Black Swan Loch

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Kismet led me to one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

It also led me to one of the best dishes I’ve had in years.

Back in August I embarked on a solo trip that had me traipsing across Iceland followed by a few days in Glasgow. I’d been to Iceland on quite a few occaisons due to Icelandair’s amazing stopover deal and subsequently fell in love with the country. More on that to come in future blog posts.

I decided on Glasgow as I had never been to Scotland and had been yearning to go.  I can tell you that 3 days in Glasgow only whetted my appetite for the country and its culture, which is a stunning mix of history, character, and nature.  I can’t wait to go back and spend a long week touring the rest of the country (and its distilleries).

A few weeks before my trip I happened to catch up with an old college friend via Gchat.  As fate would happen,I learned that we would both not only be in Scotland at the same time, but it Glasgow.  Even crazier, we ended up booking the same hotel! I can’t even begin to think of what the statistical probability of that is.  For the two of us to find ourselves in a different part of the world, in the same hotel, at the same time.  Needless to say I was a bit stupefied.  We immediately decided that we should celebrate this one-in-a-billion occurrence by going to dinner at the best restaurant we could find in Glasgow.

That led us to Martin Wishart’s restaurant at Loch Lomond, about 30 minutes outside of the city.  Michelin starred and located in a castle on a Scottish loch, it was the perfect setting for our intergalactic bacchanal.

Did we go all out? you bet your tartan mini-skirt we did.  A symphonic 7-course sequence accompanied by a thoughtful (and at times daring) wine pairing.

We were dazzled with two rounds of amuse bouche before kicking off with the first (and my favorite) of all the courses: Sweetbreads.

Sweetbreads are enigmatic and oft maligned, but they are one of my favorite parts to ever come off of a cow.  Americans have a tumultuous relationship with offal, finding organs to be “gross.” Sweetbreads especially, whose misleading name has probably fooled an ignorant vegetarian or two. To me, perfectly prepared sweetbreads are what dreams are made of.  They’re not easy to prepare, requiring proper cleaning, but when done right are magical.

I actually have a secret short list of restaurants around the world that have astounded me with their sweetbread preparations.  I’m  happy to report that Martin Wishart’s Glaswegian establishment made the list after having had this rendition:

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The sweetbread medallion, lightly dusted in buckwheat and roasted, featured a delicate flavor that was complimented by the juxtaposition of crispy and creamy textures.  The Cep mushroom and Madeira veloute enveloped the crispy gland in creamy umami goodness.  Fried wild rice littered the veloute and provided additional texture.  So full of win.

Subsequent courses were curated that they played out like a Rob-Gordon-esuqe mix tape.

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Mackerel, the oily delight from the deep, was presented in ceviche form and accompanied by a curried melange of Loche Fyne crab.

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An inventive take on seared scallops was next; the caramelized sear on the Ornkey Scallops was escorted by a gentle draping of lardo, black garlic, pancetta crumbs, and onion cream.

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The ballotine of Foie gras was another epic preparation: it’s mouth-invading creaminess countered by the sweet/salty crunch of almond praline and apricot puree.

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The final dish, Grouse, was out of this world. You know you’re in for something gamey when the white meat resembles red meat.  It was an intense dish with a surplus of character and mouthful flavors.

The desserts were quite excellent but in reality served to cap off the evening much like a cigarette might after a night filled with vigorous lovemaking.

While each of these dishes was beautiful in their own right, the dinner, above all, was a wonderful example of how a dining experience goes beyond the food.  The environment was perfect. The staff were attentive and invested in your meal; you felt as though they were coming along with you for a ride.  Those are some of the things that take a meal and allow it to transcend past being a basic sustenance session.

This dinner was a fitting celebration of the black swan event.  A rare, epic dinner between two friends who found themselves in the same place at the same time on the other side of the planet.  I wouldn’t mind if it happened again.

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