Ballintaggart who is Leith’s trained, showcased local and seasonal produce from Perthshire, and the wider Scottish landscape, as well as some other fabulous produce from the UK. Chris and Rachel had very kindly catered for my fish and seafood allergies by providing equally amazing alternatives so I could still properly feast along with our fellow feasters. The feast consisted of numerous delicious sharing plates to start with. We then tucked into our individual plates of which the main plate was honestly one of the best plates of food I have ever tasted. It consisted of seared vension which was beautifully rare, served with forced Yorkshire rhubarb, star anise, local Strathtay honey, served with sweet potato purée with burnt spring onions. The sweetness of the honey and slightly sweet tartness of the rhubarb cut through the richness of the venison whilst deliciously complimenting the tender meat. The taste and aroma, especially from the honey, was out of this world.

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The dessert was another showstopper; a rich chocolate pot, blood orange granita with mini beetroot meriginues.  We sat next to some lovely fellow food lovers who told us about the original Edinburgh Supper Club, Charlie and Evelyn’s Table which Chris and Rachel set up and ran from their own home prior to them establishing Ballintaggart Farm. Thank you again Meg @cottagegardenkitchen for giving us the heads up about this night. And also to Hilary @mymonkfish for you and your husband being such lovely fellow supper club feasters that night.

Ever since that winters night in February I have been following Chris and Rachel’s journey through their little squares on Instagram, and through the rave reviews they have received on social media and in the national press and the awards they have received so far. We have been dreaming for months of heading up to Ballintaggart Farm for one of their feast nights, cookery courses, or a night or a weekend stay, to experience their amazing food and hospitality. So fast forward 10 months and last Friday we set off up to Perthshire for our first night away together without the kids (it only took us 6 years, but that’s another story!).

We arrived in the evening and we were greeted by the magical warmth of the fairy lights twinkling in the frosty night air which adorned the front terrace of the farm, the glowing fire pits and lanterns outside in the courtyard, and of course the friendly and familar warmth from Rachel and Chris which we had experienced just 10 months before. As soon as we entered the building I felt at ease; like we had been there before, and we were visiting old friends.

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Relaxing in the guest lounge before the feast was just the tonic we needed after a crazy, yet amazing, first 6 years of parenthood! Rachel offered us a pot of tea, there was a homemade lemon and thyme loaf cake set out which we could help ourselves to, and one of the lovely friendly staff brought in some deliciously refreshing homemade ginger and lemon cordial made by Andrew, Chris’ brother, who heads up the drinks side of things at the farm.  Whilst sampling these delicious edible offerings we relaxed by the warmth of the log fire and took in the beautiful surroundings whilst bathing in the calmness.

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The evening started at 7:30pm so we went through to meet our fellow feasters. Drinks were served in the sumptuous library which was beautifully dressed with a picture-perfect Christmas tree and its decorations and other festive adornments. As we sipped on our wine, we poured over the immense cook book collection and chatted with our fellow feasters.

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Through into the stunning space next door was a beautiful room with a high beamed ceiling and the long feasting table which was dressed beautifully in a winter theme with pine cones, warm candles and winter foliage, and was perfectly set awaiting its guests. We were all invited by Rachel and Chris to join the table with our fellow feasters at around 8pm. Before we commenced feasting, we were introduced to the whole of the Ballintaggart Farm team which was very heartwarming, as it shows their lovely community spirit and how team members are greatly valued. And then we were reminded to relax, to share and to enjoy the night before we commenced our feast.

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Throughout the night I was in my element. The food was amazing local and seasonal produce cooked in an expertly and thoughtful way, which if anyone knows me is just my thing and I am so happy when I am eating this type of food in a communal way! The format was similar to the feast Chris and Rachel held in Edinburgh at the start of this year. There was a beautiful sharing board to welcome which included scallop roe crostini, Great Glen venison salami (a favourite of mine) and pickled heritage carrots which had the most perfect bite to them and the right sweet-sour balance; I loved these!, along with breads, olives and rapeseed oil. Then to start we had 3 sharing plates. These consisted of ‘Wasted Degrees’ short rib of beef and peasemeal crackers, and braised Hispy cabbage with pomegranate and herb aioli. These two plates were delicious but the third plate of the locally grown Jerusalem artichoke which was griddled and served with Ballintaggart home cured bacon in fennel with a whisky wash, and chestnut and kale oil was just divine. The main plate was again, a perfect plate of food; Grierson’s organic porchetta with a celeriac purée, rainbow chard from along the glen and Ballintaggart apple sauce using apples from their orchard. The combination of flavours, textures and aromas was perfect. To follow we had a cheese plate.

