Who pays for your Christmas party?

Survey finds that 37% of NI companies will cover all costs at the Christmas party


When it comes to the work Christmas party almost one third of Northern Ireland businesses have booked their work do by September!  A new survey* by Ireland’s leading foodservice wholesaler, Musgrave MarketPlace, with sites in Belfast, Lurgan and Derry~Londonderry, reveals that 80% plan to have a work Christmas party this year and a generous 37% of companies cover the entire cost of the Christmas party.


The Musgrave MarketPlace survey was carried out among 200 Northern Ireland consumers.


A massive 80% will opt for dinner and drinks in a hotel or restaurant while 7% will opt for drinks and nibbles. The work Christmas party is such a landmark occasion in the office calendar that 45% admit to starting to talk about what they are going to wear, and who is going to the party months in advance!The survey also reveals that as a nation we love to dine out with 44% saying they will dine out up to four times over the Christmas period in addition to their work party.


The Musgrave MarketPlace Christmas party survey finds that 45% spend up to £40 per person on their Christmas party meal excluding drinks. One third (33%) pay for their own work party, while 28% say their company contributes to it. A further 37% say their company pays for everything.


Wine is the most popular drink with 32% opting for a glass of wine to get them into the festive spirit at the office party. 25% say champagne or prosecco is their Christmas party tipple of choice followed by cocktails (14%) and spirits (11%).


According to the Musgrave MarketPlace research, 27% of party goers would like to see more variety on the menu, 60% want traditional Christmas fare such as roast turkey and Christmas pudding on the menu. 27% said they would prefer to see steak chicken and fish on the menu during the festive season.


Commenting on the findings, Desi Derby, Marketing Director, Musgrave MarketPlace said:


“Christmas is one of the busiest times for the foodservice industry and our survey reveals that many of us have already booked or are in the process of booking our Christmas party. It was also interesting to see that the demand for gluten and dairy free options on the menu continues to grow and over half of restaurant owners are planning to add these options to their set menu this year. 


In our own business, we have seen the free from sector grow significantly. In the last three years we have added 200 new products to the range and sales in this category have grown by 80%, concluded Desi.


Gerard Campbell, Head Chef, Jurys, Belfast said: Our Christmas preparations are already well underway at Jury’s Hotel. We start getting calls for bookings as early as July, but September and October are our busiest times for Christmas party reservations. This year diners at our restaurants can expect classic Christmas favourites along with contemporary dishes, great drinks and a festive ambience. We would urge those thinking of coming to one of our restaurants over the Christmas period to book early to avoid disappointment.”


Twilight Market

Make your way down to the Twilight Market in St Georges Market, Belfast!!!

Musgrave Marketplace Christmas Party

Halloween has just finished and it’s straight into Christmas!!!! I attended the Belfast Musgrave Marketplace Christmas Party on the 1st November where Christmas has just begun!!

The warehouse has all one needs when it comes to food, groceries, confection, drinks and snacks and lots more.

There is a very good and well stocked Christmas shop and my two girls were already decorating the house!!!

We were well plied with canapés of the savoury and sweet kind and we especially liked the salted caramel hot chocolates (Santa please make a note!!).

I saw a couple of innovations worth mentioning. The first was a wide range of biodegradable cutlery, containers and straws which were pretty impressive. Also there was a wonderful spiced gammon which can boiled and/or ovened and which looked and tasted great.

I think I will make a trip back to do my Christmas shopping….without any distractions!!

Two meals using Donegal Catch

I got a few goodies to try from the recent Tesco Taste Fest. I got Donegal Catch frozen hake, cauliflower rice and gluten free fish fingers. All from Green Isle Foods.

For my first meal (for four) I made a sort of paella/biryani!! I fried off diced onions, peppers, ginger and garlic and then added the cauliflower rice, brown rice, spices, tinned tomatoes, water and three hake fillets. Brought to boil then simmered for 30 minutes. Added cooked king prawns, coriander, masala and salt to taste. Served with chopped red onions and cumin raita.

Meal two was a straightforward fish finger sandwich with homemade chilli tartare sauce for me and ketchup for my two girls lunch!!! All in brown bread. I cooked the fingers in my halogen and have to admit they looked a bit pale after cooking, however tasted crunch and cooked to perfection!! The chilli tartare was fab!!

