Press preview of Tesco Taste Fest 2014

As I said earlier I was going to give you a more in depth report of today’s press preview of Tesco Taste Fest 2014 at Custom House Square in Belfast. I arrived in plenty of time around 11.40 and was let in to find exhibitors and staff running round getting last minute things done. The day was glorious and warn and more importantly dry!!! This is the sixth festival and I have been to all of them and have seen them getting better and bigger.

I set out to find out a few truths today. How much money does Tesco spend in the Northern Ireland (NI) economy, how do they treat the suppliers and farmers, how many staff and staff development there was. Most of these answers came from Gary Mills who started as a manager in Connswater and is know the Director of Tesco NI. Also it was his anniversary today so enjoy the rest of your evening. When Tesco started in NI in 1997 they put £50 million into the local economy by buying supplies. Now in 2014 it is a staggering £580 million.

He mentioned the benefits of Tesco in NI. There has been an increase in export to the mainlaind and Ireland, yesterday there was a very productive meet the buyer event where buyers got to meet farms and plants etc and this proved beneficial. Also by having contracts with local suppliers this can sustain them. The promotion of our own comber spuds was greatly advertised in June and now a family Grahams Bakery from Dromore will be featuring soon.A great example of a brand which entered Tesco 2 years ago was Armagh cider and they were discovered at an Artisan event held by Tesco.

Tesco has been innovative by having food markets in stalls for tasting purposes, there are seven more earmarked for the year. Also a great idea has been field boards showing what is being produced and for whom. Another innovation is having Primacy Butchers from Bangor in stores. These things all show that Tesco is complying with its Corporate Social Responsibility. My biggest gripe here is carbon footprints from foods flown in thousands of miles and also the amount of non bio degradable packaging, so come on Tesco lets work on this (I have a suggestion about the packaging,so please email me).

Tesco employs 8500 people in NI and has a developmental pathway as Gary has shown. It also ran a youth employment scheme where it had 33 starts and by the end there were 29 jobs given. There is also great collaboration with Southern Regional College.For the community Tesco customers have raised £350,000 for Diabetes, has taken 6000 kids from farm to fork and in July provided 110,000 meals for food banks.

Our Honorable First Minister then took the Podium and added that the Agri-food industry is the largest industry in NI, also manufacturer,supplier and exporter. NI Suppliers have a whopping 349 Gold Stars, more than any other region in the UK, so well done.

So how many suppliers in Ireland supply Tesco? Combined from North and South there are 90 with approximately two thirds from the North of which 60 were present,supplying 1200 different lines.There is a dedicated buying team here and there will be an Artisan Market in the Autumn and Tesco are constantly reviewing ranges, and meeting new suppliers to explore opportunities to increase the local range. In the last year the local buyers have added more than 200 new local lines.

Main products Tesco buy locally Beef, pork, poultry, fresh produce, eggs, milk, bread, cakes.More than 3000 Northern Irish farmers supply Tesco with Northern Irish beef including over 500 NI farmers who supply farm quality assured Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus Beef to its meat counters.100% of Tesco fresh beef, pork and chicken sold in its NI stores comes from Northern Ireland farms.100% of Tesco eggs and fresh milk sold in its NI stores comes from Northern Ireland, the milk from 1600 local farmers through Dale Farm. Skea Eggs supplies over 50 million eggs to Tesco annually for stores across the UK.

So lots of information to absorb it was then time to peruse the Marquee before the hordes ascended. This is where I learnt alot about the relationship between Tesco and the suppliers. In general all the suppliers were happy about how Tesco treated them, after all last thing we need is what has happened in other countries where the Supermarket drives everything and literally milks them for everything. So my general feeling was that Tesco do look after the local suppliers, yes commodities rise,fuel rises and this has a knock on effect with the suppliers and the consumers ie you get less for your money. !ronically I was in Tesco today and saw a 760g box of Heroes chocolates for £5, I can remember not too long ago 1kg was £5!!

The first stand I saw was Foyle meats who source all NI beef and it is processed in Drogheda and they started with Tesco in 2004. I met a young lad Ian who was showing his range of tobacco onions and chilli onions, must try them out in October, the name is Milgro. There were a number of sausage suppliers, the first was Doherty and Gray in Ballymena. They do all their own butchery and are behind Hulls Sausages which ar the no 1 brand in NI. They also do vegetable roll which as any Ulsterman knows is beef, suggestion try a pork version. I nibbled a few pieces.

