As the summer season gets into full swing, plenty of food and drink celebrations are planned over the coming months. Food Festivals kicked off at Balmoral Show recently where visitors were tempted with the best of local produce, and signature dishes created by Taste of Ulster chefs.
The NI Good Food Pavilion played host to over 30 local food companies and 10 chefs who treated their guests to a feast of good food. Crowds flocked to the pavilion to be treated to a whole range of flavours and taste experiences from around the region, from the healthy pak choi grown by R J Cherry in Ballymoney to the indulgent rhubarb and custard ice cream created by Glastry Farm in Kircubbin. Cloughbane Farm from Pomeroy tempted shoppers with their delicious pies and the pavilion even had a Royal visitor in the form of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, who spent a long time walking round and drinking in the fantastic atmosphere of the pavilion, while being particularly interested in the history of Whites from Tandragee who have been milling oats in Ireland since 1841.
Arlene Foster also made an appearance to show her support of great local foods. She spent time walking through the pavilion, sampling foods and listening to the interesting back stories of some of the companies present.
From early in the morning to late into the evening, the marquee was hiving with people anxious to sample all the wonderful local products on offer. Footfall was high in the Pavilion, with some of the exhibitors handing out nearly 12,000 samples over the three days.
This event was fun for all the family with kids having the opportunity to learn how vegetables are grown, how dairy parlours work, in addition to being able to plant their own lettuce seed to grow at home. Nearly 1,000 children took advantage of this, even some parents wanted to plant their own lettuce as well!
One of the main highlights of Wednesday was definitely the Breakfast Rap final – crowds watched on as the finalists battled out to claim the crown, with Eavann and Caoimhe winning over Michelle Gildernew and the judges with their clever rap, titled “What to eat today!” The winners of the primary school division were Emma Stirling and Ina Kanzon from Finaghy Primary School who recited the “The Breks Rap “.
The Pavilion sizzled with the sounds of chefs cooking at the two demonstration kitchens; with the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum cooking the best of Northern Irish pork, and the Taste of Ulster chefs displaying their talents using local produce in the Good Food Kitchen. Niall McKenna of James Street South told the audience about some of the local ingredients that he used recently representing Northern Ireland in the Great British Menu while competing against Brian McCann of Shu and Derek Creagh.
With the NI Good Food Pavilion being the largest of its kind and so many people buying the wonderful products of the exhibitors, the Shop and Drop facility was a welcome addition. This was run by Joanne Steele and other volunteers from the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children; and for a small donation, the public were able to leave their shopping here, leaving their hands free to experience the vast number of products everyone had to offer.
Over £1,700 was raised for the charity, this included all the sales of the bacon baps cooked by Sean Owens and his team at the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum, which the public and exhibitors alike could not get enough of!
The three days were a great success for all involved and it is only hoped that the NI Good Food Pavilion will continue to get bigger and better over the coming years.