Granny Shaws Fudge Factory opens at Glenarm Castle

As if consuming my weight in chocolate over Easter wasn’t enough, I was delighted to receive some creamy, delicious fudge from Granny Shaws.

I’m a big fan of Granny Shaws fudge, having bought plenty of it at artisan markets and Victoria Square over the past few months. (That, and the fact that a former colleague’s granny is, in fact, Granny Shaw!)

But now Northern Ireland’s first fudge factory has opened at Glenarm Castle just in time for the new spring season.  Visitors can watch the art of fudge-making at ‘Granny Shaws Fudge Factory’ before choosing from more than 50 flavours including Eton Mess, Sea Salted Caramel and Rum and Raisin.

I was so pleased to also receive a membership card for Glenarm Castle in the package which I’ll make good use of as Glenarm is only 17 miles away from Cushendun.

 Glenarm Castle visitors can purchase membership cards before their visit online at www.glenarmcastle.com/membership, priced at £17.50 and membership entitles you to visit the national treasure as often as you like throughout the season, until October 2018.

As well as unlimited access, membership includes special discounts on various events including the award winning Dalriada Festival (14-15 July), free admission to Bloomfest (5-7 May) and advance pre-sale tickets for the renowned Christmas Experience before general release.

Glenarm Castle is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm on Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 5pm on Sundays until October.

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The House of Peroni presents: La Primavera Belfast

I was just finishing up work for Easter on Thursday when a package arrived for me from the House of Peroni. The hamper was filled with, of course, Peroni lager, but also ingredients such as Arborio rice, Parma Ham, Buffalo mozzarella, duck ravioli from the Italian restaurant Coppi and Parmesan from Arcadia delicatessen.

Our task was to whip up our best Italian feast, and to mark the House of Peroni’s food and drink market, La Primavera, taking place this week at St Anne’s Square in Belfast.

The House of Peroni Presents: La Primavera will run from Thursday 5th April to Saturday 7th April 2018. A celebration of the start of spring, La Primavera is marked in Italy with food festivals which take place during ‘Festa della Primavera’.

Some of Belfast’s finest Italian eateries will unveil delicious seasonal offerings at the market, which can be eaten al fresco in St. Anne’s Square or taken home to share with family and friends.

Restuarants taking place include The Chubby Cherub, a family run establishment which will offer traditional Italian street food, known as Strada Cibo. Belfast Woodfire Pizza Company will bring its authentic wood-fired pizza to the pop-up market, while Coppi will serve up a delicious selection of Italian breads and fresh handmade pastas.

Italian chef, Riccardo Grande, will also host bespoke Art of Pasta masterclasses. Taking place at the market on Friday and Saturday at 7pm, Riccardo will teach attendees how to create this Italian staple at home. Tickets for the event can be purchased on www.thehouseofperoni.com for £20.

So, what did I make with my ingredients? Well, I decided to have Italian chicchetti (small dishes similar to Spanish tapas.)

On the menu was:

  • Roasted red pepper and rocket risotto
  • Asparagus pan fried in garlic butter and wrapped in Parma ham
  • Caprese salad
  • and Coppi duck ravioli topped with garlic basil oil and grated Parmesan.

This was all washed down with cold Peroni beer! I know I made it so I may sound bias here, but it was delicious! Fresh, simple and tasty!

I’m heading down on Thursday and Saturday (for the pasta masterclass) to taste and drink more Italian goodness- can’t wait!

The House of Peroni Presents: La Primavera takes place at St. Anne’s Square in Belfast city centre from Thursday, 5th April to Saturday, 7th April. Entry is free, and on a first come, first served basis. Over 18s only.

For more information, follow Peroni Ireland on FacebookTwitter or Instagram, or visit www.thehouseofperoni.com.

 

Family day out to Tayto Park

Last Halloween I had my first experience of Tayto Park in County Meath. The theme park was running special Halloween-themed evenings and it was there I faced my fears and went on rides I’d been too afraid to go on before. See here for the evidence!

