Eels are good, eels are good

It’s Eel week here in NI and its really exciting to big up a local delicacy. The festival runs from 25th June culminating in the Lough Neagh Eel Festival on Saturday 2nd July in Shane’s Castle, Antrim.


Our eels hail from Mexico, are carried to Irish Waters by the Gulf Stream, then they make their way up the river Bann and into Lough Neagh!!!! What a journey. Also did you know eels can be male or female depending on what’s required!!! Eels have been a staple for many folk around Lough Neagh but alas the vast majority of our eels are exported to Denmark and Holland.

As a celebration to the humble eel 17 eelivores descended on Deanes Love Fish last night to sample some eel. Now I have had eel Japanese style (sushi and tempura)  which was fabulous but have not managed to try the infamous jellied eels of Cockney East End London!!!!


On the eel menu there were three dishes. There was eel cakes, eel on toast and eel salad. I had the cakes which were lovely and tried the toast which was also very fine, but the eel salad was the tastiest in the sense that one could really discern the taste of the eel, which was subtly fishy and fleshy.


For my main I chose the battered haddock, fat chips, tartare and the best mushy peas I’ve tasted!! Alas it was just enough for me-couldn’t manage a dessert but others did.


The evening was facilitated by Shane from @tweetmeateat and #nistartupshour and it was a great forum to meet like minded folk. The venue was superb as was the food and service.


So get down to Shane’s Castle, support eel week in local restaurants and check out #nistartupshour on Tuesday from 9-10 pm on Twitter.

Belfast Blues Brunch

What a superb way to spend a late Saturday morning with fine folk, amazing venue and brunch whilst listening to some great music.

That’s exactly what we did today. The venue was the St Georges Bar and Grill in the market. The brunch was bacon and sausage sandwiches (with HP sauce!!!) and tea/coffee. 

The event was laid on by American Holidays and Michelle McTernan Management to celebrate the ongoing 8th Belfast Blues Festival. The entertainment was provided by Motown Sensations from Los Angeles. There was a ready made fantastic audience to play in front of and boy these guys sang some amazing covers, my favourite being “under the Boardwalk”.


The festival is on for the rest of today and tomorrow around various locations in Belfast.

Trip to Ballintoy

A group of us were whisked away to Ballintoy for an overnight stay at Fullerton Arms. We were met by Sean and Geraldine, who took the reigns in February this year and have started to spruce the place up. They’ve spent £6000 on new beds and Invest NI are on board.


After checking in we were marvelling the Game of Tbrones paraphernalia and the 9th carved door from the Dark Hedges.


We lunched on soup and sandwiches and fish and chips. We then went to Bushmills distillery for a private tour and tasting of the single malts (10,12,16 and 21 year old).


Next stop for us “Thronies” was the Dark Hedges- the iconic landmark which is synonymous with Game Of Thrones.


After our tour it was back to the Arms for some local beer tasting, dinner, “craic” and bed.


After a hearty brekky it was back home. A lovely 24 hours, great people, food and service. Well worth checking out!!

Middle Eastern Cuisine in Belfast

Belfast has become very international in its cuisine, from Indian to Chinese, French to Italian, American to South African to name but a few. The latest region to be represented is the Middle East. I can count at least three and one which 20 or so of us tried this evening was Falafel in the University Quarter in Belfast.


To start with I opted for a refreshing strawberry and banana smoothie. This was not too thick or sweet and was delicious. For main course I chose the lamb shwarma plate and Baba ganoush. The lamb was grilled pieces served with flat bread, salad and houmous. Baba ganoush is a smoked puréed aubergine accompaniment. The lamb was grilled and spiced perfectly and went very well with the salad bread and garlic mayo. The Baba ganoush was a great accompaniment. 


Dessert was a piece of freshly made baklava and washed down with a caramel macchiato. This is a great restaurant and coffee shop. One can come and have a cuppa or have a Middle Eastern Feast. The menu was so inviting that I shall definitely come back and try more dishes.

TESCO taste

Tesco Taste Festival Returns to Belfast 

Northern Ireland’s biggest celebration of local favourites – with cooking demonstrations and music. A great day out! Free entry.

