Robert Burns Night Dinner

Scots & friends brave the storm to celebrate poet Robert Burns

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Scottish and their fellow travelers, even those with nary a tartan in their genetic code, are a hearty lot. Elliot MacFarlane recites an ode to the haggis. The storm that gripped the region was not enough to keep a couple dozen souls from venturing out to celebrate the memory of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns at Naslada Bistro in Bowling Green. Outside the weather may have been frightful, but inside we had poetry, food, whisky, and most of all fellowship to keep us warm. This was the fourth year the restaurant has teamed with Elliot MacFarlane (David Donley), a bon vivant and lover of  Scottish tradition, to present this celebration of the Scottish poet.   Boby Mitov chats with diners. We came out to eat traditional dishes, as reimagined by Bulgarian chef Boby Mitov and hear tales of Burns and others by MacFarlane, our host, for the evening. Outside the air was cold, and the atmosphere still flecked with the last remnants of the storm. When someone uttered the word a “blizzard,” Mitov was quick to respond. “Not a blizzard, just snow.” Inside Joe Spencer’s  bagpipes rang out. Linda Brown reads a Shakespeare sonnet. The weather did keep a couple of those scheduled to add to the festivities from attending. No singer, and only one set of pipes. So MacFarlane called on a little extra participation from the guests, handing out poems for them to read aloud. Some came prepared with their own selections. That included Karen Wood, the host’s wife. She offered one of two tributes to Mary Oliver, an American poet who died at 83 this week. But neither this remembrance, nor the recollection of some of the more unfortunate circumstances of Burns’ own life were enough to cast a pall over the affair. Waiter Cole Olmstead serves the Scottish Beef Collops with Whisky Sauce with Rumbledethumps. Not given the measured doses of fine Scotch whisky that were doled out throughout the evening. Each shot offered a distinctive taste of Scotland, whether the peat or the sea breezes allowed to waft through the warehouses where the whisky ages in oak barrels. For their part, the Burns Night celebrants were happy to taste that breeze, and not feel it — the contrast between the warmth inside and cold outside, adding to the festivities. Ending with a congregational singing of Burns’ greatest hit, “Auld Lang Syne.”


Robert Burns Night set to dispel the winter chill with food, poetry, song, & whisky

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Between the end of the holidays and Winter Fest, Bowling Green needs something. That’s part of the reason that Scottish enthusiast and bon vivant Elliot MacFarlane and chef Boby Mitov of Naslada Bistro in downtown have teamed up for the last few years to stage Robert Burns Night.  The fourth Burns Night at Naslada will be presented Saturday, Jan. 19, starting at 6 p.m. Reservations are required. Call 419-373-6050.  The event has sold out in past years. The charge is $110, which includes a four-course meal and four flights of top shelf whisky. The dinner is a more intimate affair than other downtown events. A few dozen revelers will gather in the eatery’s cozy confines for a night of poetry, song, traditional Scottish fare prepared with a contemporary International touch, whisky, and the humor, often rude, that the consumption of rounds of liquor often prompts. Boby Mitov carries in the haggis during the 2017 Burns Night. Dinners in honor of Burns, around the time of his Jan. 25 birthday, have been celebrated since the poet’s death in 1796, MacFarlane, a member of the St. Andrews Society, said.  While Burns is the national poet of Scotland, MacFarlane said, his appeal is universal. South African liberationist Nelson Mandela had two books with him when he was imprisoned on Robben Island — a volume of Burns poetry and “The Diary of Anne Frank.” And Abraham Lincoln loved the poet. He recited the Scotsman’s verse as he traveled the circuit from court to court during his days as a lawyer in Illinois. And the night he was shot at Ford’s Theater, he had a book of Burns poetry in his pocket. MacFarlane (aka David Donley) said that Burns’ focus on the lives of common people is the key to his appeal. “I’m surprised at how many people know Robert Burns,” he said. And even those who don’t are aware of the poet’s phrases that have woven themselves into the language. Eliott MacFarlane speaks during 2017 Burns Night. Whether it’s “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” or “man’s inhumanity to man.” The former comes from the poem “To a Mouse” in which a farmer on discovering a mouse nest while plowing reflects how their plights are similar, both subject to forces outside their control. These works, some set to music, will be central to the Burns Night Celebration. MacFarlane will present the Immortal Memory, a reflection on the life of the poet. At some events this can go on for hours. MacFarlane knows the local audience’s limits. He said this year he plans to focus on Burns’ ties to the United States. During the American Revolution, Burns was involved in raising money to buy cannons for Washington’s army. A piper will be on hand to perform and to lead the procession marking the entry of the haggis, the sausage-like dish that’s the centerpiece of the feast. Traditionally this was made of sheep organs with the intestine used as a casing. MacFarlane said the dish reflects what poor folks would have to feed themselves. U.S. food regulations actually forbid the most traditional haggis — no lungs allowed. Mitov instead offers a decidedly high end version of the dish prepared with locally-sourced grass-fed beef and lamb. The chef puts his own distinctive touches on all the dishes being served — Scotch Collops of Beef with Rumbledethumps and Cock-a-leekie Soup. He’ll also serve smoked salmon bites with dill sauce. The Bulgarianborn chef said cooking the traditional Scottish dishes is not such a jump. All cultures have variations these dishes, just…


