|Pithivier of braised rabbit from Roxburghshire, served with peas and carrots|
At the beginning of the 2011 season, the Mariners were the consensus pick to finish last in the AL West. Coming off of a disastrous 2010 season that began with playoff aspirations but instead ended with a 61-101 record, the franchise was in complete disarray, as evidenced by Sleepgate and the Josh Leuke fiasco. So when the Mariners spent a good chunk of the first half of the season playing competitive baseball and hanging within striking distance of first place in the division, Mariners fans were pleasantly surprised at the quick turnaround. And when the Mariners were only a 1/2 game out of first place in the middle of June, and when they were only 2 1/2 games out as recently as July 7th, there was hope. Playoff aspirations didn't seem quite so far-fetched anymore. Of course, the Mariners then proceeded to shatter all of our hopes and dreams of a playoff run by losing 12 (and counting) in a row over the past two weeks. All of the hope and positive outlook that the first half of the season had brought has dissipated, replaced with the oh-so-familiar angst, frustration, and despair that comes with rooting for a perennially flailing franchise. To quote Jim Mora: "Playoffs?!? Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me?!? Playofs?! I just hope we can win a game."
Luckily for me, my psyche hasn't taken too great of a beating the last several weeks because I've been a bit detached from baseball during my time over here in England. Also, the fact that I spend my weekends traveling helps to keep me preoccupied with other, and better, thoughts and things to do rather than wallowing in the misery of Mariners baseball fandom. Take last weekend, for instance: I traveled up to Edinburgh and spent the weekend visiting castles, watching men in kilts prancing around playing bagpipes, and, oh yeah, sampling some fine Scottish cuisine. Thus, I was blissfully unaware of the carnage playing out during the Rangers' four-game sweep of the Mariners last weekend while I dined at Castle Terrace, an Edinburgh restaurant awarded a Michelin "Rising Star" award at the beginning of 2011.
Castle Terrace serves modern British cuisine using French techniques and Scottish ingredients, and its from-nature-to-plate philosophy means that the menu is comprised of seasonal ingredients. The restaurant, located right near the base of Edinburgh Castle, was easy enough to find as I came straight from the train station. I've already established my affinity for prix fixe menus, and the lunch prix fixe at Castle Terrace consists of a three-course meal for £20, which is quite a bargain for this level of quality and refinement. Canapés were brought out first, and they consisted of bread sticks, dried squid ink and basil pastas, and a variety of cheese crackers. The cheese crackers were like Cheez-Its on steroids, as their cheese flavor was amplified 100-fold from the humble Cheez-It.
|Amuse Bouche - Tomato and Basil Salad with Black Olive Crumble|
After placing my order, an amuse bouche of a Tomato and Basil Salad with Black Olive Crumble was presented. I was quite impressed with the dish's playful and creative presentation, as the crumbled black olive, which was the texture of finely ground Oreos, resembled a soil-covered earth with a single sprout emerging from the "dirt." Underneath, there was a medley of tomato, basil, and a creamy-tart component that I was unsure of. A very light and refreshing start to the meal.
|Left to right: Granary, Onion, Three Seed, and Spelt Breads|
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the excellent bread service. With five different breads (white, granary, three seed, onion, and spelt) offered, my favorite was the onion bread, which had chunks of onion baked into both the crust and into the bread itself. I must have had four slices of the onion bread before my attention was diverted to the first course.
|Braised and seared Ayrshire pork belly, served with black pudding and apple|
And the first course was quite the show-stopper. Described as "Braised and seared Ayrshire pork belly, served with black pudding and apple," this dish was just as delicious as it was visually appealing. The pork belly had a nice char to it and was complemented nicely by the apple and jus on the plate. This was my first time tasting black pudding, which has a granular texture and which I found to be pretty tasty. Sorry, I'm not that great with descriptions, so "tasty" will have to suffice.
My second course was the rabbit option, and it consisted of a "Pithivier of braised rabbit from Roxburghshire, served with peas and carrots." With the pastry containing only rabbit meat and the carrot and pea sauces smeared on the plate, the dish was sort of like a partly deconstructed pot pie. The pastry was nice and flaky, and the rabbit was not very gamey. The only critique I had for this dish was that it was a bit on the salty side.
|Chocolate panna cotta and rice pudding, served with apricot sorbet|
I ended the meal with the chocolate course, which was described as "Chocolate panna cotta and rice pudding, served with apricot sorbet." The pairing of chocolate with the apricot sorbet was a bit unusual and not something I was crazy about, but the creamy panna cotta and rice puddings were both thoroughly enjoyable. A nice finish to the meal.
Service at Castle Terrace was impeccable, as I was treated well throughout the meal and was never made to feel rushed. In summary, the food, service, and atmosphere of Castle Terrace are first-class, and the lunch prix fixe is definitely a bargain. I actually had a more enjoyable meal here than at some more well-known restaurants with more awards, and I fully expect Castle Terrace to land a Michelin star or two in the not-so-distant future. When I'm enjoying food this good, it becomes much easier to distract myself from the doom-and-gloom feeling of being a Mariners fan, so here's hoping I continue to find gems like Castle Terrace in tour of Europe.
33-35 Castle Terrace
Edinburgh EH1 2EL