Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Robert Burns Dinner 2016

My brother Mike got tickets to the premier Robert Burns dinner in Columbus, and was kind enough to invite me along for an evening of drinking, dining and alcohol fueled fun.

This is not the first time I've attended this event, but it's far and away the best dinner ever served - and the beer was outstanding.

For anyone that has never attended a Robert Burns dinner, let me explain that it's a carefully staged production number, attended by Burns aficionados and other people who enjoy eating, drinking and having a great time, all under the guise of superior aesthetics and a love of poetry.  Should you attend, it helps if you enjoy haggis and top-shelf scotch whiskey.

Dinner guests congregated in the bar area at the Smokehouse Brewing Co. (1130 Dublin Rd, Columbus, OH; (614) 485-0227) where we waited for the haggis to be piped in.

Waiting for the Haggis
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made of (among other things) sheep's heart, liver and lungs, which are chopped up and combined with suet, oatmeal and spices.  The entire business is cooked inside the sheep's stomach. The haggis makes its entrance on a platter accompanied by an honor guard of bagpipes and other officialdom.  Len leads the parade.

Piping in the Haggis
This is the cue for everyone to grab their drinks and follow along to the dining room.  Since the dining room is festival seating, if you want to sit with someone it behooves you to arrive early.  Failing that, the guests are all generous and will move up or down a seat to accommodate someone.

Haggis - Our First Course
This is the haggis, which is served with a side of neeps and tatties, or turnips and potatoes for the rest of us.  It's an excellent dish, and tastes a lot like meatloaf.  Along with our dinner, we are served a flight of top-shelf Scotch whiskey, the first dram being served with the haggis and drunk in a toast to the haggis delivered by Len, our host.

Tonight's Menu
Our first dram of Scotch was very mild and smooth.  While we ate, Len recited Address to a Haggis. The haggis was excellent.

Salad and Scotch Egg
Our next course was a salad and Scotch egg.  The salad dressing was sharp and made a nice contrast to the haggis.  This was followed by our main course, smoked salmon.

Smoked Salmon
This is described on the menu as Hot Smoked Norwegian Salmon with Smashed Fingerlings, Peas and Whiskey Citrus Glaze, but I couldn't get past the smoked salmon. The salmon was perfect.  It was cooked to perfection and had an incredible smoke flavor to it. I've dined in restaurants from Canada to Key West, and I've never had better fish than the salmon served to us that evening.  It is my hope that the smoke salmon will become a regular part of the menu at the Smokehouse.

Keith Toasting the Women
During dinner the crowd became energetic, and there was an almost constant reciting of Burns' poetry and the singing of a few songs, many of which were noteworthy.  I think the award for best composure under pressure goes to a young lady who got ambushed into reciting a particularly bawdy poem, and bravely stuck with it right to the right lively ending.

My only complaint about the dinner is that it was over too soon.  The company was excellent, and our hosts and servers did an outstanding job of making everyone comfortable.  Here's a toast to our servers, who spent the entire night running like mad from one end of the restaurant to the other.

And another toast and congratulations to the chef and sous-chef for an outstanding dinner.  No one had a finer dinner than we did.

Chef and Sous-Chef
Finally, I'd like to thank our hosts, Len and his beautiful wife Joan for their hard work and stellar hospitality.

Len and Joan

See you next year!

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