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Experience the very best local food and drink at Balmoral showcase

The impressive Food NI Pavilion at the RUAS show at Balmoral Park, which opened its doors yesterday, is enabling visitors to experience how several artisan food enterprises here create their uniquely tasty and original products.

They are among around 50 smaller food and drink producers taking part in the popular Food NI Food Pavilion.

Artisans are featuring with top chefs in the Experience Kitchen organised by promotion body Food NI in conjunction with Tourism NI as part of its food experiences within its imaginative ‘Embrace and Giant Spirit’ marketing campaign.

Food and drink is now a key element within Tourism NI’s marketing activities and also figures strongly in global promotions in association with Tourism Ireland.

Visitors are experiencing and enjoying what is a lively and informative programme of events that includes briefings about handcrafting chocolates, baking traditional griddle breads, including potato and soda farls and barmbracks, as well as preparing 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.

Taking part in the Experience Kitchen are 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, is demonstrating how she produces and applies her spicy BBQ sauces. Belfast’s Andrew’s Flour is showcasing the latest baking ideas with its renowned flour products.

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

While the Experience Kitchen is already a magnet for many visitors to the huge Food Pavilion, which has been organised by Food NI with support from the Northern Ireland Regional Food Programme (NIRFP), upwards of 50 smaller companies are 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: “This 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. Smaller companies need more opportunities to market and sell their products.

“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, to the public 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 has drawn visitors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and further afield.

“Invest NI, in addition, is backing the show and pavilion once again by bringing influential food buyers from Britain and the Republic of Ireland to meet local companies taking part in this hugely important event for our biggest manufacturing industry,” she adds.

“We’ve certainly missed Balmoral Show since it was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic which, unfortunately, remains a worrying threat.

“We are aware of this and have taken steps to ensure the safety of everyone by implementing agreed 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 are not impacting the enjoyment of visitors to the pavilion. They have an unprecedented opportunity to experience the very best of our outstanding and award-winning food and drink,” adds Michele.

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 to enjoy at home.

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.

The pavilion also features presentations from local councils such as Mid and East Antrim. Ards and Bangor and Antrim and Newtownabbey.

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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