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The Other MacDonalds

I never tasted crushed popcorn dust atop sweet and salty corn soup or whisky foam or caramelized grapefruit—until I came to Skye.

Arriving in Scotland, I expected haggis and herring, potatoes and porridge—but when I licked my first spoon of morning porridge at Kinloch Lodge, I was hit with the most wonderful brown sugar and cinnamon spice flavors. I savored each creamy bit until I was clanging my spoon against an empty bowl.

“It’s no secret that I like sweet things,” confessed Marcello Tully, chef at Kinloch Lodge, who says he uses sugar like most chefs use salt.

“Good sugar enhances the flavor in foods,” he explained, though his savory breakfast cuisine was no less spectacular. Though Marcello and Kinloch are both world-renowned, I wanted to present my own award to Marcello for getting me to eat black pudding and like it.

“It’s all in the seasoning,” Marcello pointed out to me. He gets his black pudding from Stornoway, in the Outer Hebrides, and serves it with caramelized apples and back bacon. That dish, along with Kinloch’s incredibly delicate scones with jam, made breakfast a memorable event for each day that I lived at Kinloch, home of Lord and Lady MacDonald,

Clan MacDonald (aka Clan Donald) is the largest and oldest clan in the world, descended from these ancestral lands on Skye. Indeed, the last clan battle fought in Skye was the Battle of Coire Na Creiche, between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods of Dunvegan (the MacDonalds won). Today, instead of killing the clan across the island, the MacDonalds are busily engaged in another important Highland tradition—hospitality.

Good food, good drink, and good times are the foundation of Scottish culture and at Kinloch Lodge, I found all three. Peeking into the back kitchen on a busy night, I was amazed to find an almost-silent work atmosphere, as various cooks carefully assembled beautiful plates of Marcello’s colorful cuisine. And yet, they were all having fun. There were smiles and small jokes, pleasant exchanges and mutual admiration for every person’s job in the kitchen.

The result was a meal of whimsical yet elegant dishes, one after the other, each one surprising me with its unexpected ingredients and hidden texture.

“I have a rule that everything must have at least two textures to it,” Marcello pointed out to me, right after I completed his extraordinary tasting menu. His food was very textured and his sauces tended to be brighter and sweeter.

“Kinloch has changed my entire attitude about eating at MacDonalds,” I joked with a Skye local, who agrees that Marcello’s food is the best on the island. The global burger joint McDonalds (no relation) dates back to 1955 and offers a dining experience of ketchup on wax paper wrappers. At Kinloch Lodge, the MacDonald clan dates back to the 12th-century—and following that same clan tradition, the MacDonalds offer their guests an exquisite dining experience that still counts among the best in Scotland.

The above video showcases just one of the brilliant meals I enjoyed at Kinloch, and hopefully gives you an actual idea about exactly how well one eats at the Other MacDonalds.

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Roast quail, on the menu at Kinloch Lodge on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

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