Castlerock chocolate maker set to wow Balmoral show visitors

Visitors to the big RUAS show at Balmoral Park next week will be able to experience how several artisan food enterprises here create their uniquely tasty and original products.

Visitors to the big RUAS show at Balmoral Park next week will be able to experience how several artisan food enterprises here create their uniquely tasty and original products.

The artisans will be featuring with top chefs in the Experience Kitchen organised by Food NI in conjunction with Tourism NI as part of its food experiences within its imaginative ‘Embrace and Giant Spirit’ promotional campaign. Food and drink is now a key element within Tourism NI’s marketing activities and also figures in promotions in association with Tourism Ireland.

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On the menu for visitors to experience and enjoy in what promises to be a lively and informative programme of events will be handcrafted chocolates, traditional griddle breads, including potato and soda farls and barmbracks as well homemade foods from local ingredients and spicy BBQ sauces for a range of meats. These are companies staycationers and tourists are currently able to visit at their premises.

Chocolate maker Geri Martin of Chocolate Manor in Castlerock will be showing visitors to the experience kitchen, hosted by Food NI and Tourism NI, at Balmoral Show how she handcrafts her original products

Taking part in the experience kitchen will be Bronagh Duffin of Bakehouse cookery school in Bellaghy; Geri Martin of Chocolate Manor in Castlerock, a specialist chocolate maker; and Killinchy-based Tracey Jeffrey, owner of Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen, now a popular tourist destination offering bakery classes in traditional Northern Irish breads. Emily McCorkell of Lo&Slo Sauces in Derry will be demonstrating how she produces and applies her spicy BBQ Sauces. Belfast’s Andrew’s Flour will showcase the latest baking ideas with their flour.

They’ll be making their original foods in the novel kitchen that will also include demonstrations from leading chefs such as celebrity broadcaster and Farming Life’s Paula McIntyre; Roy Abraham of Smuggler’s Table in Killyleagh; Ken Sharpe of Salty Dog in Bangor; and Brian Mc Gill from South Eastern Regional College in Lisburn, a leading provider of culinary courses for students.

Experience kitchen is to be a magnet for visitors

While the experience kitchen is likely to be a magnet for many visitors to the Food Pavilion which has been organised by Food NI with support from the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme (NIRFP), upwards of 50 smaller companies will be showing hundreds of innovative products in the venue. NIRFP plays an important role in supporting local food and drink through a range of far-reaching initiatives.

Support from NIRFP for the Food Pavilion and from Tourism NI for the launch of the new experience kitchen is greatly appreciated by Food NI’s chief executive Michele Shirlow, who says: “Their backing enables us to develop the pavilion in terms of participating companies and to offer opportunities to visitors to see how many of our excellent local foods are produced, how they can be used in meals and snacks, as well as the people behind them. We really wouldn’t have been able to provide what is probably the biggest and most comprehensive presentation of local food and drink, especially from smaller companies, so far this year without their generous support and encouragement.

“Overall, it’s marvellous to be hosting the food pavilion again for thousands of people to see and sample the best of local food and drink. It’s always been one of the most popular presentations at a show which draws visitors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and further afield.

“Invest NI, in addition, will be backing the pavilion again by bringing food buyers from Britain and the Republic of Ireland to meet companies taking part in this hugely important show.

“We’ve certainly missed Balmoral since it was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic which, unfortunately, remains a threat. We are aware of this and have taken steps to ensure safety by implementing systems for social distancing, face coverings and hand sanitation throughout the pavilion. This has also involved increasing space between stands and reducing participating companies this year. Visitor and participating company safety is a priority for us. We would urge visitors to comply with Government guidance. I am sure that changes won’t impact the enjoyment of visitors to the pavilion. They’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to experience the very best of our outstanding and award-winning food and drink.”

Food NI has lined up around 50 mostly artisan enterprises and organisations to showcase hundreds of original food and drink products for visitors to see, experience and, hopefully, purchase.

Virtually every sector in the vibrant industry, Northern Ireland’s largest single manufacturer and the only industry represented in every community and especially rural areas, will be featured in the pavilion. It’s an industry which generates over £5 billion annually to the local economy and particularly the wellbeing of rural communities.

Food and drink products from local companies are now exported to over 60 global markets such as the Republic of Ireland, other parts of the EU, as well as the US, Middle East and Asia.

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