gallery, cafe & apartment

Archive for the tag “cafe”

Soup, and other institutions

Well, there hasn’t been a post on the blog for a while.  I’ve been working on some format changes to make the entry page more of a web portal for the business, leading off to the blog and the gallery, but these aren’t quite ready.  There’s also been the daily posts on our Facebook page, and we also now have a Twitter feed, under Claire’s control, so there’s plenty to keep you up to date!

The other morning I was making cock a leekie soup over in the gallery kitchen.  For the uninitiated it’s a quintessentially Scottish soup made with chicken and leeks.  Traditionally it would have been an old fowl put in the pot and boiled, and then the meat removed and served as a separate dish to make it go further – not so much ‘canny Scots’ as subsistence farmers making the most of what little they had.  Many recipes include rice: I used pearl barley as it seemed more authentic, but it got me thinking as to why you would have rice in a Scottish soup.


Quintessential Scotland: it only needs a tartan-clad piper and some shortbread and all the stereotype boxes will be ticked.  And I’ll be run out of town…

Rice is the most important grain grown as a human food source. [More maize is grown, but more of this is used as animal feed, so calorific value is lost.  Look up trophic levels to see why it’s really a bad idea to eat animals even if they taste nice…] It was probably cultivated somewhere around 10,000 years ago in southern China and was known in Europe in the classical world.  Large amounts of rice have been found in Roman camps in Germany dating from the first century AD, but the exact spread throughout Europe seems unclear, and it probably happened more than once, and from different directions.  The Moorish expansion seems to have brought rice-growing to the Iberian peninsula in the 10th century.  It’s production was encouraged in 15th century Italy, from which it is a short step to southern France.  Given the nature of the Auld Alliance [1295 – 1560] it’s not too fanciful to envisage direct trade in rice from France to Scotland, especially given that at least one source claims that cock a leekie soup itself originates in France from chicken and onion soup, crossings over around the 16th century…

So, our quintessentially Scottish soup may be distinctly European, a material memory of historic links and broad-based identities.  No prizes for guessing where this is going.  The major event of the week north of the border [the only  border with the definitive article] has been the publication of the White Paper on Scottish Independence – you may have noticed it elsewhere, wherever you live.  We have the curious situation of having on the one hand a devolved government formed by a party with a clear majority and mandate that clearly stands for, indeed it’s reason for existing is, an independent Scotland, and on the other a population that on present polling rejects that vision, yet would still probably return the same government regardless as its other policies seem to better fit the national belief and self-image.  This in a system that was designed to prevent a clear majority and force coalition governments.

From here the ‘yes’ camp’s best recruiting sergeant seems to be every utterance of the Westminster Government on the issue which are based on negativity and apparent bullying, ‘you couldn’t do this, you can’t do that, we’ll take our ball away and go home’, ignoring both that  this reinforces the stereotypes that play to nationalism, and there is every chance that those issuing such proclamations wouldn’t be in power at the time if Scotland became independent.  There are still more that enough ‘don’t knows’ for arguments and referendums to be won and lost and the national conversation up here in the next year will be interesting to follow, especially if wavy Davy continues to pull U turns every day to desperately try to please a party with more wings than a Chernobyl chicken.

So, this St Andrew’s* day who knows, in five years time those in the ‘home counties’ wanting a weekend in Europe may be going for a jaunt across Hadrian’s wall to seek [Scottish] enlightenment…

Currently listening to: Vagrant stanzas – Martin Simpson.

*He’s Patron Saint of rather a lot of places, including Russia…


Let them eat cake[s]

So, a wee while back I promised a few foodie photos of things from the OldByreSkye gallery cafe, and here they are.  All sweet things at the moment – I’m working on how to make a bowl of soup look special in a photograph…


Bakewell tart and price tag in the refrigerated cabinet. Cheap at the price…


Cranachan cheesecake, the house speciality. Looking very yellow from the very free-range eggs, and very pink from the luscious raspberries!

chocolate fudgesml

Bitter chocolate fudge cake, with flake on top as a little light relief. [And no, the cake isn’t available with WiFi…]

coffee cakesml

Finally, a rather glossy looking coffee and walnut cake just oozing with coffee glace icing. And lots of walnuts.

