SPRING HILL — The musical trill of the Scottish "r" is heard above the clatter of pans and the clink of platters in the kitchen at the Tartan Table, a restaurant with roots in the British Isles that opened in October on Deltona Boulevard.
Owner and chef Elizabeth Dees, born and reared in Scotland, but a Floridian for 25 years, holds on to her soft native accent and puts forth her homeland's dishes in a 30-seat emporium tucked into a tiny plaza.
Billed as "a Scottish dining experience," the generously sized menu touts such offerings as Scotch eggs, shepherd's pie, haggis, a brie sandwich, rhubarb fool and spotted dick. Palates of those accustomed to more traditional American fare can rely on dishes such as crab-stuffed mushrooms, pastrami on rye or grilled lamb chops, the latter dressed in a black currant demi-glace.
Said Dees, 65 and retired from a career in the health care industry: "I've always cooked and always my dream was to open my own restaurant."
Hernando County diners have been "very receptive" of her dishes, the first-year chef said. "We've had amazing response to our type of food."
Shepherd's pie, a dish of cooked diced meat mixed with gravy and vegetables, under a crust of mashed potatoes, is the restaurant's most popular.
Traditionally, the meat is lamb or mutton.
"A lot of people don't like lamb, so we make it with Angus beef. We'll make it with lamb for our customers who really like it," Dees said, but it must be ordered in advance.
"Haggis has been popular, believe it or not," the owner said. That's "haggis, neeps and tatties," on the menu.
The uninitiated grimace or guffaw at the traditional description: a mixture of minced organ meats, oats, neets (turnips, rutabaga, carrots) and tatties (potatoes) stuffed into a sheep's stomach lining.
Dees, however, stuffs the mix into a more palatable sausage casing.
"Every time I make it, it sells out," she said. "Nobody who's tried it hasn't liked it."
Scotch eggs are another customer favorite, a hard-boiled egg centered in a meatloaf wrap.
Among desserts, spotted dick furrows brows. It's a steamed pudding, the "spots" being bits of assorted fruits, the cake-like "pudding" served with a hot custard sauce.
Scotland's heritage shines in the dining room's stylish decor. A Scottish tartan runner dresses each white linen-draped table.
"Every table represents a different clan," Dees said.
Some customers reserve for their dining experience, for instance, the Anderson, Stewart or Gordon tables.
At dinner, the wait staff, among a total of five employees, wears kilts and sporrans.
Open for lunch and dinner, Dees recently adjusted restaurant hours downward, not yet updated on the dining spot's Web or Facebook pages or in its standing print advertisements.
She hopes to find time soon to construct an updated website.
In the meantime, Dees continues to do it all in an effort to realize her dream.
"I'm not an executive chef," she says with modesty. "I'm a cook and sort of bottle washer."
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]