City North

My wife and I had a stopover before connecting flights.

Gormanston‎ Meath
Ireland



The hotel is just off the M1 and 15 minutes drive north of Dublin airport. There is a free shuttle service to/from the airport. It’s an ideal venue for weddings, events, conferences, short breaks, stopovers before or after holidays or between flights. It’s family friendly and has great food and very comfy and spacious bed rooms. A good base if visiting local attractions such as Newgrange, Tayto or Funtasia.

My wife and I had a stopover before connecting flights.

Gormanston‎ Meath
Ireland

The hotel is just off the M1 and 15 minutes drive north of Dublin airport. There is a free shuttle service to/from the airport. It’s an ideal venue for weddings, events, conferences, short breaks, stopovers before or after holidays or between flights. It’s family friendly and has great food and very comfy and spacious bed rooms. We had a delicious breakfast in the Mornington Restaurant-the meat (sausages,bacon, black and white puddings,as well as the baby mushrooms really tasted good). 


A good base if visiting local attractions such as Newgrange, Tayto or Funtasia. Definitely worth a visit!!!

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Balmoral Show

It’s that time of year and it’s all roads leading to the Show. As always logistics are a nightmare, but once inside there is something for everyone. 

I made a bee line for the food tent. There was such a large array of locally produced food and drinks. It’s good to see from small producers right up to the big boys displaying their products. There were lots of demos, tastings, educational games for children and adults!!!

There were also big marquees for the big players like Tesco, M&S and LIDL. As well as specific farming based marquees. 

For the younger folk there was play areas, amusement rides and for the older folk rides, a bar, hot food outlets and a shopping village and market stalls. 

I had a lengthy chat with Nic Parsons (Dairy Tescos) about all things Tesco and he reassured me that Tesco are taking the wellbeing of its suppliers and customers seriously and honouring their corporate social responsibility. They have programmes for educational visits to farms and their stores for Primary School kids. It’s good to see that their pork comes from Karro/Cookstown.

I also chatted to the Chairman of United Dairy Farmers, John Dunlop who said that he was satisfied with the treatment received from the supermarkets. So things are not as bad as some parts of the media portray!!

Meanwhile there was showjumping, livestock displays, big commercial machines on show. In short there is a lot for everyone to see and do and enjoy. The car parking is £7 and entrance £15, maybe a bit high? Traffic is still an issue!!

New things I saw were new range of products from Mash direct, new branding  from Annaghmore mushrooms, new products from Cookstown sausages (microwaveable bacon), new branding from Ormo bakery and the introduction to healthier pancakes for kids (50:50). Also got some sausages from Kennedys and tobacco onions from Milgro.

There are a couple of events coming up like the Big Lunch next week and the Sunflower festival (end of July). Also some info on Hovis and Ormo.

Got some rapeseed oil from Harnett’s oils and tasted the new range of the Broighter Gold oils. Had a delicious chicken and ham pie with mash and gravy from Jolly Pies-delicious. Tasted some lovely cabbage from Gilfresh. Also tasted some of the offerings in the Lifl tent. Good to see Lidl sourcing more local produce (their chicken range comes from Moy Park), they are sponsors of the Tall Ships, they have plans to open 10-15  new stores in the North over the next 3 years and employ 600 staff at their distribution centre in Antrim (which is second largest warehouse in NI). They also help local charities and causes Clic Sargeant being one such one. 

So two and a bit days left, get down to the Balmoral Show.

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Beach clean

On a very incumbent weather day, I attended a beach cleaning event at Hazelbank Park. 


Press release:

“Marks & Spencer (M&S) is encouraging its Northern Ireland customers to become big beach cleaners and help the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) clean beaches and protect our seas.

 

The M&S Big Beach Clean-up, organised by the MCS and supported by Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, will take place on Monday 11th May and the aim will be to stop common items such as fishing nets, ropes and bottles tops polluting our beaches and seas. 

