Galgorm Gourmet Wine Evening

Earlier this month I was delighted to be invited to the Galgorm Hotel’s Gourmet Wine Evening.

This exclusive event, which is being run just four times in 2017, pairs gourmet cooking with expert wine tasting.

Guests are treated to a drinks and canapés reception, a five course dinner and a selected glass of wine with each course.

I attended the event on 1st June which was being hosted by Robert Neill from Neill Wine, a boutique wine merchants with stores in Helen’s Bay, Groomsport and Carrickfergus.

The theme for the night was “Outstanding Grape Discoveries: Taste the Difference” which wanted to introduce us to grape varieties that we, perhaps, would not be familiar with.

The venue for the evening was the hotel’s stunning River Room which we were individually taken to after the drinks and canapés reception.

We were given a introduction to the wine by Robert Neill before each course, and Robert expertly talked about the region in which the grapes were grown, the style of the wine, the type of food it works well with and generally got us excited about trying it out.

The first wine we sampled was a Antech Cuvee Heritage 2012 from Limoux in France. It’s believed the world’s first sparkling wine was, in fact, produced in Limoux and so, certainly dates back further than Champagne.

The Antech Cuvee Heritage has a international style of sparking wine, a mix of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Mauzac.

It has a dry, but slightly spicy taste and pairs well with canapés and aperitifs.

The first course on the menu was sole with squid ink, sea lettuce and tomato. This was served with Raidis Estate Cheeky Goat Pinot Gris Rose (2014) from Coonawarra in Australia.

The Connawarra region is synonymous for Cabernet Sauvignon so it I was very interested to try its Rose!

The wine is medium to full body (which you don’t get for Rose) and more importantly, is dry.

As to be expected, this wine goes well with fish and accompanied the light, flaky and tender sole perfectly.

The second course was cured beef with radish, black garlic and lovage (sea parsley). This course was matched with Casar de Burbia Mencia 2013 from Bierzo in Spain.

The Mencia grape produces dark fruit flavours, such as blackcurrant, cherry and plum, with acidity being one of the distinguishing factors of this wine.

The Spanish tend to serve Mencia with cured meats, as was the case at the Galgorm.

The beef course was one of my favourite of the evening and I was left wanting more.

The third course was monkfish served with scallops, peas, smoked butter and samphire.

This was matched with Deu La Deu Alvarinho Reserve 2014, a vinho verde (‘green wine’) from Portugal.

This is a fruity and fresh wine- the grape just as ripe as the day it was picked.

It has citrus and mineral characteristics which made it the most enjoyable for me to drink.  It really complimented the slightly sweet but mild taste of the monkfish.

The fourth course was lamb, girolles, artichoke, nettle and courgette flower. This was paired with Terra Noble Gran Reserve Carmenere 2013 from Maule Valley in Chile.

This full-bodied wine, which is matured in oak for up to two years, has the most intense aroma of freshly ground coffee beans.

It is rich and smooth with a very tart finish, which is why it worked very well with the strong flavour of the lamb. The dish was beautifully presented and was very appetising.

The final course of the evening was the dessert- lemon with bee pollen, strawberry and local yoghurt.

This was served with Antech Cuvee Ancestrale 2014, again from Limoux in France. This medium sweet wine has incredible hints of red apples and pears and makes for the perfect wine to accompany dessert.

I mentioned that the cured beef was one of my favourite courses of the night and this was certainly the other. Refreshing, cleansing, sweet and tasty!

We finished with tea/coffee and petit four. I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable evenings in terms of the range of food and drink I’ve had in a long time. I cannot fault anything.

With more than 6 glasses of wine (as often we were topped up!), a 5 course dinner, as well as canapé reception and petit four, you leave completely satisfied.

The next Gourmet Wine Evenings are Thursday 5th October 2017 and Thursday 7th December 2017 and cost £95 per person.

Check out http://www.galgorm.com/upcoming_eventst.html for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tesco NI- National BBQ Week

As I write this, it is threatening to rain! (Typical!)

We all love a BBQ but of course, it’s hard to plan because you never know what the weather might do. However, it’s National BBQ Week so at least one BBQ had to be on the cards!

I was delighted to receive a BBQ pack from Tesco Northern Ireland, championing local produce. So, as  soon as the sun shone on Wednesday we fired up the coals!

