Franciscan Cans of Beer

Tonight saw the launch of Franciscan Well canned craft beer. The beers are brewed in Cork and the venue for the launch was The Dark Horse in the Cathedral Quarter. 

On arrival we were handed a can of Rebel Red (a red ale) which was rather palatable. The Friar Weisse or wheat beer was also nice and not too bitter. Didn’t get to taste the Irish Pale Ale, although my mates said it was good!! The cans are colour coded (red, blue and green respectively).


There were prizes to be one for the funniest tweets, also a fine spread of finger foods laid on by The Dark Horse and all the while there was a live band keeping us entertained!! Big thanks to Michael and Ciara from Duffy Rafferty, to The Dark Horse-where,for the Game of Thrones fans, is the 10th carved door and lastly Franciscan Well!!

Souls Restaurant opening

The newest eatery in Belfast City Centre opened its doors this evening. It’s situated on the busy Dublin Road and occupies the old Square restaurant.


It’s the brainchild of Pankaj and Sommerdeep (and their wives!!) who have worked long and hard to make their dreams a reality. The whole building has been totally transformed and will do very well. The restaurant is split over two floors and has an open plan kitchen upstairs and bar downstairs. It can comfortably hold 85-90 diners.


The genre of food, head chef Sanjay explained was Indian food served in a European style- a proper Indo-Euro mixed cuisine. Sanjay has trained in the Hastings Group and Spice in Lisburn and his partner chef Rakesh has worked in Portugal, Spain and for Atul Kochar as well as at Taaj Jordanstown. They put on a fine assortment of canapés. These were  mushroom veloute, aubergine bruschetta, tandoori chicken cake, salmon and wheaten and lemon posset. There was prosecco on arrival and matched wines with the canapés. If the canapés are a reflection of the quality of the A la Carte Belfast is sure in for a culinary treat.

The Mash Direct Great Mashed Veg Off!!

It’s the start of our very own Mash Direct Great Mashed Veg Off!!!


The idea is to cook up some recipes, dishes, concoctions and fine fayre using one or more of the vast array of Mash Direct produce. 

I picked up my goodies at the week end and I’ve already cooked up some fab dishes- will keep you posted in due course!!!


Please cook and share on #MashedVegOff for a chance to win some prizes!!

Taaj Jordanstown- award winning restaurant

When Manjeev (partner and chef) and Pradeep (partner) arrived from India in 2004 and 2006 respectively, they never could have guessed that they would be the proud owners of two award winning, authentic and genuine Indian restaurants!! I spent a bit of time with Manjeev and here’s what I gleaned……


After arriving in NI, Manjeev worked in The Thunderdome in Glengormley for a couple of years before joining Crawfordsburn Inn restaurant in 2006 til 2013. He had a good education in India studying Hotel Management. He then worked for some high level hotels such as the Five Star Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi, this hotel is one of Delhi’s finest- I’ve eaten there and it is truly magnificent. The lure of the U.K. Was too strong and he arrived in NI in 2004. Along with his partner Pradeep they opened The Taaj in Magherafelt in 2013 and then in 2014 they opened the 75 seater Taaj in Jordanstown. They have been nominated for 2015 Irish Restaurant Awards and won The Best World Cuisine in Ulster as part of the 2016 Irish Restaurant Awards. They are one of my joint favourites in the category of Best Newcomer in the upcoming Irish Curry Awards 2016…. Vote here: http://www.irishcurryawards.com


When I met Manjeev on Monday in Jordanstown he had donned the chefs hat and was at the coal face!! The regular chef Nirmal Rana had a well deserved day off!! Chef Rana came to NI in 2007 after being head chef at the 5 Star Oberoi in Shimla. He then worked in Spice in Lisburn before joining Taaj. Top quality chefs are very hard to come by (thanks to the EU immigration laws-that’s a whole new post!!) and command top salaries!!!