 

 

WHAT: Tesco Taste Festival 2016

 

WHERE: Custom House Square, Belfast City Centre

 

WHEN: 16th – 18th September 2016

Friday 16th: 2pm – 8pm

Saturday 17th: 10am – 6pm

Sunday 18th: 10am – 5pm

 

The fabulous Tesco Taste Festival is returning to Custom House Square in Belfast on the weekend of 16th – 18th September 2016. Now in its eighth year, the Festival, which attracts around 20,000 visitors, looks set to be even bigger and better than before.

 

The Festival, which celebrates and showcases all that’s great about Northern Ireland food and drink producers, suppliers and chefs, promises a superb weekend of tasting, demonstrations, cookery tips and recipes using top local produce, and entertainment for all the family!

 

Share the Tesco love of local food and drink – visit http://www.facebook.com/tastenorthernireland for updates during the countdown to this foodie extravaganza!

Comber spuds

Tesco NI Welcomes First Crop of Comber Earlies
Lovers of Comber new potatoes have had to wait an extra couple of weeks to enjoy their favourite potatoes this year due to the wet winter but Tesco NI is pleased to announce their long-awaited arrival in store this week.
Comber Earlies, as they are known, will be in Tesco stores from Saturday, June 18.
Tesco potato supplier Angus Wilson from the Craigavon-based Wilson’s Country say potato farmers were hampered by the very cold and wet winter when planting the much loved Comber potato this year.
Commenting on this year’s late harvest, Angus Wilson said: “Combers are normally planted in February but the incessant rain and cold made for very low soil temperatures and delayed planting until St. Patrick’s Day so, while they are usually harvested during the first week in June, we’ve been delayed this year.
“Poor weather, especially frost, has had an impact on growing conditions but we have worked very closely with our potato farmers to ensure there is a steady supply of Combers this summer so people can enjoy that first taste of summer as soon as possible.”
Potato grower Hugh Chambers, who supplies Tesco NI through Wilson Country from his farm on Reagh Island on the shores of Strangford Lough, has been helped by the recent bout of warm weather which has sped up the growing process.
He explained: “The potato is a sunny crop and the sunshine and heat during the month of May has really helped make up for the bad weather and allowed us get ready for harvesting for mid-June.”
Caoimhe Mannion, Marketing Manager, Tesco NI said: “Tesco NI sources the freshest Northern Irish produce and we are delighted once again to announce the arrival of our new season Comber Earlies which will be available in all our stores from June 18. The fabulous flavour of Comber Earlies is a favourite across the whole of Northern Ireland and beyond and we are delighted to be first to market with them this year.”
The uniqueness of the potato grown around the town of Comber in Co Down has earned it Protected Geographical Indication status in Brussels – similar to the protection enjoyed by the exclusive French Champagne grape.
PGI is awarded by the European Commission to protect and promote named regional food products that have a reputation or noted characteristics specific to an area.
Comber Earlies can only be grown in an area which stretches from the town of Comber to the Ards Peninsula and close to Crossgar, Killyleagh, Saintfield and Carryduff in Co Down. The seed tubers of the potatoes are planted in drills from early January or as soon as conditions allow. This is much earlier than elsewhere in Northern Ireland where planting of second early and main crop varieties does not usually take place until the end of March or later.
The potatoes are normally harvested between the last week of May and the end of July.

Institute of Hospitality get together

The Roof Top Garden at the Merchant Hotel was the venue for the post Janus Awards Institue of Hospitality get together.

The weather stayed kind and the sun actually came out and warmed us up!! The soirée was a celebration and photo opportunity , post awards, of some of the winners, sponsors and media who attended the awards. 


On arrival there was a drinks reception and all were warmly welcomed by the Chairman Michael Cafolla. There was a super singer/musician setting the ambience whilst we mingled.

There was also a finger buffet serving up fish and chips, chicken and chips, beef sliders and steak puff pastries. The chicken and fish tasted great. After the nibbles Michael gave a speech and thanked us all for coming. Superb evening with wonderful people in a unique location.