In the pack we had:

  • 4 Beef steak burgers and 4 chilli flavoured beef steak burgers (from Ballymena-based meat company Doherty and Gray)
  • Hull’s of Ballymena smokey BBQ pork sausages
  • Irwins white finger rolls (Portadown bakery)
  • Country Kitchen reduced fat coleslaw (from Craigavon-based Avondale Foods)
  • Sweet Chilli and Cranberry coleslaw (Newtownards company Provenance Salads)
  • Nightingale Farms lettuce (grown in Northern Ireland)
  • Dromona mature cheddar cheese slices (part of the Dale Farm group)
  • “Really Good” floury baps (made in Armagh)

We were also treated to a selection of local beers and ciders:

  • Belfast Blonde (Hilden Brewery in Lisburn)
  • Madden’s Meadow Cider (from Armagh Cider Company)
  • Horny Bull Stout (Hillstown Brewery in Randalstown)
  • Yardsman Lager (Hercules Brewing Company in Belfast)
  • Belfast Ale (Whitewater Brewery in Castlewellan)
  • Carson’s Crisp cider (Armagh Cider company)

So, burgers, hotdogs and a few drinks was the order of the day this week! We loved it, especially since everything is made right here! Thanks Tesco!

Northern Ireland BBQ pack from Tesco NI

Local craft beers and ciders

Chilli steak burgers with Sweet Chilli and Cranberry coleslaw, Nightingale Farms lettuce and Dromona mature cheddar cheese

 


Hulls of Ballymena BBQ pork sausages with Irwin’s finger rolls

La Taverna at Fratelli

Today is the Italian National Day so there’s no better day to write about Italian food!

Last week I was invited along to Fratelli in Belfast (Great Victoria Street) to try out their new offering, La Taverna.

La Taverna, situated upstairs in Fratelli, is an elegant bar (with all-Italian wines) and a menu which consists of small, sharing-size dishes known as cicchetti (similar idea to Spanish tapas.)

Last Friday happened to be the warmest day of the year so it was perfect for Barry and I to sit out on the terrace and enjoy the 26° heat! (Now we really did feel like we were in Italy!)

The La Taverna menu is broken down into sections, including Piadina (filled Italian flatbreads), verdure al forno (baked vegetables) and cicchetti fritti (fried sharing plates).

We decided to go for one dish from each section, as we felt that this was a good mix and would give us a broad sense of all the different styles of cicchetti.

Out of a possible three dishes from each section, we selected;

Piadina: Prosciutto crudo with provolone, tomato, pesto and rocket

Stromboli: Pancetta, wild mushrooms and grated truffle

Verdure al forno (baked vegetables): Fine bean, tenderstem, shallot, pancetta

Cicchetti fritti (fried): Spiced chicken breast with salsa rossa

Cicchetti al forno (baked): Venetian-style seafood gratin

Cicchetti freddi (chilled): Buffalo Mozzarella, marinated tomato and basil

Verdure Fritte: Parmesan fries with truffle mayo

For me the Piadina was my favourite- it’s similar to pizza but traditionally thinner and crispier, and eaten more like a sandwich/wrap.

The Stromboli, again, has the style of pizza but is long, thin and rolled, with the ‘toppings’ inside. While I enjoyed all the dishes, I also particularly liked the spiced chicken breast (perhaps it could be a little bit spicier?)

I loved the mix of cold and hot, baked and fried, meat and vegetarian dishes and would recommend covering each of the menu’s sections! The sizes were great for sharing and accompanied the drinks well, mine the locally-made Jawbox gin.

Piadina: Prosciutto crudo with provolone, tomato, pesto and rocket

Stromboli: Pancetta, wild mushrooms and grated truffle

Verdure al forno (baked vegetables): Fine bean, tenderstem, shallot, pancetta

Cicchetti fritti (fried): Spiced chicken breast with salsa rossa

Cicchetti al forno (baked): Venetian-style seafood gratin

Cicchetti freddi (chilled): Buffalo Mozzarella, marinated tomato and basil

Verdure Fritte: Parmesan fries with truffle mayo

Jaxbow gin on the La Taverna terrace

Once we had finished our dinner and were ready to hit the road, we spoke to the manager who recommended the cheeseboard to us. Now I was pretty full but anything with cheese gets my vote, so of course we had to try it!

The cheeseboard consisted of four different types of cheeses- gorgonzola, pecorino, fontina and taleggio- served with cracker breads, grapes, and Prosecco and chilli relish. I’m so glad we tried it and was a lovely way to finish.


We had a very enjoyable evening at Fratelli and the dining al fresco was an added bonus!

 

Launch of La Taverna at Fratelli

Italian restaurant Fratelli opened in Great Victoria Street in 2015 and has grown from strength to strength.

Two weeks ago saw the launch of an elegant new wine bar on the premises, La Taverna, situated in the transformed upstairs area!

As well as stocking a huge selection of wine, La Taverna will also be offering tapas-style sharing plates known as Cicchetti. These include Piadina (filled flatbreads) and Cicchetti Fritti (a Fried Calamari dish).

The big draw for me is the balcony where guests can watch the world go by under the awning with outdoor heating! We sat out there for ages!

At the launch we sampled the wine and sharing plates on offer and were even treated to performances from fire-breathers and an Opera singer!

La Taverna is fresh and sophisticated, offering a real treat for wine enthusiasts, and I think it will work very well in Belfast!

