Tourism season is kicked off in style with a celebration of local food and drink
Published on:March 25, 2024

The tourism season has been kicked off in style with “an inspiring celebration” of the achievements of the local food and drinks sector.

‘A Giant Taste of Causeway Coast and Glens’ showcase and conference in Limavady’s Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre was attended by food and drink businesses from all over the Causeway Coast and Glens.

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

Taste Causeway was established as an Invest NI Collaborative Growth Network in 2017 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.

The aim of the event was to celebrate the achievements of our local food and drink sector, to provide opportunities for further collaboration and innovation for local industry and to inspire and  engage with members, the wider industry, stakeholders and media to shape and develop our future ambition, development plans and opportunities.

Local food and drink producers exhibited their products and experiences in the Taste Causeway Showcase. There was also a stand for products which had received national and international awards during 2023.   

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Steven Callaghan, opened a lively conference and interactive session, compered by Paula McIntyre MBE, with a host of renowned speakers from the food and drink sector. 

Praising the organisers of the event, Cllr Callaghan said it “celebrated the produce and the people who have made our food and drink sector the vibrant, internationally renowned industry it is today”.

“The Council are committed to supporting our food and drink businesses which play a crucial role in the local economy,” he added.

“We are what we eat and in this part of the world, we are privileged not only to have the best, freshest produce on our doorstep, but to have chefs of the calibre of Paula McIntyre showing us how to make the most of the amazing food and drink on offer.”

Geri Martin, Chair of Taste Causeway and Gary Quate, Tourism NI Food and Drink Tourism Manager, set out the Giant Ambition for the local food and drink sector and underlined the importance of collaboration and working together to compete in the competitive global market.

Gary Quate of Tourism NI commented: “We were delighted to attend the conference, meeting with food and drink businesses from across the Causeway Coast & Glens, celebrating their recent successes and to provide an update on Tourism NI’s approach to food & drink development. Food and drink plays a pivotal role in our local economy, representing over one third of visitor send and yielding far-reaching benefits to our communities.

“Tourism NI used the conference as an opportunity to engage with media, many of whom were visiting the region for the first time.  It was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our NI Embrace a Giant Spirit Experiences, highlighting the richness and diversity of our food and drink tourism experiences. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and I anticipate their continued coverage, showcasing our offering to a wider audience.”

Shane Holland, Executive Chair of Slow Food in the UK gave an informative presentation of how to make the most of Slow Food Causeway Destination using examples from  Villnoss, a former ski resort in the Austrian Tyrol region, which used Slow Food to establish a new Food and drink focused visitor destination. Slow Food is active in over 150 countries and seeks to reconnect consumers with food and agriculture which is good, clean and fair.

Sharon Noonan, Host of Best Possible Taste Podcast, delivered a lively session looking at the importance of digital communication.

The keynote speaker, Georgina Campbell, author of the renowned Georgina Campbell and Blue Book Guide, talked about food tourism and sustainability across the Island of Ireland today. 

The stage of the auditorium was turned into the Giant Taste Cookery Demo Theatre for the day for a host of local and international celebrity chefs.  Paula McIntyre cooked dishes featuring local food and drink produce which reflected Giant Taste of the Land. 

Stephane Delourme, ex head chef from the internationally acclaimed Rick Stein restaurants, was joined by Stevie McCarry fro Lir Seafood to showcase A Giant Taste of the Sea.

Ashley Douglas from North Coast Cocktails wrapped up the event with a Giant Taste of the Spirit, a fun filled demo featuring cocktails from all our local gin and whiskey distilleries.