WEST Limerick Food has launched itself on to the ever-expanding world of Food Tourism with great panache.
No time for tame talking here, was the message from the 22 food producers, chefs, cafes and restaurants that have come together as West Limerick Food.
Instead, we had a Winter Picnic with all the trappings of a Christmas Market combined with Street Food heaven. Fairy lights, candles, music and a dazzling display of colourful and delicious food and drink greeted those who made it to Leahy’s hayshed outside Newcastle West on Tuesday night for the launch.
There were cheeses to be savoured, Irish Peat Wine to be tasted, goat burgers to be devoured along with chowder, salads, slow-cooked organic lamb, local juices, preserves, beers, cheesecake, Irish Coffee and much, much more. It was indeed, a feast, for the eye as well .
And, promised all those who have signed up to making West Limerick a Food Destination, the journey is only beginning.
“We might not have won the hurling this year but we have won a lot of food awards,” declared Tom Flavin, executive chef with the Strand Hotel and champion of West Limerick food.
“What we have here is amazing,” he told the 130 or so guests and he was delighted that so many had turned out to see what the area can offer.
“We would have been aware for a long time of the potential in West Limerick,” said Shay Riordan, manager of West Limerick Resources which initiated and backed the idea of the West Limerick Food group. “One of the challenges we saw was bringing people together and have them believe in themselves.”
Over the past year, this had been achieved and the launch and new West Limerick Food visitor leaflet and map were proof of that. “This is a very important starting point,” he said. Now, Mr Riordan said, the challenge was to get even more producers and names on to the list and to make it work for the area.
The West Limerick food story is a very strong one, said Tina O’Brien, who played a key role in welding the different food producers, chefs and businesses into a working group. “We are now putting words and pictures and people on that story,” she said. “People didn’t really know each other. Now they are working together. They are definitely bonded by a vision that is bigger than themselves.”
Séamus Leahy explained how his family had moved from sheep and beef farming into goats and earlier this year into cheese-making. Already, their products have won awards at Cáis, the Irish Cheese Awards, at Blas na hEireann and at the Listowel Food Festival.
“More and more visitors are interested in hearing about and tasting local food, the so-called ‘place on a plate’ effect,” Caitríona Scully of West Limerick Resources explained.
The West Limerick Food group, is fiercely proud of its food heritage and the natural bounty of West Limerick but they are also proud of the culture and heritage of the area, she pointed out. As a result, the distinctive slogan that has been chosen for West Limerick is Taste the History.
Ms Scully urged those not included in the leaflet to get in touch through West Limerick Resources. “The doors are open”, she said. Get the leaflet and taste it all yourself.