Revolución de Cuba launches in Belfast

Last week saw the opening of a new bar and restaurant in Belfast, Revolución de Cuba, a Latin-inspired cantina based at the former Café Vaudeville.

I went along last Wednesday and thought I would sample a few tapas and maybe listen to some Reggaeton tunes…but what I didn’t expect was to have a burrito masterclass, plates of gorgeous Latin American cuisine, rum tasting, cocktail making, even salsa dancing! Wow, what a party!

Located on the site of the original Belfast Savings Bank, this colourful and vibrant Havana-esque party hotspot is set across two floors. So what are the highlights?

CUBAN COCKTAILS

  • Latin favourites such as caipirinhas, piña coladas and cuba libres
  • For budding bartenders, learn from the best cantineros in town by booking a group Cuban cocktail masterclass, ideal for parties or team-building.

LA CANTINA

  • For lunch there’s flavour-packed salads, wraps, tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, or go for a lighter zesty burrito bowl
  • When the sun goes down, choose from a huge selection of tantalising tapas such as gambas pil pil, patatas bravas, pork belly skewers, salmon ceviche and iberico ham croquettas.

FIESTA FRIDAYS

  • Happy hour kicks off at 5pm – 7pm. Enjoy 2-4-1 cocktails, before heading to the dancefloor where a carnival atmosphere is guaranteed with live Latin music and DJs.

PARTY PACKAGES

  • There’s an array of party packages including salsa dance lessons, tapas tastings and giant paellas!
  • Enjoy fruit rum concoctions served in teapots and punch bowls, or opt for spirits by the bottle complete with a choice of complimentary mixers.

Check out my video and pictures to see it for yourself!

 

 

#TweetSeats lunch at Bullitt Belfast

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch…except there is at Bullitt Hotel in Belfast!

A few weeks ago I saw on Twitter that the hotel was giving away 10 free lunches every Tuesday in June and July- and all you had to do was tweet them!

The idea is that before 11am you tell them how many seats you would like and at what time and use the hashtag #tweetseats.

At 11am they will pick 10 seats to enjoy a free three-course meal.

So for example, a table of 6 and 2 tables of 2 would win one week, or a table of 4 and 3 tables of 2 would win the following week…you get the picture!

So I chanced my arm for myself and 3 work colleagues and I was delighted to win four free lunches!

The lunch, at Taylor & Clay restaurant, is from the 3-7-3 menu with all starters costing £3, mains costing £7 and dessert costing £3.

The starters include whipped goat’s cheese with beetroot and pomegranate, or the salt beef Caesar salad. I went for the Smokey chorizo with fennel cream and pickles.

The choice of mains include “Walled Garden Ribollita” (which is an organic vegetable and bean broth) or a flatbread kebab with spiced beef. I went for the Orzo pasta with hot Italian sauage, confit tomatoes and burnt onion cream.

Finally, from the dessert menu, you can pick apple and blueberry frangipane crumble or yoghurt and sesame cream with pink grapefruit. I went for the frangipane.

We had a lovely meal and couldn’t get over the fact we had won a three course meal each. I thought when their Twitter said a free lunch it would be one course!

The food and service was very enjoyable, with my favourite dish being the apple and blueberry frangipane!

There are only two Tuesdays left in July, so get in quick if you want to try and win! All you have to do is #TweetSeats- simple!


 

 

 

 

The Food Hall Belfast

There’s a new food hangout in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast- the Food Hall located in York Street!

As the name suggests, Mount Charles’ latest offering brings together a number of different cafes under one roof, with a large, open seating area so that diners can pick and choose from the range.

I went along to the opening night, thanks to Ohh Social, a Northern Irish 2-4-1 mobile app, and sampled the goodies from each of the four cafes.

So what’s on offer? Well, there’s Juiced– a healthy smoothie bar- and Made- serving the likes of soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps.

If you fancy something sweet, there’s La Creperie serving a brilliant range of crepes and muffins. I went for the Nutella and Strawberry crepe……oh my! Delicious!

Finally, there’s Ripple, to get your yummy ice-cream fix, especially if the weather has been as good as the last few days!

I love the idea of friends all able to get different food/drink items but still sit together (I’d be the friend that would go straight for the buns rather than the healthy smoothie!)

Check out the video and pics below from the opening night.

And if you want to try some of the items, download the Ohh social app where there are offers such as ‘two for one’ wraps, milkshakes and ice-creams!



 

Make My Mullins at Victoria Square

Last Friday I attended the launch of a pop-up ice cream parlour at Victoria Square!

The parlour, which will be open throughout the month of July, is run by Mullins, an award winning family ice cream manufacturer based in Kilrea.

We were treated to cocktails, canapes and live music before the pièce de résistance- a bespoke ice cream work of art!

So, to start with, as my base, I picked a doughnut, but you can choose from a cone, or a cookie etc.

Then for my first topping I went for honeycomb cream…. followed by midget gems…and finished off with chocolate and hazelnut sauce!! What a combination!

I can report it was as delightful as it sounds!

There are loads of different options including ice cream flavours such as Cookies and Cream, Raspberry Ripple and Blueberry Muffin Crumble, and toppings such as popcorn, Millions sweets and pretzels! Just make it exactly how you want it.

Check out the pics and video from the night and if you want to visit the pop up store, get down to the Ground Floor of Victoria Square before 28th July!


