Eriska prides itself in the use of the very best local produce to provide our guests with fresh, high quality food and ensure the best dining experience possible. Ross works closely with neighbouring businesses, where possible, and has recently added the Oban Bay Brewery to his list of suppliers – ordering in some of their fine ales to use in our homemade Beer Bread (or so he tells managment!)
The use of the ales from Oban Bay Brewery was a natural choice for Ross who believes that it’s “important to use as local as possible”. With the Brewery located only 12 miles from the hotel it’s transport in better for the environment and boosts local economy.
We asked the team in the kitchen about the use of beer in the bread. They explained to us that beer can be used to enhance the flavour of bread, giving it a richer taste. The alcohol is burned off in the baking process and leaves behind the flavours of the malts, which can make such an enjoyable difference.
Here on the Island bread is used every night as an accompaniment with dinner. We believe good bread and butter is an essential part to a good dining experience and should stand out as a key feature to any meal. Ross has devised a recipe which involves adding beer to a sourdough starter as well as oats to add to both flavour and texture.
Oban Bay Brewery
Obay Bay Brewery branched from the Mull Brewery, based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, in 2009. They are committed to designing the best quality and tasting ales using 100% natural ingredients.
The beer used in beer bread makes a difference to the flavour; light ales will yield a lighter flavour than the darker varieties. With this in mind, Ross has picked the Oban Bay’s “Skelpt Lug” which he believes will produce the tastiest bread for our guests.
Skelpt Lug is the darkest ale available from Oban Bay. It has a reddish-brown tone and complex taste stemming from the use of both coloured and wheat malts which produces a refreshing, fruity flavour with a ‘hoppy’ finish.
Our beer bread is just one of many things that Ross has introduced to the kitchen since he joined us in the summer. With his passion for food and creativite mind we don't doubt he'll be adding new recipes to his repetoire in the future. So next time you're with us why not give our beer bread a try and let us know what you think!!
Last week Eriska hosted it's annual Spring Wine Weekend with guest Wine Connoisseur Philippe Larue of L'art du Vin. The event showcased a selection of French wines by 'Second Generation Winemakers' hand-picked by Philippe, who worked closely with Ross in the kitchen to pair the wines with appropriate dishes.
Wine Choice - Why Second Generation Wine?
When asked about his choice of Second Generation Winemakers, Philippe explained to us that it may have been possible to accuse the French winemakers of the 70s and 80s of complacency; their wines were selling well around the world because of their reputation. With the advent of a number of excellent New World wine styles (such as the Cabernet Sauvignons of the Napa Valley in California, or Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand) there was the need to return focus to quality in order to compete internationally!
With this in mind, Philippe selected some wines where there has been a marked improvement or development of style with the introduction of a winemaker from the next generation who understands the pressure of international competition.
Thienot was set up 25 years ago and is run by the youngest MD in Champagne, Stanislas, the son of the original Founder. The company (who also own Canard Duchene) originally sold 70% of their wine in France and exported 30% to the UK, but under Stanislas have added a further 25 countries to their export market. The brand is recieving excellent reviews and are well on the way to competing with the more famous 'Grande Marques'. We used their wonderful Vintage Brut as an aperitif with canapes of our own Smoked Salmon, and Salt Cod with Chicken Skin.
Run by the Pabiot family, son Jerome started with only 3 hectares, which he recieved as a birthday present. His first step was to convert the vineyard to be totally organic and biodynamic, and over the subsequent years has continued to espouse this philosophy to much critical acclaim. We paired his top Cuvee with hand-dived Scallops and Pork Belly so that the fresh acidity could counter the richness of the Pork, and the herbaceous and mineral character pair beautifully with the lightly cooked Scallop.
For the fish course we prepared some fresh Halibut from Mallaig with braised Leeks and a Toast Puree. Philippe had selected a beautiful Puligny Montrachet from Jean Chartron so the hints of bread and brioche from its Oak-Ageing would reinforce the flavour of the Toast Puree, and its lean mineral acidity would keep the palate refreshed without overpowering the fresh fish. Now run by the youngest member of the Chartron Family, the estate is maintaining its reputation as being among the finest producers in the Puligny-Montrachet appellation. In fact it was the Great Grandfather of Jean Chartron who campaigned for the hugely reputable suffix 'Montrachet' to be added to the Village name of Puligny, which had the effect of doubling the sale prices of the wines from the area almost overnight!