All available at Tesco.

Deluxe hot dogs

A great hot dog needs a fantastic roll- I used a brioche. This was a good quality brioche which didn’t break up like a lot of them!! It also needs a meaty, straight and full of flavour sausage- I used Barry Johns Bacon, Mushroom and black pudding sausage, which has 75% meat!!

I cooked the sausages in my halogen oven and they cooked perfectly in it and no mess or lingering smells in the kitchen!!

I served in the brioche with extra mature cheddar and red sauce and brown sauce…..I’m a brown sauce man!!

Belfast’s very own Chilli 🌶 producer

At the recent Irish Vegan Festival held in The Europa Hôtel I stumbled across this amazing stand called Blackfire Artisan Chilli Sauces.

Initially I was very pleased as I’m a huge chilli fan but also sceptical as I’ve had chilli sauces before and have been disappointed by their taste and heat levels. When I tried the Blackfire sauces, in ascending order of heat, I was literally blown away. At last I’ve got to taste locally grown and manufactured chilli sauce with genuine taste and heat!!

I got chatting to the owner, Tim McCarthy and he told me that he grew 22 different chilli varieties at his home and made six sauces.

We arranged to meet up at his home so he could show me his labour of love. Yesterday was that day!!

Tim brought me into his very spacious and colourful living/cooking space which was also his finishing room for his maturing chilli plants. It was also well decked out with Halloween decorations courtesy of his two children!! Also he had all kinds of Vegetarian cook books.

We sat around his kitchen table and chatted about his love of chillis. Tim has been vegetarian since 1983 (as are his family) and his love of spicy food came from his mum. He experimented with chilli and spice growing up and during his school and University life (Tim is an accomplished street artist). Whilst working for BBC Tim had numerous long and exotic holidays which took him to West Africa, Vietnam, Mexico and Nepal (honeymoon) where chilli played a major role in cooking. This was really his stimulus to grow chillis and create sauces at home in Belfast.

Pride of place in the middle of the table was a bowl of fiery red Carolina Reaper chillis-the second hottest chilli in the world. Tim was telling me that this time of year is best for harvesting and the colours of the chillis are at their best.

The process starts with germination from seeds and then growth in heated polytunnel in garden.

The plants are then brought into the kitchen space to mature.

Above are (clockwise) Carolina Reapers, Jalapeños, mushroom and habaneros.

After harvesting Tim then preps the chillis and ingredients (natural and local including pears and dulce) for manufacture of his 6 sauces.

Sauces in descending heat from left to right. They are all made and bottled and labelled and despatched from his home (which has hygiene rating of 5 stars).

Tim presented me two bottles,his hottest sauce, The Belfastard and Hot House which I am raring to use!! Tim was saying that these sauces can be used as dips, relishes, in cooking and anywhere where heat is required!!

Tim is based in South Belfast, is Artisan so can be found in local markets and several artisan stores. His website is https://www.blackfirefood.com

A big thank you to Tim for his time, really looking forward to the sauce and watch out for new additions in the near future!!!

Love Your Home Show

I visited here this morning and was impressed. The Love Your Home show 2018 is running today, tomorrow (13th October) and Sunday (14th) at The Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast.

The space is filled with all things “homely” from new builds, extensions, renovations, refurbs to home automation, food and gadgets!! There are also demonstrations on throughout the day and it’s all free!!

I bumped into very good friends of mine who have stands here. Firstly was the Old Irish Creamery stand which specialises in premium Irish Cheddar and flavoured cheddar. I got to taste a few and have a few to share with my girls (flavours being extra mature white, pepper cheese, cheddar with strawberries and oak smoked!!).

Secondly was my pal Barry Johns award winning County Cavan meaty (75% pork) Pork sausages. Barry was serving up samples of about 10 different varieties (which I got to taste). He has changed his branding to a newer, bolder and stronger design which is much better. Barry also told me that he is in the 2019 Guinness Book of Records for producing most numbers of sausages in one minute…78..an amazing feat!!!

I’ve got four different packs (above) to try out!! Both the stands have excellent offers so get down and try them out before you buy!!

The show promises to be really busy. If you are planning to refurb, Renew, refresh or want some Christmas gift ideas…..then this is the place to go…..