When it comes to the lead-up to Taste of Grampian, I always find there’s a real buzz in the air, especially with the local food and drink businesses.
No matter what the weather, the north-east’s largest food and drink festival is always a great day, celebrating our incredible region which is packed with some of the best produce you’ll find in Scotland.
Coronavirus has hit the food and drink and the events industries hard this year, and while many festivals have been cancelled, the show will go on with Taste of Grampian which is going virtual for the very first time.
This change to the festival has also seen it run over the entire weekend, so there’s plenty time for the public to tune in for their favourite sessions.
Having been trying to eat less meat, I was delighted to see Nick Coetzer of plant-based catering firm Roots Catering on the bill as one of the chefs involved in the festival.
Hosting a cook-along where he’ll show festival-goers how to cook up a three-course vegan dinner on the Sunday, I couldn’t wait until then to get my Roots fix, so headed down to the beach, dragging my pooch and sister with me.
Meeting at the beach on a weekend, we parked at the Queen’s Links, unsure if the beach-front would all be closed off with works starting on the new cycle path. To build up an appetite, we walked the stretch of the beach and back, looking out for the bright green food van which is located on the promenade just along from the Fittie side of it.
The van really isn’t hard to spot. For one, you really can’t miss it for its colour, or the flag blowing frantically in the wind and the massive surfboard which stands out front either.
The menu is displayed on a blackboard and there’s reminders to socially distance, too, which is always welcomed.
There’s three tables and some chairs out the front allowing six customers to sit and enjoy the views, and what views you would enjoy.
On this occasion, the weather didn’t allow the opportunity, with sporadic heavy rain showers driving people back to their cars throughout the duration of the time we were at the beach.
Persevering with said weather, I joined the line ready to place our order. There had been lots of deliberation about the special; a sweet potato and bean burger, but it was the southern fried chick’aint burger and the classic cheeze ‘n’ bac’n that we opted for. Placing the order couldn’t have been easier, and I paid contactless then moved out of the line, standing at the other side of the walk way so passers-by could pass easily.
The milkshakes were ready first and my sister had demolished hers in a matter of minutes. I on the other hand, wanted to save it for last. It took around 15 minutes for all of our food to be ready, and by that time, the rain was really lashing down. I grabbed the food which had been boxed and we headed for home.
Living a 10-minute drive from the beach, the food was still piping hot when we got home. Opening the fully recyclable packaging, we dived in immediately.
I’d separated the Roots signature loaded fries on to two plates so we weren’t sharing from the same container and there was plenty there for us both to enjoy.
The loaded fries looked the business. They were piled high with a whole heap of toppings. There was everything from vegan cheese which has been grated and had begun to melt over the crisp yet fluffy skin-on seasoned fries, to pickled red cabbage which added this gorgeous deep purple to the offering.
The crack sauce and sriracha mayonnaise really make this dish. Similar to a more pungent tartare in my opinion, the crack sauce was in a pool at the front of the dish and featured chunks of gherkin throughout. It was creamy, zesty, and had so much flavour to it. Dipping each chip in it was a must, and partnered with the slightly spicier sriracha sauce which was creamy with hints of garlic, too, it was a match made to be together.
Jalapenos were hidden throughout and the heat of them caught us both off guard at first. But taking a mix of everything at once quickly sorted that out. On top was freshly chopped spring onion and a shiitake bacon crumb which was just lush sprinkled all over on top. Made with shiitake mushrooms with a bit of smoked paprika in there (I think), it finished it off beautifully. There was a mix of textures throughout showcasing the freshness of the veg and products used.
My sister’s burger looked awesome and had that same sriracha mayonnaise drizzled all over the top of the fake southern-fried “chicken” breast. Sitting on a bed of lettuce, jalapenos and creamy guacamole with chunks of avocado, she was really impressed with the range of flavours dancing in her mouth. The pickled red cabbage added a crunchiness while the fake chicken was succulent on the inside, with the crunchy batter on the out. The toasted bun had a lovely sweetness to it as well which rounded it all off.
My burger looked as equally impressive, and I was loving the layering of ingredients with the patty on the bottom, vegan cheese in the middle, and then topped with the “bacon” and caramelised onions.
What made this dish was a combination of many flavours all coming into themselves in the one burger. The sweet bun, the melted cheese, the mouthwatering Beyond Meat burger, the sticky caramelised onions and the crack sauce sneaking in there when you couldn’t really see it made every mouthful just as enjoyable as the last.
I honestly couldn’t believe it was 100% plant-based and vegan.
Even the Oreo and Biscoff milkshakes were superb. Made with vegan ice cream and packed with the branded biscuits and some sauce drizzled in, too, it was all whirled around in a blender and tasted excellent.
Roots Catering’s Roots at the Beach food truck is always a winner when looking for your vegan junk food fix. It’s executed well every time I go and had I not known they were a vegan firm, you wouldn’t have known it wasn’t the real thing.
Address: Aberdeen Beach promenade, Aberdeen