If it’s making you feel hungry, you know where we are, so come on down.  But wait until 14:00 tomorrow, as we only do half day on Saturday.  Turn-over day and all that.  Now, an apple turn-over – there’s an idea…

Currently listening to: When the Circus comes to Town – Bert Jansch.

Went the day well?

So it happened.  After all the waiting we are open.  We went with a quiet opening – we are new to the cafe business, so are feeling our way into it but it was good to see friends and neighbours dropping in not least because we want to be there for the community as well as tourists, and we did get drive-by custom as well.

Here’s how we looked before opening – still room for a few more pictures maybe, but not too cluttered for the cafe atmosphere.


The OldByreSkye on the wall was a freebie from the VitalSigns who made the roadside signs.  Apparently they printed out the wording the wrong size (too large), so when we collected the signs they owned up and gave us the extra lettering for free. They were able to reuse the blue and green underscores, but even so it looks rather smart.  Nice one guys!  [It basically works like giant Letraset: and I’m old enough to have used plenty of that…]


Tomorrow I’ll try to get some foodie shots: but if you’re in the area why not drop in and see for yourself?  Same menu as today.  Wednesday is our day off and then a new menu for Thursday and Friday.

Currently listening to: Pour Down Like Silver – Richard and Linda Thompson.  And yes, we do have PRS and PPL licences for the gallery/cafe [and the hole in our bank balance to prove it…], so you can legitimately listen to anything we play.  Or say “What’s that racket” and put your fingers in your ears…

T minus 12 hours and counting. Do you copy Houston?

A very quick post to confirm that we open the OldByreSkye gallery and cafe tomorrow, 23 September at 11:00.

Here’s what will be available.  There’s slow-cooked pork belly in BBQ sauce in a honey and mustard roll; smoked salmon with dill mayo and home-baked bread; a Scottish cheese board and white bean and sweet potato soup. Plus a selection of sweet things, including our cranachan cheesecake, and a range of coffees and teas. And, of course, lots of photographs to look at [and buy!].

There will be photos of it all tomorrow!

Currently listening to: my brain in overdrive…

Opening soon – honest!

This time it’s for real.  We’re opening on 23 September.  Yes, I know the season will have more-or-less finished, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles [and our cookies are nice and crumbly – very good with a mug of coffee!].

As those of you who follow us on Facebook will know, the Building Inspector visited on Tuesday and signed off the gallery/cafe as meeting requirements and in accordance with the plans.  Subsequently, the issues we had with non-functional water heaters have been resolved – a blown thermal protection fuse in one [apparently common in new units for some reason] and a replacement heater in the other].  So the way ahead is clear, at last!


Round the clock with the gallery…

The composite image above gives a brief summary of the journey from from garage to gallery.  We start, clockwise [10 o’clock – which is also about the time it was taken…], with a typical Skye single-skin block built garage with a corrugated asbestos roof [these don’t have loose fibres and are safe if you don’t cut them, but not desirable, and you couldn’t build them now], in the final stages of being cleared.  Already gone is the lightweight storage over the [non-structural] beams, that have also We move onto the hollowed out structure just after the roof was fitted (but just the sarking and waterproof membrane), and with the doors for the toilet and store cut out of the back wall, and the side window cut away to give the kitchen doorway.  The kitchen extension has been built and the rear is being formed. In the third image the plasterboard has just been put up, so the building work is not far off finished, with the insulation in the floor and walls, the metal roofing on, the doors and velux windows fitted, and electrical cables sticking out of holes in the walls.  Finally, a picture taken this afternoon.You can see the floor covering is down, the lights hanging from the beams, doors in place, walls painted, tables and chairs and the first pictures on the walls.


Oh, look – it’s a gallery, with pictures and everything!

Looking the other way you can see that pictures are starting to appear on the walls [lots more to come!] even though there is still some rubbish to be cleared – and no , not the pictures!

So the 23rd it is then – be there, or be a rhombic dodecahedron, as I always say…  [And lets see the WordPress spellchecker get it’s decidedly limited dictionary around that one!]

Currently listening to: Ommadawn – Mike Oldfield.  Re-living my teens with a job-lot of Mr O’s earlier works.  Not entirely sure about the re-mastering though.  He’s done something very odd to the brass band on part one…

All you can eat [almost]

Let’s talk food.  Any why not, considering that we are about to open a cafe? [And I haven’t talked about much else this month as the gallery/cafe inches towards opening].

