February 28, 2010
Weather wc 28th February
well we are quite glad to be out of February and another month of extraordinary weather has passed us by. with Snow drops all out and the daffodils starting to push on just in time for St davids day tomorrow spring is surely round the corner. hope so as I have started work in the garden with te sound of the rotavator and lots of digging and tuning going on and finally yesterday our delivery of the seasons seeds arrived and it will start the potting and planting process.
So with Spring round the corner is the temperature going to rise or are we in for another month of excitement and change.
Today:Sunny spells and mainly dry conditions will be hampered by intense cloud insuring that temperatures will remain normal for this time of year.
Monday:After a mainly dry night with long clear spells with long clear spells we are likely to wake to a cold and frosty morning but it should be a bright day
Tuesday:Another frosty start to a bright day with long sunny spells. However, there is a risk of the odd shower across the local hills
Wednesday~: A frosty start with patchy fog, but a dry day with sunny intervals developing by the afternoon.
Thursday:Mainly dry start to the day but beginning to change with wintry showers or outbreaks of rain and hill snow but also some sunny spells and a strengthening northeasterly breeze.
Friday: Quite unsettled and rather windy at first, particularly around exposed coasts. Spells of rain are likely, especially later in the day
Saturday:Drier and clearer weather is expected during the weekend to leave cloud and showery rain mainly confined to the south.
February 26, 2010
Wine and Spirits Education Trust Course up and running!
When I first returned to Eriska I investigated the opportunities for furthering my wine and spirits knowledge and apart from a generous offer from my Father, which involved him passing on his well gathered knowledge the closest training was in Glasgow and given the road conditions in the winter after late night tastings I passed it by.
However as the old adage mentions if you wait patiently then it might happen, so last year when we started working with Nick Adams, a renowned Master of Wine, to develop our wine list and offering we grasped the opportunity and added the opportunity for the team here to learn from the WSET and take exams to reward them for their hard work. This week the course started with a mix of staff members form all departments in the hotel , leisure club members and other local hoteliers. The opportunity to take a course on their doorstep and run during civilized daylight hours has been quite a magnet and hopefully if the enthusiasm keeps pace we will have a 100% pass rate.
So far they have covered the basics of tasting and with help from Robert in the kitchen have worked on food and wine matching and this not only highlighted the best combinations but also forced them to try some particularly bad matches. This will not only help in their knowledge but will help them passing on knowledge to our guests and will I hope grow the guest experience. Now they have 4 weeks to up on homework before Nick returns in March for phase two of the course.
February 24, 2010
Wood Pellets good for the enviroment the pocket but not the heart!
A wise old man once told me that if something sounds too good to be true there is probably a hitch or a sting in the tail and our new wood pellet system was just that. In reality I knew it was all too good to be true but my pleasure and naivety got the better of me and now my heart and humility is taking a pounding. Last week I asked about consumption of the pellets and was reliably informed that we had used less than half of the order making the new system incredibly affordable and looking em like we could pay back the vast capital outlay in te first couple of years and not have to wait 5 or 6 for the full benefit.
In reality I was so shocked by this that I inquired from a second source and was told the same about consumption and balancing this against the fact that the new system took quite a long time to get up to speed and indeed for the first couple of weeks was off more than on I thought all seemed possible. However we came to a bit of a realization today when the dial on the machine registered no more pellets to be found. I then instigated an investigation only to find the machinery was more effective than man and indeed there were no more pellets. So I sent word to our other store which I had been informed was almost full and here we discovered how the error and misconception had been made. The pellets were staked up against the sight glass and indeed looked pretty full however behind the wall of pellets was the realization that that was simply all that was left and behind the bins were full.
So me heart sank and after an hour of redistributing pellets and brushing up scraps we got enough together to get us back running and we now have enough to see us through until the next delivery comes before the weekend. Indeed the good news is that the estimated consumption is exactly as predicted and we should come in on target with plans and budgets especially as the last 4 weeks have been especially cold and consumption is as high as we will ever require and also the price of Oil that we have replaced is probably only increasing making the wood pellets even more economical. However for the sake of my heart and new grey hair I think we will find another way to monitor consumption and rely on direct sight and not guess work for the next estimate.
February 21, 2010
Weather w/c 21st February
My parents always used to go on holiday in February- primarily as it was the last chance of an escape before the hectic new season began but also as a way of avoiding the last of the winter weatherer and to benefit form the sunshine in better climates. How wrong and disappointed they would have been this year with days of sunshine and wonderful bright days, even the length of daylight seems to be extending every day and the dark winter nights are certainly a thing of the past. However I am not so naive not to think that it might all return again this week or tomorrow even, although I think we could see out the month with more dry but cold weather?