 

Breakfast with Rory Best!

This week I attended a special breakfast – an audience with Ireland and Ulster rugby star, Rory Best, no less!

The breakfast, which took place at the House of Sport in Belfast, was hosted by Irish organic yogurt company Glenisk which is the official yogurt supplier to the IRFU.

Over 160 rugby supporters got the chance to meet ambassador Rory Best, as well as take part in a question and answer session with the sporting legend.

Breakfast, as you can imagine, was a great mix of healthy dishes such as Glenisk Greek style Blueberry, yogurt and oat pancakes, and scrambled free range eggs made using Glenisk organic cream.

It was brilliant to see so many young faces who were in awe at meeting their hero! Thanks to Glenisk for the invite and the lovely morning!


Castle Espie

I recently saw an Instagram post about Castle Espie in Comber and it looked lovely! I realised I had never been and I’m always looking for somewhere new to visit, particularly on maternity leave.

Castle Espie is part of the WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) and is one of ten wetland centres the charity has in the UK.

Castle Espie prides itself on allowing visitors to get up close to Ireland’s “largest collection of native and exotic waterbirds, bats and migrant birds.”

I had a look on the website and saw that a Giant LEGO trail is currently on at the attraction. Visitors are able to follow the trail of nine individually-designed LEGO brick animals, some inspired by real species at Castle Espie.

As you follow the path you can read just how many bricks went into each animal. In fact, it took 75,000 bricks to make just one of them- Fred the Frog!

The brick animal trail is running until Sunday 2 April so there are still a few weeks to see the sculptures, as well as the real life wildlife of course! Prices are just £7.68 (without Gift Aid) for adults and £3.73 for children!

We spent a few hours here, having a picnic at one of the picnic tables dotted around the centre, feeding the ducks with the corn we purchased at reception and enjoying a cup of tea in the café once we arrived back at the visitors centre.

The sunny weather made the day even more enjoyable so hopefully we get some more of that coming into spring!

FullSizeRender[3]

IMG_8269

IMG_8268

FullSizeRender[1]IMG_8216IMG_8225IMG_8270IMG_8271IMG_8272

FullSizeRender[2]

pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destination Delicious- Browns Restaurants

At the recent Tourism NI ‘Year of Food and Drink Awards’, Derry /Londonderry was named as ‘Destination Delicious’.  (Another name for the area!)

The Award recognises the city’s reputation for excellent local produce and eateries, and last week I was lucky to join fellow bloggers and media in trying out exactly what the area has to offer.

We left Belfast and made our way to Browns in Town (23 Strand Road) where there was a fantastic showcase of Destination Delicious food and drink producers. I chatted with, and tried samples from, the likes of Brendan Gallagher meats, Donnybrewer Butter, Kee Fruits, Northbound Brewery, Quiet Man Whiskey and Dart Mountain Cheese.

I particularly loved the cheese so I had to find out where I could buy it in Belfast- Sawers Deli in College Street, by the way!

It was then time to head to Browns in Town’s sister restaurant, Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge (1 Bond’s Hill) where we were first treated to a live cooking demo by chef Ian Orr.

Ian has created a bespoke menu in celebration of ‘Destination Delicious’ and it was this very menu we were about to tuck in to.

For the first course we shared a selection of homemade breads served with the Donnybrewer butter we had just sampled at Browns in Town. The rich and creamy butter is churned in a traditional batch churn at the company’s Eglinton farm. The breads were  swiftly followed by a fantastic dish consisting of Loughview Farm Egg with Errigal Bay Scallop and Pomegrante.

IMG_7974

IMG_7975

Sticking with seafood, it was time for the third course- Donegal Prime Crab with Apple and Cucumber. The crab tasted incredible paired with the apple jelly and was served with Lapostolle Chardonny.

The final course before the dessert was my favourite, Beef Cheek from Brendan Gallagher with Northbound Beer and Kee Fruit Mixed Beetroot. That beef! It just fell apart at the touch- delicious. This was served with Tomero Malbec supplied by R&R Wines and Kolsch style Lager from Northbound Brewery.

IMG_7981

IMG_7990

The final course was Rhubarb Parfait with Long Meadow Cider, which looked as beautiful as it tasted! Loved the presentation! This was matched with dessert wine, Sichel Sauternes.

IMG_7995

We then boarded the bus and made our way to Ardtara Country House in Maghera. This boutique hotel is owned by the Browns Group and has previously been named as one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland. Here we had a nightcap of tea/coffee and dulce de leche shortbread bites.

IMG_8004

We arrived back to Belfast at midnight after what was a fantastic evening celebrating the best of the best food and drink in Destination Delicious!

Browns is a restaurant group which prides itself on using the freshest, local produce. No wonder it was named the ‘Best Restaurant in Co Derry’ for the eighth year running at the Irish Restaurant Awards just days after our visit! Well done guys!