Some of Mayo’s leading artisan food producers were celebrated recently at the launch of the 2014 Gourmet Greenway in the Mulranny Park Hotel.
The Gourmet Greenway is Mayo’s only ‘food trail’ and is a top-class offering for foodie minded visitors and locals alike.
Described by food critic John McKenna as “one of the most brilliant innovations in Irish hospitality”, the trail matches the spectacular scenery of the Clew Bay region and the Great Western Greenway with an impressive array of authentic, locally produced, fare from the vicinity of Mulranney, Achill, Westport, and Newport.
Devised by the Mulranny Park Hotel and launched in 2011, the trail has grown to include 18 members this year, from organic sea food producers to honeymakers, seasalt harvesters, chocolatiers, trout smokers, and lamb rearers.
The Gourmet Greenway food trail for 2014 was launched in style earlier this month with a lavish eight-course meal in the Mulranney Park Hotel’s Nephin Restaurant.
The restaurant boasts sweeping views overlooking the pure and rugged landscape that has inspired the Mayo producers, and diners got the opportunity to meet and mingle with the producers, while also sampling their produce, which was incorporated into an out-of-this-world dining experiene by talented head chef at the hotel Chamila Mananwatta.
One of the Gourmet Greenway’s newest members is Oileán Éadaigh West Mayo Brewery. The microbrewery, Mayo’s first, was launched in July 2013 with a range of traditional, natural, craft beers.
Iain and Caroline Price of Hilltop Farm, Islandeady, developed the microbrewery as a farm diversification project.
Although getting the brewery itself off the ground was a long and arduous three-year process of paperwork and planning regulations, when the craft beers were eventually launched they quickly gained in popularity and are already available in more than 20 bars, hotels, and eateries in the county and beyond.
“I don’t like saying it because it sounds very boastful but we hit the ground running,” laughs Caroline. “It has expanded much quicker than we anticipated.”
She said the beer seems to be ‘speaking for itself’ and word of mouth is seeing more and more bars and restaurants seeking to stock the product, which comes in three brews - their Irish red ale called Clewbay Sunset, Paddy Pilgrims Porter, and a golden ale called Clifford’s Connacht Champion.
The beers are special because they have no additives and are produced locally, using simple ingredients and age-old brewing techniques.
“It’s a very natural product,” explains Caroline. “ There are just four simple ingredients - malted barley, hops, yeast, and most importantly, water, which we have a particularly good supply of here in this region for brewing beer.”
The West Mayo Brewery also incorporates bog myrtle into the brews. Bog myrtle grows on the Prices’ farm and is a very traditional ingredient, which was used in times gone by in the absence of hops, which cannot be grown in the west of Ireland climate.
Cheese producer Andrew Pellam Burn of Carrowholly Cheese, another member of the Gourmet Greenway, believes consumers are become ever more discerning when it comes to the provenance - or origin - of their food.
“In the last six or seven years the whole concept of local produce has really taken off,” he outlined.
“People look for it, they expect it, and restaurants have it on their menus. There has really has been a big shift in the way people think about food.”
He said the economic growth in Ireland contributed to that shift.
“When the boom happened here, more people started going abroad and their tastes changed and broadened. They would see the use of local produce, unique to each region, in the places they were visiting, and then they started to expect it here too. And of course as tourism numbers increase here, visitors too want to find something that is uniquely specialist to the area.”
Pellam Burn took over Carrowholly Cheese in 2009. He now crafts his raw milk gouda cheese in six different flavours including nettle, cumin, and pepper.
He says the unique flavour and character of the cheese is intrinsically linked with the landscape in which its produced.
“Because it is made using raw cow’s milk (unpasteurised ), all the flavours of what the cows are eating is reflected in cheese. So at this time of year, when there’s more sugars in the grass and it is much richer, the cheese is at its best. As you go through summer the flavours change very subtly.
“We’re lucky here because it is a mild climate, the cattle are grazing outside and the salt air is coming in and on to the grasses. All of those things play a special part in making Carrowholly cheese what it is.”
Other members of the Gourmet Greenway include Kelly’s Butchers in Newport, which is perhaps most famous for the traditional black pudding recipe; Keem Bay Fish Products, which produces 100 per cent organic smoked salmon in a smoke house in Keel, Achill; and Murrevagh Honey, which produces honey from bees which gather their nectar from the Mulranny Mediterranean heather, fucshia and blackberry bushes.
The remaining food produces in the trail are: Achill Island Sea Salt - pure, white, hand-harvested salt flakes; Achill Mountain Lamb produced by the Calvey family since 1962; chutneys, relishes, and sauces from A Taste of Days Gone By in Furnance; Marlene’s Chocolate Haven in Westport; Croagh Patrick Seafoods; and the Curraun Blue Trout Farm in Mulranny.
Dining experiences along the Gourmet Greenway include the Mulranney Park Hotel; Kelly’s Kitchen, Newport; Cafe Rua in Castlebar; Newport House; Port Mor, Westport; The Blue Bicycle Tearooms, Newport; and The Grainne Uaile, also in Newport.
For more information on the Gourmet Greenway visit www.mulrannyparkhotel.ie