Today:Generally fine day but frosty start and the possibility of some coastal snow showers.
Monday:A generally cold and frosty start with a few fog patches. Light winds and sunny spells for most but a scattering of snow showers over the hills:
Tuesday: Mainly dry with clear spells, although perhaps still a few snow showers over coasts. Another frosty evening with patchy mist or fog developing, although rather more cloud later
Tuesday: Some frost and fog patches at first. Rather more cloud than of late, especially across the mountains, but some bright or sunny spells will break through.
Wednesday: Staying cold with night frosts. Bright or sunny spells but some wintry showers, although cloudy with more prolonged sleet or snow later in the day
Thursday: After a cold night and a drier morning outbreaks of heavy rain on the hills will show the end of this dry spell
Friday: Rain showers are likely to turn to snow in places from about the central belt northwards. However, it should be mainly fine out to the west so we can hope to cling on a wee but longer to pleasant conditions.
Saturday: After another cloudy night drier and brighter weather moving in from the North to give a better day.
February 20, 2010
Follow your leader helps correct maintenance issues!
Sometimes when I am called to a fault I think I am having deja vu and sometimes it is all new to me but hopefully I will learn the more I am required to fix plant and machiner- the best lesson would be that prevention is better than cure but I suspect this will take time to work through! Like a treasure hunter when I am asked to solve a maintenance problem and having removed lagging and covers , squeeze between hot pipes to reach the problem and then find not only minor temproarary repairs but also tools, I begin to surmise that these sort of issues have happened in the past.
On this occassion it was a spiral of steam eminating from a box on the wall of the hotel which drew my attention to a potential issue. Indeed as soon as I opened up the hatch the steam and warm air showed me that what I had hoped was a small problem indeed was an issue which could not be ignored. The good newss about finding the earlier solution was that it gave me some idea of how to solve the issue this time round however I hope that learning form earlier mistakes has shown me that a temprary solution is just that- temporary- and we will have to solve it correctly in the long term.
Anyway after a bit of cursing and getting soaked, and with gudidance and suggestions form Chay, the system is back and running and we have the temptrary solution under control, with another minor future problem headed off at the pass, as I noticed a week joint and while teh water was off I was able to replace it, in fact this was easier than the major issue to resolve but had it happened unmonitored it would certainly have caused more Chaos. So now one less thing to learn and one more permanent reapir to complete!
February 18, 2010
Yesterday I was invited to Queen Margare University with other collegues from the industry. It was an invitation which came out of the blue but as soon as we arrived the programme became clear. The university was keen to set up a dialogue with some of those they had worked with in the past and hoped to help mine this knowledge to grow and develop their courses for the future. This all seemed simple till we sat round the table and it soon became clear that whilst we all had the industry in the back of our minds we also all faced differing challenges and dilemas.
However over the course of the meeting it also became clear that with the help of the university and hard work ther was huge potential to help develop our young people and help encourage the correct kind of candidates into the industry. The biggest complaint did seem to be the gulf bewteen the ability and learning of the candidates and their expecations of the industry and the demands and expectations of the employers. It all seems so simple when you sit round a table to be able to round the square and insure that the universities offer what industry wants and industry feeds back int the system its needs and desires but i am sure these sort of engagements have happened many times before in the past and we still all seem to be back at the base.
However we all parted at the end of the evening agreeing to try harder and to strive to work together for the good of the industry and the country. This was I suspect the easy part of the task, now we must get into the fine details of how we can achieve this and really try to make a difference.
February 16, 2010
First Grass growth
No sooner does the ice recede and the ground soften up just a little than spring is most definitely upon u. the first sign was the snowdrops peeking through the ground but we are certainly well on our way out of winter now as I met gerry on his grass cutter setting off to the golf course.
It already seems like months ago that we were winterizing the machines and preparing them for a hibernation of a few months and here we are not only preparing to cut the grass but having seen the box full of grass cuttings and been able to smell the fist signs of spring are definitely here. No sooner will we have started than we will be back in our schedule of cutting grass on an almost hourly basis. Once we are up and running it is nearly a full time job to keep on top of the list with greens 3 or 4 times a week, fairways twice a week, semi rough weekly and tees and approaches more than once a week.
Howeer before we become to frenetic we will have to remind our new inhabitants of the third fairway that they need to move on. they have to date down a fine job fertilizing the fairways , although we have had to advise players to clean their balls and not to lick them! before there second shot to the green but the grass is already glowing with nutrients and I am certain it will pay off in the long term. It does however act as a double edged sword firstly keeping the fairways shorter without machinery for few weeks longer and secondly because there is more grass on the fairways the birds tend to avoid the greens and there shorter grass. maybe next year they will return with more friends and do some more fairways for us- I have already asked Gerry to prepare signs to move them out to the new holes that would certainly benefit from more fertilizers!
