Along with the rest of the country we have been enjoying a glorious summer here in the Lakes. The long days of sunshine have brought packed steamers to our shores and although on some days it has been almost too hot to walk the fells, the Howtown gardens have offered the perfect alternative to admire the views whilst enjoying a cold beer, glass of wine or soft drink from the walker’s bar.
The hot weather has brought its’ challenges to the farming activities at Cote Farm. It has been the perfect summer to get an excellent hay crop but due to the late Spring and then the heat which followed, the grass was nowhere long enough to provide the quantity needed to see us through the winter months. Throughout the country the lack of rain has meant that the countryside has been badly scorched, devastating crops and leaving little or no grass throughout the summer months for the livestock. Here in the Lakes we have been lucky, we have still had the sun and warmth but the steady rain which has fallen throughout August .has transformed the landscape, which is now looking very lush and fertile in comparison to the earlier months.
In the Hotel kitchen, Chef Colin Akrigg and his team have endured the hot days with, what I believe to be, a great deal of dedication! The extreme heat has led to a rise in kitchen temperatures and I am sure that the ensuing humidity has meant that the kitchen has not always been the most comfortable of places to work. I do suspect that tempers have been raised at times, but the team always manage the service with a great deal of good humour with food coming out of the kitchen as efficiently and as exceptional as ever!
A chef who insists on always using the best and freshest of local ingredients Colin varies his menus with the seasons and this summer has been no exception. ‘Scallops and Sea Bass have been very popular and loin of lamb always goes well, he says. One of the challenges we face in the kitchen is timing. We are a small team so good timing is essential to make sure that every dish goes into the dining room, as it should. Howtown does not do ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ we cook classic quality dishes with flavoursome sauces and our lavish plates are always well received.”
For the Autumn Colin is looking forward to cooking seasonal casseroles making sauces from the autumnal berries, which are collected in abundance. Colin’s love is to cook starters and main courses, he says he is ‘not a pudding man’ so as the autumn fruit and berries come into season he uses them within his main menu, leaving the desserts to his assistants.
As we head into September it doesn’t feel as though we have seen the last of the summer with the lush surroundings making the landscape look as beautiful as ever as the recent rain brings a second wind to the gardens. We look forward to spectacular autumn colours as the Hotel fires blaze, the nights draw in and our guests are greeted with the welcome aroma of Colin’s autumnal menus as the sound of the gong – a Howtown tradition familiar to many - calls guests for dinner.