COUNTLESS words have been penned on the subject of Scotland's national drink - the alcoholic one, that is. Haggis - love it or hate it remains a national treasure while true devotees might happily trade in their grannies for a regular supply of top-rate mince and tatties.
But how about a plateful of Loch Fyne oysters panfried in butter with chervil and cream? Or grilled sardines with spinach and tomato salsa? Or even lobster thermidor? If you're a seafoodie then you've already begun to salivate. Which is fine, for what follows is purely for you.
Carole Fitzgerald, a hotelier in Tarbert (the pink one, children often mistake it for Archie's Castle in "Balamory"), has written From Crabshack To Oyster Bar, an exquisitely illustrated tour of that area of the West Coast which she calls Scotland's Seafood Trail.
It takes in Oban to the west, over to Dunoon via Inveraray and down through Kintyre to Cambeltown, a truly mouth-watering journey during which she introduces her readers to the owners of every establishment specialising in seafood (sea to plate within a day!) as well as providing a host of recipes.
The Crabshack in the title refers to the first place visited - the Oyster Bar at Loch Fyne being the final destination - and is the local name for The Seafood Cabin tucked away on the Skipness Estate. Open during the summer months, and run by estate owner Sophie James, it is the sort of place to which seafoodies return year on year.
Naturally, Ms Fitzgerald takes us into her own establishment, the Anchor Hotel in Tarbert, for a look at her menu which would appear to include something for everyone. One of her special dishes is scallops grilled with Crabbies Green Ginger. And, of course, there's a recipe. Actually there are several, in common with every destination.
From Tarbert we are taken to a former hunting lodge at Bellochantuy, Kintyre (salmon with a fresh herb crust and velvety Pernod sauce) and from there to Tayvallich, by Lochgilphead (Loch Sween prawns with a tarragon and Pernod dressing). Onwards to Port Righ, Carradale (roast gigot of monkfish with garlic and rosemary) and on to that glass-cubed restaurant in Oban (Thai fish cakes with sweet chilli sauce).
Beside the Crinan Canal, by Lochgilphead the discerning seafoodie can tuck into a plateful of salmon and smoked haddock fish cakes with saffron and smoked mussel cream before setting off not too soon - for Tighnabruaich and the joys of a goodly helping of West Coast langoustines.
This book is truly a feast for the eyes as well as the culinary imagination. The images not only pinpoint the food aspect but inject local atmosphere in many imaginative shots. Exquisitely done, both by the wordsmith and the photographers.
The recipes? Loads of them, and you can tell that this is an all-women publication ... There are blank pages at the end for cooks who want to make copious notes. Another thoughtful touch ...
Ian Smith, The Scots Magazine, October 2006