Sunday, 3 July 2016

Brexit, political turmoil and breath.....

What a week in Politics ! Scotland finds itself stuck in the middle of a national referendum that saw the majority of the UK vote to leave the European Union. Not in mind that we don't want to be friends with our European neighbours, holiday in Europe and trade with Europe but because the whole political machine had become unaccountable, federal and created too many jobs for the boys.

So Boris led the charge and has now retreated from the battlefield having stabbed Cameron in the back he too has been knifed by Gove, who the party faithful have now rounded on to ensure he doesn't succeed in his bit to be leader. Meanwhile at Labour HQ 46 shadow and junior shadow cabinet members resign hoping to trigger a coup to replace Corbyn but as I type he is hanging on in there showing no sign of resigning.

It's all been quite baffling and we do feel a little detached from it all here in bonnie Galloway. The tide comes in and out twice a day, the cows graze in the fields, the hotel is open and busy with visitors from all over the world, we're busy planning our next menu change - probably mid July and we've appointed Jake Hopkins to the position of Head Chef and George Constatin to the position of Sous Chef, both following a 3 month trial since Paul Somerville left us to head to pastures new down south near Lyndhurst.

So has Brexit impacted on us ?... Not as yet

Will Scotland remain in Europe ? .... Highly unlikely

Should we still come to Scotland on holiday ?..... Absolutely

We're open and it's business as usual.... why not take a break from all the daily doom mongering in the newspapers and on the news, come and visit the beautiful harbour town of Kirkcudbright.










Monday, 28 March 2016

And another Easter.....

Where does time go ? Here's another Easter, another frantic rush, another flash in the pan - all hands to the pumps for this crazy madness and then - ah... peace and quiet - back to the Dumfries and Galloway we know. You see it's as much a culture shock to the locals living and working here as it is to the holiday home owners, holiday makers, first timers that head up to this beautiful corner of Scotland. If only we could phase Easter holidays by regions. Easter is the first main holiday of the new year and I have seen the cars loaded up with bikes, boats, golf clubs - you name it you can do it up here and that's what my thoughts today are all about. How lucky we are to live here. Here in Dumfries and Galloway, a timeless utopia ( if you ignore the pot holes in the road and the council cut backs that affects rural bus routes etc ) - no I mean just to look at the views - and I've selected a few from my camera roll that I have taken out and about over the last year or so, either on the bike, boat or Kayak.
