The current managing director of Chateau le Grand Verdus, Thomas, took over from his father in 2008 after working as a wine consultant in France and Spain. With a degree in agricultural engineering and experience from apprenticeships in Malborough, New Zealand, he introduced a low yield philosophy focusing on the usage of carefully selected grapes and high quality oak for ageing to produce excellent modern Bordeaux. We paired the rich Grande Reserve Wine with Oven Roasted Beef Sirloin, which had been covered with Kohlrabi Ash before being roasted and carved into steaks. The smoky notes of the Bordeaux beautifully complemented the char on the outside of the meat, while the velvety texture and ripe plum flavours served to enhance the richness of the Onion Gravy and Kohlrabi accompaniments.
With 50% of vineyards in Alsace being owned by Cooperative producers, the wines outside of the top long-established producers can sometimes be a little disappointing. At Domaine Mann however, brothers Maurice and Jacky Barthelmé - sons-in-law to Albert Mann, are gaining quite a reputation. They were awarded winemakers of the year in 2012, and best Pinot Noir in Alsace 2013. We chose to serve their single vineyard Pinot with our cheese course of Isle of Mull cheddar on Sourdough with plum Ketchup. Here the intention was to have the acid profile of the wine counteracting the rich protein of the cheese, while the rich fruit and minimal tannin add another layer of complementary flavour.
The Sweet Wine to end the evening was also from Domaine Mann. We showed the Vendanges Tardives ('late harvest') Pinot Gris along with Slow-Grilled Pear and White Chocolate Curd. The Pinot Gris is a comparatively fresh and light style of sweet wine, and so the flavours are more in the spectrum of ripe pear and citrus purity than the rich and complex honey styles of Sauternes or Tokaji. The Pear dessert was a natural choice to accentuate this character, and the fact that Ross in the kitchen grilled the fruit slowly meant that the natural sugars caramelised and softened the flesh all the way through without introducing any 'burned' flavours.
Food and Wine Considerations
Matching wines to food can seem intimidating for those of little knowledge. When matching wines with food there can be said to be two very broad approaches-
The traditional approach to wine matching is picking wines and food from the same region. Matching food with wine from the same geographical location is a good fundamental rule because often the food and wines have evolved alongside one another and have a natural affinity. Goat's cheese from Chavignol in the Loire Valley with Loire Sauvignon Blancs such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume is an excellent example of this, or fine Barolo with the truffle and oil-covered pasta of Piedmont in Northern Italy.
An alternative approach to wine matching is to look at the variety of factors that can affect flavour and trying to find qualities in both food and wine that might complement each other. Things to take into particular consideration would be the levels of acidity in the wine, intensity of flavour, fats and proteins and sauces and dressings, flavour profiles etc.
The fundamentals of this approach can be about reinforcing flavours - for example matching 'heavy' food with 'heavy' wines - or contrasting flavours - using acidic wines with cream or butter sauces to 'cut through' the richness and refresh the palate.
It is also definitely worth pointing out that there are no hard-and-fast rules to the practice of combining wine with food, and the whole thing should be a fun experiment. If you enjoy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc alongside your Roast Sunday Dinner then you shouldn't let anyone tell you it's wrong!
Co-written with F&B Manager Glen Montgomery
Following a week of rain and generally unpleasantness, we found ourselves being particularly envious of our neighbours in the south of England this week who have been enjoying clear skies and high temperatures for the last few days.
However, after facing heavy rain, wind and snow over the last week it came as a pleasant surprise to us this morning to wake up to some sunshine which has finally added some colour to the Island and will hopefully aid in clearing the last of the snow of the mountains in the distance.
Today: Clear skies and sunshine have dominated the day, with feeble showers of rain
Monday: Clear skies will carry on throughout the night and remain until late afternoon when thick cloud is expected to form will form with some light rain late evening.
Tuesday: After a wet start, the day looks to be mostly dry with some sunny intervals. Small showers of rain may occur in the late afternoon.
Wednesday: Projected to be another dry day, with the clouds clearing up late afternoon to allow some sunshine.
Thursday: White cloud will persist throughout, with some sporadic sunshine in the afternoon
Friday: The weather looks to remain mainly unchanged, however temperatures are expected to rise to a comfortable 13°C
Saturday: The week looks to end with more dry weather and some intervals of sunshine.
Though temperamental, the weather forecast is gradually improving and we're sure many, like ourselves, will be making the most of it while it lasts.
As April approaching ever nearer we find ourselves preparing for the beginning of high season. The West Coast of Scotland will once again welcome flurries of visitors to it's core and show off the amazing scenery, history and seafood that it has become famous for.
We just hope the nice weather will stick about!
Following our brief glimpse of sunshine last week, a wave of optimism has hit Scotland.