Therefore, when I was invited down last weekend with my family, I was intrigued to see what it was like from a very different perspective- i.e for families, with a 1-year old toddler, during the day, no ghosts or ghouls jumping out at me!

So, Barry, Niamh and I made on way down on Saturday, which incidentally was the opening weekend (due to a delayed opening because of stormy weather conditions the week before) and also the launch day of Ireland’s first driving school for kids, a joint venture with Nissan and Tayto Park.

We headed off at 7.30am and arrived at 9.00am (so a relatively short drive from Belfast) and went straight for a sneak preview of the driving school which was to open to the public later that morning. All kids enjoy a short video demo where they will learn the rules of the road before negotiating the traffic course. Now Niamh is obviously too young to drive (she’s just learnt to walk!) but she did enjoy seeing the other children whizz by and I got her in a car to get a quick snap.

We then had some breakfast in the Lodge Restaurant (there are numerous places to eat and drink around the park) before we headed out to explore what Tayto Park has to offer.

Our first stop was the zoo, home to a diverse animal collection, from chickens and goats, through to tigers and monkeys. Niamh is obsessed with animals and has already mastered quite the catalogue of animal noises so she was in her element. I think her favourite were the meerkats who popped up to say hello. There are a number of different shows such as the “World of Raptors” and the park also opens up the Farmyard petting area to visitors in the summer.

Once we’d spent an hour to two in the zoo, with Niamh shouting hello to every animal, we headed back down towards the attractions. Unfortunately Niamh was a little too small for some of the kids’ rides (you have to be 84cm) but we were aware of this before we went and had already looked up which attractions she could go on (there is a “How tall are you” sliding scale on the website. These included the traditional-style Steam Train which takes you around the park which she loved!

But, Barry and I were able to go on all the rides so we just took turns. Yes, I went on the very same rollercoaster I was scared off last time by myself! The Cú Chulainn is Europe’s largest wooden rollercoaster and reaches speeds of 100km per hour and a drop of 31 metres…gulp!

There is also a 5D cinema, extreme climbing wall, Viking Voyage water ride, as well as other attractions such as the truly scary “Rotator” (soaring 31 metres in the sky!)

We spent over 6 hours at Tayto Park and really could have spent longer had Niamh been able to go on a few more rides, so you can make a full day out of it.

The verdict? It is a totally difference experience with a toddler as I did things I hadn’t done before, like visit the zoo or go on the steam train. I loved seeing her face light up with excitement which made for a wonderful day out!

Disclaimer: We were guests of Tayto Park so received free entry, wristbands and breakfast. We paid for all other food, drinks and gifts.

Launch of Pravha beer at The Perch

Last week we attended the launch of a new beer in the Northern Ireland market.

Barry and I headed to The Perch were Pravha, a 4% ABV Czech style pilsner from the brewers of leading lager Staropramen, was unveiled.

Pravha has the iconic flavour and gentle bitterness of a high quality Czech pilsner, but is also crisp, light and refreshing.

The launch is being supported by Molson Coors in Northern Ireland with point of sale materials including outlet activation, stylish glassware bar runners, coasters and signage for on-trade customers.

Brewed using the passion, ingredients and knowledge of the famous Staropramen brewers, Pravha represents the unexpected side of Prague, by offering a twist on the classic Czech pilsner made with two specially selected malts and three Czech hops.

 “We are delighted to welcome Pravha to the Molson Coors portfolio in Northern Ireland,” said Ryan McFarland, NI Director at Molson Coors.

 “In Prague, there’s always something new and exciting going on underneath the surface of the city. In the same way, Pravha is the unexpected side of Staropramen, a refreshing drinking experience that consumers may not expect from a Czech pilsner.

 “By introducing this beer, we hope to excite our customers and consumers and continue to expand our premium world beer category.”

Timescape Belfast- can you escape?

Locked in a room and having to figure out how to escape in just one hour? Now, does that sound exciting or slightly terrifying?!

Well, that’s what we experienced at Timescape Belfast, a new escape room where the aim of the game is to work out how to ‘get out’ before it’s too late.

