Showing posts with label Westport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Westport. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kelly's Butchers Newport. We Believe In Quality

Kelly's Butchers Newport
We Believe In Quality
Kelly's of Newport


For us, it is all about the food - the quality of the ingredients. You can be sure that we will always source our meat locally where possible, and if it's not local, it is always Irish. We believe in quality, in supporting our local farmers and Irish producers. We hope you do too. 

This is the philosophy of Kelly’s Butchers in Newport. It has stood them well over the decades. And I heard it reiterated at first hand from Paddy McDonald (Quality Assurance manager) and Ger Chambers (Production manager) during a recent visit. Both are fully behind it and you know there'll be no “rind emulsion” here. “Not as long as I have anything to do with it,” says a determined Ger.
Kelly's Kitchen (left) and the shop
Paddy is not a stay-in-the-office manager. He gets out and meets the customers, anywhere from Ballina to Blanchardstown. And he is thrilled, and encouraged, with the reaction. People can't believe the flavours. 

I recall craft beer guru Garret Oliver talking about introducing craft beer to people. They say this is nice, doesn't taste like beer. He had an explanation: “The beer they grew up with didn't taste like real beer!” So, Paddy tells his tasters about that good stuff that goes into Kelly’s products. They are reassured and delighted that they know now where to get the real thing. The principle put into practice pays off.
Black pudding on baguette for lunch
It’s not all serious stuff here though. Good humour abounds. Who else would take a black pudding in the shape of a pint to the prestigious Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goute-Boudin in Mortagne-au-Perche, Normandy? Better still, they won the gold! And Kelly's are proud organisers and sponsors of the All Ireland Putóg Throwing Competition  (shot putt rules apply) which is the highlight of the Newport Festival every August. 

Sean Kelly, the Mayo Person of the Year 2017, is the public face of Kelly’s, but it was brother Seamus who was in charge of the shop when we called and he proudly showed us their range of puddings (they produce much more besides): the black, the white, the black and white (half and half), and now the Vegetarian (delicious!). 
Quiche

We had arrived at lunchtime so were invited in next door to the café run by Shauna Kelly (Sean’s daughter). Had we been earlier, much earlier, we could have breakfast: porridge, granola, the full Irish of course and more.

But, being visitors, we were keen to sample the pudding and there was such a choice: black, white, seaweed and more. I went for the Black Goat  and that, with goats cheese and salad, kept me going for hours. There was also a white equivalent. CL dined well on her Black pudding and goats cheese quiche. 

Lots of meat as you'd expect from the shop next door but no shortage of fish dishes either and plenty of salads in a lovely room with warm colours. And you’ll also enjoy the homemade relishes and chutneys. Not warm enough outside for us, though it was a lovely day, but in summer you can dine al fresco.
Two of Newport's best: Kelly's puddings and the Greenway.
Then Paddy took us on tour. Their modern two years old facility is built onto the rear of the previous one (now used mainly for admin and dispatch). The process is streamlined, with the emphasis on hygiene, health and safety and efficiency. It works well throughout the week and here much of the credit goes to Ger Chambers.

When kitted out, Paddy took us through. Not a warm welcome though. His first stop was the Blast Chiller! Brrr… But it is a massive bonus for the Kelly’s as it helps increase shelf life of the products.
Yours truly with Seamus Kelly (left)
The different products and their different sizes were explained. Did you know four different types of organic seaweed is used in the Seaweed Pudding? The popular Hazlett (a traditional meatloaf, often eaten cold) has fresh leeks and carrots and 70% pure pork. It comes in standard size for domestic use and also in a 2.5 kilo size.

Putóg
And that vegetable pudding? You might think that this, coming from a renowned meat company, would be just a token effort. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Kelly name is on the packet so the best of ingredients are used and it is top quality. It was the first of the samples that I tried back at home and it is really very impressive.

While we were making our way around, taking in all the machinery and the storage areas, the crew were busy at work. The weekly schedule doesn't change much. Production in the morning. The early part of the afternoon sees the machines being taken apart and meticulously cleaned. 

Then the line is prepared for the morning. Ingredients, the spice, rusk or the oatmeal for instance, are lined up. And all is ready. We were there on the Thursday afternoon. And that following morning, black pudding would be produced, an amazing 3.5 tonnes of it! So you can see why the detailed preparation is needed. There’s a country to be fed!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lovely and Central. Westport’s Clew Bay Hotel.

