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.

The BelfastFoodMan
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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.


The BelfastFoodMan

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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.

The BelfastFoodMan
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Ashers sausage rolls

Stopped off at Ashers (of cake [in]famy) to have a quick snack. Went to the newly renovated one in the Doagh Road, Newtownabbey. It’s pretty slick looking and open planned. They’ve just launched their new spring range. I opted for two plain, hot sausage rolls. They were hot and pastry was crisp and tasted fabulous, but how can they justify the price tag. It’s £1 for take away or £2.50 for sit it!!!! I’m really hoping for sit in you get a salad and chips,as that’s a heck of a mark up!!!


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Festival of Fools

I took my two little girls to see some of the performances at Writers Square (Dick Danger) and St Anne’s Square (Dansko Gida). The weather was kind, performers superb and great crowds- kids really enjoyed it. I was even accosted by Dansko Gida!!!!


Big thanks to Festival of Fools, Translink and Discover Northern Ireland. A great 4 day event over the Friday through Monday (Mayday weekend) in Belfast.

Also great eats as well,check out the deals in the literature and web sites.

The BelfastFoodMan
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Aamir weds Talitha

The civil wedding ceremony of Aamir and Talitha took place today at LaMon Hotel and Country Club. The ceremony started at 1pm and the presiding minister made it all a very relaxed affair,Talitha was in fits of giggles!!!


After the ceremony we all mingled and then were called for dinner at 4.30 pm. After the formalities and risqué speeches from the best men,we tucked into vegetable soup with wheaten scones-great idea, herb crusted chicken and veg and cheesecake for afters. Then tea/coffee and wedding cake.

The bride and groom looked fantastic and make a lovely couple. The staff at the LeMon were second to none and the food was extremely tasty and just the right portion size.

I would thoroughly recommend the LaMon for food, drinks, conferences, weddings and functions. There are superb comfortable bedrooms,plenty of parking and a superb country club. Roll on 8pm and party time!!!

The BelfastFoodMan
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Folktown chicken

I got some lovely meats from McMeats  Butchers in Folktown Market 2 weeks ago and froze them. I defrosted the stuffed chicken breasts and cooked them in the oven for 30 minutes in a gas mark 220oC electric oven.
I was advised to wrap them up in foil and cook in the foil (as this maintains the shape, they were tied up with a single piece of elastic). The result was fabulous-tender chicken with wonderful stuffing. I shall certainly enjoy them with some some champ, onions and gravy. Anyone fancy some? Then see McMeats  Butchers at Folktown Market every Thursday.
The BelfastFoodMan

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Best sweety shop

You guessed it,Aunt Sandras on the Castlereagh Road,Belfast. The best place for homemade sweets,from honeycomb to yellow man,boiled sweets to chewy ones,old classics like fudge to new chocolates like the Belfast Bar. All made fresh at Aunt Sandras. 


Aunt Sandra and Donny started in 1953 now “uncles” Jim and David run it. They are extremely busy and supply many well known local establishments. They also do wedding sweet carts, functions, hen parties, birthday parties, corporate events and have on site facilities for tea/coffee and shows/parties. 

Have one of the original Willy Wonka Golden tickets (signed of course by Willy Wonka). The Hairy Bikers have been and Uncle Jim has met the Queen!!! They were also nominated for one of the best Visitor Attractions in Belfast at a glitzy do at La Mon Hotel last night.

So for all things sweet visit Aunt Sandras!!!

The BelfastFoodMan
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The Belfasttravelman loves to travel. Be it for a nice scenic walk,to taking to the skies or by rail,sea and road.
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