Escape rooms have become huge in recent years, with players using different rhymes, puzzles and codes to work out the next move. Think a mix of ‘Crystal Maze’ and ‘The Krypton Factor.’ It requires skill, logical thinking and most importantly, team work!

The theme of this Escape Room is Titanic- the Final Hour. Can you escape before the ship sinks? It may seem somewhat of a strange theme but it isn’t crass or insensitive. It could be the inside of any ship.

I went on a Thursday night with 2 other complete novices (teams are anything between 2 and 6 people) and we were locked in the room with one clue to help us on our way.

To be honest, for about 10 minutes we didn’t know where to begin! We just kept looking around us for inspiration.

But soon, we got the hang of it and we were cracking the codes together and apart. When we were stuck, we were able to avail of some clues which popped up on the screen, but players are asked beforehand if they would like them or not in times of need.

The time starting ticking away and when it got to 50 minutes I started to panic. Can we do this?! Or are we going to fail miserably?

Thankfully, we did it! With just 4 minutes to go…..phew!

It was such good fun and really got me interested in escape rooms. It’s great craic and perfect for team building. The high score to beat when we were there was just over 30 minutes….can you do it?

Indus Valley by Safa

Last week I was invited to the relaunch of Indus Valley restaurant in Coleraine.

Indus Valley was recently taken over by Ali Askar, who owns one of Belfast’s most popular Indian restaurants Safa and is the founder of the Irish Curry Awards, so my expectations for the place were high.

We were welcomed to the restaurant with a Tanqueray Gin reception (great start!) and we had a look around the refurbished premises before it was time for dinner.

I was delighted it was a buffet so I could try lots of different dishes rather than sampling one meal.

The starters consisted of Vegetable Pakora and Poppadoms, mains included Chicken Karahi, Chicken Tikka Masala and Vegetable Bhuna, while we were served Pilau rice and Naan Bread for sides.

I did try it all and have to say, it was really delicious, particularly the Chicken Karahi. I would definitely order this as a full dish next time.  (Oh, and I went up for seconds on the Vegetable Pakora too!)

It was great to get chatting to Ali as he made his way around each table and the service was great. I had a really enjoyable night so if you’re up in Coleraine, make a point of calling in!

Harry’s Cushendall

I live in Cushendun at the weekends and always enjoy checking out the local food and drink offering in the Glens.

Last weekend we were invited to try Harry’s restaurant situated in Mill Street in the heart of Cushendall.

I had eaten in Harry’s before (last year), but was keen to try it out again as it was recently taken over by the restaurant’s chef Alistair McGregor.

Husband and wife team Alistair and Liane have been in charge for 10 months now, with a revamped menu and a new look and feel for the place.

We went for the lunch menu which is served from 12-5pm and offers a range of starters, main courses, burgers, salads and sandwiches.

The starters (priced from £4.75 to £6.50) include the Chef’s Soup of the Day, Duck spring rolls, and Hot and Spicy chicken wings.

As a cheese lover, it was the Crispy breaded brie which caught my eye, and my dish came served with a light salad and sweet and sour sauce. The warm brie oozed out once cut open – just how I like it.

The competition for the best Seafood Chowder is fierce in the Causeway Coast and Glens so Barry had to go for the Chowder served with wheaten bread. He said the Chowder, which uses local seafood, was delicious with large chunks of fish.

For mains I decided to go for a dish on the ‘Daily Specials’ board. It was the start of December and I was yet to have my first Turkey and Ham of the season.

In hindsight I didn’t need a starter as well as the Christmas dinner because gosh, was it huge! Talk about good big country portions! I couldn’t finish it, I’m ashamed to say!

Barry went for a much more sensible lunchtime offering- the colourful Harry’s open prawn salad.

Other mains include Beer battered scampi, 8oz rump steak, creamy chicken carbonara and Harry’s veggie burger with chilli jam.

We really enjoyed our lunch and the comfortable, homely setting of Harry’s. If you’re visiting the Glens over the festive period and fancy a good feed, then try out their Christmas dinner!

Crispy Breaded Brie

Seafood Chowder

Harry’s Open Prawn Salad

Turkey and Ham Christmas Dinner