Todays fads are not always tomorrows trends...
In a world of ever changing needs and skills it is often worth occasionally taking a step back and seeing what really matters - not short term trends but long term values. Eriska is now entering its fifth decade under the guise of a hotel. It was established simply back in the early seventies to offer a warmth and hospitality to those who chose to stay with us and today this core remains at our heart.
However we have over the years strived to achieve this in many ways-
Some well planned and programmed others chanced upon and cobbled together but always we have tried to blend our three ingredients- the place the people who visit and finally the team we work with- to create the best final product. We spend hours looking at the guest profiles, we spend every penny we earn to improve the place investing and finally we value our team but in this pursuit of success we sometimes both lose touch with our core and miss out on the simple fixes and most important opportunities.
So when we do gain the chance to simply walk out our back door and look around, stop and enjoy the environment, pause and soak up where we live it is not surprising that it keeps bringing us back to the basics and even more importantly the simple things upon which Eriska was established. To some when we come across these Eureka moments it seems like an obvious "No Brainer" - to others it is to simple to matter - and to others it may seem like a pointless crusade and time wasting concept- to the final category I would suggest Eriska is not for you!
When Eriska first started it was not only a country house hotel but more a working farm and its largest producer of its own raw material - we had dairy herd that produced- milk, butter cheese and cream, hens for eggs and gardens for vegetables. A very large Deep Freeze to benefit the heavy summer harvests and hold for a longer winter , and also to take account of the lack of regular summer supplies. Today we have had to give up the farm but the garden still produces herbs and salads along with the orchard looking after apples and pears for a couple of months of the year.
We can access world markets and get regular deliveries but are we really catering for our customers bringing products and ingredients from across the world - are we selling ourselves best showcasing the world to the world or would we be better showcasing Eriska and Scotland to the world.
It seems a simple and logical step in our pursuit to be unique and individual that we take what we believe is best and showcase this, and even more logical would be that the best fresh produce would be that which has come out of the ground most recently and traveled fewest miles. So under the guidance of our New Head Chef Ross Stovold and his team we have set about changing our view from the kitchen. Luckily this is supported by a resurgence in foraging - although in our view forgaing is not only about trapsing round the island looking for produce but also about working with local businesses to help and encourge them to deliver products we want and where necessary it is up to us to support them as we persuade them to go do a different route to market.
So it is probably no surprise to hear that Eriska was yesterday Awarded its latest award by Visit Scotland of "Taste our Best". This is a new scheme both supported and backed by the Scottish Government which highlights properties which showcase more than 40% of their menu from the locality. Although apparently the locality to the customer ranges greatly but for ease in this excersise- and I am sure nothing to do with the push for independence- Local means Scottish.!
However the scheme does not stop a simply awarding a plaque but also offers feedback to business about where they could make a difference and has been linked to the Food and Drink suppliers with a website to help identify other potential producers which may currently be anonymous and unknown. We were delighted to not only be one of the first to be recognised but more imporantly that this recognition aligns so clearly with our principles. Hopefully the scheme will take off and be a great success and that will require the customers to grasp and support it too.
In the meantime it is out on the island between showers, to pick more Brambles and Chantarelle otherwise we will have some hungry guests tonight!
Recently mushrooms have been popping up everywhere at Isle of Eriska! Although the pictures are not of edible mushrooms, I thought I would share them with you as well as giving you some fun facts and guidelines!
Fungi or mushrooms have been around for millions of years and are not plants or animals so have a kingdom of their own! Fungi come in all shapes, sizes and colours (and smells!) and can be found all over the world throughout the year living on wood, roots, soil, leaves and many more places. Scotland's woodland, grassland, mountains and coasts provide special habitats for over 12,000 species. Scotland is internationally important for the brightly coloured waxcap species which live on undisturbed grassland. Scottish woodland provide homes for fungi protected by UK biodiversity action plans, including the Hazel Glove Fungus and a group of tooth fungi, while some species of puffball have only been recorded in Scotland. More information on Scottish Fungi can be found here
As well as collecting fungi to eat, many species can only be named by detailed inspection, supplemented by microscopic examination. Collecting is thus essential for identification. The first step is to determine the spore colour by placing the mushroom on paper or glass and waiting a few hours. Beautiful shapes are formed as the ‘rain’ of spores reflects the patterns of the gills or pores. As the spores accumulate, their colour can be seen.
Most naturalists begin foraying with the main flush of fruit bodies in August and carry on until mid-October. Several fungi continue to fruit into November or even December, unaffected by frost, and possibly have a second fruiting. Fungi growing on wood may be at their best in winter, even when there have been flurries of snow. Many fungi start fruiting before August, e.g. May for chanterelles in the Borders. Other species are found only in the spring, e.g. lorel. If one really wishes to get to know more fungi, collecting all year round is necessary. The Scottish Wild Mushroom Code can be found here.