The Taaj has a very strong, characteristic logo of the Lion’s head and is very memorable-that’s just the decor. The service is top quality and the food standard, portion size and taste makes for very good value for money. I have eaten here before on numerous occasions as well as having food at outside catered events and private parties and at all times the food was special. Good, wholesome, authentic North Indian food. Manjeev was telling me that they are diversifying the menu and he let me try some crispy chilli chicken with Thai dressing on lettuce served with fries. Whilst being very tasty I got chef to rustle up a side of madras sauce-that really made all the difference. I’m certainly going to pay another visit very soon!!!

Fantastic Fish Feast For Four

Yep you read right….our meals last night were some of the best fish dishes We’ve had for some time!!!
We (my wife and two girls) arrived about 5pm. We were shown to our table by the general manager, Lauren, and served by a lovely, bubbly, pleasant young lady.


Whilst we sipped our chilled bottled water we ordered two kids meals of haddock and chips, bottle juice, ice cream (£6 each),

Strangford Mussels in creamy veloute and toast,

Bread selection and oils and tapenade,


Salmon, scallops, mash, broccoli, crayfish butter sauce (for my wife)

Sea bass, scallops, parsley mash, broccoli, crayfish butter sauce (me)

Onion rings £2.95

White creme brûlée with berry compote.(2 course £17.95, 3 course £22.95).


The haddock was crispy outside and the fish was flaky and kids loved it!! The mussels were superb-kids also loved them. Our mains of salmon and sea bass were perfectly crisped on the skin and the flesh was flaky and really good and the scallops and butter crayfish complimented it very well. My wife had plain madh anI had the parsley mash-staff and chef were very accommodating and made our trip very special!!

I was so pleased to have the food served on plain white crockery so the food was seen in all its glory .

The dessert of ice cream for the kids and our creme brûlée rounded off a perfect meal and experience. Will definitely be back to try out the A La Carte and possibly the Italian night or Christmas-check directly with Ivory for details.

 

Finnebrogue Hans Sloane Chocolate Festival

What a fabulous two day event in the lovely County Down Town of Killyleagh. 

The Finnebrogue Chocolate and Fine Food Festival celebrated the Life of Sir Hans Sloane and took place on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September at the Killyleagh Castle Towers. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Tourism NI and Tourism NI Year of Food and Drink are big supporters with principal sponsor being Finnebrogue Artisan.


Hans Sloane was born in Killyleagh in 1660. He was a famous physician and was President of The Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. As a young man he travelled to Jamaica and tasted chocolate which he described as “nauseous”. He believed chocolate was medicinal and came up with a recipe with milk and sugar to make it taste better. The recipe was adopted by the Cadbury brothers chocolate confection took off.


Before we actually entered the grounds we were fortunate to sample the fine produce from Mash Direct (I even got some goodie bags of Mash Direct produce which I’m going to try-thanks to Tim!!), also got to try locally produced chicken dishes and sweet dishes courtesy of Marks and Spencer’s (Moy Park and Genesis respectively). 


There were many “sweet” stalls showing off some very fine chocolates, sweets, preserveres, cakes and bakes. A selection can be seen below:


Also on offer were savouries eg meats, oils, butter and olives, again see above and below:


The central attraction was the live kitchen demos and I was lucky to see chef Chris serve up lots of Finnebrogue Artisan sausages, including three chilli sausage, pork and apple and breakfast sausages-I tried the three chilli and they sure packed a punch!!


There was plenty to do for kids outside the castle and inside courtesy of the Army and entertainers….even saw some Storm Troopers. What a fantastic way to spend a Sunday afternoon!!

Sausage pasta

Made a nice pasta dish for dinner this evening!! I fried off my Dohertys chorizo styled Pork sausages, cut them up and cooked them with chopped cauliflower, celery and fusilli whole meal pasta, before adding pasata and cream cheese. I seasoned and served with grated cheddar….delicious and simple. We all loved it!!

Dinner at Daniel’s at Tweedies

We visited last night to celebrate my wife’s birthday and were bowled over!! Chef and proprietor Daniel, who has achieved much at still a young age, concentrates on a select menu using only the finest local ingredients to serve up high quality Irish cuisine.

