Goodmorning, and happy Sunday. I’m feeling a wee bit better today, and I say that because I’m in Scotland.
I’m stay-cationing this weekend at the Abercorn Inn, which is just a short walk from the Bridgeport Skytrain station. It’s tudor-style, with a Scottish theme throughout, and I find it all quite comforting. It’s the perfect place to sleep off these sniffles.
My sister joined me last night, which was wonderful because
a) we are of Scottish descent, and
b) I hadn’t seen her in awhile and we needed to catch up.
Last week she started the physiotherapy grad program at UBC, and told me all about the cadavers they looked at on the first day. I told her how good that olive oil citrus cake was from Papi’s, and that about explains how different we are.
We had such a nice, relaxing time. I told her to “jump backwards onto the bed!” to capture how much fun we were having, and this was the resulting photograph.
If you’re ever wondering how relaxed you’ll feel at the Abercorn Inn, here’s your answer. You’ll practically levitate.
For dinner, we ate at the hotel’s Highlander Pub and Restaurant, which has Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights. I was aiming for a sick person’s 9pm bedtime, so we didn’t share in those festivities, but we did have a great meal. They offer both a pub and restaurant menu, and we chose from each. Much of the food was Scottish, which I appreciated. Many winters ago I travelled in Scotland, and when sleet’s beating fiercely against the windows, there’s no greater comfort than pub food.
Like I pointed out in my Pisces post, it’s traditional for any UK pubs to have at least a few Indian dishes on their menu, particularly some kind of curry. The Highlander Pub maintains this tradition, with choices like samosas and tandoori chicken alongside steak and kidney pie. We decided to order the vegetables samosas to start ($6), which were served with a cooling mint chutney and sweet tamarind sauce.
The filling was a spicy mashed potato, carrot, and pea mixture, and the outside was crisp and flaky. We loved them, and finished them off in no time. I particularly liked the tamarind sauce.
For mains, my sister went with the special: coconut-crusted halibut with Thai curry sauce, rice, and vegetables ($22). It was really quite tasty; the fish was cooked well, though I thought the coconut crust was a little too sweet. The sauce was delicious, and we wished there was more of it!
Even with yesterday’s sun, my cold had me craving the same winter comforts I ate in Scotland. I ordered the classic shepherd’s pie ($18), and was so glad I did.
Shepherd’s Pie is a relatively simple dish, and is usually a way to use up leftovers after a roast dinner. Meat and vegetables are chopped up, mixed with gravy, placed in the bottom of a dish, and topped with a mashed potato ‘crust.’ Then it’s baked, and preferably topped with more gravy before being served up. I used to make it for the tree planters, but only did so rarely, as it’s a lot of work to make from scratch for 70+ people. It was always a camp favourite; it’s hot, hearty, substantial, and pretty much guaranteed to make you feel better whether you’ve been shepherding all day, planting trees in the ground, or just have a head cold.
The Highlander’s version, with its braid of creamy mashed potatoes and rich, well-seasoned gravy, was all of the above. I would gladly have it again, especially in the throes of winter. We were also quite enamoured with our server, Laura, who’s one of those people who makes you feel right at home.
My meal reminded me of something my Grandmother had told us on a number of occasions – on my father’s side, we’re related to James Hogg, a famous Scottish poet known as the ‘Ettrick Shepherd.’ I’ve never really properly researched this, but inspired by the Scottish landscapes on our hotel wall, I thought I might as well look him up.
James Hogg (1770 – 1835) was a writer and poet, literary ‘successor’ to Robert Burns, and friend of Sir Walter Scott. His mother’s maiden name was Laidlaw, which is my father’s middle name, and we have a family tree at home that traces this side of the family back to 1690. If I donned a suit and a wrapped myself in a plaid wool blanket, I would TOTALLY look like him. Can’t you see the family resemblance? Here’s one of the Ettrick Shepherd’s poems I really took a liking to, and I hope you enjoy it as much as me. Thanks so much to the Abercorn Inn for our little Scottish getaway!
Caledonia! thou land of the mountain and rock,
Of the ocean, the mist, and the wind-
Thou land of the torrent, the pine, and the oak,
Of the roebuck, the hart, and the hind;
Though bare are thy cliffs, and though barren thy glens,
Though bleak thy dun islands appear,
Yet kind are the hearts, and undaunted the clans,
That roam on these mountains so drear!
A foe from abroad, or a tyrant at home,
Could never thy ardour restrain;
The marshall’d array of imperial Rome
Essay’d thy proud spirit in vain!
Firm seat of religion, of valour, of truth,
Of genius unshackled and free,
The muses have left all the vales of the south,
My loved Caledonia, for thee!
Sweet land of the bay and wild-winding deeps
Where loveliness slumbers at even,
While far in the depth of the blue water sleeps
A calm little motionless heaven!
Thou land of the valley, the moor, and the hill,
Of the storm and the proud rolling wave-
Yes, thou art the land of fair liberty still,
And the land of my forefathers’ grave!
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