Thursday, 14 January 2016

A cracking guide to What's on in 2016 across Dumfries and Galloway

It might be stretching to say that Dumfries and Galloway never sleeps – but it’s not too far from the truth.
We’ve even got a major international festival in the depths of winter.
Darkest January is brightened up by nine days of comedy, theatre and much more when the annual Big Burns Supper Festival kicks off each year.
Robert Burns lived at Ellisland Farm, on the outskirts of Dumfries, and wrote some of his finest works there – as well enthusiastically frequenting and making mischief at local haunts which still bustle today such as The Globe Inn on the High Street.
And these days the town pays tribute to its most famous son with the Big Burns Supper festival and a huge street carnival, which attracts tens of thousands of people.
The event was launched by Doonhamer – for all non-locals, that’s a person from Dumfries – Graham Main, who travelled the globe as a theatre producer before returning home to set up the biggest Burns Night celebration in the world.
This year’s carnival is expected to be the most impressive yet, with 4,500 lantern-bearers parading through the streets along with hundreds of lavishly costumed performers, bands and floats.
Colin HattersleyBig Burns Supper street carnival
Big Burns Supper street carnival
There will also be a spectacular firework display, lighting up the town and its beautiful riverside.
The carnival is on Sunday January, 24 and starts at 5pm at the town’s Burns Statue and will wind down Buccleuch Street before turning along the Whitesands.
Graham and the rest of his team are dedicated to making Burns Night a joyous public celebration of life, music, song and Scottish culture – the things Rabbie himself held dear.
It will also double as the festival’s own fifth birthday party.
With big name acts set to appear in 2016 including tartan legends the Bay City Rollers, Black Grape and comedian Jason Byrne, and the return of Edinburgh Festival award winning cabaret show, Le Haggis, there will be plenty to celebrate.
Colin HattersleyBig Burns Supper award winner Justine Squire in cabaret show Le Haggis
Big Burns Supper award winner Justine Squire in cabaret show Le Haggis
Big Burns Supper takes place on January 22 – 30.
When the winter months draw to a close and daffodils begin to dot the landscape, the Wild Spring Festival kicks off and runs throughout April, providing a choice of around 100 events including red deer tours, badger watching and a whole host of family activities.
Jim RaeEskrigg Nature Reserve near Lockerbie is popular or a Spring walk and famed for its red squirrel population and this cutey was captured on camera by Jim Rae
Eskrigg Nature Reserve near Lockerbie is popular or a Spring walk and famed for its red squirrel population and this cutey was captured on camera by Jim Rae
If arts and crafts are your forte, then Dumfries and Galloway is the place to be in May.
The region is well recognised as a haven for artists and makers and we lead the country with one of the biggest exhibitions of Scottish talent in the shape of the annual Spring Fling Festival.
Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, Scotland’s premier arts and crafts festival takes place in the late May Bank Holiday weekend.
Colin HattersleyMosaic artist Kate Anderson, pictured at her studio in Tongland near Kirkcudbright during last year's Spring Fling
Mosaic artist Kate Anderson, pictured at her studio in Tongland near Kirkcudbright during last year's Spring Fling
Every year between 90 - 100 professional artists and makers throw open the doors to their studios for three days, offering visitors the chance to get behind the scenes and buy direct.
The event takes place between May 28 – 30.
The Knockengorroch World Ceilidh Festival also takes place in May, in the hills of Galloway.
Launched in 1998, the event aims to bring first class world music acts to a beautiful and undiscovered upland corner of Scotland.
This year’s line-up is yet to be revealed but, as always, will feature an eclectic mix of music from all continents, showcasing Celtic and World music in both traditional and contemporary fields.
Douglas RobertsonDancing at the main stage of the Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
Dancing at the main stage of the Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
Knockengorroch takes place between May 26 – 29.
Our other major May event is Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, the longest running event in the region, stretching back to 1979.
It holds more than 60 events at 30 venues and offers a lively and varied programme at venues ranging from the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries to Scotland’s smallest working theatre, the Swallow, near Wigtown.
Everything from classical concerts to youth theatre is on the menu.
Colin HattersleyMacmath at Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival
Macmath at Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival
The event takes place on May 20 – 29.
The summer is packed with a plethora of festivals special to each and every community across the region, ranging from the colourful and historic Riding of the Marches ceremonies at Dumfries and Sanquhar – involving cavalcades of horsemen and women – and agricultural shows, to more modern-day celebrations packed with family events, such as Douglas Day at Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie Daze.
Bob GeddesDumfries Riding of the Marches
Dumfries Riding of the Marches
For some music fans, June is all about the Eden Festival, when a wonderfully vibrant and colourful explosion of music, culture and madcap entertainment descends on the Rae Hills just outside Moffat.
Eden is a boutique festival which lets people feel like they are in another world for the weekend and truly needs to be seen to be believed.
It hosts nine different stages including a kids arena, circus tent, drive in cinema, comedy, cabaret and workshops; as well as a feast of performers, artworks, games, and even some morning work outs hosted by the legendary Mr Motivator.
Dumfries and Galloway StandardThe Eden Festival
The Eden Festival
It takes place on June 9 – 12 and is not to be missed.
The Wickerman Festival rocks the region in July and is perhaps the most well known of the myriad events in Dumfries and Galloway each year.
Dubbed “Scotland’s alternative music festival” it has boasted the same big name acts as TinthePark – The Scissor Sisters, Primal Scream and funk legend Nile Rogers have all headlined – but with a more laid back vibe and family friendly atmosphere.
The Wickerman Festival at Dundrennan is a family affair
The Wickerman Festival at Dundrennan is a family affair
Wickerman, which has been running since 2001, takes place at East Kirkcarswell near Dundrennan – just an hour’s hop from the M74 – and attracts up to 20,000 revellers each year.
One of its most spectacular features, about from the abundance of locally produced food stalls and wide range of entertainment, is the burning of the 40 foot Wickerman and fireworks display on site on the final night.
The burning of the Wickerman is a highlight of the weekend
The burning of the Wickerman is a highlight of the weekend
The Wickerman Festival takes place on July 22 and 23.
August brings the region’s newest music festival, the rapidly expanding Electric Fields Festival, which takes place in the idyllic setting of the grounds of Drumlanrig Castle, near Thornhill, in August.
Now in its third year and back for 2016 as a two day extravaganza, organisers of the small but perfectly formed festival remain dedicated to promoting the talent of some of the best unsigned talent the country has to offer, as well as featuring big name acts.
With some exciting lineup news on the way for this summer, festival fans would be wise to check out this gem before it becomes even bigger.
Electric Fields takes place on August 26 and 27.
Dumfries and Galloway StandardThe Electric Fields festival at Drumlanrig
The Electric Fields festival at Drumlanrig
August is a busy month at Drumlanrig, with one of Scotland’s biggest and most popular events taking place at the historical grounds on August 20 and 21: Galloway Country Fair.
The winner of ‘Best Traditional Event’ at the Scottish Events Awards 2015, the annual two-day event is a true celebration of rural life and a great family day out where you can pursue an array of quality trade stalls, sample local produce and watch breath-taking displays at the entertainment area.
Dumfries and Galloway StandardThe Galloway Country Fair
The Galloway Country Fair
Come September, you’d be forgiven for thinking things might start to wind down in the region, but this is the month when the who’s who of the jazz world arrive.
Organised by Jazz Scotland, the event brings some of the world’s best musicians to Lockerbie, and audiences flock to a number of venues throughout the town.
Lockerbie Jazz festival takes place on September 22 – 25.
Dumfries and Galloway Youth Jazz Orchestra
Dumfries and Galloway Youth Jazz Orchestra
Another world famous event kicks off at the end of September and runs until October 2: Wigtown Book Festival.
Founded in 1999, the 10-day literary showcase features more than 200 events and activities of all ages, including music, theatre and visual arts.
Last year organisers welcomed guest speakers including Frank Gardner, Val McDermid and Phil Jupitus and previous highlights have included Joanna Lumley, Jeremy Bowen and Fay Weldon.
Joanna Lumley launched a fundraising drive for the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust at last year's Wigtown Book Festival
Joanna Lumley launched a fundraising drive for the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust at last year's Wigtown Book Festival
This article first appeared in the DG Standard and The Daily record written by 


