A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Guests line each side of the 64-foot-long table dressed with a Royal Stewart tartan table runner and a silver candelabra. A bagpiper walks among them, playing “Scotland the Brave.” The

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Guests line each side of the 64-foot-long table dressed with a Royal Stewart tartan table runner and a silver candelabra. A bagpiper walks among them, playing “Scotland the Brave.” The

A Great Scottish Feast

A traditional Burns Night dinner includes a platter of haggis, neeps, tatties, and cock-a-leekie soup

Guests line each side of the 64-foot-long table dressed with a Royal Stewart tartan table runner and a silver candelabra. A bagpiper walks among them, playing “Scotland the Brave.” The room hosting the Burns Night celebration looks more like the dining hall of a laird’s castle than the Statesville Civic Center. Hungry diners sit at place settings of “Old Country Roses” by Royal Albert china, which servers fill with cock-a-leekie soup (leeks and chicken stock), tatties (mashed potatoes), and neeps (mashed rutabagas).

Portrait of poet Robert Burns from Scotland.

Burns Night is a time for North Carolina Scots to honor poet Robert Burns. Photography courtesy of PHOTOCROM PRINTS, PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, LC-DIG-PPMSC-07528

The bagpiper suddenly signals the arrival of the “presentation haggis,” a five-pound mound of lamb meat that is not — repeat, not — encased in sheep stomach. The speaker steps to the lectern to recite the “Address to a Haggis,” written by the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns: “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,” it begins, “great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race! Aboon them a’ ye tak your place, painch, tripe, or thairm: Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace as lang’s my arm.”

Translated: “Good luck to you and your honest, plump face, great chieftain of the pudding race! Above them all you take your place, gut, stomach-lining, or intestine: You’re well worth a grace as long as my arm.”

The haggis may get its own poem, but this Burns Night supper is all about Scotland’s national poet. January 25 will be the 264th anniversary of the birth of Burns, author of “Auld Lang Syne” and patron saint of Caledonophiles everywhere. For the past two centuries, Burns’s fans have honored his body of work through traditional Burns Night suppers, which involve poetry readings and songs while guests enjoy traditional Scottish dishes.

“It’s the one time of year we get to play ‘Scotland.’”

This tradition is more alive than ever in North Carolina, once home to the largest settlement of Highland Scots in North America. Dozens of Burns Night dinners will take place from Asheville to Wilmington throughout January.

“It’s about keeping the history of our ancestry alive, maintaining traditions, and teaching people — whether they’re Scottish or not — some unique history through cuisine, music, and the poetry of Robert Burns,” says Keith Rhyne, site manager and event coordinator at the Historic Sharpe House in Statesville. The 157-year-old home of the city’s first mayor hosted three Burns Night celebrations until the event outgrew the venue and moved to the civic center.

“It’s that one time of year we get to play ‘Scotland,’” Rhyne says. “We get to dress up in our kilts and our tartans and our plaids, and we get to have fun.”

The evening’s presentation haggis came from Scottish Gourmet USA in Greensboro, a one-stop shop for Scotland-loving foodies. Last January, the company shipped more than 5,000 pounds of the delicacy to Burns Night events across the country.

No one makes haggis in sheep stomachs anymore, Scottish Gourmet owner Anne Robinson says. Inside the sausage casing, diners will find a warm, crumbly concoction. It’s a version of Scotland’s favorite dish that was created by Robinson’s husband, Andrew Hamilton, with the help of a French pâté maker. Hamilton’s haggis recipe contains lamb meat, a touch of beef liver, onions, oatmeal, and …

“I’m not tellin’ ya everything,” the retired chef and native Scot says in a heavy brogue.

The Sharpe House’s Robert Burns Night event will be held at the Statesville Civic Center on January 20. To purchase tickets, visit ourstate.com/sharpe-house.

Scottish Gourmet USA

North Carolina-Scot Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson, the owner of Scottish Gourmet USA, ensures anyone craving Scottish fare stateside gets a taste of classic delicacies. photograph by Jon Black

In 2005, Anne Robinson created Scottish Gourmet USA to serve those craving a taste of the finest Scottish fare. Her customers want meat pudding logs, both with beef blood (black) and without it (white). And Aberdeen butteries — pastries similar to a rustic croissant that are baked with extra butter. And whisky-flavored … anything, really — sea salt, fudge, tea, toothpicks.

Robinson and her 12 employees — including her husband, Andrew Hamilton, a retired chef and Scottish emigrant — oblige. In 2017, she moved the business from New Jersey to be closer to her largest customer bloc: North Carolinians who celebrate their Scottish heritage. The move more than tripled Robinson’s Tar Heel clientele and has helped bring haggis to diners — both Scottish and just plain curious — across the state.

Scottish Gourmet USA
1908 Fairfax Road, Suite B
Greensboro, NC 27407
(877) 814-3663

This story was published on Jan 01, 2024

Margaret Moffett

Margaret Moffett is a Greensboro-based freelance writer and an adjunct instructor at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.