Last night I spent a fantastic evening in the presence of foodies, cider lovers and even the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, The Very Rev Gregory Dunstan!
It was part of the Armagh Festival of Food and Cider which is currently running from 5th to 9th October celebrating the best of local produce, restaurants, orchards and breweries.
The event was a pop-up restaurant in the Armagh Public library (and, as we discovered, the Dean’s very own house!)
We were welcomed to the venue with a drinks reception which was a range of ciders and sparkling apple juice, whilst taking in the stunning venue which houses hundreds of rare books including the original Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
We then made our way down to the Dean’s living room (yes, really!) where tables and chairs had been set out for us ready to enjoy the night ahead.
The evening was to consist of a four course meal cooked by renowned local chefs, Gareth Reid from 4 Vicars, Simon Dougan from Yellow Door and Sean Farnan from Moody Boar, with each course matched with ciders and apple juice from Long Meadow Cider and McIvors Cider.
The first course, created by 4 Vicars, was a local seafood platter with cider poached mussels, cured pollan (one of Ireland’s rarest fish), Applewood smoked Glenarm salmon and pan seared Lough Neagh eels. It was served with pickled cucumber, Golden beetroot and lemon fennel dressing. I had advised the organisers beforehand that as I am pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to eat certain seafood so they were very accommodating in providing me with a gorgeous fresh and colourful salad. Barry told me the seafood platter was exquisite and he particularly enjoyed tasting the pollan.
The second course was slow cooked raw cider and brown sugar cured pork rib. It came served with black pudding and apple fritter, celeriac cream, fried kale, wild mushrooms and Armagh Crab apple gravy. This dish was created by Yellow Door and the pork rib was beautiful- the meat just fell off the bone and was paired perfectly with the apple gravy. This course was matched with Long Meadows medium cider which is a crisp, sharp cider and as I was told, very easy to drink.
The third course, from Moody Boar, was caramelised Armagh apple frangipane with vanilla custard and macerated blackberries. The fragipane was moist and not too heavy, while the vanilla custard was light, almost cream-like. This course was served with MacIvors plum and ginger cider which received huge complements from my companions at the table. We finished our meal with a fourth course of tea and coffee.
The evening was a spectacular feast celebrating local food and drink and I know we all came away having thoroughly enjoyed the event. This is the second year the festival has featured a pop-up restaurant and the interesting venue really made the evening. Thanks very much to the Dean for opening up his home to us and for the event organisers for the invite to the event!