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Mayo's small and artisan food and drink producers have hit their stride in recent years, yielding rich experiences for the curious palate, with a gourmet food trail offering tasty ports of call around Clew Bay.
Artisan food producers are flourishing in Mayo. Not only is homegrown food available in farmers’ markets throughout the county, but some supermarket chains increasingly stock local produce and pubs serve locally brewed beers while restaurateurs continue to challenge themselves and impress diners each year with their increasingly ambitious menus.
So much is food on the map in Mayo that a food festival popped up in 2011 and has been well-attended since. Showcasing top chefs, bakers, brewers and specialty food and drink providers, The Westport Food Festival runs for one weekend each September and provides a convivial environment for locals and visitors alike to learn about what is going on among the local foodies and sample some goodies. Live demonstrations add drama to the proceedings in a family-friendly atmosphere where body and spirit is nurtured. People of all ages gather in the heart of town to chat, watch the pros, enjoy fine food and drink and talk all things food. in addition to food, the festival showcases local micro-brewery beers, such as Mescan, a rich Belgian-style beer which goes down nicely with a slice of Cafe Rua’s Carrot and Mayo Dillisk bread.
Adding spice to the gathering are a handful of innovative initiatives over the weekend including Secret Supper, described as “a kind of magical mystery foody tour meets Come Dine with Me,” where different groups are allocated a mystery restaurant (by lottery moments before dinner) where they will be served a 5-course meal. A scorecard is assigned to evaluate the evening’s fare and and the winner is crowned ‘Best Taste Experience in Westport’.
For kids (of the kids within) pizza-making demonstrations are held, bringing to life the exciting art of dough throwing. Educational talks and presentations, including some from the Restaurant Association of Ireland make this festival more than just a taste-fest. And finally, an initiative which marries two local passions: bicycles and food. The Bike Buffet involves a moveable feast, which convenes at a hotel in town, where cyclists don their high-viz jackets and cycle to a restaurant or hostelry nearby for starters, then another for mains and a third and final stop for dessert and a well-deserved rest. It is one of the happiest looking groups of cyclists to be seen anywhere.
Mayo Gourmet Food Trail
The brainchild of Mulranny Park Hotel, the Gourmet Food Trail is a novel way to experience some of the fine artisan food which is produced by some of Mayo’s finest producers from Westport to Achill. Food writer John McKenna calls this 13-strong collective of hospitality and food producers “one of the most brilliant innovations in Irish hospitality.” Selecting restaurants and food producers situated along the Greenway (with the exception of Cafe Rua in Castlebar) the gourmet trail offers a chance to see how ancient tradition meets modern techniques in food production and presentation of unique and home-grown produce along the wind-swept coastline.
Some of the fare on offer includes award-winning sausages and puddings from Kelly’s of Newport; Gouda-style Carrowholly Cheeses; Murrevagh Honey; high-quality fruits and veg; turbot, trout and smoked salmon. Lobsters, crab, scallops and langoustines from Clew Bay appear on the menus of Mulranny Park Hotel, Newport House, Grainneuaile and An Port Mor restaurants.
Using the Great Western Greenway as the unifying thread invites foodies to get on their bikes and enrich their gourmet dining experiences with stunning scenery along the shores of Clew Bay.