Looking for those savory meat pies you enjoyed while visiting Scotland? Or maybe that scrumptious shortbread, smoked salmon or sweet heather honey? Scottish Gourmet has all your favorite foods from the bonnie homeland. Owner Anne Robinson explains.
What are your own roots?
I am the all-American girl, going back 13 generations to a John Stubbs that came over on the Mayflower. I am related to two presidents – John Adams and John Quincy Adams as one of JQA’s daughters married a Colonel Doolittle. My maternal grandmother was the last of the Doolittle line as she was one of three girls.
When and why did start the business?
I started Scottish Gourmet USA ten years ago this July and was inspired to start the company by my very Scottish husband, Andrew Hamilton. Every trip I took to Scotland was filled with new tastes and flavors, and every time I came back with more and more gifts of foods for friends and family. At the same time, Andrew had started a new business importing live langoustines and game birds for the top NYC restaurants. People were stopping him on the streets of NY in his van asking for where to get langoustines, and so langoustines, heather honey and another 200 products became the starting point for Scottish Gourmet USA.
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
Today, Scottish Gourmet USA is here for an increasing number of Scots here in America, their friends and family. Our customers are our friends and they inspire us to find their favorite flavor, and all the trimmings for their Scottish events.
What are the challenges involved?
Being a food importer has many challenges, from having a huge shipment of smoked salmon held for inspection by the FDA until release on Christmas Eve, to small Scottish vendors struggling to stay afloat (and sometimes disappearing), not to mention the currency fluctuations, and ever increasing costs of delivering a package to a consumer’s home.
What are the rewards?
The rewards are many. We love meeting our customers face to face at the many Scottish events we attend during the warmer months, It is also very satisfying to find a particular requested item, all the customer and delight them. We had request for a small trivet with Robert Burns Selkirk Grace – and we found a porcelain bread warmer with the Grace embossed as well as a bagpiper. Customer was thrilled and bought two, she called back a week later and had us send the item as gifts to others for Burns Night. Having our haggis served to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a fundraising dinner in NY last December was also a big reward. We love making our customers happy, and we also appreciate when others designate our product as the best.
What are you core products and services?
Since we now carry nearly 400 products, it is hard to single out a few. We have a great following for our Scottish meats, haggis, back bacon, black pudding, Lorne sausage, bridies and meat pies. We also sell a dozen flavors of marmalade, including several with whisky added. And the product that started it all, Struan Heather Honey, that I was bringing back in increasing quantities on every personal trip to Scotland while dating my now husband. This extraordinary honey is dark and rich, definitely not flowery. It has been named one of the 1000 foods to eat before you die by Mimi Sheraton in her latest book ( she also mentions many other products we offer, like the sweet langoustines that were also one of the first products. Smoked fish, artisanal cheeses, and of course, sweets. There are so many items you just can’t find in your local grocery store or even on Amazon. We are the place to find that taste of home. We also offer gift hampers and even make them to order. Food is always welcome as a gift, ad we love spreading the flavors of Scotland through gift hampers.
Who are your clients?
First generation Scots looking for the foods they remember from home, their children, grandchildren and extended families looking to find that special food their grandmother made for them or told them about. We also have lots of clients that have visited Scotland and tasted the amazing bounty of Scotland and want to share it here in the USA. And then we have many clients we serve only once a year when they hold their Robert Burns Supper – some just buy haggis, while others serve a five or six course meal all from our larder.
What is Scottish cuisine, and how has it evolved in recent years?
I can’t say I am an expert on the current state of Scottish Cuisine, but I suspect it has many of the same trends we see here in the USA – a desire for organic or natural foods with fresh, wholesome ingredients. Take great ingredients, and prepare them so the true flavor of the food comes to the fore. We now offer three different seaweeds, smoked seaweed and sea salts infused with peat smoke or seaweed – all very natural foods with amazing flavor.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Scotland’s culinary industry today?
In the past 10-15 years there has been a re-awakening of the Scottish food culture, some of the most celebrated chefs in the world are in Scotland. When the New York Times devotes three pages in the travel section on a culinary tour of great restaurants in Edinburgh, Glasgow and then out to Three Chimneys on Skye, the Poolewe Hotel, and Gleneagles – you know there is some great eating in Scotland. With the abundance of natural food sources, the country should become a place known for its foods. The langoustines celebrated in Paris or Barcelona come from Scotland, the salmon, the venison, the lamb – I could go on for hours about the wealth of choice, and thankfully there are a lot of great chefs taking advantage of the delicious local foods.
Is enough being done to promote and preserve Celtic culture generally?
I like to think that Scottish Gourmet USA is preserving many of the elements of Celtic Culture with the foods we offer. What we really sell is nostalgia – the scents, flavors and memories of Scotland – just here in the USA. We truly appreciate the many hard working volunteers that create the Scottish/Highland Games which bring Celtic Culture to life for future generations. We encourage all the events we attend to offer free admission for children as a way to perpetuate Celtic Culture. We also applaud schools that have ‘theme days’ where students immerse themselves in a culture for the day or week. Scotland has so much to offer for young students, from food, drink, dress, music, history, Robert Burns, William Wallace, and more. We also sell lots of cookbooks to help perpetuate traditional Scottish foods. Every culture has food at its core.
What can we be doing better?
When Tartan Day is as celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day then Scottish culture will be well promoted. We are a long way away from that goal!
What’s next on your business agenda?
I am actively looking for ways to offer many of our foods and gifts to Scottish Canadians. We have so many requests from Canada and we really need to find a way to bring the same taste of home to Canada.
Leave a Comment