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Issue 29 - Send and deliver

Scotland Magazine Issue 29
October 2006

 

This article is 11 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Send and deliver

Thanks to mail order, Scotland is never very far away. Kate Patrick stamps approval on some of the players

The essence of Scotland is only a click away, although it’s fair to say that if you picked up the phone you would enjoy the banter that comes with ordering almost anything by mail from a specialist Scottish company.

Part of the fun of bringing snatches of Scotland to your far-off kitchen, living room or wardrobe is, after all, to talk directly to the people involved in their creation. Their passion is infectious; craftsmanship a matter of pride… and humour may well brighten up your day.

So who’s doing what? Well, these days there’s not much you can’t order. Go to the new, attractively designed www.orkneystore, for example, and you can even buy a traditional Orkney chair, among other island products (cheese, oatcakes, malt whisky, jewellery, craftwork) that are perhaps a little easier to mail.

Food and fashion are probably where the most sophisticated mail order action is to be had.

Caledonian Connoisseur (+44 (0)1573 227 310; www.caleyco.co.uk) is usually my first call for fresh foods - an excellent one-stop shop, where they care deeply about how, when and where everything is produced (“we know the name of the boat that caught your scallops”).

The family-run Inverawe Smokehouse (+44 (0)1866 822 446; www.smokedsalmon.co.uk), tucked in between Lochs Awe and Etive on the west coast, has gone from strength to strength during its 30 years, coming up with inventive ways to package and serve smoked fish, meat, sauces and other gourmet products. Get onto its mailing list if only for the very personal bulletins from Rosie Campbell-Preston, who recently, as an aside, informed us about her mother-in-law’s new autobiography, The Rich Spoils of Time. Frances Campbell-Preston’s memoir looks a tasty snapshot of Scottish social history.

Restrictions on the movement of the smokehouse’s signature smoked trout and salmon to North America mean that customers there will have to make do, for now, with a Scottish Break hamper (£29.50), which includes such treats as vanilla butter tablet and fruit cake. Free delivery in the United Kingdom on orders more than £39.

Meanwhile, if you have not yet tasted Scottish wild venison from Highland Game (+44 (0)1382 827 088; www.highlandgame.com), it’s a treat in store. This high-protein, low-fat, low-cholesterol meat is a modern nutritionist’s dream; but it doesn’t feel anything less than thorough self-indulgence when you are eating it. Check out the plaudits from peak Scottish chefs such as Martin Wishart and Andrew Fairlie, not to mention glowing reviews of the taste and service from other, private customers all over the UK. It generally comes blast-frozen and vacuum packed, and can also be sent as a gift.

Cooking inspiration is provided, this season, by Scottish chefs invited by Highland Game to create customised recipes for special Game Boxes (from £25, delivery £7.70). One is Geoffrey Smeddle, formerly of Conran restaurants, who has recently taken over at the Peat Inn in Fife, one of Scotland’s most successful restaurants with rooms.

An eccentric alternative to this, but good for entertaining as they are a meal in themselves (you just need to make the salad) are ready-made, individual, organic pies from the Simple Simon Perfect Pie Factory in Biggar (+44 (0)1899 220 118; www.simplesimonspies.co.uk). Using organic meats from Blackmount Foods in the Borders, and no artificial additives, ex-restaurateur Bernard Alessi has created a range of puff pastry pies (chicken fillets in tarragon sauce; ratatouille with feta; beef sausages in onion gravy; salmon in horseradish and pink peppercorn etc) that can be posted anywhere in the UK (pies from £2.15; delivery £7.95). They have a shelf life of six days but can be frozen.

Another short cut for hosts is the Butler & Co Dinner Party Kit, created by the chefs from St Andrews’ Seafood Restaurant. Give them 24 hours’ notice and they’ll send a box of food, part-ready, with instructions on how to turn it into dinner for a minimum of four (+44 (0)1334 470 077; www.butlerandcompany.co.uk).

If you are reading this from North America and your eyes are starting to glaze over, wake up!

Scottish Gourmet USA (+01 877 814 3663; www.scottishgourmetusa.com), a specialist, New Jersey-based importer of Scottish gourmet foods, is for you. Entrepreneur Anne Robinson set up her business after years of bringing Scottish heather honey back in her suitcase, which proved much in demand with friends and colleagues. In 2005 she convinced 25 small Scottish companies to introduce their products to the United States via her mail order catalogue and website, and, last August, products from 10 more companies were added, including Ayrshire bacon from Ramsay’s of Carluke and oatcakes from Wooley’s of Arran.

