Stephen Jardine: Perfect nibbles for taste of T

TODAY 85,000 music lovers will brave the elements at T in the Park, sustained by an array of brilliant food from local Scottish producers.

But you don’t go to Balado for the locally made gourmet burgers. Instead Scotland’s foodies will be heading to the annual Taste of Edinburgh festival on the Meadows.

In just four years it has managed to usurp the Royal Highland Show, in Ingliston, as the best showcase for Scottish food and drink, with 30,000 visitors expected over the weekend.

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In early years it probably relied too much on celebrity chefs flown up from London to add glamour, but that has changed. Fresh from Channel 4, the Fabulous Baker Brothers will be on hand to delight the yummy mummies but no one will complain about a demo by Jason Atherton, just crowned Chef of the Year at the prestigious Catey awards.

More than that, local talent is out in force with Geoffrey Smeddle, Seamus MacInnes, Jeff Bland and Stuart Muir flying the flag for Scotland. The success of Saturday Kitchen proves our endless appetite for watching cooking technique up close but the real joy this weekend will be seeing what they are actually cooking with.

More than 100 local producers now have a presence at Taste and any chef worth his salt and pepper uses them as the freshest and most relevant way to put Scotland on a plate.

One of my favourite memories from previous years was watching Tom Kitchin wrestling with an octopus, landed just the day before off the west coast of Scotland. In terms of ingredients, you couldn’t get much more raw but half an hour later – with beak, stomach and suckers removed – it had been transformed into a beautiful carpaccio

This year, Orkney and Lanarkshire will be specially spotlighted at the festival but food producers from all parts of Scotland including cheese maker Humphrey Errington and rapeseed oil producer Mark Bush will be on hand to give tastings and talk about what they do.

This sort of showcase is a huge step forward for the Scottish food and drink community. Apart from direct promotion to the food-loving public there is also the contact with the country’s top chefs and the dynamism that comes from bringing 100 creative businesses together in one place.

It’s a measure of how far we’ve come in a generation as a land of food and drink that we have these producers, and a catalyst to bring them together, and tens of thousands of food-loving Scots who want to sample their wares.

This weekend isn’t an Edinburgh aberration. The Dundee Food and Flower Festival, Savour the Flavours in Dumfries and Galloway and Eat Bute are all evidence of the market that exists around the country for major food events.