Monday, 7 September 2015

Industry shortage of Chefs

It's a skill, it's a passion and its long hours..... but why as an industry are we facing a kitchen crisis with a shortage of chefs. The whole industry and its credability is under threat if we loose the kitchen skills to a dumb down quick fix drag anyone in mind set. We've had a chef de partie vacancy for over 4 months now and not so much as an application. It's been on our Facebook, with a chef agency and in the local rag and still nothing. Having become a little paranoid that it's was us I set off to phone some colleagues and discovered that they too were struggling. 
What is it that we want ? The answer is simple TRAINING and we need our local college and the current vogue thinking and practice of 2 day week courses to revert back to full time, Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm courses with good 3+ month blocks of industrial release experience across the regions hotels. We need courses that get our young talent ready for the hard slog of the real world and a real kitchen. It's hot, long hours, split shifts but it's a rewarding career if you want to climb the ladder and understand you must walk before you can run.
Let's face it Dumfries and Galloway hardly sets the culinary world on fire, we all try our hardest to showcase local produce and work with local suppliers but we all struggle due to a lack of skilled labour in our sector. We can train in house and the majority of us do, but we need the local college to be the industry feeder. There are jobs out here to be taken and as a region tourism is our lifeline.
If we want to keep holiday makers coming we need to.
So I'm off to the college next week to have a look around the new catering department to get an understanding of why the majority of full time courses are 2 to 3 days a week. I'll report back in due course.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year - what will it bring ???

Happy new year....

And So here we are in 2015, what will this one bring ? Last year was a mixed bag really, a slow start to the season then a cracking summer period with long uninterrupted spells of sunshine which took us right through to mid October and then bang we are suddenly plunged into winter and dark nights. We've had some wonderful people staying with us and some amazing feedback.
We redeveloped the menus using the Sous Vide and water bath techniques, we refurbished a couple more rooms, we've said hello and goodbye to some of our amazing staff and now we've turned the corner and 2015 stretches out ahead of us.