BG revelers raise their glasses and voices in memory of Robert Burns

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News   All we needed Friday night was Robert Burns processing into Naslada Bistro with the haggis. After all, we had bagpipes, and plenty of tartan, including Bulgarian chef Boyko Mitov clad in a tam o’ shanter, sash and kilt of Royal Stewart. And he wasn’t the only one baring his manly gams. Later there would be poetry and song, and traditional Scottish dishes, and of course, many rounds of whisky. The occasion was a celebration of the birth of Robert Burns, and if the bard of Scotland and bawdy bon vivant was absent is body – being dead some 220 years is a good enough excuse– he was certainly there in spirit. This is the second annual Burns Night held at the downtown restaurant. Or, as host Elliot MacFarlane said, the second and a half. Another Burns night was held Thursday. Demand for the first in 2016 prompted Mitov and MacFarlane to present it two nights this year. Burn Night Dinners are a tradition dating back to shortly after the poet’s death. Now on the face of it, a night devoted to the poetry and song of a long dead personage, with interlude grandly titled “The Immortal Memory” may sound a bit staid. The event was nothing of the sort. Haunch to haunch with the poetry and sentimental ballads were bawdy jokes. A Burns Night Dinner, MacFarlane said, was a time for flatulence and rude talk about the English. After uttering his first “fuckin’” while telling a story, he advised the several dozen gathered that the word was Scottish for “jolly.” The dinner was a jolly time. In the old days, he said, the dinners could last for eight hours, and boys with wheelbarrows would be on hand to push the revelers home afterward. The Bowling Green event ended with everyone raising their voices in a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.” The frivolity began well before the first round of whisky, and only heightened with each succeeding shot. “We need something in winter in Bowling Green besides hockey, so we have Robert Burns,” MacFarlane declared. Not that there’s anything wrong with hockey. He did after all grow up in Bowling Green. All this was in keeping with Burns, a failed “ploughboy” and tax collector who found success as a wandering poet, who was welcomed in salons and taprooms. When he died at 37, 10,000 mourners attended his funeral. Still he was impoverished, leaving behind a wife and plentiful offspring, both by her and his many mistresses. His work, though, has a deep and abiding impact on people. MacFarlane said that when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for fighting against apartheid he took comfort in two books, “The Diary of Anne Frank” and a volume of poetry by “Robert Burns.” Abraham Lincoln loved Burns, committing poems to memory. He would recite the verse as he traveled from court to court as a circuit riding lawyer in Illinois. When he was assassinated, he was carrying a collection of Burns’ poetry in his pocket. Burns was a supporter of the American Revolution, helping to raise money to buy a cannon for the colonials. So Burns would have been pleased to see those now living in America having a good time in his name. They feasted on a dinner that unfolded in five courses – one more than advertised—of dishes inspired by traditional Scottish fare, but filtered through Mitov’s culinary sensibility. So no organ meats in the haggis. The haggis, the first course and the centerpiece of any Burns dinner, was described by Burns, as read by piper Kim…