When the Cheese Toastie Festival was secretly announced in August during a Yelp Elite event the entire room freaked out for about ten minutes. Briony, Yelp Scotland’s community manage grinned and allowed us to be excited for a minute before re-directing us to the evening at hand and promising us first access to tickets alongside more information as soon as possible. She also swore us to secrecy.
The first batch of tickets were made available and I snapped one up. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the room you’re in is made up of people exactly like you who get excited by the same things you do – you don’t know for sure whether others outside the room would have the same reaction. Even so, I had a hunch that waiting until later to get the (free) ticket would be a bit daft.
Later, when the tickets were made publicly available, they sold out in six minutes. Turns out Scotland loves toasties.
Over the next few weeks information was steadily revealed to us. The event would be held at Drygate, who would be doing beer pairings. Then we heard who a few of the vendors would be. Then a few more. It was a good job we didn’t have to wait too much longer because by the time the event finally rolled around I don’t think I could handle any more.
I love cheese toasties. They’re my go-to cafe lunch and I make them at home. Unlike P, who is a toastie purist (bread-cheese-bread or very occasionally, if he’s feeling brave, bread-ham-cheese-bread) I love trying different flavour combinations. Not that there’s anything wrong with the basics done well, of course. In any case, with a list of vendors that included Accento, Ocho, Drygate, Mellis’s and Chompsky, I had very high hopes for creativity.
I wasn’t disappointed. On arrival for the 3pm session at Drygate I swapped my ticket for a wristband and did a fully circuit of Drygate’s event space, craning to see menus and desperately trying to decide what I wanted to try first. Some vendors were selling the toasties as halves but I quickly realised that if I returned next year (there needs to be a next year) I’ll be bringing 3 friends so we can cut them into quarters and maximise the number we can try. With 21 toasties available, I had little chance of trying them all.
Eventually, and almost at random, I got in the queue for The Cheesy Toast Shack. As tempted as I was by the macaroni cheese and black pudding toastie they were offering, and the Christmas dinner one, I opted for La Frenchie; raclette cheese with smoked lardons and onions and potato in a garlic, white wine and creme fraiche sauce, served with a gherkin, because of course it was. It was every bit as delicious and ridiculous as that sounds.
After a brief rest to catch up with some friends and observe a short cheese-themed game show, I made for Drygate. Somehow, I’d never quite got around to trying their food, although I’d heard great things. I was angling for their mac and cheese toastie but got distracted when I got close enough to see their second option – a cheese and ox cheek toastie. Sold! To the girl with the blue hair!
On the recommendation of the lovely chaps from Drygate I picked up a Crossing The Rubicon beer by them to go with their toastie. It’s not a bad IPA, and the combination definitely works, but I think I still like their Bearface better.
Neither of these toasties were available as half portions and, since at a cheese toastie festival no one’s going to be making skinny little shy toasties with a sliver of cheese between them, they were substantial. As hungry as I thought I was when I arrived, I knew I could probably only manage one more.
On to Ocho. I’m genuinely starting to wonder if the folk at Ocho could make food that was anything other than both beautiful and delicious if they tried. They can do no wrong. Their sweet, brioche toastie with mascarpone, berries and drizzled chocolate was the perfect end to my toastie fest indulgence and I’m sure I’ll be daydreaming about it for weeks. If you missed out on the toastie fest, you can still pick this up at Ocho for the rest of this week.
I finished the last morsel, stumbled home and took what was a very necessary hour long nap to sleep off all those lovely carbs. Bring on next year.