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Our First Burns Supper Reminds us that the Haggis Doesn’t Have to Come But Once a Year

Comment | January 31, 2012 | By | Photographs by John Taggart

Chris Rendell plates the mains at the Mary Queen of Scots’ Burns Night Supper. Not a fan of sheep hearts? We gather the steak and ale pie and roasted cod were plenty good too.

Last Wednesday we had the pleasure of reporting on our first-ever Robert Burns Night Supper at Mary Queen of Scots, a beautifully appointed Scottish gastro-tavern in the old Allen and Delancey space. Born in 1759, Burns is a beloved Scottish poet: January 25th is his birthday and MQofS is a Scottish place owned by a trio who hail from Scotland and Great Britain. Like all good Scots who run Manhattan restaurants, they host a special dinner on Burns Nicht for what is a national holiday celebrated nearly everywhere in Scotland and even Northern Ireland.

So that’s why last week if you walked by what was once a very, very Jewish corner in the Lower East Side, you’d gotten a serious glimpse of Scottish pride: Burns’ doleful poems and songs were recited and sung, a slew of tartan was on display, a bag piper played mournfully in his kilt and spats as the crowd applauded, and a bowl of Scotch was poured over a two-foot-long haggis, the oft-scorned savory pudding made with minced sheep’s heart, liver and lungs; onion, oatmeal and suet stuffed into a sheep’s stomach and simmered for about three hours. (To us, it tasted a little like blood sausage mixed with kasha, which is to say, fantastic.)

Sadly you will have to wait until a future issue of this magazine to learn more about our most memorable meal–not just creamy cullen skink but neeps and tatties–and to see some pretty stellar photos of bagpiping, haggis, Scotch-drinking and even Aberfeldy-born actor Alan Cumming singing a Burns tune. But we can tell you that just off the heels of an eating and drinking tour of London, where we fell hard for modern reinventions of stuff like mushy peas and bacon sandwiches, we were pretty taken with chef Chris Rendell’s skills cooking the best of Great Britain.

The owners of MQofS also own the Scottish bar Highlands and the new British spot called Whitehall in Greenwich Village, and Rendell manages the Scottish/British kitchens at all three; Whitehall, in fact, boasts mushy pea fritters, which are on the very top of our list of things to try this week, along with sausage rolls with harissa and housemade pickled veg at Highlands. (Rendell is actually from Australia, and worked at the Sugar Club in London and Public here in Manhattan.)

Haggis, on the other hand, isn’t on the regular menu at MQofS–though happily fish and chips with mushy peas is. But haggis is served at Highlands, with plenty of  neeps and tatties and whiskey butter sauce. So if you need a fix between now and next January 25th, that’s where to head.

About Rachel Wharton

Rachel Wharton is a deputy editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn magazines with a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, where she focused her research on sustainable agriculture and food culture (with a minor in tacos). She has 15 years of experience as a writer, starting her career with fisheries, water issues, coastal life (and fried oysters) in North Carolina, where she grew up. Before joining the Edibles, she spent four-and-half years working as a features food reporter at the New York Daily News. She also won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award for stories in Edible Brooklyn, while her profile of Russ & Daughters in this magazine will be included in the book 2010 Best Food Writing. P.S., she will eat street meat with abandon, no matter its sustainability.

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