No sooner had we cheered to the bells heralding another year then we were onto planning our year of Scottish Food and Drink. And what a year it is shaping up to be. Firstly our 2 course Scottish Game menu at £14 is tremendous value and showcases everything that is quality with Scottish Game.
Here's a really delicious tender breast of Mallard from the menu below
We're coming to the end of the shooting season now and looking forward to welcoming our Canadian friends once again thanks to Andrew Case of Forrest Estates who puts on an action packed program of clay pigeon shooting, driven pheasant days and walked up days. One of the best shoots locally over the years has been Mutehill and it is with great sadness that Saul and Barbara Patterson finish up there at the end of the season. I have had the pleasure of shooting there myself and must say that it is one of the best run and managed shoots I have ever been on. Good luck wherever you end up Saul and Barbara and thanks for many years of happy guns.

And so back to the year of Scottish Food and drink, it is with great pleasure that we present some stunning craft beers from the home of Scottish brewing, Belhaven Brewery.
Craft beers are growing in popularity, we have four top quality brews to offer you ... Craft Pilsner, a clean crisp and refreshing beer at 4.8%. Next up a strong complex and layered beer Speyside Oak aged at a whopping 6.5%abv, then a deep ruby rich nutty beer simply known as Scottish Ale at 5.2% and finally Twisted Thistle at 5.6% and what I would call a traditional India pale ale, bold, bitter and juicy.
By now you should be familiar with our Local food heroes, they are all hanging on the wall and appearing on menus and whenever we can promote local food. Our first local food menu has gone down a treat and head chef Paul Somerville and the team have started working on the next one which will once again hold a few surprises when it is launched early March 
Don't forget you can sign up to our text alert service by texting 60777 with the letters MCGNR and we will then send you foodie related offers and deals as and when we think them up !!!

At the end of January we will be hosting a Party Night with the theme of "Anything but Burns" not that we want to upset the Burns purists ( we did that many years ago with our toilet seats ) but we felt that Burns nights are predominantly male and so we thought let's have a party night to include the ladies and we promise not to mention Burns - that's scheduled for Friday 23rd January at £25pp for a 3 course dinner with coffee and a quiz, disco and party games.

When we hit February we'll be spicing things up with a Taste of India, again 2 courses for £14 running alongside our usual menu. Some great Scottish dishes with a twist, such as Haggis Pakoras and Galloway Lamb Koftas.... It will run Monday to Thursday lunch and dinner.

Then when we hit March we'll be showcasing another Taste of Italy menu. We ran this a couple of years ago when we recruited the famous Douglas Lisi from L'Aperatif in Stranraer, Douglas spent some time with me and the team teaching us just exactly how Mamma made it.... Again 2 courses for £14 is on offer.

And if all that isn't enough then come and have a couple of nights with us - we've got a great offer of any 2 nights for £79pp based on 2 sharing a twin or double room.... book now and come and see us.

Happy new year to you all, thanks for your support and see you soon

Chris, Sue and Douglas





Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Autumn and winter menu launches along with our food heroes gallery

It's been a hectic summer, thank you to all of you that have come along to support us and a huge thanks to the team her at the Selkirk for all their hard work.

And in and amongst the bust time we have been beavering away developing our Winter menu which we are delighted to launch for your enjoyment. We have expanded our repertoire in technique by now including water bath sous vide - probably best explained in the short video below 




To prepare food sous vide (say: sue veed), we pick our desired doneness, then set a water bath to the appropriate time-and-temperature settings. The bath is heated just enough to cook the food as we like it, meaning we never need to worry about over- or undercooking it. This technique locks the flavours in and allows us to take for example the rump of beef, marinade it in our treacle marinade, bag it and vac pack it then slowly cook it in the water bath overnight to make a melt in your mouth cut of meat.

So we use the technique now with our Duck dish, marinading it in Galloway Lodge's Whisky Honey Marmalade, sealing it a vacuum pouch and cooking it in the water bath. The result a very tender melt in your mouth duck breast.

