War on sugar

The war on sugar. Please read these two articles!!
Sugar: Can we trust industry? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33675441#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa
What a can of Coca-Cola REALLY does to your body in just an hour http://t.co/bXbiR63EKy
Well done TESCO for starting the revolution with ban on Ribena and Caprisun. Let’s have the snowball effect.

Happy 5th bday Safa

I was invited to share the 5th birthday of Safa Indian Restaurant by the proprietor and chef Ali. Can’t believe it’s been 5 years!! Ali was telling me that they have done the kitchen up and redecorated and it looks well.   
On arrival guests were offered a glass of Prosecco. Once upstairs there was a live 3 piece band and some Indian dancing. Food was also served being a plate of vegetable pakoras, samosa, chicken tikka, chicken jalfrezi, pilau rice and salad.

All in all a great night, brilliantly done and wishing Safa many more birthdays to come!!!!


Day one for me at the Irish Quality Food Awards, held at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Catha Bruga Road (behind the Gresham Hotel).
I got the Aircoach from Belfast to O’Connell Street at 6.30 arriving at 08.45, ready for 9am start. The category was bread. I along with 8 other judges tried/sampled 50 varieties of bread. Never realised there were so many, totally carbed out!! There were four categories and we had to choose our top 3. These were then whittled down to winner and highly recommended. The winners to be announced at the IQFA Dinner at The Round Room, Mansion House on 16th September. 
Will be returning tomorrow. Meantime I’ll have a nap on the bus. 
Ciao for now.

Oyster Festival 

Hi and that time of year gearing up for holidays, sun and oysters!! The Oyster Festival press release is below. You either love or loathe them, which one are you?
Let the world be your oyster at the annual Hillsborough International Oyster Festival 2015. Running from Tuesday 1st to Sunday 6thSeptember, this world-famous Festival offers visitors the opportunity to sample the finest locally sourced produce and to be entertained by local artists and fun activities. 
The Hillsborough Oyster Festival will include activities, performances and eating experiences to satisfy all tastes. This year’s Festival will see the return of the World Oyster Eating Championship, the glamourous Pearl and Oyster Ball, The Oyster Masters Golf, the Super Car Dream Sunday and the Soapbox Derby which is being sponsored by TrustFord this year. The line-up will also feature the debut of a number of exciting events including the appetising Hillsborough Gourmet Pop-Up Restaurant. 
The week-long Oyster Festival attracts large numbers of tourists to the Hillsborough area each year and now in its 23rd year, the prestigious event once again anticipates many visitors from the USA, Japan and beyond, all travelling to Northern Ireland to indulge in the unique food festival.  
Speaking at the launch of this year’s event, Don Spence, Chairman, Festival organising committee said, “Each year the Festival goes from strength to strength and contributes enormously to the local tourism industry. It sparks interest among food lovers, car fanatics and music fans. This year we’re looking forward to having racer Guy Martin join us for the TrustFord Soap Box Derby, as well welcoming the Ulster Youth Orchestra as a new addition to the Festival line-up, all in support of our nominated charities, Clubs for Young People (CYP NI) and the Hillsborough Village Centre.”
Premium gastronomy is a core ingredient of the Festival’s success with shellfish taking centre stage on Saturday 5th September at the World Oyster Eating Championship where competitors will be given the chance to win the coveted champion’s title. The new Gourmet Pop-up restaurant which premiers on Thursday 3rd September will provide guests with an exclusive dining experience comprising a three-course meal with dishes prepared by chefs from the MourneSeafood Bar, The Hillside, The Parson’s Nose and The Plough. 
Don Spence adds, “The Festival is a great opportunity for neighbourhood restaurants to display their culinary flair and local food producers to exhibit their home-grown goods at the Festival’s Gourmet Food Market.”
In addition to the cuisine, The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival also gives visitors the chance to delight in the company of the local community through the scheduled social events such as the Oyster Masters Golf Day, live concerts, the Pearl and Oyster Blues Brothers Ball, and during the open-air motor show at Super Car Dream Sunday. 
The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival also kindly acknowledges the support of Tourism NI and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council in the staging of this year’s event.
For further information or to purchase tickets visit http://www.hillsboroughoysterfestival.com
For media inquiries and interview opportunities please contact Julie McCabe (julie@massivepr.tv / 07801 989950) or Brittany Breslin (Brittany@massivepr.tv / 07786 964 645) at Massive PR.
Notes to Editors:
About Hillsborough International Oyster Festival
Now in its 23rd year, The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival is one of Northern Ireland’s premier events, attracting thousands of visitors each year from across the world. Set in the historic, picturesque Georgian village of Hillsborough, Co. Down the event takes place from 1st – 6th September 2015 and visitors can look forward to food and festivities with a packed programme of activities and entertainment. 
Event Schedule – Hillsborough International Oyster Festival 2015  
▪ Tuesday 1st September – The Oysters Masters Golf Day in association with Lexus and Finlay Wealth Management