No longer do we feel doomed to suffer through days where darkness dominates the sky and strong cold winds hit our faces. The frost and ice that remains hidden in the shade has begun to thaw leaving the fresh beauty of Spring in it's wake.
But it's a long way yet before our battle with the rain comes to an end with the forecast this coming week leaving little to be admired
Today: Things are anticipated to stay quite dull, with dark clouds consuming the sky and showers of light rain throughout.
Monday: Another cloudy day ahead. Things expected to remain mostly dry throughout the later morning and afternoon.
Tuesday: Heavy rain showers projected to fall for the best part of the morning, with some brief intervals of sunshine
Wednesday: Looks to be another wet day, with more heavy rain and moderate winds
Thursday: Predominately wet, with a mixture of light and heavy rain.
Friday: More rain continues to fall, though we may see some patches of sunshine in the afternoon.
Saturday: Projected to remain unchanged, ending this week on a dreich note.
Though it may seem there is no end in sight to the dour Scottish weather, we implore you to remain hopeful. With summer looming ever nearer, it's only a matter of time before the sun becomes a more dominant feature to our days.
In the meantimes, for those coming to stay with us in the coming weeks, we encourage you to explore all that the area has to offer. With local businesses and visitor attractions coming out of hibernation our guests have more activities at their disposal than ever, and our team would be happy to advise on the perfect ones to fit the interests of each individual.
It's that time of year again when the Island truly comes alive.
With the season broken in nicely, the notorious wildlife of Eriska is making it's triumphant return for 2014 bringing with it the magic that makes Eriska special to so many of our guests.
Though our friends in the animal kingdom never truly left us - most notably Bertie and his friends, who suffered through thunder storms and gale-like winds all winter to get their daily helping of peanuts and milk - the rest of the island natives are beginning to come out of hiding
Otter Point, in particular, is showing signs of life with our cheeky semi-aquatic compatriots frequenting our stony-shores. Many of these playful creatures have been spotted by guests over the last few days, as well as island resident Mrs B who was lucky enough to capture the above pictures for us.
As suggested by it's name, Otter Point is a sight notorious for spotting otters and last year become home to the bronze sculpture, Wache, that was placed in tribute to mark Eriska's 40th year as a hotel, making it an increasingly popular spot for our guests.
Wache, our bronze otter sculpture, was made by Kenneth Robertson last summer using advanced techniques to give it its flawless life-like shape that was moulded to fit a particular rock at Otter Point.
It was placed as a "Guardian to the Island" to mark Eriska's 40th year and subsequently named by our competition winner, Dr. Joe Myers, who came up with the name "Wache" which is an old Scots terms meaning "Eternal Watcher".
Since his placement on the island, Wache has become a popular sighting point for our guests and is frequently mistaken for a real otter to approaching visitors!
Tips for Spotting Otter's on the Island
Eriska’s coastal environment is ideally suited to otter's habitation.
Our natural habitat remains untouched by urban development, water pollution or the use of pesticides. Our island location is remote from main roadways and our coastal and land environments offers food on tap: fish and shellfish as well as birds and small mammals.
Here’s some handy hints to have the best chance of spotting them:
Look for their ideal location: clean water, vegetated banks with available prey.
Look out for their distinctive webbed toe prints, or their distinctive odour (likened to jasmine tea!)
Dawn explorers will have the best chance of spotting them.
Be still and patient, or walk quietly; keeping upwind (wind can carry your scent which may alert them to your presence)
Other Otter Locations near Eriska
The west coast of Scotland is well known for offering sightings of wildlife not commonly seen in bigger towns and cities. From Oban there are a selection of boat tours dedicated to sea-life watching as well as frequent ferries to the Isle of Mull who's coastline is littered with Otters when the tide is in.
However, for those not too fussed about trying to catch a distant glance of Otter's in their natural habitat, the Scottish Sea-life Sanctuary in Benderloch homes a few and even hosts a couple of "Meet and Greet's" throughout the day to give you a closer look and learn more about their eating and living habits.
So for those in the area in the near future, we would definitely recommend taking your chances out by the coast to try your luck at spotting one of these fantastic animals and visit Wache who continues to guard the island at Otter Point!
After what seemed like an endless winter, things on the west coast of Scotland are starting to brighten up.
Though the rain remains annoyingly persistent, spells of sunshine are becoming longer and more frequent as the days go by and it won't be long before the cold and stormy weather seems like a distant memory.
