I had the opportunity to be there to support several local companies shortlisted for special awards.
Invest NI has been a longstanding sponsor of this competition which helps to raise awareness of our food and drink in Britain, the Republic of Ireland and further afield especially with influential retailers and international food writers like MasterChef judge Charles Campion, the Daily Telegraph’s highly respected Xanthe Clay and Jane Curran, food editor of Woman and Home magazine.
Upwards of 400 people enjoyed several foods from Northern Ireland including Hannan Meats Moyallon sweet cured ribs and Himalayan salt-aged beef both served as a superb main course.
Hannan Meats had an impressive three products out of the top five listed by the UK Guild of Fine Food, organisers of the awards, this company was subsequently named as winner of the Northern Ireland ‘Golden Fork’, which I presented to managing director Peter Hannan.
It was the third year in a row that this award has been won by Hannan Meats, now selling premium beef and bacon to high-end retailers and major restaurants in Britain, the Republic and France.
Overall, Northern Ireland had a record eight dishes named in the Top 50 Foods in the UK and Ireland. As well as five from Hannan Meats, the Top 50 included Venison Loin from Baronscourt Estate in Omagh, Strawberry and Cream ice cream from Maud’s Ice Cream in Carrickfergus, and Apple Loves Mint Tea from Suki Teahouse in Belfast.
The big winner in a spectacular night of outstanding food was Yellow Door Deli in Portadown, a business run by leading chef Simon Dougan, which won the Deli and Farmshop Signature Dish for the second successive year. Yellow Door, significantly, gained the award with its outstandingly flavoured Strangford Prawns, leeks and Comber potato soup.
It’s a great way to turn the potatoes, which have EU protected name status, into a deliciously different soup. Wouldn’t it be tremendous to see this uniquely Northern Irish soup on menus here and further afield?
The awards showed that we’ve some seriously good food in Northern Ireland, food now regularly winning awards and the critical acclaim of food experts abroad. I am confident that many of the companies, mostly smaller businesses and artisan enterprises, will soon see the business benefits in terms of sales outside Northern Ireland from their Great Taste awards.
Invest NI is working closely with our award winning companies to help them to turn this important recognition into worthwhile and profitable sales outside Northern Ireland. This assistance ranges from expert marketing support in Britain and other markets, guidance in areas such as packaging and labelling and support to help to create innovative products for faster growth abroad.