Saturday, 15 September 2018

Ireland's West Coast - A Foodie Tour

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels sooo ancient,  I can virtually feel the spirit of those who chipped away patiently to build the drystone walls that still provide enduring shelter for the little fields.

It’s like driving through the Garden of Eden, fields of wild flowers interspersed with an occasional elderberry or hawthorn bush scattered here and there, a flock of sheep grazing contentedly, even a few cattle.
Can you imagine how delicious the meat of the animals reared on this bio-diverse pasture must be.  Looks like there will be lots of sloes and hazelnuts too, the blackberries are just ripening on the brambles pleading to be picked.
Image: Alison Derham for The Irish Times

We’re on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street.  A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubeen sambo on flatbread.
Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use.
Just across the street, a little further up,  Pot Duggan’s (McKenna's Guide Irish Pub of the Year 2018) is also rocking so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.


Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms.  First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce.
Image: Rare Ruminare.ie

Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise, known as Rare Ruminare, Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush,  organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co  Sligo. Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare.  I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well. Loved his paintings too –detailed drawings of insects and plant life, beautifully observed.

Image: http://www.drumanilra.ie

From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee,  I won’t easily forget the few minutes I spent leaning on a farm gate watching Drumanilra’s herd of gentle Dexter cattle grazing naturally and contentedly on the nourishing pasture.  These cattle will have an honourable end on a plate in the café in their much sought after Dexter burgers or for local people to buy in the farm shop, look out for their rashers and sausages too.


We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days.... On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town.  Another cool café – delicious brunch and a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear.  A lovely surprise to find Mueller, O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.
Image: www.riotrye.ie 

Our next stop, the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery, wonderful smells....we had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sour dough loaves in the  wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes, www.riotrye.ie.
Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford whose rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter, people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.
They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork.  Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product. 
That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance
trip - so many inspirational people.  We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison - we hear it's worth a detour.
HOT  TIPS

Riot Rye Bakery, Cloughjordan will host the Real Bread Ireland Gathering on Saturday September 22nd 2018, check out www.riotrye.ie for details of courses through the year.
Also Féile na nÚll Apple Festival The Sustainable Community Fair on Saturday 22nd September. A Taste of Cloughjordan Ecovillage for more details see www.thevillage.ie for a day of talks and discussions, amphitheatre performance, apple pressing, apple pie contest, Ecovillage guided tour, The Little Food Fair and so much more…..



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