The weather this coming week definitely seems a vast improvement on its predecessors and likely the driest of the year so far; though it may be a bit early yet to retire the raincoats and umbrellas as things are likely to take a bit of a turn at the end of the week.
Today: Today, showers of rain are expected to fall for the majority of the day, with some brief patches of dryness in the afternoon.
Monday: Things are looking to dry up significantly, with white cloud and sunny intervals reported to last all day.
Tuesday: Starting with a bit of a chilly morning, Tuesday will evolve into a bright and sunny day making it the nicest of the week.
Wednesday: Projected to remain dry, but cloudy throughout
Thursday: Some light rain will start of the morning, though will clear up mid-morning and remain dry.
Friday: The weather takes a turn, with light rain expected all day.
Saturday: Ending on a bit of a dour note with heavy rain dominating.
Although we're not completely clear of the rain, the change is definitely coming and before you know it we'll be complaining we're too warm and hoping for a bit of a drizzle to cool us down.
Until then we'll be taking full advantage of the small amounts of sunshine we can get, using the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and fresh flora and fauna - which is becoming more lively every week - and hope that our guests do the same.
With the first meterological day of Spring behind us, we here at Eriska find ourselves eagerly awaiting all the associations of the season. With signs of new life slowly creeping all around the island the days of rain, wind and cold finally seem numbered.
Though the mountains are struggling to shake the remains of the snow from their tops, the days are getting noticably longer and it won't be long until the clouds open up completely to reveal the clear blue sky that we've been dreaming of since the beginning of winter.
But there's still a while to go before the reports of sunshine are upon us and the weather this coming week seems a true testiment to that.
Today: A sunny start to the week, with intervals of sunshine expected to last until mid-afternoon. Heavy rain will appear later in the day and last throughout the evening.
Monday: Light rain showers will fall periodically, though things will mostly be dry with a touch of sunshine in the afternoon.
Tuesday: Looks to be another cloudy day with some light showers.
Wednesday: Rain will dominate, with a mixture of light and heavy rainfall throughout
Thursday: Projected to remain unchanged, with more rain and moderate winds
Friday: Rain will persist another day, though things expected to heat up a bit with temperatures reaching 11°C
Saturday: The week looks to end on a wet note, with forecasts of rain.
So it may be a few more weeks yet before we can retire the winter coats and wellington boots. Though it does look like our guests will have some opportunity to get out and enjoy the scenery without getting too wet!
In the meantime, for those coming to visit this week we'd advise making full use of our indoor facilities, which offers a nice variety of activities for those who want to stay active as well as those who want to put their feet up and relax!
This week Britain has taken a beating from severe weather conditions in the south, leaving many homes, farms and transport routes destroyed by extreme flooding.
Luckily things at the west coast of Scotland have been much tamer, however much to our annoyance, February is proving to be as wet a month as its predecessors. As Scotland endures it's wettest winter in over 100 years we find ourselves asking for any change: cold, sun, even snow.. as long as it stops raining!
Though looking at the forecast for the coming week, things certainly don't look promising.
Today: Heavy rain expected throughout the day, with some brief patches of sunshine.
Monday: With a slight temperature drop, prepare for potentially icy conditions on the road. Heavy rain will dominate in the morning and early afternoon, though things are looking to dry up as the evening progresses
Tuesday: Looks to be another wet day, with light rain and sleet showers alternating throughout
Wednesday: Projected to remain unchanged, with more rain to come.
Thursday: Flurries of snow and sleet are anticipated to fall sporadically throughout the day, with temperatures becoming near-freezing
Friday: The weather looks to take a slight turn, with the day remaining mainly dry.
Saturday: Sunny intervals and light cloud predicted, giving us the opportunity to stretch out legs in the fresh air.
So perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel, with the week looking to end on a dry note - and perhaps a bit of sun!
This bodes well for the spring flora that has started shooting up around the island, allowing them the opportunity to absorb some light and photosynthesize into blossoming flowers just in time for Spring.
With any luck, it won't be long until the rain is behind us and our guests can start to enjoy all that the island has to offer!
There's nothing worse than suffering through endless months of below freezing misery knowing that t-shirts, suntan lotion and ice cream cones are still a month or two off. After Christmas, passing time in the winter months seems a far greater challenge and the minuscule amounts of daylight and cabin fever certainly don't help.
But instead of giving into the self-destructive urge of sitting by the window and staring down the rain, February can be a great month for experiencing new things that allow you to explore different activities, be creative and become more knowledgeable.
Go Ice Climbing
Just like in summer, it's always good to take advantage of the opportunities the season provides. Though picnics in the park and trips to the beach may be out the question, there are many activities available that allow you to make use of all the winter-wear you've stocked in your wardrobe.
