One hundred and fifty-nine food and drink products from Northern Ireland were successful in gaining recognition in this year’s UK Great Taste Awards, the most important endorsement of quality and taste in the European food and drink processing industry
Five producers won the highly coveted three gold stars for outstanding flavour – Ballylisk of Armagh, Portadown, for Triple Rose Cheese; Baronscourt Estate in Stewartstown for wild sika venison; Corndale Farm, Limavady for chorizo; and Morelli’s Ice Cream, Coleraine, for raspberry sorbet.
Corndale’s Alastair Crown, commenting on the award, says: “Winning three stars for chorizo, one of our very first charcuterie products, is a marvellous endorsement of the quality and outstanding taste of our cured meats.”
And Mark Wright, one of the founders of Portadown’s Ballylisk of Armagh cheese, is equally enthusiastic: “A three-star Great Taste Award showcases the quality of our cheese, especially to retailers in Britain, a key growth market for us.
“We already supply Fortnum and Mason in London and are really keen to reach out to more high-end food halls.”
Arnaldo Morelli, another three-star winner for raspberry ruffle sorbet, already has a foothold in Britain and the Republic of Ireland for Morelli’s Ice Cream.
“The publicity associated with Great Taste is priceless to us as we seek to boost sales in Britain, said Arnaldo.
“Top food writers and high-end retailers have indicated the outstanding taste and innovation of our ice cream and low fat sorbets.”
The five are now in the running for the prestigious competition’s Supreme Champion title.
The leading Northern Ireland company will be chosen by a panel of expert judges and will win the Regional Fork for the tastiest local product, which will be announced next month at a glitzy dinner in London.
Northern Ireland has clinched the coveted supreme award for the British Isles and parts of Europe three times – twice by Hannan Meats and once by McCartney’s Butchers and Deli. Both winners are based in Moira.
Hannan Meats, led by Peter Hannan, is among the most successful companies in Great Taste. Hannan Meats did not enter this year’s Great Taste because it is currently perfecting a range of innovative convenience foods for launch later in the year.
A further 21 local products were awarded two stars and 133 one star each. Golden Fork winners in the past have included Hannan Meats of Moira, Belfast’s Suki Tea and Mill Bay Oysters from Carlingford Lough.
Some 14,000 products were entered by companies from across the British Isles for awards.
A three-star award means the expert judges rated a product “extraordinarily tasty”, while a two-star was “above and beyond delicious” and a one star “really delivers fantastic flavour”.
Recognised as a stamp of excellence and actively sought out by food lovers and retailers alike, Great Taste values taste above all else.
All products in the line-up for judging are blind-tasted: every product is removed from its packaging so it cannot be identified, before entering a robust, layered judging process.
This year the judging took place over 90 days across two judging locations, Dorset and London, with a panel of more than 500 judges.
Among other local successes were Krazi Baker Mark Douglas of Dromore, who gained gold stars from his fruit loaf and oatmeal biscuits.
The awards were especially important to Mark, a self-employed baker specialising in traditional Northern Irish breads. He has been out of action for many months due to a crippling Achilles tendon injury.
“The awards are great for morale at a time when I am slowly recovering from the injury,” he said.
“I hope to be baking again at my stalls in the markets in Newtownards and Carrickfergus before the end of the year.”
Burren Balsamics in Richhill also gained a series of stars for its original balsamic vinegars and condiments. There were stars, too, for Tartine restaurant in Bushmills for a pickle developed by chef Gary Stewart, for TS Foods in Castlewellan, Millar Meats, Irvinestown, Broighter Gold rapeseed oil in Limavady, and Milgro prepared onions in Coleraine.
Eileen Hall is justifiably proud of the achievements of Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, the successful business she runs with husband John at Newtownbutler in County Fermanagh.
The poultry farm, located near the Cavan border, gained a prestigious Great Taste Award on Monday, the company’s seventh in a row in the awards run by the influential UK Guild of Fine Food in London. The judges said the eggs “delivered fantastic flavour”.
“We were delighted to win another gold star in Great Taste,” says Eileen. “The award is a further endorsement of the quality and taste of our eggs, especially after such a challenging year for the poultry industry here, particularly from rising energy and feed costs.
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