PERHAPS more than any other time of year, Burns Night focuses the country’s attention on the food and drink of Scotland.
However, the nation’s produce is now being widely recognised as some of the best in the world and one that should be enjoyed all year round.
Whether it’s beef, black pudding or wild salmon with protected geographical status or Caledonia’s fresh fruit and cheeses, Scotland’s larder can be utilised to great effect in outlets.
That was the message from Scottish suppliers, who told SLTN that modern takes on Alba’s age-old fayre can satisfy diners from Lerwick to Kirkcudbright.
Lorna Allison, marketing manager at food wholesaler Brakes Scotland, said it is “vital” for operators to stock locally-sourced Scottish produce.
“It shows the outlet is thinking about quality but more than that they are thinking about food miles, sustainability and buying seasonally,” she added.
“With the variety of produce available, every outlet in Scotland should have Scottish produce within their offerings. This is a growing expectation from consumers.”
And when it comes to the bard’s big evening, Allison stated operators should use this variety to set themselves apart from their competitors.
She said: “Scottish produce has developed so much and menus should showcase this. Go beyond the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties or create the dish with a twist.
“With fantastic vegan and veggie haggis on the market, this is also a great opportunity to broaden your customer base.
“Look at Burns Night tapas, Cullen skink, smoked meats, wild venison steaks, cheeses, black pudding with scallops.”
Clair Howison, brand director at Perthshire-based butcher Simon Howie Foods, echoed that view, urging operators to “offer more modern alternatives” on the night.
She said: “Our haggis bon bons are a very popular starter option and our haggis nachos video went viral on Facebook last Burns Night, demonstrating the real customer appetite for the national dish revisited.
“We are planning new and exciting recipe options for our audience this Burns Night and I would expect menus that reflect this would also do very well.”
In order to build on both the growing trends of Scottish food and tapas-style dining, Allison of Brakes Scotland reckons bars and restaurants should introduce a range of small plates of Scottish delicacies.
She said: “It’s a big trend and is a great way for customers to try a range of different foods in one sitting. It also allows for great product collaboration.”