Natalia Mascaro of Corris Craft Centre’s Y Crochan café and the Bwtri Y Crochan Welsh food and drink shop on her love for local produce and Snowdonia food favourites.
I’m from Menorca in the Balearic Islands, but I came to Wales in 2002 to work on my English. I’d been here a few times before and just fell in love with the place. I’ve been here ever since. My English is a lot better now and my Welsh is getting there too. I love the rural life in Snowdonia and feel very much at home here.
After I first came to Snowdonia, I worked in the kitchen at the Centre for Alternative Technology for about nine years. When the opportunity to manage Y Crochan came, I moved to Corris Craft Centre.
I’ve always been passionate about using local produce, even when I lived in Menorca and Barcelona. When I started managing Y Crochan I tried to bring in more use of local produce, ingredients like cheese, butter, vegetables and meat like Welsh lamb and beef. One of our specialities in the café is Welsh rarebit. I’ve tried it in lots of different places and it is quite surprising how many different ways it’s made. Sometimes it’s not much more than a cheese toastie, but we try to do it with a bit of style. We use a traditional recipe (with our own secret ingredient) and offer toppings like Perl Las cheese, garlic mushrooms and hot Welsh mustard.
About a year and a half after I started working at the café the unit next door became available, so I suggested opening a Welsh food and drink shop. It’s taken off really well. We sell a huge range of products. We have jams, chutneys, honey, cheeses, liqueurs, ciders and more than 40 different types of beer. We have such a great choice of local products here in Snowdonia. There’s even the Pant Du Winery in the foothills of Snowdon, who make an excellent red wine. You wouldn’t expect to find a good red in a place like this, but they use a type of grape that was bred in Germany which does very well in the Snowdonia weather. They also do lovely cider, apple juice and mineral water.
There’s such an extensive range of wonderful Welsh food and drink to choose from that it’s hard to pick a favourite. I’m not normally a big fan of beer but there is one from Cader Ales in Dolgellau called Cwrw Coch (Red Bandit in English) that I really like. It’s named after a gang of red-haired robbers who operated around Dinas Mawddwy in the 16th century. A lot of the items we stock from small local producers have names that reflect the history and legends of our area. I think it’s a really nice touch.
There’s a company near Barmouth called Goetre Farm that make lovely jams, sauces and chutneys. They make a fantastic wild garlic mustard from locally foraged ingredients and an excellent garlic pickle. In terms of cheese, I love the stuff we get from Caws Cenarth in South Wales, but more locally we have Snowdonia Cheese which makes Black Bomber, another one of my favourites.
We have the whole range of Halen Môn Sea Salt, which is known around the world. This year, they launched a black garlic ketchup which is absolutely delicious. It’s flown off the shelves since we started stocking it.
Giving people a real taste of Wales was one of my main ideas when we opened the shop. We get people from all over the world visiting Corris Craft Centre and King Arthur’s Labyrinth, so being able to take a little piece of Welsh flavour home with them is fantastic. Food and drink make great gifts, especially when they are as delicious as the things we stock.