With its sweeping coastline and fertile lands, East Lothian has long been referred to as Scotland’s breadbasket.
It is therefore no surprise that the region’s food and drink industry continues to grow and diversify with a vast array of products available including craft beer, wild foraged liqueurs, bean-to-bar chocolate, locally milled flour, honeys and preserves.
As Scotland cautiously emerges from lockdown, why not discover East Lothian’s vibrant food and drink sector by shopping online with its local producers or by visiting some of the county's food and drink outlets.
Arguably, buying local has never been more important. If we want to do our bit to boost the economy, reduce food miles and help communities, purchasing food and drink from within our region makes perfect sense.
Graeme Ford, chair of East Lothian Food and Drink Ltd, believes the people of Edinburgh and East Lothian are in a fortunate position. He said: “We are so lucky to have such a wonderfully diverse food and drink offering on our doorstep.
“It’s never been easier to shop local and support our producers, while experiencing some of the best food and drink in Scotland.”
Here are 12 great ideas for local food and drink inspiration.
1. Sip craft gin in your back garden
Lift your spirits with one of the innovative craft gins distilled locally, including NB Distillery’s London Dry Gin – awarded the world’s best London Dry Gin accolade at the World Gin Awards 2015 – and small batch Fidra Gin, which is created with hand-picked and home-grown botanicals.
You could also try Edinburgh Preserves Red Admiral Gin. It is a modern yet classic London Dry Gin named after the Red Admiral butterfly as a tribute to the Naturalist John Muir.
All three producers offer online ordering and deliveries, which means you can experience the taste sensation of their gins, including coastal flavours, while relaxing in your own garden this summer.
2. Feast on a locally sourced weekend fry up
Embrace – and enhance – a favourite Scottish tradition with locally bought breakfast products. It’s always such a treat to eat a fry-up, while also in the knowledge you are supporting local producers with your selection of eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding and haggis.
Take your pick from Findlays of Portobello, The Brand Family Larder (can deliver to a range of EH postcodes ), Anderson’s Quality Butchers of North Berwick (East Lothian deliveries only), and John Gilmour Butchers.
All of the above have online ordering in place and home deliveries available.
Don’t forget your morning rolls, too. The Premium Bakery, based in Prestonpans, use traditional Scottish recipes, bake their products daily and can be found in retailers throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.
3. Dine al fresco with (a few) friends
Summer is the season of barbecues and al fresco dining – and the ideal way to enjoy seeing other people following a lengthy lockdown period.
Many people overlook fresh and smoked fish when planning an outdoor meal, but it is a food that is so easy to prepare, cook and tastes delicious in the fresh air.
Belhaven Smokehouse sell award-winning Scottish smoked salmon and a range of fresh fish. James Dickson & Son, near Cockenzie harbour, have a wide choice including their own smoked salmon and smoked haddock, and Clark Brothers fishmongers are based at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh and supply top quality fresh fish and seafood that is prepared on the premises.
Nothing lets down a barbecue more than tasteless bread, so don’t be that host. You’ll also create a talking point if you serve some locally – and lovingly - made artisan breads and rolls.
Dunbar Community Bakery, which operates as a cooperative, serves customers artisan baking from its high street shop, as well as through East Lothian stockists, with everything made on site.
Add a tray of The Spice Witch artisan chutneys, relishes and mustards for extra taste sensations.
4. Shake and stir a cocktail (or two)
Cocktails are the perfect garden drink, especially on a warm evening. Create and enjoy a socially distanced homemade cocktail or, easier still, order a few of the new bottled cocktails from Buck and Birch.
More tasty gems come from Fraiser of Scotland with their drink that blends the flavours of premium Scotch whisky with wild strawberries.
Scots Cheer makes full-bodied fruit liqueurs that are equally delicious served over ice or mixed with fizz. By Julia’s Gullane Ripple is also the ideal mix with fizz.
Glenkinchie Distillery in Pencaitland, although currently closed, has long been maturing Lowland malts. A dram could be the perfect way to round off a convivial evening, especially as the sun sets.
5. Walk and talk – then say cheers to a beer
A socially distanced walk with a friend is the ideal summer activity as we ease out of lockdown. Head to the coast for a breezy stroll or take a hike in the country. Did you know that Winton Estate, near Pencaitland, has a scenic network of paths? Or you could follow a section of the long-distance John Muir Way.
After burning a few calories and catching up on each other’s lockdown gossip, you could sip a glass of locally sourced beer or cider in your garden.
“Drink, blether, be happy” is the message of Winton Brewery in West Barns, with some well-named products such as the new Tap’s Aff. There is free delivery throughout Edinburgh and the Lothians.
A Thistly Cross ciderbox, which can be ordered online, lets you drink draught cider at home - and there are plenty of flavours, such as Jaggy Thistle, whisky cask, ginger and strawberry.
