Our very first Burns Night Supper was a rousing success! It was a gorgeous evening filled with much laughter, and we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier, more fun, or hilarious group of people with whom to share it.
Transforming a space is what I love best, so I was very excited to try my hand at creating a cozy, highland manor atmosphere. We borrowed a couple of long tables and purchased inexpensive, but nice, banquet tablecloths on Amazon (I have a real problem with short tablecloths that do not hide ugly fold-out table legs. Yuck. The worst). The runner was a tablecloth folded over to size. I bought five yards of basic cotton fabric at JoAnn Fabrics, cut it in half, and made four simple curtain panels to flank the dining room windows. Can I also just say that beeswax candles…they are the best! They burn cleanly, have a beautiful color, and give off just the faintest hint of sweet honey, smell.
The name cards are dollar store frames with the names written on tartan wrapping paper. The china is a discontinued pattern called “Thistle” by Flintridge. I bought it a couple of years ago at a junk shop, and it is my absolute favorite.
I found the tutorial for the bow napkin fold on this website, but it seems to have originated from Nancy Creative (I hope you’ll forgive that terrible last photo taken with my iPhone). It was a little more difficult with thicker napkins, so make sure you try it in advance to see that your napkins and rings work with this fold.
I made little Burns badges for everyone to wear. They were very easy, and I’ll post a quick tutorial soon.
We moved around the furniture in our living room to create a nice conversation area. Previously, this was not such an inviting space for our friends to gather and talk, with only one couch on a wall directly across from the t.v. We flipped the couch perpendicular to our faux fireplace and floated the smaller sofa, which usually lives in our sunroom, across from it. This was a wonderful place to have our guests relax and enjoy a glass of wine or water while we were still putting the finishing touches on dinner.
I will admit to skipping some of the Burns Night traditions this time around (The Immortal Memory, Toast to the Lassies, Toast to the Laddies), as we did not want to over-tax our guests in this, our inaugural turn. As I noted in my last post, you can find a definitive list for a tip-top traditional Burns Night running order on the BBC website.
Burns Night Supper 2015 Schedule of Events
5:00pm – Refreshments, Scottish music, and conversation
5:45pm – Chairperson’s Address & Welcome – Adapted from this book summary.
The Selkirk Grace
First coarse – cock-a-leekie soup
Ceremonial procession of the haggis
To a Haggis
Main course – haggis, Bryan’s Scottish chicken, neeps & tatties
Dessert course – cranachan & decaffeinated coffee
Toast to Rabbie Burns
Auld Lang Syne
We stuck to mainly traditional Burns Night fare and, as I always have a fear of underfeeding, had an excess of deliciousness!
The Haggis – We cheated and purchased our haggis this year. Everyone agreed that it was quite good!
Bryan’s Scottish chicken – We wanted to make certain we had a main that everyone would eat, so Bryan created his own dish using traditional Scottish herbs & spices.
Tatties & neeps – Potatoes and turnips, don’t ya know! Bryan, again, concocted his own recipe.
Cranachan – Delicious! I made one without whiskey for my non-drinking friend and made sure that the oats were gluten-free for my GF guests.
Chocolate whiskey truffles – A very nice compliment to the cranachan. For my non-drinking friend, I substituted vanilla and cinnamon for the whiskey. They were just as good!
Cheeseboard – We weren’t able to find any Scottish cheeses last minute, so the “cheese expert” at our local grocer was helpful in choosing some British cheeses that would be widely available in that region: English Stilton, Marieke Aged Gouda, Dubliner Stout, & Kerrygold Vintage, served with GF Nut Thins and Carr’s oat and wheat crackers.
Bryan chose a scotch/whiskey blend, Johnnie Walker Red, for general toasts and the table: . It was also important to him to find a lowland scotch for special toasts, as that was from where Robert Burns hailed; he chose Glenkinchie 12 (known as the Edinburgh malt). Our friend Chad was kind enough to bring us a highland scotch, Clynelish 14, for further tippling.
It would seem that one of the “official” traditions of Burns Night is getting decidedly persnockered; however, everyone was responsible and took only wee drams of each. We also made certain that the delicious rosemary, lemon, and mint water was flowing! Keep your guests hydrated is what I’m saying, friends.
Since nary a one o’ us had e’er attended a Burns Night Supper, we chose poems for our friends to either read or sing. Many of our friends are theatre types so, depending on their comfort level, they chose either the Burns original or the standard English translation. The array of Scottish accents (and one Chicago! Ha!) was hilarious and impressive! Here are the pieces we chose:
We had our friend Dan read the short poem on marriage and wedding rings as he and Emily (of the beautiful photos) are newly engaged! Chad and Abby, also in attendance, had become engaged only a few months ago and Bryan and I were married in September, so it was just a very special moment.
And so I say until next time, dear friends…raise a glass high to dear ol’ Rabbie Burns!