It has also been an exciting time in the development of our local food heroes link. We have such wonderful suppliers on our doorstep that we felt the time was right to ensure our customers were aware of the quality and commitment we and our food heroes have to providing simply the best.


Commissioning local photographer Giles Atkinson to creatively capture the true character and persona of local suppliers that the hotel use.

“I wanted to tie together the important link between what we do and our passionate support for the local suppliers. People often perceive us to be expensive, yes we are to some extent because we refuse to buy Argentinean Beef or New Zealand Lamb, we don’t go down the Ice cream from anywhere avenue and we hope the product we serve reflects that. The Horsemeat scandal last year made many people look at what they were eating and where it is from. We have a wonderful selection of local suppliers and we wanted to showcase them to our customers.”

Local food heroes include:



 SHEENA HORNER - GALLOWAY CHILLIES - WIGTOWN
Sheena's Chilli jam is quite amazing, home grown chillies from Sheena's poly tunnels in Wigtown - this is Sheena's story 

In October 2012 after finally having enough of being unable to buy chillies anywhere locally except Jalapeno and Scotch Bonnets, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to do something about it.

I love chillies and there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t cook with them or use them when baking. So after a couple of months carrying out some research – Galloway Chillies was born on the 1st December 2012.
I am a farmer’s daughter and I am passionate about local and British produce. Therefore I had decided right from day one that only British chillies would be used in my products. I currently make eight types of preserves which are available in five heats.
When they are available my own home grown chilli plants (40 plus varieties) and chillies will also be available to buy but of course this will be limited as I will also need the chillies I grow to go into my own products.
The chilli preserves are made from scratch in my own kitchen in small batches so that every batch is of good quality and flavour.
I hope you will enjoy this journey with myself and Galloway Chillies. Hey, maybe we’ll bump into you soon at one of the many markets and shows we attend.

 FIONA HESKETH - GALLOWAY LODGE PRESERVES

Galloway Lodge Preserves have been producing jam for over 40 years, after Nigel Hesketh starting selling to locals in his small town in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway. The company now supplies both retail and foodservice customers throughout Scotland, has a shop and cafĂ© in Gatehouse of Fleet and is starting to increase its list of customers in England. For Director Ruaridh Hesketh (Nigel’s son), this growth is thanks to persistence and seeking out the right distributors and Nigel's wife Fiona is still very much hands on in the day to day manufacturing. Thanks Fiona and Ruaridh we just love your products

 ALLAN WATSON - GALLOWAY SMOKEHOUSE

Nestling on the banks of Wigtown Bay is the Galloway Smokehouse, home of prize winning smoked salmon, trout, seafood and game. From the simple kipper to the grand salmon a huge variety of smoked food is on offer.  As well as selling smoked foods, they sell a wide variety of local produce including Galloway honey, jams, pickles, sauces and ice cream.   Some of the fish they catch themselves, some is bought from local fishermen who they know personally, and some comes from further afield.
Allan Watson the owner and smoker says "We know our fish, we are local fishermen ourselves, fishing Wigtown Bay mainly for Sea Bass and Grey Mullet, but we can also catch Flounder, Thornback Ray, Dover Sole, Plaice and Mackerel.  We also smoke our produce on the premises."
"If you would like to have a look around our smokers and have someone explain the smoking process to you, or you would like us to smoke a fish you’ve caught yourself – just ask!  We can also offer a polystyrene box and an ice pack to keep your purchases in best condition if you have a long way to travel –  do ask!  We are here to help!"
Well worth a visit when you come up to the area.
 WILMA FINLAY - CREAM O'GALLOWAY

The Finlay family have farmed at Rainton since the 1920s. Originally we made farmhouse cheese with our milk but in the 60s and 70s mass manufacture made that unprofitable and we reverted mainly to producing milk. Rainton became organic in 1993 and a year later we decided to try something completely different with our milk, using it to create delicious produce to make the most of its rich, creamy flavour.
Cream o’ Galloway ice cream was launched at the Royal Highland Show in 1994. Over the past twenty years we’ve massively expanded our range of flavours, we’ve sold it throughout the UK, and indeed overseas, and we’ve won numerous awards.
However, at the heart of our ice cream, always, is a natural approach to creating food made with normal, real ingredients – no chemical nasties, gums or artificial flavours.