Tayto Castle always take centre stage and its a pleasure to see them growing from strength to strength, Robert and his lovely girls are there also letting you sample the crisps, my favourite still has to be cheese and onion. They have been with Tesco since 1997 as have Country Kitchen who do coleslaw and potato salad and are introducing a range of dough balls in 3 weeks-they were fab as was the coleslaw. In this very competitive market of quality sandwiches Bruch Box has got a foot in the door from 2012, again tried a wee chicken sandwich.

By this stage the marquee was getting warm, so dress accordingly.. Good old Cookstown has been with Tesco since the start. Again I tried the cocktail sausages and the microwavable bacon, yes microwavable bacon. It takes 90 seconds in the microwave and takes moist and of bacon but not crispy to be introduced on 22nd September. I was amazed to learn they slaughter and process 23,000 pigs a week!!!! Cloughbane from Pomeroy are a small farm which use local chicken and beef to make pies and dinners.

Needed something cooling and natural to cool me down so I tried a blackberry smoothies from Glenisk Natural Yoghurt. It was so refreshing, no additives but I felt it was a bit too sweet, also Go-Yos which are 40g tubes of organic flavoured yoghurt and the good thing is that one 40g tube has 4.7g or 1 tea spoon of sugar-my daughter and nephew really liked them!! Next on the agenda was Kerry foods who own Golden Cow butter and Coleraine cheese and do Dennys sausages and have been with Tesco from the start. The cheese was nice and available in block,slice or grated format.

The “famous” Ashers joined in 2009 were also present with a great array of pastries,bread,snowballs and mixed pork and beef sausages, so I did suggest single meat sausage, lets see what happens. For those who want a wee alcohol tipple Bushmills was there, Magners cider, Harp and Guiness and West Coast Cooler and 5 beers from Whitewater in Kilkeel. They joined in 2007 and  their range is Belfast Black, Bees Endeavour, Hopplehammer,Belfast Lager and Copperhead. There was also teas coffees and soft drink stands.

Met up with Fresh Fields, a conventional farmer, who produces carrots,savoy cabbage and parsnips and again have been with Tesco from 1997. They are based along the Ards peninsula. They use minimal levels of pesticide,fungicide and try and use natural fly nets or weather stations to predict fungi conditions. Their produce has minimal residue levels in the vegetables.They also employ an Agronomist who advises on soil,programming the farming and use of different varieties.

I was looking forward to tasting a bit of Finnebrogue Venison but there was none. Instead the Downpatrick guys brought a fabulous range of sausages, both own label and Paul Rankin, all of which were succulent and tasty.They started their relationship in 2008 and 2009 Paul came on board.

I had an interesting chat with Roy Lyttle who started farming in 1984, with no farming background and has built up his farm and started supplying Tescos in 1997. Again based in the Ards peninsula he does organic Savoy,white and Red cabbage,leeks and purple sprouting broccoli, and non organic leeks and scallions.

Dale Farm has been there with Tesco since 1997 and they do all things dairy. I sampled a lovely cheddar flavoured with Dulce, so give that a try. With so much pork production and scandals and traceability Tesco has given NI pork the Assured Origin stamp of approval. I blogged before regarding this. Also check out http://www.nipork.com and this started this year.Pork is also a white meat and is actually healthier than you think.

SKEA Eggs from Dungannon now produce all the eggs in Tesco and have been since 1997. Have you ever noticed that if you buy 2 packs of eggs they cost more that a tray of 30, go check it out!!! From eggs back to Armagh cider. They started supplying Tesco in December 2013 and produce Carsons Crisp, Maddens Mellow and Mollys mulled and ordinary apple juice. The juice was very sweet so there will be a big drive on sugar ie all food and drinks will have to have nutritional labels by law from 2016. In Southern Ireland there is a call for a 10% sugar tax for drinks. Watch this space in the 1970’s obesity and diabetes were thought to be caused by fat, so fats were reduced. Forty years later diabetes and obesity has exploded,so sugar will be the next weapon of mass destruction. Anyway on a lighter note Armagh Cider won the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) for its Armagh Bramley, well done!!