Loved the fact that there was ice cold water to drink at out table and my wife had a mini bottle of Zinfandel,which she loved. 
We were only planning main courses but Daniel sent us out chicken liver parfait with melba toast to start. Now both my wife and I are not huge pate fans-but this dish was very well presented and the parfait was very creamy but alas it was not to our tastes!!! Also it was served on black plate and I’m not keen on coloured plates as colours can diminish the look of the food-plain white round crockery all the time.


My wife’s main course was Haddock and chips with mushy peas, tartare sauce and a wedge of lemon for my wife, whilst I had Pork belly with kale, apple purée and ham hock/black pudding croquant served with olive oil creamed potato. Presentation was good but on coloured plates so couldn’t clearly make out my dish fully. Taste wise the fish was perfectly cooked and chips fat and crispy. The pork was exceptional as was the croquant and the purée was superb. The olive oil creamed potatoes worked really well. Two delicious dishes, excellent taste and portion sizes-would have liked a bit more purée.
After dinner Daniel sent us a divine dessert of chocolate parfait with raspberry sorbet and homemade honeycomb, which we found room for and was a most perfect way to end a wonderful meal. I washed it down with an Americano coffee and fresh cream. 


The service was brilliant, our young lady server was attentive, professional and charming. When we checked in it was on a laptop and when we asked for and paid the bill it was done on a tablet using a PayPal card machine and I even got my receipt emailed to me-how very modern!! We really had an amazing evening and would recommend Daniel’s at Tweedies for quality Irish cuisine. 

The Belfast Food Man

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German Doner Kebab

SOMETHING NEW ON THE MENU FOR UK FAST FOOD LOVERSIntroducing the new German engineered kebab 

 

A brand new style of restaurant is promising to reinvent the kebab for the British public. No longer will the kebab be considered an unhealthy, greasy, after-pub snack… as it has now undergone a much needed makeover.

 

German Doner Kebab (GDK) is a fast-food franchise, created in Germany in 1989, specialising in classic, authentic and healthy kebabs. When created, the vision was to produce to provide fresh, tasty and healthy kebabs using high quality produce combined with excellent customer service.

 

What do consumers demand from a fast-food restaurant? High-quality produce, value for money, visually attractive design with eye-catching branding are all vital components. This is certainly the view of new German Doner Kebab franchisee Hemanth Bollini, who has over 17 years of experience working within the food franchise sector.

 

Hemanth, who opened his GDK franchise in Islington around 10 weeks ago, previously worked for Domino’s Pizza for 17 years. He initially joined Dominos as a part-time order taker to fund his IT course at college, but soon found he had a passion for the food industry and quickly gave up on IT to go full-time. He then progressed from an order taker to store manager within 11 months, and latterly was managing 21 stores for the franchise owner.

 

He explains: “When I started out in the franchise food sector I only saw it as a short term move to fund my IT course, but 17 years later and I am still in it. I quickly moved from an order taker to store manager within 11 months. Fast-forward 17 years and I was managing 21 stores for the franchise owner. 

 

“The concept of German Doner Kebab instantly appealed to me, I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience in the food industry over the last 17 years and for me GDK ticks every box. The store concept is visually very attractive, and the food quality is extremely high. The fast food market is very competitive, and usually seen as unhealthy, however GDK brings in a new dimension to the kebab market by offering a quality fresh gourmet range which is also healthy.

 

“We chose Islington as my business partner knew the location well, and we both thought it was a great location for a GDK store as regards our target markets and footfall numbers. We have been open for around 10 weeks now and so far it is going well. Like any new business we have our challenges, like learning the business and finding the right staff, but we have already built up a good return customer base. One of the things that really attracted me to GDK was the knowledge that when a customer tries our food they are very likely to return. We are often getting told that they are the ‘best kebabs they have ever eaten’ and that they ‘love our set up with the banquet seats.”

 

The German Doner Kebab franchise was introduced to the UK and Ireland by United Brands who acquired the master franchise. The Sarwar family operate one of Scotland’s most successful business groups. The £230m empire encompasses a wholesale cash and carry business, 532 franchised convenience stores, a chain of pubs, Asian restaurants and a pharmacy group as well as a soft play centre and bowling alley.

