The cream of Derry’s culinary talent was on show this week as the city’s restaurants, chefs and artisan food producers cooked up a storm for the judges searching for Ireland’s top Foodie Destination for 2016.
Aoife Carrigy and Dee Laffan from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, travelled to the city to sample some of the best local food produce on offer after Derry was shortlisted by the Restaurants Association of Ireland as one of the top ten finalists in the prestigious competition.
Derry achieved runner-up position in last year’s competition – formerly known as Foodie Towns – narrowly missing out to The Burren in Co. Clare. The city recorded the highest number of public votes which counts towards 50% of the marks with the judges scoring the other 50%.
Mayor of Derry and Strabane Alderman Hilary McClintock, who officially welcomed the independent assessors to the Guildhall on Tuesday prior to the judging process, said she was delighted that the city was one of the ten finalists during Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016.
Urging the public to get behind Derry City and Strabane District Council’s bid to win the culinary crown, Mayor McClintock said: “In a superb show of support for our participation in last year’s competition, the city achieved the highest number of public votes and was just pipped at the post by The Burren for the overall title.
“With online voting accounting for half of the scoring and the other 50% decided by the judges’ visit, we firmly believe we have the edge this year given the exceptional calibre of our ‘LegenDerry and Local’ food provenance.”
Mary Blake, Council’s Tourism Development Officer and lead organiser for the Derry entry, said she was confident that the city – which is also the only NI finalist – had all the ingredients for a winning bite at the national culinary crown this year: “Our driving mission is that we are a truly LegenDerry food destination and winning Ireland’s Foodie Destination 2016 would be the cherry on the cake! We just need to ensure that everyone gets online and votes for Derry at www.foodiedestinations.ie/city/derry/ before voting closes on September 9th.”
Commenting prior to commencing their judging, Aoife Carrigy, Chair of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild and Dee Laffan, editor of YesChef magazine, said: “We are both delighted to be back judging again this year and that Derry has made it into the top 10 finalists after coming runner-up last year. We are looking forward to seeing how things have developed in the last year.”
During their visit, the judges met with a range of local restaurateurs, hoteliers and food producers whose products ranged from handcrafted patisserie to award-winning dairy produce, smoked salmon, rapeseed oil and craft beers.
As well as enjoying the sights of the city, the judges sampled a range of culinary delights, with a scheduled tour of some of the newest local restaurants including Warehouse No1 Bistro and Café; Blackbird, now serving award-winning street food from Pyke N Pommes; Ollie’s and the Walled City Brewery both located in Ebrington Square.
The judges’ final stop-off was at Brown’s, winner of the Best Restaurant in Ulster at the Irish Restaurant Awards earlier this year. They sampled delicious dishes including Roasted Tian of Crab with Apple created by Head Chef, Phelim O’Hagan and Ian Orr, Chef Patron & Co-Owner of Browns Restaurant Group who was named Irish Chef of the Year at the 2013 Georgina Campbell Awards.
Formerly known as Foodie Towns, the initiative was formed as part of the Irish Restaurant Awards 2014 but proved to be so popular it became its own entity in 2015. The other nine finalists include The Burren, Boyne Valley, Kilkenny, Cong, Loop Head, Sligo, Leitrim, Monaghan and Dublin Coastal Village.
Vote Derry to win at www.foodiedestinations.ie/city/derry/. Voting will close at 12pm on Friday, September 9th. The winner of Ireland’s Foodie Destination 2016 will be announced later in the month.