Robert Burns reading

This Sunday marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns, a night beloved in the hearts of the Scots, but relatively unknown to most Americans. For those of you uninitiated in Burns Night, it is a celebration in honor of good ol’ Rabbie Burns, and, in true Scottish style, it is bathed in whisky and delicious haggis, neeps, and tatties.

My Scottish husband and I have made it a quest to educate and initiate our friends into the hallowed Burns Night traditions. Last year, we hosted our first Burns Night, and to our great surprise nearly everyone we invited not only showed up, but embraced the event with open arms, trying on their best Scottish brogue and gobbling up the haggis we’d captured out in the wilds of Dixon, CA.

It goes like this, at least at our house: We steam some haggis–which is essentially a big stuffed sausage made from sheep offal, spices, and oats; way more delicious than it might sound–and we make big pots of mashed potatoes (the “tatties”) and smashed rutabagas (the “neeps”). Just before the haggis is brought out and skewered with a large knife, we read Rabbie Burns Address to a Haggis. All the while, the whisky is flowing.

Perhaps it doesn’t sound as fun as it actually ends up being, but then again, you might not have a friend like Traci, who takes a few whisky shots and takes over the room with her rolling Rrrrrrrrs and guttural brogue.

This year, being quite a monumental anniversary, we decided to (or actually, our friends demanded that we) host our 2nd Annual Burns Night. Once again, we drove out to Dixon for some house-made haggis. Although I have to say, after the nearly 5-hour journey, I’m apt to make it myself next year. And while the official night is Sunday January 25th, this year we’ll be celebrating ol’ Rabbie Burns 250th anniversary on Saturday, January 24th. So pull out a poem and read it in your best brogue, have a nip of whisky, and take a bite of sausage (or better yet, haggis!), and give a wee toast to a fabulous poet, who will be celebrated the world over, and at our little home away from Scotland house in San Francisco.

If you are itching to participate in Burns Night 2009, the main event here in SF happens at:
Edinburgh Castle
Saturday January 24 at 8pm, $10 at the door
950 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA

For those of you out in the Valley, check out:
Canal Street Grille Robert Burns Night
Saturday, January 24th at 6:30pm
1225 Canal Blvd, Ripon, CA, 95366

Burns Night 2009 24 January,2009Kim Laidlaw

  • Cap’n Phealy

    I must, sadly, report that the owners of the Scottish Meat Pie Co. in Dixon have retired, and the store is no more. At least, that’s what they just told me on the phone.

  • kim laidlaw

    oh no! that’s terrible news! but thanks for the update. well, I guess next year I’m definitely going to make my own haggis. There’s a butcher near me who said they sell sheep offal.


Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen.

Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013.

She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in Petaluma with her husband and their child, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at

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