Tasty Foods (Joined 2007) who produce ready made curries are lauching their chicken tikka masala in six weeks time and it was authentic so good luck guys. Baby food next, Im so glad Im out of that phase. It is the only UK baby food manufacturer with no additives at all and has a chilled life of 12-16 days. It joined in 2012 and won The Great Taste Award 2014.

There are a lot more people who are gluten intolerant and it was great to see Doherty with their range of gluten free burgers, meatballs, sausages and cocktail sausages. They do the above with gluten also and again have been with Tesco since 1997.

Mash Direct joined in 2007 and also do gluten free vegetable burgers and potato croquets which again is great to see. Martin the boss was not present as he was at the wedding of his son, good luck there.

A few breads left Cuisine de France who joined in 2004 half bake all their bread every day in Dublin and when its in store the baking is finished. Hovis has been with Tesco since 1997 and sell Ormo pancakes and are based in Belfast.My last but by no means least stand was Green Isle Foods who sell 5 types of frozen pizza with garlic or sweet chilli dips and the oizza and dips do work well. They also do Donegal Catch fish. I tried the Lemon and parsley sole, the salmon and the breaded full cod steak, not mechanically reconstituted like so many other foods are.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and extend my thanks to Tesco and the suppliers for their time. I would like to see more Corporate Social Responsibility, more education about sugar and balanced diets. Tesco has the chance to be a market leader in CSR, education and care for its customers more.

Pictures from today before the bedlam!!!! http://1drv.ms/1tIzw2V

Once again the BFM shares the food love!!! Ciao down now!!!

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Proper Eurasian Fusion in Belfast

The BFM was in the Fine Dining Quarter of Belfast (I’ve just coined it that!!!) nestled in Howard Street,Brunswick Street and James Street South. When I realised the pedigree of Fine Dining we have so close together I swelled with pride, Belfast we have come afar and come of age!

I decided to try the newest addition Shiro, the Eurasian Restaurant Bar Lounge.

Bruswick Street
Belfast
BT2 7GE
United Kingdom
http://www.shirobelfast.com
+44 28 9024 8000

This was Irene and Nan’s in its previous incarnation. Shiro’s general layout was not very different from its predecessor but very well illuminated and decorated, a definite Oriental feel.

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I arrived at noon and ordered the pan fried chicken breast (£8.50) on bed of veg,udon noodles and peanut sauce. Service was excellent and staff very friendly. Food came out after about 15 minutes, so yes nice and fresh. Presentation was excellent. Felt the chicken was a tad bland, this was rectified with some house chilli oil- not too hot!! Udon noodles best I’ve had for a while well complimented by a modest amount of stir fried vegetables with a hint of peanuts. So overall fantastic food, super service, amazing ambience and of course delicious dining, a must to try!!!!

Ps for drinks I had my usual water,which was present in bottles in ice buckets dotted throughout the restaurant. If you are indulgent you can buy a bottle of spirits,what u don’t drink you give back,get brass tag and next time you are in present tag and drink- nice idea!!!

Once again the BFM shares the food love!!! Ciao down now!!!

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Easy like a Sunday morning

The BFM and girls decided to spend a leisurely Sunday morning at Lusty Beg.

Boa Island
Kesh
Enniskillen
Fermanagh
BT93 8AD

Home

028 6863 3300

In Gaelic Boa Island means the Island of the Cattle, Kesh is a Wicker Causeway and Enniskillen is the Island of Kathleen.

After a hearty brekky at the Killyhevlin Hotel and on a dreary,wet Sunday morning we set off on a 40 minute drive to Boa Island. We parked up and caught a very short ferry ride to the resort (about 2 minutes).

We met some friends and had a hot chocolate and Americano coffee (£5.40). Then we went on the nature trail. This lasted an hour and took us all the way around the resort. It was interesting explaining the flora and fauna to a 5 and 2 year old !!!

There are plenty of things to do from canooing to shooting, from spa facilities at the Island Spa to gr8 Fermanagh fayre and drinks at the restaurant and bar.

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We never had a chance to eat or stay, so next time perhaps. It looks like a fantastic place to stay and chillax!!!

Once again the BFM shares the food love!!! Ciao down now!!!

