OLTA food blogger Michelle McAnally attended the Taste for Tourism conference at Corran Halls in Oban November 3-4. This week she shares her experience, the highlight of which was, of course, the outstanding food on offer.
International experts and hospitality industry leaders from around Scotland gathered in Oban for “Taste for Tourism”, a conference aiming to make Scotland one of the world’s top food tourism destinations.
The summit, designed to help further catapult Scotland to the top of the wish list for tourists who see high quality food and drink as the main reason to travel, featured a line-up of prestigious speakers including international experts responsible for setting up highly successful food destinations overseas. Speakers included Rebecca Mackenzie, executive director of the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and Camille Chamard, professor and director of the Pau-Bayonn Institute for Business Management.
In his welcoming remarks, Argyll and Bute council leader Dick Walsh emphasised the importance of culinary visitors to the country’s economy. “Food and drink tourism in Scotland is worth £2.5 million every day. More than ever people want local food and drink. They want to find out its traditional roots. Tasty food in convivial places contributes to a person’s holiday.’
Up and coming local food tourism trends in Scotland were discussed, including craft beer and cider, artisanal food products and roasted coffee.
Oban Chocolate Company satisfied the crowd’s sweet tooth.
Scotland has always been known for its aqua vitae, of course- in fact, as I learned at the conference, 40 bottles of whisky are exported every second! But as James Withers, Chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, pointed out, Scottish food has come a long way in the food department. “Ten years ago we would never have thought of Scotland as a food destination, so things have really changed.”
Say “cheese”! A variety of Argyll made cheeses were on offer.
To prove his point, the bounty on offer at the conference luncheon from Argyll producers was truly world class. Dubbed ‘Street food West Coast style’, the spread featured a huge variety of gastronomic delights second to none.
The seafood table was laden with delicacies from smoked salmon to crab cocktail, thanks to Inverawe Smokehouse, Argyll Smokery, Gigha Halibut, Loch Fyne Oysters and Fyneseafoods. Meat lovers enjoyed Churchill Venison, Shellfield Farm lamb, Isle of Mull pork and the Real MacKay’s haggis and stovies.
And everyone happily said ‘cheese’ with a lovely selection from Taste of Arran, Mull of Kintyre cheddar and vegetarian Sheese from the Isle of Bute. Bread from Mhor Bakery and chutneys from Henshelwoods Fine Foods and Fyne Preserves rounded out the meal. A sweet ending to the luncheon was courtesy of Bumble, The Little Cake Company and Oban Chocolate Company.
Mike Knowles, head chef at Loch Melfort Hotel, treated attendees at the Gala Dinner held in the Argyllshire Gathering Halls to an “Argyll Born and Bred” five-course dinner. One of the west coast’s most popular bands, Skippinish, entertained the enthusiastic-and well fed- crowd. Truly, Scotland is set to lead the world in food tourism with a showing like this!
“Taste for Tourism” was held as part of The Year of Food and Drink Scotland 2015, a Scottish Government initiative led by VisitScotland in partnership with EventScotland, Scotland Food & Drink and Think Local. The event was organised by Food From Argyll and Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-Operative, two not-for-profit organisations with a passion for promoting food and drink tourism.