▪ Wednesday 2nd September – Oyster Festival Musical Evening featuring the music of Hamilton Harty and friends. In association with the Ulster Youth Orchestra, PortadownMale Voice Choir, Music Matters and SD Bells

▪ Thursday 3rd September – Hillsborough International Oyster Festival Pop-up Restaurant featuring the best of eating from the village and beyond and will entertainment from the world famous Faulty Towers cast. Supported by MourneSeafood, The Hillside, The Parson’s Nose, The Plough Inn, Deloitte, SD Bells, and Finlay Wealth Management

▪ Friday 4th September – Pearl and Oyster Blues Brothers Ball in association with Trust Ford and Finlay Wealth Management

▪ Saturday 5th September (Day) – The World Oyster Eating Championship 

▪ Saturday 5th September (Night) – The Flash Harry and Friends Live Concert & BBQ 

▪ Sunday 6th September – Super Car Dream Sunday 

For further details on the event please visit http://www.hillsboroughoysterfestival.com

TESCO NI local produce

I had the pleasure of visiting TESCO NI headquarters in Newtownabbey on Tuesday. I was the guest of Caoimhe Mannion (TESCO NI Marketing Manager) arranged by David McCavery (Serious PR). I was flattered that they extended the invite,so a big thanks guys. 
Caoimhe gave a presentation on TESCO globally, nationally but more importantly locally. As you know I like to champion local produce and have seen TESCO increase this since its start in NI in 1997. 
Then they spent £50 million on local food and drink. Now they are spending £550 million!! 
They purchase over 1500 lines from local producers and farmers, buying from over 90 local companies. All fresh beef, pork, chicken, milk and eggs are local. All local products have the TESCO taste Northern Ireland symbol.

TESCO as a company do invest in staff (8000 plus employees) in training, development and incentivisation. They also support local charities eg Foodbank,

the local community eg with the Ulster rugby team and local kids. They also do store visits for schools. All is good so far.
I was presented with a small selection of local produce,which I am greatful for. It’s great to see the help TESCO give to local artisans such as Clandeboye yoghurt a and smoothies, indeed TESCO do artisan markets and tastings in their stores.

One thing that struck me when I examined the smoothie from Clandeboye, was the amount of sugar in it. I’m not going to disclose the figures here, suffice to say it was too much, on a different note when I tasted it it did not taste very sweet!!! My point here is a bigger one. I would like to see TESCO doing more to educate people- staff, producers and customers in health issues. We are sitting on a health ticking time bomb with increasing rates of Type II Diabetes, heart disease, obesity and tooth decay.

 I feel it is part responsibility of the likes of supermarkets, the government, the education system and media to pass message on. Unfortunately we live in a rushed age, a convenience age and have lost the art of scratch cooking from healthy wholesome produce and we in NI are spoilt with choice for quality produce.
Couple of other points I raised was recycling of packaging (use of biodegradable packaging) and a reduction in the number of lines on display. As a consumer it is difficult to pick foods as there is too much choice.

Also I want to see less emphasis on “colourful” packaging for kids food (which is inflated in price and not as nutritionally beneficial as we are led to believe), being a father of two young girls I know!!
In summary I do feel TESCO is stepping up to the plate and batting well, they could do better and I have every confidence that they will.