Clew Bay Hotel (hotel pic)

Lovely and Central. 
Westport’s Clew Bay Hotel.
Westport is a great base to visit the many attractions of Mayo and right in the heart of this County Mayo town is the Clew Bay Hotel. It looks rather small from its frontage on James Street but it has over fifty bedrooms. No parking out front, unless you’re very lucky on this one-way street, but there is a pay carpark in the rear (turn left just before the hotel) and the Clew Bay will give you a display disk to cover your stay.

Darren and Maria Madden’s three-star hotel is very well kept and I very much liked the calm decor throughout. There’s a very helpful front-desk there too. They came up with that parking disc very promptly and arranged a taxi without fuss. Little things maybe but little things count! The room was very comfortable and, very importantly, the bed was top notch. Wifi pretty good too.

We had a fairly busy schedule and didn't have time to check out the Maddens Bar or the restaurant, or indeed the Madden’s Bistro that has its own entrance from the street. Actually we did have breakfast in the impressive large restaurant room, appropriately called the Riverside as the Carrowbeg River flows just alongside; it was flowing fairly quickly last week!

Pretty good breakfast there too. I had a tip-off on their own granola; it is good and I can highly recommend it. Good choices of cooked breakfast including the Full Irish and variations thereof, also kippers. Had a big meal the night before so I settled for the French Toast with spicy egg and that hit the spot as they say. CL enjoyed her vegetarian breakfast.

Lots of things to see and do in the area, man-made such as Westport House or natural gems like the bay itself and Croagh Patrick. There is a lovely drive to the west that takes you into the splendid Doolough and its haunting famine story. And of course there is the famous Greenway if you feel like walking or biking. 

Further out, there is Achill Island, unmissable on a good day, indeed unmissable on a bad day as well. To the east, near Castlebar, there is the National Museum of Country Living. The other three national museums (Archaeology; Decorative Arts & History; and Natural History) are all in Dublin.

I was also in Westport earlier in the year. Read what I got up to here,  including dining at The Black Truffle and drinking at McGing’s.
Clew Bay and islands, from lower slopes of Croagh Patrick


Mescan’s Belgian Beers from Croagh Patrick. Strong. Caveat Emptor!

Mescan’s Belgian Beers from Croagh Patrick.
Strong. Caveat Emptor!


I’ve been enjoying the beers from Mayo’s Mescan Brewery for a while now and their Saison has emerged as my favourite. Met up with Cillian O’Moran, one half of the team, last week and he told me that it is also a favourite in the brewery.

A saison-al tip:  I just came across this quote from Garrett Oliver, author and brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery:....the Belgian farmhouse saison style tends to add sharper bitterness, often alongside peppery notes. These beers make great matches for tangy fresh goats cheeses, and can be a great way to start off a cheese and beer tasting.

It wasn't the best of times to visit the very small Mescan operation as Cillian and his Flemish partner Bart were busy preparing for their annual Octobertfest at Westport House and that was where we chatted in the Autumn sunshine. Bart is the guy with the engineering skills, a very handy asset in a small-scale operation. They have been buddies for 20 years, both vets.

They admit on their Facebook that it all began as a rebellion “against our day jobs as veterinarians..we were feeling depressed about all the on-call in our job and the lack of time to pursue our other interests. We talked about what else we would like to do with our lives and pretty soon the conversation got around to beer. We love beer, especially Belgian beer”. 


As you may have guessed, Mescan make Belgian style beers. “We only make beer that interests us,“ said Cillian, “Beers that we like and find interesting. So no IPA, no Irish Red Ale. It is against our philosophy to follow a popular trend.”

That doesn't mean they don’t make popular beers! Their Blond was the first they brought out and has become a firm favourite with the public.

They also make some strong beers. I had tasted two recently, the Extra and The Tripel. We had a little chat about the two and I said the Tripel was my favourite of the two. “Interesting,” said Cillian. 

I think he would have been more pleased had I picked the Extra. This was an effort to make a high alcohol beer without too much fruit and there were some differences in the production. They started it cool, kept it chilled and then allowed a slow rise in temperature before a rapid rise towards the end of the process. Worth getting a bottle of each to compare. Might do the same myself, again!

