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.