Ice-climbing exerts your mind and body as you navigate your way up the tall slippery surface, providing a great rush of adrenaline. Furthermore, Scotland is home to the largest indoor Ice Climbing facility in the world with walls reaching heights of up to 50ft and grades ranging from beginner to expert, making this activity a must try for the natives looking for a bit of adventure.
Discover New Music
Music is constantly evolving. Though iTunes, Spotify and Youtube are all great platforms for finding artists similar to those that you already like, nothing compares to going out there and discovering new acts first hand. Live events and festivals are held all year round with the aim of promoting the best new music of all genres
The west coast, in particular, is a stronghold of Scotland's finest folk music with plenty of live-music nights and festivals that explore the traditional elements of Scotland's musical heritage.
Bake or Cook Something Different
Experimenting with different recipes is a great way to introduce yourself to new flavours and improve your skill.
Cooking and baking can be enjoyed as a group or solo activity and is a great way to spark your creativity. Some dishes can take hours to prepare and it's not always possible to find the time to make them; so take advantage of the wet and windy days that leave you stuck indoors and experiment!
Skiing and Snowboarding
The popularity of these snow sports has escalated greatly in the last few years, and with its mountain-filled terrain and low temperatures Scotland is a natural choice for those wanting to give them a try without a costly trip to the Alps.
The west coast houses a handful of resorts, such as Nevis Range and Glencoe, known for their dramatic slopes and stunning views. With equipment hire and lessons available, this is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all skill levels.
Have a TV Marathon
Sometimes it's just too difficult to give up the comfort of the mountain of blankets that you've been hibernating under since November, especially when the weather outside leaves little to be desired. Luckily, all your favourite TV shows are back on air after their Christmas break, allowing you your fix of your favourite characters, but waiting an entire week for the next episode can be tedious. So why not dust off some of your favourite boxsets( or maybe even try something new) and watch episode after episode of uninterrupted excellence?
We all have that show that we've never quite got round to watching; the one that we read about online and that your friends are always talking about. Now is a perfect time to see what all the fuss is about!
Of course there are many other activities that can help you get over your winter blues like reading, learning a new skill or organising your photo collection that all come with the added bonus of being productive way to spend the time.
It's always a good idea to keep an eye out for events happening in the local area; all year round you will find concerts, festivals, shows and celebrations are being hosted nearby that can open you up to new experiences, or at the very least help pass the day.
For those in and around the West Coast we would recommend checking out the Fort William Mountain Festival at the end of the month; hosting a range of workshops and exhibitions to celebrate the very best of mountain culture.
Its hard to beleive that we are entering spring but as I write a list of chores for the estate team this week and it seems to be a diverse and complete plethora of tasks from winter jobs to summer jobs. From clearing snow and ice to cutting golf course greens and trimming snow drops. But I try to keep telling myself that it is this changeable and diverse weather that really makes Scotland different! But it is starting to get a bit thin!
One of the beauties of Scotland must be the weather, and that is certainly not to do with consistency unless you can cite the fact that it is always random as being consistent! Indeed we really built the indoor sports facility to take the weather out of the equation although in reality it was the opposite as we tried to make the weather part of the equation for guests deciding to join us here at Eriska with the promise of dry bright temperate facilities come rain or shine. Well we kept our end of the bargain!
So as we are supposed to move into the next season and the Met Office tells us it has been the wettest Janaury on record, as the nights become shorter and the grass starts to grow again its hard to believe that summer is next given that fields are under water, rivers are bursting banks and every day seems dominated by television pictures of weather misery- but in reality its fine as long as a great summer is around the corner- although I suspect its not going to happen next week! So what is ahead next week?
Today: After a wet and windy night is is looking like a bright day but with showers which will be heavy but at least it is above freezing
Monday:A fairly cloudy start with a more organised band of showers but these soon becoming fewer with the cloud breaking up allowing some sunny spells to develop. A breezy day with strong southwesterly winds.
Tuesday: Clear spells and a few showers but becoming cloudier in the afternoon with rain coming in across the coast and this will fall as snow on the hills but stay as rain on Eriska.
Wednesday:A cloudy day with outbreaks of rain, these becoming lighter and more patchy for a time but another heavier pulse arriving in the afternoon. Gale force winds expected.
Thursday: Mainly cloudy with showers in the morning then drying up.
Friday: Cloudy wet and very windy but hopefully drying up before te weekend.
Saturday: Starting to warm up slightly as the wind drops and a drier day on the cards making it all seem better!