Food NI members win big at Blas na hÉireann 2018  

A record 32 Food NI members have taken home awards from the Blas na hÉireann Irish food awards from Dingle in County Kerry.

The Supreme Champion was Rooney Fish from Newry whose Millbay Oysters wowed the judges. They also won the Shane McArdle Award for Best in Ulster.

The bronze, silver and gold winners from Antrim, across a range of different categories are Glenballyeamon Eggs, Maud’s Ice Creams, Morelli’s Ice Cream, Dale Farm, McErlains Bakery, Yahi, Deli Muru, Tom and Ollie, Ke Nako Biltong, Lacada Brewery and The Irish Black Butter Company. Ke Nako Biltong won the overall Best in Farmers Market prize.

The winners from Armagh, across a range of different categories are Hannan Meats, Ballylisk Dairies, Irwin’s Bakery, Holmes Bakery, Armagh Cider Company, Long Meadow Cider, Mac Ivors Cider Co with Ballylisk Diaries winning Best in County and Best in Farmers Market.

The 2 winners from Derry are Corndale Farm and Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil who also won Best in Farmers Market for Derry and Best in County.

The 13 winners from Down, across a range of different categories are Springmount Farm Free Range Eggs, Clandeboye Estate Yoghurt, Glastry Farm Ice Cream, , Rooney Fish, Cookie Jar, Mash Direct, Suki Tea, Harnett Oils, Noisy Snacks and Whitewater Brewing.

Cavanagh Free Range Eggs from Fermanagh also won an award.

The Blas na hÉireann awards are the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country, and the criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself, which was developed by Blas na hÉireann with the Food Science Dept of UCC, is now recognised as an international industry standard.

During the first round of judging which took place over the course of four weeks in June and July, over 2,500 entries were judged in UCC & The Baking Academy, bringing the total number of finalists in each category down to just five. Those 5 winners in each of 140 categories were submitted to the judging day in Dingle, where all 350 producer finalists had their food products tasted, compared, savoured and judged at the final of Blas na Éireann 2018 on Thursday 4th October, with over 4,000+ samples tasted over the judging day by over 100 judges.

Judges come from all backgrounds, including chefs, academics, trade, buyers and home cooks. The few days around the judging process in Dingle are also an opportunity for the producers and the general public to mingle, taste and enjoy some of the most exciting and interesting Irish food products, meet and hear the fascinating stories of some of the country’s most intriguing new, best loved and long-established producers and entrepreneurs, and celebrate the winners and participants in this year’s Blas na hÉireann awards.

Speaking after the announcement Artie Clifford, Chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann said, “All food on this island is local, but the passion for food, good food and local food has never been greater. The community that has come together through Blas an hEireann over the last 11 years – their hard work, obsessiveness and the quality of the product that comes from that focus and commitment – is seen more clearly every year in the standard of our entries.”