Stephen Jardine: Two events worth braving elements

Monachyle Mhor's Tom Lewis. Picture: Contributed
Monachyle Mhor's Tom Lewis. Picture: Contributed
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WHEN it comes to public displays of bravery, organising an outdoor food event in Scotland is right up there with putting your head in the mouth of a killer whale.

Frequently it goes wrong but regardless of the outcome, having a go is just irresistible.

This weekend, two great food events are throwing caution to a probably gusty wind and braving the elements.

A quick ferry journey away from Wemyss Bay, Eat Bute is back after a short hiatus last year.

This is one of my favourite events of the food calendar, combining the splendour of Mount Stuart with an eclectic range of talks and tastings. This year the line-up includes whisky and chocolate tastings, cheese tutorials, a wild food walk and a food fair bringing together some of the island’s brilliant artisan, local producers.

At the last Eat Bute event, I remember tasting melt in the mouth rose veal, delicious home baking and gorgeous milk and cream from the local dairy.

It wouldn’t be a proper food event without a top chef. Eat Bute has always attracted top names from down south. Two years ago it was Fergus Henderson. This year Jeremy Lee is leaving his acclaimed Soho restaurant Quo Vadis for the weekend to lead the celebrations.

Food lovers who aren’t on Bute this weekend are probably at Balquhidder.

Following the success of his Mhor Festival on Jubilee weekend last year, Monachyle Mhor owner Tom Lewis is back this year with an even bigger event.

The irrepressible Lewis has masterminded two days of food-related fun on the shores of Loch Voil with bread and baking challenges alongside a food market and traditional fairground stalls for children.

But the highlight of the weekend is certain to be a banquet on Saturday night featuring Scotland’s top chefs. Only Lewis could persuade Andrew Fairlie, Roy Brett, Michael Smith and Neil Forbes to leave their busy restaurants on a Saturday night to join him to cook in a barn.

What the events on Bute and at Balquhidder share is a total love of food and a determination to take it to the people, whatever the weather.

Last year’s Taste of Edinburgh dissolved in mud and torrential rain on the Meadows, which became a quagmire. For health and safety reasons, it was then abandoned. The organisers lost a fortune and as a result, decided not to return to Scotland.

But then they came from London. Here in Scotland we take a more pragmatic approach. We may not like bad weather but we sure know how to dress for it. So with that in mind, good luck to the hardy optimists behind our first two big outdoor food events of the year. For having the guts to try if nothing else, they deserve your support.