 

Hazelbank has been chosen as one of four specially selected Northern Ireland beaches to be cleaned up.  Customers can register in advance atwww.mcsuk.org/foreverfish.  You are invited to join us at this event.”


There were about 70-80 people there at 10am, ranging from school kids, employees and customers. After a briefing from the Marine Conservation Society and a word or three from the Area Manager for Northern Ireland (Ryan) it was all stations go and down to the beach to pick up litter with our litter grabbers and gloves. 


It was surprising and shocking to see the amount of litter on our beach, from glass to tins, from plastic bags to baby wipes!!! All non biodegradable and if the small fry eat them then the bigger ones will and eventually we could end up eating them!!!! Hence M&S do this and this is year four. They are cleaning over 100 beaches UK wide.


I’m very supportive of this initiative as it can affect our produce (dulce, oysters and salmon to name but a few) and hence food. Also if we have clean,safe beaches then we can attract more visitors, both local and further afield. I can remember collecting, cooking and eating mussels over 20 years ago from this very beach!!!!


I was teamed up with Ryan and another M&S finance person. It was great to see a local man fill the role as Regional Manager and it was a great opportunity to talk about various topics such as local sourcing, ethical farming, addition of sugar,salt and fats to foods and education of children and their parents. 


So a big thank you to M&S and MCS. Do get involved in the future.


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Aubergine 

I had a fantastic dinner at this innocuously named Aubergine Restaurant.

25 Donegall Pass
Belfast
BT7 1DQ
United Kingdom



It’s an Indo/European restaurant but will soon be an Indian styled restaurant. It is due to be renovated, is a BYO- getting drinks license in August and was the Japanese Ginger Tree!!!

Mr Rahman, a Bangladeshi chef of 31 years experience (ex Jharna and Montreal) opened it on 16th March 2015.

I decided to go for the chef special chicken tikka rogan josh and boiled rice. The main course was exceptional and very authentically cooked. There were ten pieces of freshly cooked chicken tikka cooked in a dry, spicy tomato based sauce,just how it should be cooked.

First I was presented with a starter of aubergine pakora and chicken pakora (3 pieces each). This was served with garlic mayonnaise and salad. Must say worked well, the aubergine slices were thick and tasty and not oily. A great start. I’m very impressed with Aubergine and feel it should do well.



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Different Italian Lunch

I stopped by Dina Dina to try their Piadina and was very impressed.

Upper Arthur Street
Belfast
BT1 4GJ
United Kingdom

This eatery is not like anything in Belfast!!! I would describe it as an Italian Bakery styled diner. There is a wonderful aroma of freshly baked/cooked bread. This is complimented by a very clean, tidy and modern wooden dining area,with counter/display unit and an open kitchen. 

So what is Piadina? Piadina is a flat bread made with strong (00) flour, water, extra virgin olive oil and salt. It is unleavened and cooked on a hot plate, not dissimilar to an Indian chappati or roti. It’s lighter than even the thinnest of pizza bases and has no yeast so it’s not very heavy. Also the fillings are all freshly sourced authentic Italian produce (except the salads and sauces). The bread is cooked on the hot plate and fillings added to one half, before the bread is folded over and served in a basket.

I started with a mini pizza (mozzarella and tomato) £1, bottle sparkling water £1, classica piadina (Parma ham, mozzarella, rocket and cocktail sauce) £4.75 and to finish chocolate salami (3 pieces of chocolate/biscuit cake- no meat!!!) £1.50. The food smelt and looked delicious and tasted even better. The pizza was light and fluffy, the piadina was out of this world-I could really taste the bread, mozzarella and the cocktail sauce really complimented the Parma ham and rocket. The Parma ham was “melt in your mouth”. I also tried the homemade Italian pork sausage (which has a dash of red wine in it) and the chicken which is cooked in Italian herbs. The chocolate salami was nice and sweet and just enough to round off a three course meal with a drink for under s tenner!!

The location is slightly off the beaten track but it’s well worth finding. It’s open 6 days a week. Great stuff guys and best wishes.

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