Last Friday started off like any other day. I was at work sat doing spreadsheets when I received a call.
Would I like to go on a foodie tour of Northern Ireland... tomorrow.
Well in the spirit of YOLO and said sign me up, and a half a day later I arrived in Belfast.
I was staying in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, right in the centre of Belfast. The hotel was a mix of funky colours and patterns, but with a dash of lux finishes thrown in. It also had a really nice homely sort of touch.
I wish I'd taken more photos of the room for you, as it really was quite big and spacious. Oh and one thing about this hotel is they constantly feed you. On arrival there was a plate of mini desserts, then later that day there was another plate, and each night there was chocolates on the bed.
I'm sure the hotel was trying to make me fat... and I was ok with that.
Now the trip was all about exploring Northern Ireland's wonderful local produce. They are so hot on the idea of independent producers and have won 100's of awards, which for a country where you can drive from one end to the other in 2 hours is rather impressive.
The first day was all about meat. Mmmm meat.
Traditionally Northern Ireland dinners were focused around meat- specifically beef- and of course, potatoes. One woman told me if steak wasn't eaten once a week, it was a sign of hard times.
Now whilst I love to eat food, I think it is also important to know about where it comes from and the hard work that goes into that steak your chowing down on. So first we headed to Peter Hannan's Hannan Meats. Peter is a butcher and produces some of the best meat in the whole of the UK. He is the butcher for Heston Blumenthal and also Mark Mix's Tramshed.
Don't I look sexy in my butchers gear?
I'd say he's doing fairly well.
Now, yes this is where your meat comes from guys. This is what it looks like before it makes it's way to your plate.
But what makes Peter's meat so good that Heston want's it? He has a salting chamber which he uses to control bacteria in the air so he can age his meat for far longer than normal. He wouldn't say what the process is, as it's top secret. Damn.
Doesn't he look proud?
Back out of the meat chambers, we tried a couple or 3 of his meat sausage rolls. I'm not just saying this now, but seriously, they were bloomin' good.
I think it might have also had something to do with the vast amounts of lard in the pastry... you know where this trip is heading right?
There was also a good reason for going to see how the meat started off, as later we were heading for a meat feast, where all the meat was from Peter Hannan. So it was important to see the whole process end to end.
As it got late, we arrived for dinner at James Street Bar and Grill, a restaurant which aims to use local produce.
Each course was paired with an Irish drink, although I don't actually like cider, but I was told this one was a decent one.
But fear not though, I was hardly missing out, as the starter arrived.
Sweet bacon ribs. Are any other words needed?
The meat sliced like butter- and I really hate that phrase, but it was true.
There was a gorgeous thick layer of melt in your mouth fat, which if you just let sit on your tongue, releases so much flavour.
Again, not my cup of tea, but again I was told it was a good choice to have if your in Belfast.
Next we have thin sliced eel and pork. A combination I never thought I would see, but surprisingly worked rather well. The delicate yet salty eel, with the loud sweet pork worked beautifully together.
Of course, the main event was the ribs. Oh the ribs. Sweet, sweet ribs.
I can honestly say they live up to all those awards you saw. Have you ever seen ribs so full of meat? Truly the best ribs I've ever had.
Finally after all that I did manage to squeeze in dessert- oh such a chore- more because I'd never actually had a Baked Alaska before.
Yeah it was OK, but I'd say skip dessert here and just order more ribs.
Belfast, you have fed me well so far. What else have you got in store for me...?