Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Join us on a journey across Stirlingshire as we share the best shops and eateries
The changing of the seasons for me are the four most poignant times of the year; the air, light, smells, sounds and vibe all feel ‘can’t quite put your finger on it’ different, with a whole range of emotions mixed in with that.
When the school bell rang (for the final time for my son), my partner and I marked the beginning of summer with a foodie trip to Crieff and surrounding areas for the last issue. With memories of a sun drenched, glistening Loch Earn tucked away in our ‘golden moments of summer 2021 box’, we jumped back in the car for a trip around Stirlingshire, discovering new, hidden treasures and reacquainting ourselves with some old favourites.
Where to shop
Blair Drummond Smiddy is a family run farm shop situated a mile or so from the
Safari Park, outside Stirling which brings together an impressive range of fresh, local
and simple food. Farm to counter is the Smiddy approach with meat supplied from
three local farms. They offer an impressive range of beef, pork (the bacon is dry cured
in the butchery), lamb and game.
You’ll find a grocery stocked with local, seasonal fruit and veg; a huge, mouth-watering selection of cheeses from nearby and further afield (I’m big on a ‘simple joys’ philosophy in life so a Thursday night is always cheese and wine night in my house), deli delights, ready meals and pies in the chillers/freezers and displays with a difference of every-day essentials that are way too tempting to leave behind (although they also do home delivery depending on where you live).
They say don’t shop hungry; I’m throwing that out of the window and going with my gut on this occasion but rewarding myself for my early morning retail efforts with the most delicious vegetarian breakfast from the café and a locally sourced coffee to get my mind focussed in on the onward trip.
From there we’re a fifteen-minute toodle to Callander; among the ice cream, sweetie and geegaw shops (I find it comfortingly reassuring that they are all still there...) you’ll find Mhor Bread, and I’d recommend you take your biggest bag for that experience because you really won’t be leaving much behind.
Mhor Bread is all about simple, delicious, local food. You’ll be drawn in by a window display of huge loaves and met with giant meringues akin to a creation from a Roald Dahl novel. Cast your eyes over a huge selection of well-fired morning rolls, granary loaves, sourdough, and Mediterranean tear-and-share loaves, deliciously squashy doughnuts, millionaire’s shortbread, strawberry tarts, sausage rolls and pies.
If you skipped on breakfast, your tummy will definitely be ready for a take-away lunch from Mhor – a pie (and chips), daily changing giant sandwich, carton of soup – everything here feels like a good, honest, wholesome treat and after the past 18 months, I think we are all there for that.
Where to eat
Ten minutes from Callander and you’re at Nick’s at Port of Menteith; I will find any excuse to go there for what has become our traditional staple; pizza and a glass of wine (told you I was all about the simple pleasures). I’ve yet to have a better pizza in Scotland. Cooked by specialist pizza chef, Paul Hughes, it’s up there with a plain Margherita I had, on my own in a restaurant in Florence, Julia Robert’s style in Eat Pray Love.
Sitting under a pergola in this beautiful garden in the sunshine on the shores of Lake Menteith, it’s a little slice of pizza heaven and a million miles away from the daily stresses of life. The menu is, as you would expect, focussed on locally sourced provenance; Old Leckie Farm’s eggs, Fife’s Buffalo Farm Mozzarella and ice cream, seafood from Willie Little in Crieff, cooked often by Nick Nairn himself (we always see him in there hard at work as we enter); more than just pizza, you’ll find langoustine, lobster and perfectly aged beef.
The Woodhouse at Kippen, a coffee and farm shop with a big emphasis on sustainability and good food is a must visit for a bite to eat, take home treats and gifts. Their True Scotsman Toastie with Dingwall haggis, Scottish Cheddar, red onion marmalade and Woodhouse chilli jam (you can wash it down with a dram) is worth visiting for alone.
My take home to try items from this visit? Shin of beef from Old Leckie Farm, nestled beneath the Gargunnock Hills to make my own signature dish, Beef Bourguignon (Autumn warmers – I am all over you...), cheese and jalapeno tear and share loaf, (takes a ‘between Zooms’ lunchtime tuna melt to another level), those outrageously good meringues and sweet treats from Mhor Bread (plus a selection of savoury pies for quick heat and treat moments) and eggs from Old Leckie Farm with Cat’s Pyjamas coffee from Falkirk coffee
company, Henry’s Coffee Company (both available at Blair Drummond Smiddy) to make my Monday morning 100% more bearable.
Stirlingshire has a vibrant food and drink scene and it’s always such a complete pleasure to meet producers, suppliers, chefs and restaurateurs with so much passion for what food and local provenance can do to help Scottish tourism recover from the pandemic – our people, destinations and storytelling will be key in all of that and the stories are as much a pleasure to listen to as the food and drink are to cook, eat, drink, and enjoy.