Array of Artisan Producers Showcased at The Open

Mark Wright, joint owner of Ballylisk of Armagh Triple Cream Cheese with brother Dean, were “thrilled” when food and drink organisers for The Open ordered 60kg of their award winning cheese for corporate hospitality meals during the tournament.

Ballylisk was among an extensive group of local artisans who benefited from the return of the historic event to the spectacular Royal Portrush course after 50 years. “We were absolutely delighted when La Rousse Foods placed an order for our Triple Rose cheese for meals at the prestigious event on behalf of international caterer Sodexo,” Mark continues. “It means VIP guests from across the world were able to enjoy our unique single herd cheese.

“It was a marvellous boost for a small producer like Ballylisk to be part of such a wonderful event showcasing the very best of Northern Ireland to an amazing global audience. It was tremendous for Northern Ireland and for Ballylisk of Armagh in particular to be part of such a wonderful event,” he adds.

The brothers launched Triple Rose, their first cheese, in 2017. The family has been farming in the Ballylisk area since 1820.

And his enthusiasm was shared by the sizeable cluster of artisan producers part of The Open. Most benefited from work by promotion body Food NI in developing opportunities for artisan and smaller food and drink producers with Tourism NI, caterer Sodexo and the local Causeway Coast and Glens council. Food NI, furthermore, worked with Open organisers Royal and Ancient and Sodexo for a year to develop opportunities for local processors.

There was also a Food NI showcase of a broad range of local produce during the event. And other products featured in a Made in Northern Ireland section in the Royal and Ancient shop.

In addition, the council organised a ‘Taste the Causeway’ food market in Portrush during the Open.

Chocolatier Geri Martin of Coleraine’s Chocolate Manor created a bespoke gift box of chocolates featuring unique photo chocolates of Royal Portrush for the ‘Made in NI’pavilion in the R&A shop.

“I was first approached by Jonny McDowell of Indie Fude deli in Comber and introduced to the Royal and Ancient team behind the event about my products. “The Open team came up with a suggestion about designing a limited edition box of chocolates for the event. I was delighted when an order followed,” says Geri.

“Given our workshop is located just three miles from the fabulous course, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have our products on display and available to thousands of international and local visitors,” she added.

Allison Abernethy, founder of the farm-based Abernethy Butter with husband Will, the butter maker, revealed the couple’s delicious butter also featured in meals: “We were invited by Food NI to attend a big food showcase at Windsor Park in Belfast and were successful in our pitch to Sodexo. “It was a very exciting business opportunity for us,” adds Allison.

Morelli’s in Coleraine, the UK’s leading ice cream and sorbet producer, created seven bespoke flavours for patrons and VIPs dining at the Open – Irish Black Butter, clotted cream, seabuckthorn, rhubarb and creme fraiche as well as elderflower and strawberry sorbets

Managing director Arnaldo Morelli continues: “With having our roots here on the North Coast, we were very proud to be supply our products for the Open on its historic return to Portrush. It was an amazing boost for everyone here and, of course, for Northern Ireland abroad.

And Wayne Adair of Longbridge Drinks in Belfast supplied his unique Belfast Ginger Ale enjoyed with Gerry White’s Jawbox Gin in after match celebrations.

Wayne revived Belfast Ginger Ale from an original beverage created in the 19th century by a local chemist in the Cromac Street district. “It was marvellous to have this golden opportunity to reach out to a global audience. I appreciate greatly the support from the organisers, Tourism Ireland, Tourism NI and Food NI in working alongside the caterers on our behalf,” he says.

Alastair Bell provided his innovative Irish Black Butter for use on the menus at the event as well as for Morelli’s for ice cream. Alastair says: “I was delighted that Irish Black Butter was on the menu. As a Portrush business, it is fantastic that such a high status international audience enjoyed our award winning product. To have our innovative Irish Black Butter on the menu was a great honour. It was a sensational opportunity to spread the love of an old traditional recipe and a great new taste of Ireland with a global audience.”

Handcrafted charcuterie from Alastair Crown’s Corndale Farm in Limavady was another product that was enjoyed at the event. He provided a broad range of award winning cured meats. “The caterers sampled our products are were very impressed. We are excited by the business that could result from such high-profile exposure,” Alastair adds.

Leona Kane of Broighter Gold culinary oils, also from Limavady, supplied her famed oils to chefs in the VIP hospitality marquees to cook with at the event. “It was a superb opportunity to show my oils to an international audience that could, in time, lead to further exports,” she adds.

Other smaller businesses that contributed products to The Open include Burren Balsamics, Keenan Seafoods and East Coast Sea Foods.

This all added up to an exceptional business opportunity for many of our artisan producers to reach out to a huge and influential audience helping to  boost exports of our food and drink.

“There was tremendous collaboration by all the organisations behind the exciting event including Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, Sodexo, the Royal and, of course, the local council,” adds Food NI’s Michele Shirlow.