“When a gentleman asked how much it was to buy everything in the catalogue,” Anne Robinson recalls, “I knew we had created something special.” Best sellers include a $7 Scottish Recipes teatowel, a 3.3 lb box of frozen langoustines for $54, and $12 heather honey from the well-known Struan Apiaries. The company has also created a Tasting Box with 10 sample sizes of its bestselling foods, including Struan Heather Honey, Gillies Fine Foods Savoury Onion Marmalade, Original Moffat Mustard, Buchanan’s Clotted Cream Fudge, two Highland Truffles, Organic Porridge Oats from Spoff, Dean’s Shortbread Fingers and McKenzies Savoury Biscuits. Atiny, tartan-covered notebook, Sporran Notes, completes the package, which retails for $18.

Let’s not forget arguably Scotland’s best-known food company: this Christmas Baxters (+44 (0)1343 820 393; www.baxters.com) will be fielding 13 new hampers, including three which contain the upmarket ‘Audrey Baxter’ products – soups, condiments, wines, biscuits, confectionery, all made in small batches, and personally sourced by Audrey who is very involved from concept to finished product. The hampers will start at £25.

So having sorted out your Scottish larder, time for the wardrobe. Just out is the new, biggest ever, mail order brochure from the cashmere queen Belinda Robertson (+44 (0)131 557 8118; www.belindarobertson.com), who led the way in injecting modern style into cashmere. The new catalogue includes the predicted must-buys of the winter season: a sexy, deep cowlneck sweater (£135) and a long buttoned coat (£352). She’s also included menswear for the first time. White Label pieces are the more affordable; but if you order something ‘couture’ it can be made in any of 250 colours – and there still isn’t a better fitting polo.

For traditional country clothing in warm check tweeds and wool, the House of Bruar (+44 (0)8700 858 111; www.houseofbruar.com) has a smart catalogue, which displays much of what you’d need for a well-dressed Highland winter weekend, including shooting coats, moleskin breeks and merino stockings, for men and women. Delivery is £7.50 for Europe and £12 for the rest of the world.

With Christmas looming, reach for the Johnstons of Elgin catalogue (+44 (0)1343 554 040; www.johnstonscashmere.com) which photographs part of the vast output of this wonderfully successful woollen mill business. Cashmere-mix socks for men, three pairs for £40, are always on my must-buy list.

Johnstons is terribly discreet about which designer labels it is manufacturing for; but the ownlabel catalogue won’t be a million miles from certain luxury brands.

If a chic, plain wool sweater doesn’t transport you to the glens, here’s a thought: get hold of a mauchlineware brooch. Former antiques dealer and restorer Michael Hendry has revived a previously extinct craft, mixing tradition with contemporary design to create a new jewellery concept. Mauchlineware was only ever made in the Ayrshire village of Mauchline from the 1850s to 1933 (existing examples from that era are now highly collectable): small items are created in wood and then heavily varnished and decorated.

The new collection of tartan brooches uses patterns found in a 19th century archive; each is handmade, usually to order. Gaelo Jewellery (www.gaelo.co.uk) brooches start at £50 and go to £500, depending on the surround used.

A favourite accessories designer is Edinburghbased Catherine Aitken (+44 (0)131 555 7001; www.catherineaitken.com) who creates quirky handbags in typical Scottish materials (wool, tweed etc) but with an individual twist. The Box Daybag, for example, comes in two shades of grey herringbone Harris tweed to see you through any working day (£115); but you’ll also find smaller bags, clutches and evening bags in a rainbow of colours and fantasy styles. You can be almost certain that no one else will be out and about carrying exactly the same one as you.

Finally, a mention of Pedlars (+44 (0)1330 850 400; www.pedlars.co.uk), a mail order company based on the Cairn o’Mount, in the raw wilds of Kincardineshire. Pedlars is a family-run concern, and a reflection of its own tastes and preferences.

So you’ll find original games, Wellington boots, kites, music, dog stuff and very singular bits and pieces for the house – not necessarily Scottishmade, it must be said; but which contribute to the family’s way of life, as they describe it, “way out in the sticks.” We love the self-insulating pink muck boots, £69.50. Best of all, you get seriously personal customer service, a no-quibbles guarantee and, if you’re interested, Pedlars is working towards neutralising the effect on the environment of transporting goods across the world, and other carbon-emitting processes.

When you live in the wilderness, it seems, you are even more acutely aware of the need to preserve it, for ever.