Hurly Burly Brewery, which aims to use fresh and local ingredients where possible, has created a limited edition lockdown Session IPA - the brilliantly named Survivale.
Historic Belhaven Brewery, which celebrated its 300th birthday in 2019, produce a range of exciting new beers as well as old favourites at its brewery in Belhaven. Their products can be ordered online.
6. Take a family picnic to the coast
Family adventures can be as simple as a bucket and spade – and a picnic lunch at an East Lothian beach. A few great locations include Yellowcraig, Gullane, Belhaven and Seacliff with its secret harbour and ruined Auldhame Castle high above.
Buy local products for the picnic. How about smoked salmon and Yester Farm Dairies cream cheese sandwiches or rolls filled with ham and Hoods Honey’s finest Scottish honey mustard?
A carrot cake made with Black and Gold cold pressed rapeseed oil (see the recipe on their website) is a great addition to any picnic.
Remember to pack some healthy snacks from Real Food Source for when the kids say they are too hungry to wait for lunch.
Purely Scottish, who source their water from the Lammermuir Hills, produce Bag in Box water that is perfect for keeping the family hydrated throughout the day.
7. Watch the sun begin to set with fish and chips
There is little to beat a fish supper as the sun begins to set, especially while sitting by the water.
East Coast in Musselburgh is home to both a modern fish and chip shop as well as a seafood grill and restaurant. It's the perfect place to pick up delicious fish and chips whilst in East Lothian.
Family-run JK Thomson, also based in the Honest Toun, supply their acclaimed products to fish & chips shops on the east coast including East Coast (above) , so you can be sure the quality and taste will be superb.
Just add salt and sauce.
8. River walk and cooling ice cream
A delightful walk of around three miles takes you along the River Esk from Musselburgh. The River Esk Waterway offers plentiful opportunities to spot wildlife.
At the river mouth, you might see wading birds feeding on mudflats at low tide and, in summer, further upstream you will see swans and ducks.
Why not cool down after the walk with freshly made ice cream at popular S. Luca of Musselburgh or Di Rollo? The tricky bit will be choosing a flavour.
9. Spice up your life
A little home cooking – and experimentation in the kitchen - is ideal for a rainy day or a Sunday spent at home. Make a nutritious and tasty curry, while also supporting local producers.
Take a trip to The Veg Shed at Athelstaneford Mains Farm, where there is a vegetable vending machine. Really! Ambient lockers are filled daily with seasonal local vegetables that are perfect ingredients for a vegetable curry.
Handily, Spice Pots, who are based in Haddington, have a “Curry Night Kit” to help you create tasty curries, too.
Add some delicious accompaniments from The Spice Witch for the perfect at home curry night.
10. An afternoon tea made for all the family
Get your little ones involved in making a delicious afternoon tea.
If you can, plan ahead and order locally milled Mungoswells flour so you can bake home-made cakes, scones and breads.
A perfectly packaged “Afternoon Tea” from Edinburgh Preserves includes such gems as Raspberry Jam with Prosecco or Strawberry Jam with Champagne ( both for the adults ) to top your scones. Order on-line.
If time is against you, then visit Bostock Bakery, which has a very tempting take-away service of bread, pastries, cake and coffee from shops in North Berwick and East Linton. There is also the Dunbar Community Bakery.
The success of an afternoon tea rests on the quality of its beverages, therefore it pays to spend some time sourcing quality teas and coffees.
With 150 years of experience in the art of blending tea – and roasting coffee – Brodies, based in Musselburgh, is the place to order (on-line) your favourite afternoon tea beverage.
Coffee roasting experts Steampunk are open for takeaway in North Berwick. If you have missed the smell of real coffee, this is the place to go.
11. Cosy up for a chocolate and movie night
Pick your favourite romantic movie and stay home for a cosy night in with your significant other.
The perfect accompaniment for a special evening might well be hot chocolate and hand-crafted chocolates.
Artisan chocolatiers and craft chocolate makers Chocolate Tree are the masters of amazing flavours and creations. The ethical company works directly with Cacao farmers and promotes and encourages biodiversity. Check out their website.
The Chocolate Stag at Garleton Lodge produce a range of handmade chocolates including many favourites as well as their own innovative creations. Their chocolates are available to order online for home delivery.
12. Think seasonal – and visit a farm shop
A trip to a farm shop will reveal the wealth of locally grown, reared and sourced produce and also show you the rhythms of a seasonal larder.
You are spoilt for choice in East Lothian with The Brand Family Larder in East Fortune, Gosford Bothy Farm Shop near Longniddry and The Strawberry Barn in Dunbar. Craigies in South Queensferry also stock a wide range of East Lothian products.
You can also freshen up your own garden with a visit to Dunbar Garden Centre and sample the delights of the outlet’s cafe, which is filled with produce from local suppliers.
As we ease out of Covid-19 lockdown, it is worth checking with food and drink outlets and producers to be sure of their opening and sale arrangements. Give them a call or look online.