“Seasonal is not a huge thing for us but we did a Kreik last year and there are still a few bottles around.” No sour cherries this year but they have now found a new source and you could well see another Kreik next year.

But a new beer is on the cards for Christmas. “We have tested a small trial brew and both of us were extremely taken with it. If the 2,000 litre batch is as good, then it may well become a regular.”

“We’re almost like the Galagapos Island of craft brewing, operating in an enclave of our own. No time for net-working!” But that may change as Cillian is winding down his regular job as a vet to go full-time in the brewery.

“I intend to work full-time but we’ll have to increase sales to make that doable. The small scale suits us. We are not building empires. I don't want to spend days in the office, not cut out for it. Small and natural is our way and that's the way we like it.” And it looks as if their punters like it that way too.

Mescan Beers:
Westport Blond (5.5%);
Westport White (5.0%);
Westporter Stout (5.0%);
Westport Saison (6.2%);
Westport Red Tripel (8.5%);
Westport Extra (9.3%).

Mescan beers, delicious and distinctive, are all bottle conditioned, so not available on draught. Keep up to date with their Facebook page here.

And where did that Mescan name come from? It’s named after St Patrick’s right hand man and personal brewer. They say that Mescan’s brews facilitated audiences with the chieftains when Patrick went out on his conversion missions!

And one more thing about these beers, these mostly strong beers. The bottles carry a warning for lovers: “Our beer adds to the desire but may take away from the performance”. Caveat emptor. 



Monday, May 8, 2017

48 Hours in Westport. Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.

48 Hours in Westport. 
Sightseeing. Eating. Drinking.
Keel Bay
Taking the long way round is a regular habit when I'm on the road and so, to get to Westport from Cork, I head to the Galway village of Leenane, at the inland point of Killary Harbour, as I want to drive from there to Louisburgh by the spectacular Doolough route.

Leenane
By the time we reached Leenane or Leenaune (you will see quite a lot of spelling variations of place-names in both Galway and Mayo), we were feeling peckish. The well-known Blackberry was still closed (at 12.15pm) so, after a stroll, we dropped into the nearby Sheep & Wool Centre for a bite. 
And we got a right good one.  They had a Soup and Sandwich offer. For €7.75 we each got a big bowl of soup and a sandwich. And not just your usual veg soup but a Tomato and Roasted Pepper (there was a choice of at least two soups). Great choices (12) also of sandwich fillings and dressings (7). 

For instance, I had tuna with salad and pesto on brown bread while Clare had chicken, roasted peppers, red onion marmalade. So they are not dishing out the same old same old. We thought the quality was very good as was the price.
Aasleagh
We noticed the Blackberry was open and busy as we walked back to the car, Minutes later, we passed the Carraig Bar, the last pub out of Connemara and then, all of a sudden, we saw the Aasleagh Falls in off the road. Walked in for a view and then drove on.
Doolough Famine Memorial

The beautiful Doolough area was, in 1849, the scene of one of the darkest events of the Famine. On a bitterly cold day, some 600 people in Louisburgh were seeking food or a ticket to the workhouse in Westport. They were told to contact the Poor Law officials who were, for some reason, in Delphi, about ten miles away. Some died overnight and the rest struggled over hills and mountains (no road then). The officials rose from their lunch and told the people they could do nothing for them and ordered them back to Louisburgh. No one knows how many died by the wayside.

Still incredibly sad, after all those years.

The Reek
 It is of course a short journey by car and soon we were passing through Louisburgh and on our way to Croagh Patrick. We had no intention of going to the top but did get about a third of the way up. It is rough enough with lots of big rocks and smaller loose stones but the views out over Clew Bay are magnificent, even on a cloudy day.

We stayed in the excellent Westport Plaza Hotel that night and enjoyed a lovely meal in their Merlot, a destination restaurant. Visited the bar afterwards. Didn't see any craft beer on tap. But they did have a fridge full of Mescan beer, 330ml bottles of local excellence!
 Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The beer is still cloudy! Their Westport Blonde (5.5%) is superb.

But it was their Westport Saison (6.2%), more cutting, more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes, that I really enjoyed. Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.
Westport House

 Day two was mostly an Achill Island affair. The sun came out and the lure of the Atlantic beauty was irresistible. We did the main drive, all the way through to Keem Bay. There were detours, of course. We took the loop to the south on the way out, the one to the north on the way back.