 ALLEN HENDERSON - SULWATH BREWERS

A family run brewery originally started by Allen's Mum and Dad, Helen and Jim. sadly Helen passed away a number of years ago but father and son continue to brew great real ales right here on our doorstep, so good that we were instrumental in the creation of the Grace beer that now goes into making our batter, one for the batter, one for me !! Hic !!! 
Allen says "We take great pride in the production of our products which are brewed traditionally, with no concentrates, colourings or extract and with accent on the taste of yesteryear
When was the last time you savoured the aroma of a mass produced beer, or tasted its wholesome natural flavour?
The name "Sulwath" is the ancient name for the Solway Estuary. This is reputed to date back to a ford, or crossing near the mouth of the river Esk which marked the border between Scotland and England around the 13th Century, and from general usage, the estuary became known as "Sulwath"With the predominance of migratory seabirds in the upper reaches of the Solway."
Come & meet the brewer on their conducted tours every Monday & Friday at 1pm.

 GILLIAN WARDEN - IN HOUSE CHOCOLATES

House Chocolates has built up a reputation for quality and presentation. Gillian Warden owner of In House Chocolates has developed and produced several Gold Award Winning chocolates and with her design background produced a unique gift presentation which was shortlisted for the Scottish Food Excellence Awards on two occasions.
In House Chocolates produces a wide range of chocolates, truffles, a wide selection of chocolate bars, chocolate seasonal lines and kids selections.
All their products are all truly made by hand and the highest quality ingredients are used at all times, their ethos in business is never to substitute quality for cheap imitations. Gillian says
"We are a small company but small is beautiful and our company has built up a reputation for quality, proven in the repeat custom we receive year after year from wholesale and retail clients. "

 SCOTT CARSON - TH CARSON BUTCHERS
Scott looks particularly mean in this great portrait, the truth is he's a gentle giant with a heart of gold.
Scott says "At TH Carson, we're proud of our heritage. We still hold true to the founding principles of the business started in 1933 by my grandfather, Thomas Carson and to the fact we remain a traditional family business to this day.

We specialise in the supply of the very finest quality Scottish meat sourced locally from farms right here in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. We have built up a solid reputation with our customers in and around Dalbeattie (and visitors to the area) over the years, something which has been recognised by the many industry awards we have received."
JOHN AND JACKIE KING - WEST COAST SEA PRODUCTS

Another family business now run by John King Jnr and his lovely wife Jackie. How many hotels can get fresh Scallops literally off the boat ?? Well we can and they are amazing, I just love King Scallops.
The story of West Coast Sea Products begins when Mr John King, a lobster and subsequent white fish fisherman, discovered he had a flair for detecting and raising King and Queen Scallops from the Irish Sea.
He invented, patented and produced a new kind of dredge with springs to prevent the teeth snagging on the sea bed and began to fish for the prized catch using strong, powerful, fishing vessels.
In 1968 the firm of Galloway Shellfish was established, initially with fourteen employees.
Mr King discovered there was an eager market for King and Queen Scallops in the USA. In 1966 The Gulf Of Mexico, which was the main fishery supplying the USA was overfished and the Americans started to look elsewhere for product.
In 1971 the company name changed to West Coast Sea Products Ltd, employing 35 members of staff, supplying product mainly to the USA and broke into the French market.
The company continued to expand under Mr King's direction with his son joining the company in 1989 following a successful career as a scallop fisherman. The administrative section has recently moved to larger, roomier premises beside the processing section. The firm now employs almost 150 full and part time operatives.


So - there you have it - our local food heroes and the stories behind them. You can take a look at our new menu on our web site or by clicking the picture below which give you a taster  as to how we have incorporated the portraits into our menus and marketing material.

A huge thank you is also due to WOLFFE design in Edinburgh who have helped me develop this journey with special thanks to Andrew and Rebecca.

And a huge thank you to our Exec Head Chef Paul Somerville and the team in the Kitchen for all their hard work and dedication in bringing this new menu and new direction to life.