Granny Annie’s Belgian Evening

I attended  a Belgian themed evening at  the newly opened Granny Annie’s in Belfast. This used to be Victoria’s and Rumpoles before. 


It was a celebration of Belgian Heverlee beer hosted by the master brewer Joris Brams who gave a masterclass in the Heverlee story. This was followed by Belgian food (I had veggie burger, fries and mayo) and divine Belgian waffles and ice cream. Then the band took the night away.


 Appreciation of this premium Belgian Lager may seem all too easy but, as guests from trade and media discovered, there’s an art to serving up Heverlee’s celebrated ‘perfected pint’ … and appreciation is deepened when you find out what lies behind this great heritage-based beer.

Heverlee is derived from a centuries-old recipe originally used by medieval monks at the Abbey of the order of Premontre, just outside Joris’s hometown of Leuven. Beer was brewed there since 1129, providing refreshment almost exclusively destined for the monks and those who laboured on the Abbey lands. Brewing stopped around 1500/1600 and the recipe was long forgotten until Joris began his research. 

 He was so impressed at the recipe he unearthed for a traditional yet hugely distinctive Belgian Pils, that he revived both the recipe and skills. Working with the monks and a local brewer, the ultra-smooth Heverlee of today was born, using barley, hops and a much slower, more traditional brewing process than the bigger Belgian brands to ensure a distinctive original Pils bitterness within its complex taste characteristics. Today Heverlee can proudly claim that it is once again deliciously brewed with ingredients and methods with roots dating back to Medieval times.

Heverlee is a Premium Belgian Lager with 4.8% alcohol by volume. It is what’s known as an ‘Abbey Beer’, only ever brewed in Belgium, still in association with the Abbey of Premontre in Leuven. It is made to a traditional Pils style recipe from malted barley, Noble Saaz aroma hops, yeast, maize and fresh water combine to create a light, crisp and balanced flavour.

 Heverlee is served in a chalice glass designed to preserve the beer head and concentrate its flavours. In a dash of in-bar theatricality, the foam is traditionally sliced off with a knife, perhaps worryingly known as ‘beheading’, which removes the larger bubbles, protecting the liquid underneath from exposure to the air and maintaining the head’s bitter aromas.

 But there’s even more to pouring what Heverlee has dubbed its ‘perfected pour’ and Joris has created a six step programme to guide bartenders through the exacting process. Delivering perfection with every pour ensures that the customer always receives the beer as it should be, but it also reminds the bartender that this is a product like no other: worthy of respectful handling.

 The Heverlee logo features the Abbey’s Latin motto ‘Ne Quid Nimis’, reflecting a philosophy of ‘life in balance’ The literal English translation of the Latin phrase is ‘nothing in excess’ … which is perhaps good advice when you discover a Beer as exceptional and great-tasting as Heverlee.

National Picnic Week Gift from TESCO

I was over the moon to receive my wonderful gift from TESCO to help kick off National Picnic Week which runs from Saturday 11th til the 20th.


The hamper was full to the brim with local Northern Irish produce. This included breads, salad and fruit, pate, crisps, dairy produce (which nicely coincides with Norther Ireland Year of Food and Drink’s 2016 Dairy Month) eggs, ham, desserts, fruit juice, ciders and beers!!!!


Amazing spread….. and all local produce. I’m looking forward to tucking into it. All we need now is some good weather!!!

Trip to Ikea

Love IKEA……. Took my 7 year old daughter here for a treat
and yes she loves Ikea. She wanted ice cream and a hot dog.We saw the newly refurbished and very comfy restaurant which I will try soon!!
After our meeting with Moira to catch up on the Live Lagom project (which I missed) I received loads of stuff for my terrarium. I got a big glass jar, round stones, activated charcoal, dehydrated soil, decorated stones and two plants. 


We then saw the hydroponic section which is the newest range IKEA are doing. This involves growing plants etc from seeds using wool, water, pumice, light and feed….and no soil- have to get one!!


Then it was off to the bistro.  My daughter wanted frozen yoghurt instead of ice cream. So we had a hot dog each and she was chuffed with her yoghurt and I was over the moon about my terrarium!!!