February 14, 2010
Weather w/c 14th February
Its hard to believe that we are already half way through the month- firstly helped by February being the shortest month of the year but also by the fact that every day we seem to wake to another weather system and different conditions than that that we experienced before we went to bed the night before. Whilst there has to date been a running theme of cool and cold weather it has meant taht we have had diverse conditions from snow to sleet rain to sunshine and windy to still so whats ahead for next week?
Today: Light winds and clear spells durjng the dawn with a frost readily developing on higher grounds will give way to rather cloudy conditions with patchy rain, but winds will stay light.
Monday:Any early brightness will soon fade during the morning with outbreaks of rain and hill snow at times, some heavier rain in the evening
Tuesday:A generally cloudy day with outbreaks of mostly light rain or drizzle, and hill snow, though the snow level rising.
Wednesday:Cloudy with some showery rain and hill snow and then in the afternoon changing with wintry showers and rather breezy at times too.
Thursday:We will have occasional rain at low levels, but snow on high ground. The snow may penetrate to lower levels at times, especially in the north, but rain more likely to the south.
Friday:Some brighter spells are likely, particularly by afternoon but it could become windy with a risk of gales.
Saturday:Further unsettled and rather cold weather. Some heavier and more persistent wet weather could spread up from the south later in the weekend.
February 12, 2010
Food overfill and brain overload
I am starting to feel that I know what Mr Creosote felt in that infamous sketch when he requires just a wafer thin mint- having been in Belgium for two days and enjoyed two excellent dinners which were both incredibly educational in terms of style and quality but also lengthy in that one was 8 courses and 3 hours and the other a similar length of time although slightly fewer courses but made up buy the size of the portions! and then before returning to Scotland I met Robert in London and we went to the Fat Duck for lunch. It all seemed a good idea at the time of booking and I had thought it would be good to compare and contrast the styles but I had neglected to consider my waistline and ability to stack away the product.
Needless to say I did make a fair game of it and tried not to let Britain down by enjoying and trying all on offer in Belgium- which did include various new herbs and spices and some new fish dishes and even Moose an experience that although interesting is not one I will be recommending Robert to pursue - however local he thinks it is! The outstanding fact though to me was the diverse location and geography of most of the ingredients and it just highlighted to me how fortunate we are at Eriska with the wealth of produce not only locally but also on our own doorstep.
The first restaurant in Gent was renowned for its modern technical molecular cuisine and it did not disappoint, opened specially for the evening as it is normally only open 3 nights a week each- course was an education and even the canapes and petite fours were different and thought provoking.
The second was in Antwerp at the lunch Loung Het Gerbaar and it had started as a dessert restaurant and now is open only for lunch and afternoon tea but has managed to gain a high reputation and even achieved in Gault Millau a considerable achievement. again we had a wonderful achievement which whilst being a bit more down to earth was still interesting and full of wonderful little touches. This however was only to set me up for the final leg in the trilogy which was lunch at the fat Duck in Bray with Robert the next day.
So it was an early start and back to blighty for what I suspected would be a traditional british Fare but it turned out not quite as i had expected! Whilst i had been prepared for something a bit different having read the book, although briefly, i had not been expecting the combination of cuisine, chemistry and theatre that followed. It deconstructed many well known dishes and then presented them in differing unusual guises and once I have had a chance to dissect the day i will post more about the meal which we all enjoyed-
February 09, 2010
For some time we have worked with agents in the low countries of Europe however due to recent tough economic times in the travel industry and a number of consolidations we lost our main representation and despite an attempt to work on our own for a year we realized we needed to give this market some new impetus. Typically on the day realizing this we received an invitation to work with a new agent in belgium and duly signed up.
Its one of those things that sitting at Eriska in october and agreeing to help launch a product in February seems like an easy if simple task but now that the date has arrived it is seeming more like a chore and a hassle than ever before. Firstly there is no easy way to get there unless you are based in London so a flight down a few train connections and the Eurostar, allowed me to reach my destination- one day gone, then a couple of presentation's and tie to retrace my steps. The ironic thing is though that one of the selling points of Scotland is the ease of access, but at least visitors will not be venturing to caledonia for a one night show!
So now its time to get back to Eriska and as if Belgian Chocolates and flowers were not enough of a temptation, I am certain Valentines weekend will bring with it more over indulgence in more chocolates and more flowers, io just have to make sure that i get myself more organized!