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     Dining in Derry


You can build up quite an appetite traveling through Northern Ireland: the rugged terrain, wind and sea swept vistas, winding mountain roads, tiny villages on the outposts of time, serene lakes and rushing rivers. Not to mention the people of Northern Ireland, with their genuine love for life, ready for a long conversation or a clever story or some lively music in the local pub. Yes, Northern Ireland whets your appetite.

Thankfully for visitors, 2016 is the Year of Food & Drink in Northern Ireland, a new initiative highlighting an amazing variety of culinary delights and libations, ranging from food festivals and farmers markets to hearty dining and tours of local distilleries and breweries.

So many of Northern Ireland’s food producers and chefs use methods and recipes that have been passed down for generations. From Lough Neagh Eels and Comber early potatoes to Armagh Bramley apples and Bushmills Whiskey – Northern Ireland products are distinctive and delicious because they come directly from the land and sea of this fertile ground.

Indeed, Northern Ireland is fast becoming a culinary destination in Europe. Lonely Planet recently praised the “fantastic foodie scene” in Belfast, while the Shanghai Daily wrote that it “brims with culinary delights.” The London Telegraph noted that “a blossoming of producers and restaurants” has resulted in “some of the best eating” in the British Isles.

Noel McMeel, executive chef at Lough Erne Castle Resort in County Fermanagh is one of Northern Ireland’s most celebrated chefs, and an enthusiastic proponent of using “the natural ingredients that are at our doorsteps.”

Chef Noel McMeel / Recipe: Irish Cider Poached Apple Tart Tatin – Cinnamon Ice Cream - Pistachio

Chef McMeel was the go-to- chef for the recent G8 Summit of European leaders held at Lough Erne, and the subject of a recent NBC-TV segment on Irish cuisine that airs during the live broadcast of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 17, 2016.

But he is more interested in singing the praises of his local food suppliers: O’Doherty’s Fine Meats in Enniskillen; Kettyle Meats in Lisnaskea; Cavanagh’s Free-Range Hen Farm; Irwin’s Bakery in Portadown; Ballyrashane Dairy Farm in Antrim; Keenan’s Seafood in Belfast; Hannan’s Meats in Moira; Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil in Limavady; and Glastry Farm in County Down.

“One of my favorite things about cooking is that it’s all about sharing,” McMeel says. “Sharing the flavors together and sharing in the experience.”

You can find more details by visiting as well as


With hundreds of events taking place around the celebration of food and drink in Northern Ireland, here is a sampling of great activities you’ll enjoy.

March 19-21
LegenDerry Food Festival
Guildhall Square
Derry City, Londonderry
Artisan food stuffs, activities for
families, live bands, cookery talks
and master classes.

March 27-29
Easter Celebration
Ulster American Folk Park
Omagh, Tyrone
Recreation of market day
in the early 1900s.

April 30
Inns Farmers Market
Newtownbreda, Belfast
Held from 10 am-2pm,
the last Saturday of each month.

May 5
Comber Farmers Market Food Tour
Comber, Newtownards, Down
25 food and plant traders selling local produce, plus tour of the town.

June 11
Armagh County Agricultural Show
Gosford Forest Park
Markethill, Armagh
One of Ireland’s longest running shows, dating back to 1829. The agri-food and rural focus remains
its central theme.

July 16
Dalriada Festival
Glenarm Castle
Ballymena, Antrim
Celebrity chef demonstrations, Highland Games and live music.

July 30-August 7
Flavors of the Foyle
Seafood Festival
Guildhall, Derry

August 26
Hilden Beer & Music Festival
Lisburn, Antrim
The oldest beer festival
in Northern Ireland.

September 23-25
Hans Sloan Chocolate Festival
Killyleagh, Down
Praising Killyleagh’s own Hans Sloane, who invented the recipe for milk chocolate!

October 1
Northern Ireland Potato Festival
Causeway Hotel
Bushmills, Antrim
“A celebration of the mighty spud,” includes food tasting and live entertainment.

November 11
Wild Game Night
Strangford, Downpatrick
To mark the opening of game season, sample these organic game meats from protected sources. |

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