Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Taste Magazine takes a three day trip around the Kingdom of Fife.
Scottish adventurer John McDouall Stuart was a hugely successful and famous explorer who led the first expedition from the south to north Australia in the mid 19th century. Bear with me if you haven’t immediately worked out the connection with Fife! McDouall Stuart was born in Dysart, situated just east of Kirkcaldy in Fife, before emigrating Down Under.
Although my expedition was certainly not in the same magnitude or difficulty as his intrepid journey into the unexplored hinterland, this was my first expedition to Fife where I was going to spend three days sampling some of the best food, drink and hospitality that the Kingdom of Fife has to offer. And, where better to base myself on in my gourmet adventure than staying at the historic house in Dysart where McDouall Stuart was born.
Surrounded on three sides by a stunning coastline with an array of picturesque villages and beaches, the ancient Kingdom of Fife is an outstanding place to visit, enjoy and explore. Famous for being the home of golf, Fife’s varied landscape is the perfect home to an abundance of wildlife and a fabulous natural larder. There are also vivid reminders of the area’s historic importance in the wealth of castles, palaces, and abbeys.
Having lived in Edinburgh for the past two years, with travel restricted due to lockdowns, every opportunity that presents itself to head out of the city and explore Scotland, I embrace wholeheartedly. Just heading over the Queensferry Crossing that spans the Firth of Forth, my excitement is palpable.
Arriving in less than 45 minutes, my wife and I had time to stop off at The Harbourmaster’s Cafe in Dysart for tea and delicious peanut butter and choc chip cookies. Housed in a lovely stone building overlooking one of Fife’s oldest harbours, which stood in for the French port of Le Havre in the Outlander television series, we enjoyed wonderful views across the quaint harbour to the Firth of Forth. We instantly switched to holiday mode.
Booked through Fife Historic Buildings Trust, we checked into the John McDouall Stuart View, a sensitively restored white-washed apartment where the explorer was born in 1815. With plenty of period character, the light-filled spacious one-bedroom contemporary-styled apartment offers panoramic views across the Forth and was the perfect place to relax after a day’s eating!
Keen to start our exploration, we left our ‘base camp’ for The Buffalo Farm near Kirkcaldy that is home to Scotland’s largest herd of water buffalo that roam the surrounding hills. Today, alongside the farm, there is an excellent cafe and farm shop selling not only their own meat and mozzarella that is also sold at Blacketyside and Craigie’s farm shops but also a wide range of local produce. We purchased some East Neuk of Fife Smoked Oatcakes from G H Barnett & Son along with a tomato & ginger savoury jam from the mother and daughter duo at Kassells Kitchen. A fine start for our take-home taste test.
We then sat down for lunch at The Bothy, where we enjoyed warming homemade tomato and pepper soup, ideal on a dreich day. However, the smell and sizzle from the Buffalo burgers seemingly put us into a trance-like state and it wasn’t long before we were sitting in their open barn with a buffalo burger in one hand followed swiftly by a salted caramel ice cream made with buffalo milk in the other!
The benefits of water buffalo, we were reliably told, are countless. They produce a healthy meat that is lower in cholesterol and less than half the total fat content of conventional lean beef, and in the words of Chef Nick Nairn, it tastes, “pretty damn fantastic.” Our next stop was to see where they make their famous Buffalo mozzarella and have a chat with the owner Steve Mitchell.
The Buffalo Farm began with a small herd in 2005 with them selling their meat at local markets until a chance visit from Chef Gordon Ramsay who declared it was delicious. This spurred them on to expand the business. Their mozzarella contains only buffalo milk and has a mild saltiness on the outside. It passed our squeeze test having that perfect texture with a slight ooze of milk. We were given a tour around the production floor and saw some of the herd, complete with their custom-made mattresses and back scratchers!
After a brisk walk along a part of the famous Fife Coastal Path back in Dysart, it was time for our next foodie destination. And this wasn’t going to be any dinner but a seven-course gourmet extravaganza at The Orangery restaurant located at the magnificent Balbirnie House Hotel. For our in-depth restaurant review, check out our full hospitality review here.