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And to finish there was a dessert of pumpkin and ginger tart with pumpkin and sesame seed brittle served with Katy Rodger’s creme fraiche. I am now a convert to pumpkin desserts! The addition of ginger gave the pie a lovely warmth and the pumpkin was so smooth with a soft, almost butter-like, taste. Combined with the contrasting texture of the delicious snap of the brittle, it was beautifully rounded off with a delicate, creme fraiche. I had been eyeing up the brittle on Instagram that Jess, the Leith’s trained chef at Ballintaggart working with Chris, had made to accompany the tart. So pleased I got to try it!

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To round off the feast we had Glen Lyon Coffee S.O. with some locally made tablet. Then as a last treat were tempted with one more delicious morsel in the form of a locally made marshmallow which we were invited to take outside and toast on one of the firepits which were dancing with flames on the terrace.

Throughout the meal Chris came out of the busy kitchen to chat to us about the food as the team delivered another plate of wondrous food. Andrew kept everyone topped up with their preferred tipple, they don’t have a license at the moment so it’s BYOB. Our water glass was constantly replenish throughout the feast too. The team were so attentive with plates of food delivered, and glasses replenished, in a gentle and friendly manner.  We had such lovely company round the table too, a real mix of friendly and honest folk who were there to enjoy, share and chat food with like minded people. It was also lovely to see some of Ballintaggarts suppliers feasting around the table too. The whole feast had wonderful community feel to it.

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After giving our heartfelt thanks and warm goodbyes, we retired to our sumptuous room just before midnight and slept like logs; it was so cosy being able to sleep uninterrupted, just for one night, and not having a little hand or foot wake us up several times in the middle of the night! The room we had was beautifully designed with so much attention to little details and thought put into the design.

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There was everything you needed and wanted, and extra things you didn’t know you needed but loved! There was a selection of teas with a teapot, a mini coffee machine, fresh milk and fruit. We devoured the most amazing local handmade chocolates thins flavoured with Scots pine needles, foraged locally, and smoked salted caramel, by Charlotte Flowers. There were beautiful toiletries by the Highland Soap Company in the ensuite bathroom for guests too. We wanted for nothing.

 

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The view from the bedroom in the morning was beautiful and we sat looking out at the earthy colours of the glen. The snow-capped hills in the background sent me into a deeper level of relaxation as we reminisced about all the times we had spent in the Scottish Mountains, before parenthood. For quite a number of years we used to spend at least every other weekend in the hills either hillwalking or mountain biking.

Before breakfast we had a wee wander round the farm, taking in more of the fantastic views across the glen up and over onto the hills. Breakfast was a fabulous mix of Ballingtaggart homegrown and homemade produce, and local artisanal producers, and high quality national ones too, just like the feast the night before.

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For breakfast we had a little of Ballintaggart’s homemade granola using local honey, Katy Rodger’s yogurt and Ballintaggart plums and rhubarb. This was so delicious! I would have had more but wanted to to try some others things Chris and the team had to offer.

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My ‘second course’ for breakfast was a delicious bowl of porridge using Scottish oats from Blair Atholl Water Mill with almonds, and apples from Chris and Rachel’s orchard. This was a beautiful bowl packed with lots of lovely warm flavours.

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And the ‘final course’ was a delicious plate of poached Ballintaggart Farm eggs, from the happy hens we had just wandered past on our earlier stroll around the grounds. This was served with homemade caraway and fennel toast, cured bacon and a scattering of micro herbs and a dollop of delicate mustard sauce. Smooth Glen Lyon coffee and fresh juices too were consumed.

Why do I love Ballintaggart Farm so much? It strikes a chord with my attitudes towards, and love of, food. I love the way they support local artisanal producers as well as national ones too (I counted at least 10 local products in our evening and morning feasts!);  I love the way they are growing and cooking seasonally so folk can eat seasonally; and sharing food, knowledge and skills with other like minded souls. The hospitality Rachel and Chris offer is so comforting yet so refined, home from home luxury, it is second to none. I love the joy I get, as I am sure lots of other people do, in taking part in shared dining experiences where you are welcomed wholeheartly to come join in, relax and enjoy. This was certainly the case at Ballintaggart. The attention to detail in every aspect of the Ballintaggart Farm experience is just perfect. Rachel and Chris have thought of everything. We didn’t want for anything. The only thing was we didn’t want to leave but the pain was lessened by the beautifully wrapped pieces of cake and water in our journey goodie bag!

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If it sounds like your kind of place, and you haven’t been  Ballintaggart Farm yet, the I would urge you to find time and go. If you have been before and loved it, then go again. And, if like us, you have kids and fancy it, then rally friends, family, or anyone else you might trust to look after your wee ones, and book, and go. It’s was just a phenomenal experience. I am already planning our return visit next year!

Thanks again Ballintaggart Farm!

http://www.ballintaggart.com

 

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