We’ve been quite consistent as to our culinary vision, even before we moved to Skye.   A meat, a seafood, and a vegetarian option, plus soup, cakes, and a choice of teas and coffees.  Whether this will be sustainable in our small cafe only time will tell, but at least it should be a menu we can cope with.  Beyond this, the meat option is broadly ‘hot meat rolls’, although in practice this will mean hot meat with something bread based, so it could be a lamb dosa, hot salt beef on rye, or slow roast pork belly in BBQ sauce on a roll.  Likewise with the seafood and veggie options, there is likely to be a baked component.

Cranachan cheesecake

Cranachan cheesecake with raspberry whisky sauce – heart attack on a plate, plus one of your five-a-day, and extra fibre!

This week I’ve experimented with cranachan cheesecake©.  For those not familiar with cranachan, it’s a traditional Scottish desert made with whipped cream, toasted oatmeal, raspberries, honey and whisky.  As such it seems perfect to adapt to a baked cheesecake.  And so it has proved, especially with crowdie , the traditional highland soft cheese made with skimmed milk, substituting for some of the cream cheese, helping to add tartness to work against the honey [and slightly reduce the fat content!].  It baked really well, although it needed a more strongly flavoured whisky as it’s not very obvious despite the amount that was put in!  I used the left-over raspberries  to make a tart raspberry whisky sauce to accompany the cheesecake – you can definitely taste the whisky in that!  Definitely a premium product.  I need to find a cheaper source of cream cheese  than Portree Co-Op though, where Philadelphia costs as much as  the organic crowdie at Connage dairy…

The other cheesy experiment was shortbread.  It was going to be Parmesan Shortbread, but a visit to the cheese-box yielded Pecorino Romano instead.  If I’m honest, I prefer pecorino, the salty, ewe’s milk cheese that, according to Elizabeth David, was the preference of the rural peasantry in Italy [probably because they kept sheep rather than water buffalo…].  Mind you, she was writing in 1954,  so anything could have happened by now, not least not describing people as peasants, although I’m more than happy to have my tastes so described.  [As an aside, my copy of Elizabeth David’s classic Italian Food, which was a gift some years ago, is illustrated with medieval paintings which have little relevance to the recipes but certainly add to the beauty, and cost, of the book…].  Another success according to feedback, and one that will definitely translate to the cafe menu.  Given the saltiness of the pecorino the flaked sea salt sprinkled on top to decorate was probably unnecessary – maybe cracked black pepper next time.

All of which is making me hungry…

Currently listening to: Stormcock – Roy Harper.  [A stormcock is a Mistle Thrush.  Roy Harper may, or may not, be the loony on the bus…]

A different date…

OK, so we’re not opening on 1 August, but it ‘s always worth having an aim.

The building is, however, now only awaiting the water heaters.  The electrician came on Monday, so we have heat and light, and hopefully the plumber is coming tomorrow so we will have water as well.  After that we can submit the necessary paperwork to Building Control who are supposed to inspect within 14 days. Then we can open, as long as the plates arrive…

Wheel cover adverrtising

Advertising – the Wheel Deal…

Meanwhile, here’s our latest spot of advertising on the spare wheel of the Jimny.  My next task is to tour the local galleries and cafes and park outside for an hour or two!

Currently listening to: The Trouble with Normal – Bruce Cockburn.  Released 30 years ago (which makes me feel very old!)  The lyrics to the title track are still as relevant as they were back then…

All Quiet on the Western Front

It was quiet on Friday morning.   Very quiet.   Usually there is the crunch of tyres on gravel, or the early morning buzz of power tools; the singing of saws .   But it was quiet….

There was, however, a reason.  The builders have finished, packed up, and gone.  In other words, the gallery/cafe is built.  There’s a day’s work left for the plumber to fit the hot water heaters, and a day for the electrician (when he finally arrives) to fit the lights and panel heaters, but apart from that, it’s more or less down to us to finish the decorating and fitting out.  It’s very odd without the builders around as they’ve been here since March when they built the new bridge, with a few weeks out here and there when the other trades were in.  What with them having done the apartment last year they had almost become part of the family.

the OldByreSkye gallery/cafe.