Ten things you didn't know about mushrooms
- The ancient Egyptians saw mushrooms as a plant of immortality and a food that was only fit for Royalty
- Roman soldiers ate them before going into battle because they believed mushrooms would increase their strength
- A portabella mushroom usually contains more potassium than a banana
- The ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms had magical healing powers
- Mushrooms are 90% water
- They were first cultivated commercially in France in the late 19th century
- Some scientists believe that mushrooms spores, which are made of chitin, the hardest naturally-made substance on Earth, could be capable of space travel
- The largest living organism found was a honey mushroom, which covered 3.4 square miles of land in the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon
- People in mid 15th century Europe believed mushrooms were grown by evil spirits
- The fairy rings at Stonehenge are some of the world’s oldest living mushroom colonies and can be seen from the air.
Mushrooms on the menu - Choosing the right wine
Mushrooms don't have a singular flavour profile. They range from the mildest of button mushrooms to flavoursome porcini. Each which suggests a different wine pairing, from lighter-bodied and more delicate for the former to fuller-bodied and more powerful for the latter. The following might help you make the right choice when dining;
Earthy mushrooms, such as black trumpets, chanterelles and shiitakes go best with earthy reds such as Burgundy, nebbiolo and pinot noir.
Meaty mushrooms, such as morels, cremini, porchini and portobello's go better with meaty wines such as pinot noir (sometimes), syrah/shiraz and sagniovese.
We asked our somelier to recommend some of our wines to go with mushrooms. We chose to give you a value for money option and 'the special treat' option, and we came up with the following;
For the light and more delicate flavours, a Burgundy, a more matuderd and aged wine;
1. ALOXE-CORTON “LES CHAILLOTS”1er CRU Domaine Louis Latour 2005 (£50.00)
2. CHÂTEAU CORTON GRANCEY Domaine Louis Latour 2002 (£90.00)
For the more meaty mushrooms, a Barolo, the older the better;
1. BAROLO PIEMONTE Massolino, Piemonte 2008 (£120.00)
2. BARBARESCO Gaja Piemonte 2007 (£140.00)
Barolo is one of the most complex, aromatic and delicious red wines in the world, and they are something different, you would be treating yourself buying both these bottles!
Somelier's dream wine;
CHAPELLE CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU Domaine Trapet 2000 - a wine to come in very small batches, in other words not the everyday wine, and a bottle to be enjoyed!
P.S. when you encounter milder mushrooms in butter or cream sauces, a full-bodied white can be the way to go!
Eriska's entire wine list offers outstanding value for money to diners, particularly when you compare our wine pricing with other top restaurants. Our comprehensive wine list runs to 40 pages and provides extensive options both geographically and in terms of price. You can click on the button below check availability in the restaurant or on the Eriska Wine Weekend to experience a matched wine and dine event with our Head Chef Ross Stovold and Master of Wine, Mark O'Bryen in November!
The last week has been grey and wet at Eriska, which has made the Spa Therapists busy and our front of house staff busy with afternoon teas. Although things looked grey outside, there were moments of admiration as well. We met this little family of ducks which didn't seem to care too much about the weather, and ended up with us thinking that we shouldn't either! Fortunately the West Coast Weather for next week does seem to brighten up a bit compared to the last few days, with better temperatures and a dry weekend coming up.
Today: Starting slightly grey, but a bright day is projected with some sunny spells and showers developing from first light, these fairly light and might even miss Eriska out. Tonight should the showers choose to stop by they look to be dying out late in the evening leaving a dry and possibly sunny evening. Staying mainly dry overnight with some good clear spells.
Monday: A few light showers may continue otherwise dry with bright or sunny spells.
Tuesday: A mainly dry and bright day with sunny spells
Wednesday: is projected to be cloudy with outbreaks of rain
Thursday: looks to be much like Wednesday with clouds and frequent showers throughout.
Friday: is projected to be mainly cloudy and dry continuing into Saturday.
Saturday: looks to carry on the clouds and staying dry, leaving us with a nice and dry weekend.
It is coming to the end of the summer and as we know, mushroom behaviour is much affected by the wet weather. With a very wet summer we see the mushrooms popping up along the side of the road now - remember the red ones are usually not for eating! We would encourage you to pack a light rain coat to enjoy walks down to the pier and along the shoreline to see Wache, and the wild life the island homes. If you do go foraging, remember to bring a book and don't pick them if you are not sure what they are!
Unsure about what to do when coming to Eriska? Have a look at our new website - there are many things to see and do if you have a look at the activities page!