 

So why get into the doner kebab business? Athif Sarwar of United Brands explains: “Four years ago I was on a business trip to Dubai and came across German Doner Kebab. I was blown away by how tasty and fresh the meal was so I decided to investigate the company. I visited the HQ in Dubai and discovered they had over 40 stores globally. I loved the concept of using only 100% lean succulent meat which is of the highest quality and they also had baked their breads. In recent years the doner kebab has had a tarnished reputation as a greasy snack you have after one too many pints…GDK turns this on its head!”

 

In contrast to most kebab outlets the GDK concept is primarily a sit-in restaurant as well as providing take-away with a 60/40 split predicted. All the meat and bread is provided from the factory in Germany and the signature sauces come from Dubai. “Quality and consistency is paramount and the only way we can do this is by providing our own ingredients,” stressed Athif. “GDK has been doing this for 25 years so they have it down to a fine art. The kebab is very popular in Germany and is considered the number one street food. Our kebabs offer a healthy alternative to burgers as they are lower in calories. The meat is 100% pure and is grilled not fried. It is a very simple franchise to operate as it does not require a qualified chef to prepare the meals, it’s more a case of assembling the ingredients…. the German Engineered Kebab. One million fans on the international Facebook page can’t be wrong!”

 

The Causeway Coastal route

COAST ALONG IN NORTHERN IRELAND THIS AUTUMN

AUTUMN is almost here and the clear, crisp weather is the perfect time to plan a trip around Northern Ireland’s spectacular Causeway Coastal Route which starts in Belfast and stretches to Derry~Londonderry.

Whether you are planning a day trip or a long weekend away, you can enjoy an exhilarating drive which will see you take in some of the most beautiful coastal views in Europe.

Rachel Quigg, Communications & Destination PR Officer, explains why a trip to the Causeway Coastal Route with friends or family is a great way to stave off the fast approaching winter blues:

“The weather may be getting cooler and the evenings darker but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and about and discover some of Northern Ireland’s most stunning scenery.

“Northern Ireland is simply bursting with scenic views, tourist hot spots, filming locations and off the beaten track gems just waiting to be uncovered so if there are places along the coast you have always wanted to visit, then now is the time to go,” added Rachel.

Tourism Northern Ireland has put together a list of fun destinations and events that are taking place all along the Causeway Coastal Route over the coming weeks:

PLACES TO VISIT

Carrickfergus Castle is one of Northern Ireland’s most impressive monuments and one of Ireland’s best preserved medieval structures. Visitors can enjoy the castle throughout the year at fun family days out where they will learn about its colourful history.

For breath-taking views, visit Torr Head, which forms Northern Ireland’s closest point to Scotland which is just 13 miles away. It’s a narrow road but worth the winding journey for the stunning views of Fair Head, Rathlin Island and the Antrim and Scottish coastlines.

Bonamargy Friar is situated just outside the lively seaside town of Ballycastle and is the perfect place for a picturesque stop off on a tour of the Causeway Coastal Route. Look out for a memorial to Guglielmo Marconi who carried out the first tests on radio signals in NI in 1898.

For a scenic and tranquil setting Roe Valley Country Park is ideal as it offers spectacular riverside views and woodland walks. The park is known for its abundance of wildlife, birds and Springtime wild flowers and visitors can also learn more about the industrial and natural heritage of the area in the museum and countryside. Keep a look out for the ‘Leap of the Dog’ feature and don’t forget to enjoy some refreshments in Ritters Team Room before continuing your journey.


The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its basalt columns, is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland and in 2015 was awarded the UKs Best Heritage Attraction at the British Travel Awards. The Giant’s Causeway is also steeped in myth and legend. Some say it was carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool who left behind an ancient home full of folklore. A more recent addition is the innovative Visitors’ Centre, offering 360 degree views of the Causeway coastline, with exhibits and interactive spaces that unlock the secrets of the fascinating landscape.

