From date is bigger than To date
Although long overlooked as a foodies destination, Mayo-based artisan food producers have dedicatedly focused on raising standards and sharpening marketing efforts to put Mayo food on the map.
Local supermarkets have swung in behind the initiative, allowing small providers such as Carrowholly Cheese and Redmond Cabot to reach customers who in turn are eager to consume their produce.
Kellys of Newport, an early pioneer in this drive, saw its efforts rewarded with a prestigious medal for its blood puddings from the Confrérie des Chebaliers du Goute-Boudin in France, an honour accompanied by the unexpected sight of a procession down Main Street in Newport of the local butchers in full medieval regalia with robes and chains. Their sausages and puddings are available in shops around the county and also show up in creative combinations on the menus of discerning chefs.
Taking a whistle-stop tour of the county’s finest purveyors of top-notch nosh, we see a representative, but by no means comprehensive selection of establishments. In Ballina, Heffernan’s Fine Food is an award-winning family-run butcher with a restaurant and delicatessen. Known for its 21-day dry-aged beef and 14-day dry-aged lamb, this butcher personally selects the animals from North Mayo farmers and brings them to their own abattoir, which has garnered hygiene awards. Thus Heffernan’s has the distinction of providing a ‘farm to fork’ service which can be experienced in its well-named Heifer and Hen restaurant.
With 150 years propelling Tiernan’s Fish Shop in Foxford, what these fishmongers do not know about seafood, its provenance and the time-honoured art of catching it, is probably not worth knowing. Depending on the season and the weather you will find the freshest of cod, plaice, haddock, lemon sole, monkfish and hake, but also might find tuna, swordfish, scallops, sea bream or sea bass. If you can’t get enough of fish, Tiernan’s can sell you some tackle and bait, offer tips and provide you with a ghillie to boot.
As Ireland’s ‘Callebaut World Chocolate Ambassador’ Belgian master chocolatier Dirk Schonkeren of Helena Chocolates in Castlebar takes chocolate very seriously indeed. So seriously that he could produce a dress for your next big occasion (as he has done for a fashion show). If that’s excess to need, his handmade chocolates, cakes, truffles and bonbons, either gift-wrapped in beautiful boxes or accompanying your cappuccino in his bijoux cafe will fulfill any chocolate craving.
Also in Castlebar is the unmissable Cafe Rua, whose fine locally sourced food has been sustaining the lunchtime foodie crowd for years. With a demonstrated commitment to local and artisan food producers, menu items might include Macroom oatmeal porridge with poached rhubarb for breakfast, or a lunch of Kelly's of Newport’s black pudding, potato cake and bramley apple sauce. Innovative, fresh and delicious--a winning combination, makes Rua stand out from the crowd.
Other notable producers and servers include The Food Store in Claremorris, Devour Bakery in Ballinrobe, Carrowholly Cheese in Westport, Murrevagh Honey in Kilmeena, Cuinneog Dairy Products in Castlebar, Harvest Moon vegetarian sauces and dips from Westport and Clare Island Organic Salmon. Local brewers Clew Bay Sunset and Mescan Belgian style beers have started making a real impact in pubs and at dinner tables in Mayo.