Sunday, January 27, 2002

Burns' birthday brings out the haggis




By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Where to celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns? Maybe it's not on your list of holidays that must be celebrated, but for Scots, the birthday of their national poet and folk hero is a big deal.

        All over the world, wherever Scots have settled, Burns' birthday is celebrated with Burns Night Suppers that involve all the touchstones of Scottish culture: Scotch whisky, bagpipers, haggis and readings of poetry in an unintelligible Scottish dialect.

        At Nicholson's Tavern and Pub, downtown, Burns Night will be celebrated Wednesday — without the full-scale ceremonies, but with all of the important elements. In addition, there will be a visit from Robert Burns (or a reasonable facsimile).

        The evening is open to all and almost all the food from the regular menu will be available at regular prices. There's no cover charge.

        A band from Scotland, Highland Reign, will play throughout the evening, beginning at 6 p.m. An hour later, the haggis, a Scottish dish made of lamb and oatmeal, will be borne aloft through the restaurant by a kilted server and then opened dramatically. It's then toasted with Burns' ""Address to a Haggis.'' “Burns” will toast the lasses, then a little complimentary scotch and haggis for everyone, and more music.

        Special tastings of single-malt scotch will be available, with Scotch expert Clay Shelton on hand to talk about them.

        Menu items include smoked salmon, Scotch eggs, haggis fritters, Edinburgh osso bucco, shepherd's pie, fish and chips with red cabbage fennel slaw, bangers and mash, fresh Scottish salmon on kedgeree risotto and roasted prime rib with baked potatoes, almond trifle and whiskey bread pudding.

        Perhaps you're wary of haggis, as it's generally assumed to be inedible to anyone whose last name doesn't begin with Mc or Mac. But consider the reaction famed chef Anthony Bourdain had when he tried it in Scotland, as he wrote in his book A Cook's Tour:

        “It was glorious. Haggis rules! Peppery, hot, meaty — it didn't taste of anything you might expect in a dish cooked in stomach . . . It was in no way offensive to even the most pedestrian American tastes, but subtle and rich in a boudin noir sort of way ... If haggis, right out of the oven, didn't look the way it did, we might all be eating it in America . . .”

        Reservations: 564-9111.

        E-mail Polly Campbell at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

       



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- Burns' birthday brings out the haggis