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An Inspiring Taste of the Causeway Coast and Glens

A recent event in Northern Ireland demonstrated just how effective collaboration in food and hospitality can be – and the impressive results that consistent support of grass roots initiatives can produce in a remarkably short time

Celebrate, collaborate and inspire were the themes at the recent ‘A Giant Taste of Causeway Coast and Glens’ showcase and conference – held in Limavady’s Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in March, it was attended by food and drink businesses from all over the Causeway Coast and Glens, with visiting guests and speakers also invited to see some of them first hand (along with some famous local attractions) on the following day – see below for more on this great day out.

Demonstrating just how effective collaboration in food and hospitality can be – and the impressive results that consistent support of grass roots initiatives can produce – the event was delivered by Taste Causeway which was established in 2017 as an Invest NI Collaborative Growth Network and has grown to become a membership organisation, representing local food and drink producers, hospitality, retail and tourism providers from right across the Causeway Coast and Glens.

Importantly, the event was run in partnership with core funders Department for Rural Development (DAERA), Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and Tourism NI, with additional sponsorship provided by Old Bushmills Distillery and Enterprise Causeway through the Connecting Communities programme funded by the International Fund for Ireland.

Aiming ‘…to celebrate the achievements of the local food and drink sector, provide opportunities for further collaboration and innovation for local industry and to inspire and engage with members, wider industry, stakeholders and media to shape and develop our future ambition, development plans and opportunities’, the event celebrated local food and drink producers and provided particular inspiration by exhibiting products that had  received national and international awards during 2023 – all contributing to the creation of a template for sustainable food tourism destinations.

With the success of collaboration very evident, it was also clear that inspiration for it was working its way over into neighbouring Donegal as well, with a number of members of the Donegal Food Coast initiative attending and a visit to Meat Box in Castlerock on the itinerary for visitors, in order to sample the Moiled Beef Burger that has been developed as part of the collaboration between the two groups.

Back to the event itself, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Steven Callaghan (a trained chef himself as it happens) officiated, along with compère and TV chef Paula McIntyre MBE, Geri Martin (of The Chocolate Manor at Castlerock), who is Chair of Taste Causeway, and Gary Quate, Tourism NI Food and Drink Tourism Manager, who acknowledged the pivotal role that Food & Drink plays in the local economy and a competitive global market – and speakers from the food and drink sector in Ireland and Britain. Shane Holland, Executive Chair of Slow Food in the UK explained how to make the most of the destination’s Slow Food Causeway designation (Slow Food seeks to reconnect consumers worldwide with food and agriculture which is Good, Clean & Fair) while Sharon Noonan, host of Best Possible Taste Podcast, highlighted the importance of digital communication.

Paula McIntyre (above) and invited chefs – including Breton native Stephane Delourme, former Head Chef with Rick Stein restaurants, and local star Stevie McCarry of Lir Seafood then transformed some beautiful local produce into dishes reflecting Giant Tastes of the Land and Sea in the Giant Taste Cookery Demo Theatre, and Ashley Douglas from North Coast Cocktails wrapped up the event with a Giant Taste of the Spirit, an entertaining demo featuring cocktails from local gin and whiskey distilleries.

Causeway Coast and Glens – A Few Special Highlights:

* Landmark Luxury – Third generation tour guide and “Seanchaí” (Storyteller) Mark Rodgers introduces visitors to the special places around this world-famous coastline and  shares their stories.

* Elephant Rock Hotel, Portrush named after a local landmark rock formation and with magnificent sea views, this quirky boutique 4-star hotel is handy to the town centre yet away-from-it-all.

* The Bushmills Inn, Bushmills – originally a 17th-century coaching inn this charmingly  old-world place is now a very comfortable 4-star hotel

* The Fullerton Arms, Ballintoya pet-friendly inn that features one of the famous Game of Thrones doors and operates an unusual Moulerie (Mussel Bar), serving fresh mussels with local seasonal produce.

* Lir Seafood, Coleraine – the region’s most famous seafood restaurant thanks to the innovative way that owners Stevie and Rebekah McCarry developed their sustainable nose-to-tail business during the pandemic. Lir is now in its permanent home in the re-purposed Coleraine yacht club, and a very handsome setting for their adventurous combination of experimental cooking, classic seafood dishes and street food it makes too.

* Ursa Minor Bakery and Economusée, Ballycastle – founders Ciara and Dara operate a very special Slow Food bakery and café that is also home to one of the region’s popular Economusées (‘Artisans at Work’) and have exciting plans for a new Bakery School and events space nearby.

* Old Bushmills Distillery, Bushmills – an obvious place to visit, perhaps, but there is always something new  to see and you could meet Wendy from Causeway Coast Foodie Tours who includes the Distillery on her Coast and Country Food Tour and get to see the new Pot Still Bar and draw your own whiskey in the No 2 warehouse.

* The Chocolate Manor in Castlerock – Tourism NI Food and Drink Experience of the Year winner. At this interactive workshop Geri Martin, owner and Chief Chocolatier at the Taste Causeway Chocolate Experience, creates luxury chocolate truffles with a variety of local produce fillings.


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