Last night I went to a supper club in Ursa Minor Bakehouse in Ballycastle - a combination of wanting to support Dara and Ciara as they have supported me over the last year, of wanting to try the Levantine foods they were promising and of wanting to have a change of routine for a Saturday night.
I’ve known Dara and Ciara for many years now, having first met them when we worked together at Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge. I asked them to be part of a Ballycastle Food Tour because I loved their bread and thought that the patisserie would be a lovely bite with which to finish. Now that they’re an Économusée partner, a renowned Bakehouse and a real food hero, I’m so glad they continue to showcase Ballycastle’s food, allowing us into their bakery and explaining their ethos and the reasoning behind their venture.
Supper clubs are an up and coming part of the food culture here - pop up restaurants showcasing amazing chefs, particular foods, unusual venues. I love supper clubs and not only go to many, I intend to develop a regular monthly supper club offering starting this Autumn (more on that later!). Suppers range in price from £20 to £50 to over £100 depending on what is being showcased and where.
I’ve been interested in food and history for some time now as well as ‘gut health’. In generations gone by we actually ate a wider variety of foodstuffs, thereby getting a wider variety of nutrients and vitamins on a regular basis. Although we can no longer forage exclusively due to population growth and lack of truly wild reserves (people look at you funny if you start wandering round their garden picking stuff...), we can still eat a more interesting diet and include foodstuffs such as fermented foods, pickled foods as well as many more herbs and spices than I grew up with. Many cultures still do e.g. Japan, Scandinavia, as well as the middle and far East, including India. I’m listening to a serious of lectures by Ken Albala and it’s fascinating how our food came to be ‘our food’. (Link to the Great Courses on www.audible.com if you want to listen to this, too.)
So, when I saw the little poster in Ursa Minor’s window about a Persian vegetarian supper club - that had to happen, right?! It gave me a chance to taste many of the 'super' foods I wanted to try with out having to travel to get them or figure out a recipe (#Idon’tcookoften) - here are some pictures of the evening. Stephen wanted to know where the steak was hidden in the menu.
End result? He was pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed so much of it, and I have discovered I love spiced carrot salad as well as fatet batinjan. I already knew I could eat my body weight in hummus and madeleines! This was delicious, healthy, nutritious, colourful, flavourful food - now I just have to learn how to cook it myself...
Try a supper club yourself, bet you’ll be delighted, too!
The Rathlin Sound Maritime Festival takes place at the end of May/beginning of June each year and is growing from strength to strength. The activities to do, the history to find out about, the fun to take part in - its just amazing. This word is overused, sometimes, but in this context is completely correct - I’m amazed at the community spirit that works for months to bring it together, I’m amazed at the pride of place in Ballycastle and Rathlin Island that is on display throughout the festival and I’m amazed at the raft of delights on both sides of the sound as well as the encouragement offered to make us look towards the water as a connecting factor not a barrier. David Quninny Mee did more than most by helping not only organise the festival but row a curragh from Rathlin to Ballycastle to launch the festival! On a side note, I met one of the other rowers - Ruairidh Morrison of the North Coast Smokehouse - at a Taste of the Causeway Coast and Glens celebration that evening and you’d never have known the man had risked life and limb on the Atlantic Ocean to reach the party! Respect to them all!
My own festival was, as you might imagine, very foodie orientated. I compered at the Saturday and Sunday cookery demos and was blown away by the calibre and quality of the chefs and their food. Here is a link to one of the demos I really enjoyed: Oliver Molloy - son of Peter Molloy one of the main organisers. A delight to meet and watch cook. I learnt a lot and so did others who watched the banter. Hope he comes back to Ballycastle for good one day.
The other chefs were Alastair Crown from Corndale Farm Chorizo, Tony Rodgers from Tony’s Griddle Goods and Cara O’Donovan from The Portrush Deli Company.
An important foodie element this year was the Ulster Chowder Cook-off. Pol Shields from Upstairs at Joe’s won last year and represented us beautifully in Kinsale in April at the All Ireland final. This year’s worthy winner was Gary Stewart from Tartine at the Distiller’s Arms with Darren Benham of the Bushmills Inn a very close second. Can’t wait for the Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey Festival to try all their food!
Why not have a scroll through the Festival’s Facebook page, have a laugh at the videos, see if you can see yourself in the photo montage and promise me you’ll be here next year having fun with us. Dare you to enter the Sandcastle Competition!! See you there!
15 Reasons to do a Ballycastle Food Tour
and some links 'proving' my point...
1. It’s the best place to live in Northern Ireland for the second year in a row. Of course. Sunday Times' article: http://bit.ly/2qQLb8N
2. It’s at the heart of the stunningly beautiful Causeway Coastal Route. http://bit.ly/2gV5f0O
3. The food and drink offering in Ballycastle is exceptional, wide ranging (herbs, to beef, to fish, to lobster, to seaweed, to goat!) and award winning. Sarah Travers explains on YouTube http://bit.ly/2qrLBkX
4. Our stops are so exceptional, they’re on the Economusee Route. - a worldwide celebration of local artisans. http://bit.ly/2qvGPkG
5. Walking is good for the body and the soul. http://bit.ly/29cFCW7
6. Food Tours are a great way to immerse yourself in a new place (whether you’re on holiday or moved there or just out for the day!) http://bit.ly/2qrBBrQ
7. Food Tours are fun! http://bit.ly/2qvJjzw
8. North Coast Walking Tours’ Ballycastle Food Tour is #3 tour within the Causeway Coast and Glens. http://bit.ly/2qr9wRp
9. Local guides do it better! And we can guide you on etiquette (NEVER offer someone just a cup of tea - you have to provide food with it), on the local lingo (http://bit.ly/2lfITvS), and how to ‘fit in’. ;-)
10.There are so many things to see and do, you need to build yourself up first. ;-)
11. More things to do in or around Ballycastle! Get in there!
12. Ballycastle is outstandingly, stunningly beautiful. http://bit.ly/2qvsFzZ
13. Ballycastle has amazing food. http://bit.ly/2qQNCYT
14. Ballycastle is rich in history and culture. http://bit.ly/2pTwuxO
15. And, finally, I'm good at what I do! http://bit.ly/2rpyiif