Beneath a towering sky, gleaming in the sunlight, sits the OldByreSkye gallery/cafe, with a wire sticking out by the front door…

So what’s to paint?  Well, the ceiling needs touching up, the ‘hanging’ walls need a coat of light grey.  The kitchen and toilet need a coat of washable paint. and there are still some doors and door frames and the skirting board.  And the slat panels.  And the gallery rail to put up.


The gallery from the north-west end. Compare and contrast with the image in the previous post. Oh, and the green thing isn’t an art installation either…

I’ve also managed to install wi-fi in the gallery using a pair of powerline adapters.  [These use a building’s electrical wiring as ethernet cables – plug one adapter into the mains and connect it to your router by cable, and another into another electrical socket in the building and, with any luck, you are away].  I wasn’t sure if it would work out to the gallery, but the electrics run as a spur out of the main distribution board in the house, so there don’t seem to be any problems – it was just ‘plug and play’.  Now to configure the wi-fi adapter in the gallery as a ‘guest’ that can’t see the rest of the network, with its own security.

But it’s nearly there.  Just the trades to finish and Building Control to sign off.  Just the final push.  Just like they said on the Western Front…

Currently listening to: Quercus – June Tabor/Iain Ballamy/Huw Warren

Is that a date?

Tide and time move on. Days drift into weeks and the weeks wash into months… but we [hopefully] have an opening date for the gallery and cafe at OldByreSkye.  If all goes well, we will open on Thursday 1 August.  There is much to be done, but it is all coming together at a frightening pace.  Most importantly, the gallery is now plaster-boarded [to be taped and filled next week], and the flooring and fixtures and fittings are mostly ordered, if not already sitting in various boxes around the house.


Well and truly plastered [well, plaster-boarded anyway…]

The thing that really pleases me at the moment is the quality of the light in the gallery.  There are no windows in the walls as we need the walls for hanging space.  The two exterior doors are 50% glazed, but most of the natural light comes from the Velux windows in the roof and even with the sun out this afternoon it’s a wonderfully soft light that makes the room feel airy and relaxing: all this despite Building Standards being concerned that there would be insufficient natural light.

view from the loo

The view from the loo [or at least until the door is fitted!]  And no, that isn’t an art installation by the front door…

The fly in the ointment may, however, be the aforementioned Building Standards.  Although we may well be finished by 1 August, will we be far enough on to be able to submit a Completion Certificate in time to be inspected?  Watch a space very near here…

Currently listening to: Evergreen – Lau vs Karine Polwart  [‘Lau’ is an Orcadian word meaning “natural light”.  Appropriate really…]

Progress, progress…

It’s been a while since I posted anything on how the gallery build is progressing [although if you follow us on FaceBook you will have seen more recent pictures: if you don’t, sign up immediately!]  Things are progressing apace.  The outside isn’t that far off being finished.  The extensions have their larch cladding and roof flashings.  The new door has been cut out and the old garage doors have been blocked up [quite literally] and await the final coat of plaster.  It’s all looking rather smart.  Inside is still largely just a shell, although the extensions have already been insulated. Next major step is the floor in the ‘old’ building, which has to be built up so that it can be insulated – the ‘new build’ has insulation under the concrete base so just has to be raised up to meet the new section.  The old concrete floor is somewhat less than even and there has been much muttering and drilling out and smoothing over, but it’s looking good, even if I did go skidding over the floor last Saturday as I didn’t know there was a patch of wet concrete!


All looking good: but what is the piece of wood doing on the extension roof?

At the top of the drive the dreaded SDB2 is taking shape.  Taking shape rather quickly, as in one day it has gone from being something on a plan to being ready for tarmacing, following the addition of 100 tonnes of crushed rock of various grades and some nifty work with an excavator. Whereas before it was a concave slope with an awkward lip at the top it now has a wide flat junction with the road.  Our builders got their van up it second go before it had been rolled – I tried it in the Jimny [in four-wheel drive] and glided serenely to the top.  Since it has been rolled it’s been fine – they’ve been driving in and out all day today.  It gets tarmaced on Thursday. I then need to quickly put some marker stakes up as it’s a steep drop if you come off the edge!  The fence will go up in a couple of weeks when the soil has settled.


Now, if I just reverse a little bit more, there’ll be a large pile of stones and no digger…

We’ve started some planting around the finished end of  the car-park although the final layer of gravel has still to be added.  Time to start ordering the fixtures and fittings: after all, it’s only money…

Currently listening to: The Vice of the People – The Albion Band

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