There were many stops to admire the stunning views over the cliffs and the seas, though the first stop was at the Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley castle, near to the lifeboat station.
The Pirate Queen's castle in Achill
For lunch, we dropped into the lovely Craft and Coffee shop called the Beehive in Keel. The food was excellent and very well priced (as it had been in Leenane). For just less than twenty euro, we each had a Chicken Bap (with a lovely salad) and tea, all served on beautiful ware by Shannon Bridge Pottery (Offaly).


Just made it back to Westport House about an hour before closing. The house, by the way, now has new local owners who have promised investment and improvements. We had a quick enough look-around upstairs and downstairs. Even visited the dungeon though spent more time in the extensive wine-cellar (now unfortunately empty, aside from a few old wooden markers).

Achill, above and below

We wouldn't be short of wine though when we visited the excellent Black Truffle Bistro in the town centre for a smashing dinner, a dinner that included one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever eaten.

Time then for another taste of the local brews and we headed up to the lively McGings. I passed the night - we had music by DramaCode later - with Clifford's Connacht Champion, or 3C for short, a refreshing golden ale (4%), one of the beers from the Clew Bay Brewery. 


Westport House, in the wine cellar
CL settled on a very nice and refreshing Achill beer, made using water from a local corrie lough and Carrigeen moss. 


Each beer came in its own proper glass; McGings don't do things by halves. Staff there are brilliant, very helpful if you are not acquainted with the beers (they include Franciscan Well Chieftain Pale Ale in their selection). The perfect end to another good day in Mayo.




The Black Truffle. A Westport gem that doesn’t cost the earth


The Black Truffle. 
A Westport gem that doesn’t cost the earth.

The Black Truffle is a new culinary gem in Westport, a very reasonably priced gem even it’s called after the expensive French black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), from the Dordogne. Here, on the €25.00 euro menu, you can enjoy three high standard courses, most of which feature on the A La Carte. It is indeed a French style bistro, as they claim, and comes with bistro prices.
I’ll let the owners, Dominique and Anna Miralles, explain: Cooking has always been our passion and here, in this humble French style bistro, we would like to share some of it with you. Working with Irish suppliers, we aim to get the best out of local produce to create simple and delicious dishes. We focus on modern, ambitious cooking using sophisticated techniques. To live up to its name ' the bistro', here at The Black Truffle we serve moderately priced meals, bringing, but not exclusively, some of the French classics.
Three alcohols!
We were there recently on a Friday night and had much to choose from the A La Carte. We were tempted by the Seared Scallops (with sweetcorn and lemongrass velouté, marsh samphire), the star starter.

CL though likes her mussels in a tomato sauce and went for the Chef’s Mussels in Tomato Sauce, saffron, flambéed with pastis and cognac (7.50). Now she likes her mussels in pastis and brandy and, as the chef Dominique later explained, white wine was the third alcohol in a lovely flavourful bowl of the bivalves. The mussels looked well and so did my Ibérico Ham, pickled cucumber, relish, quails eggs, and aioli (8.95).

The mussels (in an even bigger bowl) and Angus Steak both featured among the main course choices along with a tempting Pulled Brisket option. CL though plumped for a French classic: Duck Leg Confit, orange confit, glazed carrots, celeriac and beetroot shavings (19.95). Another superbly executed dish, perfect in every way.

She was happy and I was even happier with my simply described Seafood Gratin. Simple yes, and simply superb, one of the best seafood dishes I've come across in a long long time. I’ll give it its full title: Seafood Gratin, julienne of vegetables, mussels, scallops, smoked cod, hake, and sauce velouté (19.95).
The dessert list was short with a few simple titles also, including Lemon Tart (6.50). Again, no disappointment here, just top class. I like my Crème Brûlée and I like their Pistachio and White Chocolate Crème Brûlée even more. A lovely end to a delicious meal.

No shortage of teas or coffees in this simply furnished but very comfortable place which opened two months ago. The wine list is short but well chosen. The service is excellent, friendly and chatty. And, of course, the food is par excellence.

See also: 48 Hours in Westport


3 Market Lane, 
Bridge Street, 
Westport, 
Co. Mayo
Tel: (098) 25912