Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Flavours of Aberdeenshire ; When It Came to Altering Ailsa Cranna's View of Scotland the Way to Her Heart Was through Her Stomach ... on a Mouth-Watering Foodie Tour

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Flavours of Aberdeenshire ; When It Came to Altering Ailsa Cranna's View of Scotland the Way to Her Heart Was through Her Stomach ... on a Mouth-Watering Foodie Tour

Article excerpt

IT was the last time my father was lost for words. We were on the quayside at Oban and in a desperate attempt to rescue a disastrous holiday he suggested a boat trip.

One of my brothers replied in a bored voice: "What's over there that's different from over here?" At that point my father gave up and we went home.

To put it bluntly, Scotland and I have issues, as can only be expected from someone who spent childhood summer holidays in a Dormobile with three disgusting brothers. So why I decided to go on a trip to Aberdeenshire with my sister, Kirsty, is anybody's guess, but I'm glad we did.

Who would have thought Scotland could be such fun? On the Friday night we ate at top class restaurant The Silver Darling, on Aberdeen's North Pier, owned and run by Frenchman Didier Dejean, shortlisted for restaurant chef of the year in 2003, and highly commended for restaurant chef and seafood restaurant chef of the year in 2008. I started with an olive tomato salad, with white asparagus and quails eggs, mozzarella and basil bonbons in a hazelnut dressing, and my sister chose pan fried scallops with sweetcorn and artichoke puree, topped with dried chorizo and a chorizo dressing.

Both were perfectly executed, the scallops in particular.

My sister followed with Seafood Darling, an array of fish and shellfish in a bouillabaisse broth, with samphire and saffron potatoes.

I chose tiger prawns on a bed of couscous with green asparagus - a perfect combination, and just the right amount.

The view from the restaurant was stupendous, as ferries sailed past the windows.

The following day I had a stroll round the monthly Aberdeen Country Fair, which operates on the last Saturday of each month in the heart of the city on Belmont Street.

Then it was off to Stonehaven, a harbour town south of Aberdeen, home of the Hogmanay fireballs ceremony, and birthplace of the deep fried Mars bar.

We were joined by two friends for a meal at the Tolbooth Restaurant, a finalist in Scottish Restaurant of the Year 2009.

The starter was a locally sourced seafood platter - and the lobster was sensational.

This was followed by two steaming bowls of mussels, cooked simply in white wine, shallots and herbs, and served with roast focaccia, one plate of mackerel fillets in a gooseberry sauce, and a wild mushroom risotto.

We spent the night at Gordon Guest House, in Station Square, Ballater, in Royal Deeside run by Martin and Amanda Will.

We were given a family en suite room, complete with a special extra-sized bed, designed by the same people who presented the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a replica bed as a wedding present.

The following morning we visited the former railway station across the square, once used by the Royal Family on their way to Balmoral.

It is now a museum to the memory of Queen Victoria with models of her royal highness, family, dogs, and John Brown on the platform. …

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