 A short coastal footpath leads to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which boasts an exhilarating rope bridge experience. On the way, there are wonderful vantage points to stop and take in the natural beauty. The geology, flora and fauna have won Carrick-a-Rede recognition as an area of special scientific interest. Traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede Island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets but today visitors are drawn here simply to take the rope bridge challenge!


Old Bushmills Distillery is the oldest working distillery in Ireland, based on the beautiful Causeway Coast. It is here that Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made. Take a guided tour around a working distillery and take in all the associated sights and smells. There are also tutored whiskey tastings available, a gift shop with exclusive Bushmills merchandise as well as a specialist whiskey shop. A whiskey or soft drink in the 1608 Bar is offered at the conclusion of the tour, with Bushmills-inspired treats available in the restaurant throughout the day.

The ruins of Dunluce Castle are an iconic sight on the dramatic coastal cliffs, and tell the story of a long and turbulent history. Visitors to the castle can learn of its story filled with drama, legend and intrigue dating back to the 16th century. An audiovisual tour of the castle is available, with a treasure hunt encouraging younger visitors to explore. A Dunluce Castle app is also available free of charge from the App Store and Google Play.

Experience the dramatic setting of Downhill Demesne which was the romantic vision of Frederick Hervey, an 18th century Earl Bishop of Derry. Mussenden Temple is also located on the grounds of the Demesne near Castlerock and perches dramatically on a 120 ft cliff top, high above the Atlantic Ocean and offers spectacular views over Downhill Strand towards Magilligan Point. Both the Temple and the surrounding views are among the most photographed scenes in Ireland so visitors should be sure to go along and capture their own memories.

Ballintoy Harbour can be found in the picturesque village of Ballintoy. The village itself, which is just one kilometre from the harbour, has a charming array of small shops, two churches, including the quaint white Ballintoy Parish Church on the hill above the harbour, as well as accommodation, restaurants, commercial and social facilities. For those looking to capture a true sense of Irish rural life, it is an ideal stop over whilst touring the coastal route.

THINGS TO DO

Stargazing, Carrick-a-Rede, Ballintoy, October 15. Always had an interest in astronomy but struggle to tell the difference between the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor? Why not come along and discover the Cosmos and the Constellations. You may even be lucky enough to spot a shooting star on the night, or maybe even the Northern Lights. Members from the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society will bring equipment and are on site to guide you providing plenty of opportunities to ask questions.

Rathlin Island Tour. Take a high speed boat tour of the iconic Causeway coastline. Leaving from Portrush harbour, the tour will travel along the Causeway Coast, visiting the Skerries, Dunluce Castle, the Giant’s Causeway, White Park Bay, Ballintoy, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and then over to Rathlin Island to the bird sanctuary and the West Lighthouse. Bring jackets, binoculars and cameras.

Foraging For Food, St. Patrick’s Church Car Park, Cushendun, October 1. Come along and explore this beautiful woodland in the company of forager Glenn White. You can find out about edible plants, what’s safe to eat and what’s not. Discover a multitude of edible goodies and learn how to make wild garlic pesto, nettle soup and a whole variety of wild salad and greens – all this and nature too. Pre-booking is essential.

Northern Ireland Potato Festival, Causeway Hotel, Bushmills, October 1. The Festival showcases all that is local, fresh and seasonal, bringing together the public and the farming community in celebration of all aspects of the local potato industry. The Potato Festival is held in a region known and respected for the strength of the local agri-food industry, world-class food and beautiful scenery, and is free to members of the public. Come and enjoy a day out for all the family, with something for everyone to enjoy including food tasting, face painting, games and lots more.

Free Community Open Day, Giant’s Causeway, October 1. Discover the world-class Visitor Experience at Northern Ireland’s first World Heritage Site for free. Take a guided walk with one of the rangers and explore the stunning scenery. This also includes face painting, balloon modelling and Park and Ride service from Bushmills to the Giant’s Causeway.

For more information on things to see and do in Northern Ireland go to http://www.discovernorthernireland.com, http://www.facebook.com/discovernorthernireland or http://www.twitter.com/DiscoverNI.