A Taste O' the Green: Northern Ireland's Unique Food and Drinks

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Ireland is one of those places that Americans love to visit and visit as often as possible. And you don't have to be named O'Leary to enjoy the country's rich culture and do things as varied as kiss the Blarney Stone, stay overnight at the hotel owned by rock band U2 or get up close and personal with magnificent birds of prey at the Ireland School of Falconry. But when it comes to food and drink, visitors should know that there's a lot more on offer than the "Full Irish breakfast" and (later!) a pint of Guinness. And foodies will be amply rewarded with an exploration of Northern Ireland.

2016 is the Year of Food & Drink in Northern Ireland, and while there's never a bad time to visit, special food and drink celebrations will be taking place throughout the year. Goodies like snowballs, barnbrack and gravy rings (the local take on donuts) will be available for your pleasure every day, and so will be dulse (salty sea veggies that are eaten like potato chips) and Tayto cheese and onion crisps (actual potato chips.) But to broaden your experience there are dozens of options for eatin' and drinkin' fun awaiting during the Year of Food & Drink. Here are some things we think you'll especially like.

April: Brewing and Distilling

The Bangor Beer Club, April 5 - Taking place at the Salty Dog in the seaside city of Bangor, here's a chance to mingle with the folks who make Northern Ireland's craft beers. Northern Ireland has more than 20 craft breweries and the Salty Dog strives to keep at least one selection from each brewery on tap. There's always a guest speaker from one of the breweries; on this day it'll be a representative of Clear Sky Brewing talking about their new wheat beer, Fulcrum.

May: Landscape and Places

Comber Food Tour, May 5 - This event amusingly states that "If you like cooking and eating food, this is the tour for you!" The tour begins at the Comber Farmer's Market where shoppers will find about 25 stalls selling locally grown produce. Then it's over to St. Mary's Parish Church where the ladies of the church catering committee will have tea, coffee, cakes, scones and buns waiting for you. After tea you'll see a food producer's presentation at Indie Fude Delicatessen, then you'll wrap up your tour with a lunch prepared by upcoming chef Will Brown.

June: Love Dairy!

Bank of Ireland Open Farm Weekend, June 18 and 19 - This event takes place at farms all over Northern Ireland. You may know that much of your food comes from farms, but do you know how it is produced, what techniques and procedures are followed and how hard the work is? You'll have a good understanding after your tour and of course you'll get to taste foods that are as fresh as they come. Just one thing though, how do we put this nicely? Let's just say, "Wear boots and watch your step!"

July: Sea, Rivers and Loughs

Flavours of the Foyle Seafood Festival, July 30 and 31 - No place in Northern Ireland is very far from the sea so everything on offer is generally freshly-caught, and this event in Derry-Londonderry will have it all. On the menu will be cooking demonstrations, sampling and appearances by top local chefs and there'll be arts, crafts, music and family fun on hand too. The festival is free.

The remaining months of the year will focus on everything from meats to breads to harvest time goodies to Christmas. Find information on all Northern Ireland Year of Food & Drink events at www.nigoodfood.com

For ideas on other fun things to do in Ireland go to www.ireland.com

A Taste O' the Green: Northern Ireland's Unique Food and Drinks

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