Eagle Smoked Salmon, a one-man operation
If you’re a salmon, the shortest distance from the drink to a delicacy is through Andrew Osborne’s smoker.
Osborne owns and runs Eagle Smoked Salmon, Inc. and supplies some of the area’s finest restaurants with smoked salmon and trout ” hundreds of pounds of salmon every week. He also lands weekly in the Minturn Market, and the farmers’ markets in Vail and Dillon.
He’s from Inverness, Scotland in the Scottish Highlands where smoked salmon is considered one of the necessities of life. He grew up eating the good stuff and knows what it’s supposed to taste like.
“They have great smoked salmon in that area of Scotland,” Osborne said.
He was a chef for 22 years, working in Scotland for Orient Express hotels. They owned a hotel in the Bahamas, which was nice, but the Bahamas has indifferent weather and the Scotland native missed the change of seasons. He also missed the snow and skiing, so he popped up in The Lodge at Vail, where Osborne and alpine winters were reunited.
As a chef, he had a tough time finding really good smoked salmon, so he made his own. After more than two decades as a chef, he was looking for a career shift. His friends suggested he try selling his smoked salmon, so he did, starting Eagle Smoked Salmon in 1994.
Osborne’s fond of telling people he smokes his salmon in the traditional Scottish method, and it’s true most of the ideas came from Scotland. But, he says, truth be known, he found most of his techniques on his own.
“They’re pretty tight lipped about how they do it,” he said. “I toured a couple factories over there. It would make a great story to say my grandfather taught me and the techniques have been passed down for generations, but my grandfather was a timber merchant.”
And while the ideas may have come from Scotland, the peach wood he uses for his smoker comes from Palisade in Western Colorado. The salmon comes mainly from the North Atlantic near British Columbia. He also uses King and Coho salmon, among others, from Alaska.
“The peach wood gives it a more delicate flavor,” Osborne said. “You don’t want it to be overwhelmed by the smoke flavor.”
Basically, you have two kinds of smoked salmon: cold smoked and hot smoked. Hot smoked does not mean spicy; it just means it’s smoked. Lox, the stuff you put on bagels, is cold smoked salmon. Hot smoked comes in chunks and is flaky, like you might find in your favorite deli.
“People are used to the hot smoked, that’s what they’re comfortable with,” Osborne said.
Cold smoked takes longer to prepare – about four days. It cures for a couple days, smoked for five or six hours, then it has to settle for another couple days before it’s packaged. Hot smoked takes six hours – cured for two, smoked for two and settled for two.
He smokes more than 1,000 pounds a week during the ski season. At a farmers’ market, $8.50 gets you a nice package of salmon.
Among the restaurants where his wares are available are Pepi’s, Left Bank, Lodge at Vail, Sonnenalp, French Deli in Lionshead, Up the Creek, Ritz-Carlton, Splendido at the Chateau, Avon Bakery and Deli, Foods of Vail, Allie’s Cabin, Beano’s and the Marriott. You’ll also find Osborne’s salmon around Denver and Aspen. s