2016 is the year of food and drink in Northern Ireland and there is no better way to be introduced to a taste of Belfast than with a walking tour of the city’s gastronomic hot spots.
In Belfast, the food tour experts are a company called Taste and Tour run by ex lawyer Caroline Wilson and her partner Phil Ervine who used to be a marketing consultant for a range of food and drink companies. So passionate are they about food that they have both given up their day jobs to run the tours full time. We joined their Belfast Bites Tour.
Taste and Tour in Belfast
Our first stop on our Taste and Tour walk was an aladdin’s cave of all things gourmet.
In one bite, we were introduced to Wheaton bread, Abernethy Butter and Walter Ewings salmon.
Wheaton Bread is a local staple made from Wharton flour and buttermilk. I had already been introduced to Abernethy butter the night before at one of Belfast’s fabulous restaurants. Abernethy butter has changed me from a non butter eater to one who is slathing on more than than necessary. It is hand churned by the Abernethys every day and, as the only hand made butter in Northern Ireland, it is being well received by chefs and stores across the United Kingdom.
To top this wonderful bread and butter, we enjoyed locally smoked Walter Ewings salmon.
Ireland has some interesting and fabulous cheese which, over our visit, I tried a few!
It wouldn’t be Ireland without Guinness cheese!
You couldn’t really taste the Guinness but this marbled cheese would certainly brighten up a cheeseboard.
From this cheese heaven, Phil, our guide, also bought some fabulous cheese to have at the end of lunch.
Young Buck Cheese is an outstanding new raw milk blue cheese and one I quickly became addicted to! So creamy with that hint of blue coming through, you’ll want more!
There is more to chocolate than meets the eye and it was at our next stop that we learnt all about it. Our chocolatier, Deidre is recognised as one of the top forty chocolate makers world wide. Her reputation is based on having the best chocolate available for the best price.
I learnt a lot about cheese! Did you know that:
Chocolate is a fruit..
The seeds inside a cacao pod taste like mango so when they are fermented together it helps with the sweetness…
Madagascar produces some of the world’s best chocolate even though less than 1% comes from there…
Milk chocolate was created in Northern Ireland by Hans Slane…
70% chocolate means that 70% is chocolate and that the other 30% is sugar…
White chocolate has no cocoa solids…
The taste of a good chocolate should linger in the throat well after the last bit has disappeared….
Chocolate is a health food! It is only when it is diluted with the addition of sugar that it becomes unhealthy…
And what does all this mean? It means we need to eat more chocolate
Of course the best part of a chocolate stop is tasting the chocolate and here we indulged in a rich hot chocolate and tried their delicious brownie bites!
Stout and cider
This tour was not all about food. The Irish love a drink so it was time to join them for an Irish stout and McGivers Cider but first we had to try a dish called champ!
Ireland is renowned for its potatoes and these are the basis of this local Northern Ireland dish. Champ really is another name for mashed potatoes with spring onions and a gallon of butter. Just watch the calories!
Stout is not something I enjoy so I left the tasting of McGrath’s Beer no 4 to my husband. His empty glass said it all!
Cider is an ever increasing market and one where every one has their favourites. McGivers was popular with the group as it was not too sweet which was just as lucky as this was the one we were soon to be were trying! I couldn’t believe that 45 million apples are harvested a year. They even have orchard parties…any excuse for a party in Ireland.
Gin at the John Hewitt
Our next stop was another pub!
The John Hewitt Pub is quite an exceptional pub as profits from here go to the John Hewitt Resource Centre next door to help retrain those that have lost their jobs. It is famous for its music.
It is also famous for it’s gin…Jawbox Gin which is new to the market having only been released in April this year. It quickly became my favourite gin in Ireland.
The jawbox was the name given to the town’s small sink because it was here that the women gathered to wash clothes, dishes, husbands and to catch up on local gossip. Hence the name jawbox
Jawbox gin doesn’t have the kitchen sink in it ..it is a delicate gin, made in the English manner…a London dry gin that is 43% proof. It was served with ginger ale, a first for us but the Fever Tree ginger ale is quite subtle and suited to an early morning tipple! We also learnt that the Irish invented ginger ale!
After a quick stop for a fabulous La Ciumbre de San Luis coffee, a very mild filtered coffee that, for a non coffee drinker like myself, was very good, it was time for lunch. And what a lunch it was! As we sipped on Glens of Atrim Prosecco, plate after plate of delicious food kept coming to the table….stunning crispy based pizza, a moreish seafood casserole, fabulous goat meatballs with a hazelnut and Marsala sauce, wild mushroom ravioli and a delicious duck ragu that we couldn’t get enough of!
Just incase we were still hungry after eating all day, Phil bought out the Young buck blue cheese he had bought at our first stop!
What a way to finish our fabulous food tour!
Taste and Tour offer a wide variety of tours including a ‘Meet the Brewer’ Brewery Tour, a Belfast Bar Tour and a Belfast Whiskey Walk as well as their award winning Belfast Food Tour.
Taste and Tour website
Thank you Taste and Tour for our complimentary Bites of Belfast Tour. All opinions here are own…you all know we love food tours and this was one was fabulous. Belfast is an exciting city and the food and wine here is exceptional.