Musgrave Marketplace Foodservice Brochure

Last week I went to Tedfords Kitchen for the launch of Musgrave Marketplace’s new Foodservice Brochure.

The brochure showcases the extensive range of products available from Musgrave MarketPlace, including meat, diary, fruit & vegetables, delicatessen, fish & shellfish and crisps & snacks.

At Tedfords we were treated to a four course meal, showcasing the type of fantastic dishes which can be created using the Musgrave produce.

The first course was a selection of crostini using La Boulangerie des Gourmets artisan breads.

The selection consisted of:

  •  Tomato and fennel crostini served with seasonal fare courgette marinated in lemon and garlic oil with goats cheese
  • Onion and smoked lardon crostini served with chorizo and seasonal fare roasted red peppers with sour cream
  • Olive crostini served with Wright’s smoked salmon with crème fraiche

This dish was fantastic because of the combination of the flavours in the artisan breads with the fish/meat/cheeses. I particularly loved the chorizo with the roasted red peppers!

For the second course we could either choose between a curry roast monkfish or a duo of beef. Luckily Barry wanted one and I fancied the other, so I got to try both!

The monkfish was served with fragant coconut rice, stir fry seasonal fare bok choi, tiger prawn wontons and curry oil.

The duo of beef was a pan fried Irish beef fillet steak served with a braised beef cheek on a bed of roasted beetroot and root vegetables, fondant potatoes and rich red wine sauce.

What can I say about the fillet steak- the meat was so tender and just fell apart. It was juicy and rich- perfect!

For dessert, again, we were able to choose between two dishes and Barry and I went for one each. (The best way!)

I had the Fusco chocolate ganache pudding, while Barry picked the Paganini Salted Caramel Apple Pie cheesecake.

The pudding was a chocolate lover’s dream- the chocolate oozing out with the touch of a fork! Yum!

And the other dessert? Well, I love salted caramel, I love apple pie, I love cheesecake- who would have thought of putting them all together! Brilliant!

We finished with a selection of Irish and Continental cheeses. These were Baby Gubbeen (Cork), Cashel Blue (Tipperary) and Manchego (Spain), and came served with caramelised onion chutney and crackers.

I had never tried the Baby Gubbeen before and love being introduced to Irish produce. A lovely way to end the meal.

We had a great time with gorgeous food so thank you to Musgrave! Check out my video from the night too! ​​

 

 

Rathlin Island Food Tour

Last year I went on a walking food tour of Ballycastle which was hosted by Caroline Redmond from North Coast Walking Tours.

North Coast Tours runs food tours of towns and villages around the Causeway Coastal Route, including Ballycastle, Rathlin Island and Bushmills.

I was blown away by the quality of the food but also by Caroline, whose passion and enthusiasm for local produce was undeniable. You can read all about my experience here: https://belfasttravels.com/2016/05/26/ballycastle-food-tour/

So when I saw that Caroline was running extra food tours of Rathlin Island during the recent Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival, I jumped at the chance and booked Barry and I on a tour (and of course, Niamh, who was just a small bump during the Ballycastle one!)

We met in Ballycastle and boarded the ferry to make the short journey across to Rathlin Island where we met Caroline and our fellow foodies.


Caroline explained what was in store before we made our first stop at Watershed Café. Our first dish of the day was a mix of the old v the new- a mini fry, yes, but with a difference!

Not just any old bacon and eggs, but goat bacon from Broughgammon Farm (based in Ballycastle) and quail eggs from Ballinteer Farm (based in Macosquin.) This was served with soda bread to make for a great breakfast!


The second course was then a picnic! Normally the picnic is in the old Kelp store but unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side so had to eat inside. But that certainly didn’t take away from the selection of food and drink on offer. Local produce galore!

We tried Glens of Antrim Ales (including Rathlin Red), Dart Mountain cheese, Genesis Crafty wheaten bread and more. All that was missing in this picnic was the sun​!

Once we’d finished our local picnic, we made our way to the pub! At McCuaigs bar we had a bowl of vegetable soup.

Tasting homemade and fresh, we all enjoyed the warming broth in the island’s friendly pub.

Finally we headed to the newly re-opened guesthouse, Manor House, overlooking the harbour. There, we tried the kelp we had heard so much about, tasting a kelp pancake with kelp butter. I really loved this dish and the seaweed worked so well in a savoury crepe- something different!

We stayed on the island for another hour or so before catching the ferry back to Ballycastle.

The tour was fantastic because not only did we get to try out Rathlin Island/ NI produce, but we got to see and hear about Rathlin, which I had never visited before.

Once again, Caroline was the perfect host- friendly, knowledgeable and most of all, a real champion of all things local!

 

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!

 

Afternoon treats with Andrew Ingredients

Last week I was invited along to Kingspan Stadium by Andrew Ingredients, a Lisburn-based business which provides products to the baking industry across Ireland.

The event was to showcase their extensive range of goods, as well as launch a new rugby-inspired bread product, NO 8, in partnership with German ingredients supplier IREKS.

Throughout the afternoon, Andrew Ingredients discussed the latest bakery innovations and advice, as well as offer an unbelievable choice of samples.

I’m not joking when I say I tried breads, buns, muffins, baps, donuts, brownies, cookies, pizza…..the list goes on!

Check out the rugby ball bread, if you get the chance!

Launch of NO 8