As much as I love Ireland, I was a little more excited about the four days S and I planned to spend in Edinburgh. Scotland was a new-to-me country, and visiting new-to-me countries makes this wanderlustin’ gal happy. And when I caught my first view of Edinburgh Castle as we rode the bus into the city from the airport, I felt very happy indeed. Just look at this view:
I just love how the castle dominates Edinburgh’s skyline, in part because the city is so hilly. Edinburgh as a whole just has a much older feel than Dublin, making it feel a little more foreign and, dare I say, exotic. After a single day in the city, it became quite obvious to me that J.K. Rowling’s imagination was clearly fueled by the streets and sights of Edinburgh. ;)
My imagination, however, requires more than just pretty sights – it requires food. (Did ya like that transition? Heh heh.) Luckily Edinburgh did not disappoint in the realm of vegan food! On our first day in the city, we enlisted the help of our city-savvy host, S’s friend, to find the Baked Potato Shop. The shop is truly a hole-in-the-wall just off bustling Cockburn Street (that’s pronounced “co-burn” – stop giggling!), with a single booth inside and a line out the door. On this first visit, we were lucky enough to snag a booth in the steamy interior – apparently, bakin’ up potatoes all day long lets off a lot of heat!
Although baked potato joints are quite common in Edinburgh, this particular one is notable for its vegan friendliness. Its menu clearly lists which topping are vegetarian and which are vegan – very helpful, as long as you can actually see the menu over the heads of hungry folks waiting in line!
Giant, hot baked potatoes are totally worth the wait, however. S and I both ordered mediums on this first visit, only to discover that a medium is really two respectably sized taters crammed into a single basket – so much food! I recommend getting the small – it’s only one potato, but it’s more than enough. On this occasion, we’d also ordered a vegan haggis samosa (!) so we had lots of eats to go around. My potato[es] with haggis and a bit of non-dairy butter were enormous:
I was very excited to try vegan haggis… not that I’d ever had real haggis. I didn’t know what to expect, but this stuff was delicious. I believe it was a blend of ground nuts and grains with lots and lots of savory spices, and it made the perfect counterpart to the more neutral potato flavor. Yum. My only complaint about my Baked Potato Shop dining experience is that they really should offer sturdier silverware for anyone who’s dining in – that little plastic fork could not hold up to a thick-skinned, fully loaded potato!
With vegan haggis checked off on my bucket list, I was happy to enjoy less traditionally Scottish eats. Serendipitously, our host’s flat was just a couple minutes’ walk from the Chocolate Tree, a coffee shop and chocolate café. Yes, chocolate café. The shop is just bursting with chocolate-y goodness, from freshly made cakes and tarts to truffles, chocolate bars, and gelato. Oh yeah – a fair amount of it is vegan. For example, this chocolate berry tart was calling our name the first time S and stopped in:
That tart was every bit as rich and fudgy as it looks. Thank goodness for those berries – I’m not sure even I could handle so much unadulterated chocolate! We enjoyed our tart and espressos outside, thankful for the easily accessible jars of lemon water to help us wash down all that chocolate and coffee.
The next time S and I visited, we didn’t have room in our tummies for cake. S ordered a soy latte and I tried the vegan Mayan hot chocolate. The Chocolate Tree is serious about its hot chocolate – just take a look at my drink:
Oh yes. That is basically melted chocolate – so, so rich. It was delicious, even if I had to enlist S’s help in finishing it. (He was happy to help – his soy latte was disappointingly weak.) If I could change one thing, though, I’d have added more spice to it – I couldn’t really taste whatever spices were in it.
On that trip to the shop, S and I also picked up a few dark chocolate bars to add to my snack stash. The Winter Spice bar, featuring “a cozy blend of organic gingerbread spices and organic dark chocolate,” was particularly droolworthy.
With all that chocolate as fuel, S and I conquered the climb up to Arthur’s Seat with our host as a tour guide, taking us up a few rather less-than-beaten paths. But the view was totally worth scrabbling up rocks and scraping our palms.
The way back down had its fair share of fantastic views, too.
So… Scotland? Yeah, I liked it. I liked it very much. And the good eats didn’t end with chocolate and haggis – I haven’t even talked about our favorite find yet! ;)
Have you tried vegan haggis? Or… real haggis?!