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Treat b4 Give My Head Peace

For all the Norn Iron massif, Give My Head Peace by the Hole in the wall gang is fantastic. It’s a group of extremely talented local artists taking the Mickey out of the Northern Ireland political issues satirically, and really lightening the load!!! Please all google/search and watch and support them. Let’s face it life is too short to hold grudges!!!! The show was on at the Grand Opera House http://www.goh.co.uk.

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Nyways before I met the boys I was famished,so I decided to check out the restaurant at the Fitzwilliam hotel near the GOH. http://www.fitzwilliamhotelbelfast.
I am lucky to be a Daily Telegraph subscriber and as one of the rewards one gets a Subscriber reward card which enables one to get BOGOF offers. I thought let’s treat myself so I ordered two mains,each at £19.50 so I only paid £19.50.I drank water.

My first plate was the royal fish pie and then the pork belly,check out the menu and the dishes and give it a go.
Join the Daily Telegraph and avail of the rewards.

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Big Al’s for the best BBQ in Belfast

Hi guys gem no 2.
Big Als BBQ and burger joint on Stranmillis road is awesome.

I managed to polish off a pulled pork sandwich in Brioche bread,with creamy original coleslaw,pickle and the famous Big Al BBQ sauce,mmmm my mouth is watering!!! All for £4.95, bargain. The pulled pork literally melted in my mouth,the slaw was creamy, the pickle cut through it nicely and the BBQ sauce brought it all together.Quantity wise it was A1, only slight downside was the bread,it was very soft and broke up easily.

Big Al use a Belfast Bap instead!!!
Please all give it a try,
Once again the BFM shares the food love….

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Lunch at Aether And Echo

Hi all

@aetherandecho
#belfast #pubgrub

The BFM was out for lunch with his lovely wife,sis,cousin and nephew today. Aether and Echo used to be the Deers Head in Lower Garfield Street.

Would you believe it,Cal and Billy were there having a wee pint, (of Give my Head Peace/ Hole in the Wall Gang).

We ordered salt chilli chicken and chips,ploughmans sandwich, fish cakes and I had chicken and leek pie with champ as the lid instead of pastry. When I pointed this out the waiter was very apologetic,offered a new dish or extra champ. The champ won as I was famished!!

Overall the food was nice when it arrived ,service was a tad slow considering it wasn’t very busy. Would definitely recommend it as the pie was fantastic,ok minus the pastry.You might also see some celebs!!
Don’t forget the BFM always shares the food love

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Fantastic brekky

Good morning all

Are you all awake after a fantastic Saturday night? My two wee girls had me up from 6am!!!! I was a bit peck ish
so looked in the fridge and saw some free range eggs,Irish smoked salmon and thought mmmmm bit of poached egg on seeded brown bread toast and salmon with a dash of Tabasco to wake
you up.

So thought would be a bit daring in how
to poach the eggs, so used boiling water and added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar,to give taste,colour and smell.The two turned out fan after about 90 seconds.As easy ad that and very healthy.Go try it out! Once again the BFM wants to share the food love!!!

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Happy new year

As the drapes of 2013 are finally drawn to a close,we open the drapes of 2014 to see a wonderous canvas onto which we can put all
our dreams,aspirations,relations,visions,friendships,explorations and love on, and to share with our nears and dears.
Forget the past, live for the here and now
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a gr8 2014. May it bring you all good health joy and happiness. Love from The BFM xoxo👍😎❤️🍴✈️🎂

Back in Belfast

Well fellow foodies
Back from the mainland and chilling at home watching Die Hard 4!!
Just made a divine Mediterranean Cous Cous salad with smoked salmon and honey roasted ham,slaw and houmous.
So have to plan where to go out and eat next.
Will share some recent restaurant visits in the coming days and weeks.
Remember the BFM likes to share the food love!!!

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Christmas Dinner A la Yorkshire style

Good evening
Hope you all made it thro the day.The BFM wants to share the Christmas food love.
For brekky it was poached eggs,bacon on a large crouton

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For starters we had prawn cocktail and cheesy Portabellow mushroom on a bed of salad

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For the piece de resistance it was a four bird roast (chicken,turkey,duck and goose) with pigs in blankets,stuffing, honey roasted parsnips and carrots,mash spuds, goose fat roasties, mixed nut n bacon sprouts,cranberry sauce and gravy

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To finish mince pies,Christmas pudding and cheese n biscuits

Now for some zzzzzz’ssss