Saturday 23 September 2017

Apple a day: Five fab things to do at Armagh's Food & Cider Festival

Autumn days out

Armagh's skyline. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Armagh's skyline. Photo: Northern Ireland Tourist Board
Harvesting apples in Armagh
It's apple season in Armagh...

Tom Sweeney

Independent.ie Travel visited Armagh for a sneak preview of this month’s Food and Cider Festival. We came away hungry - and thirsty - for more.

It’s apple harvest time in the Orchard County, where over the next few weeks around 35,000 tonnes of Bramleys (the equivalent of 200 Boeing 747 jumbo jets) will be carefully twisted and plucked from 4,000 acres of trees.

A frost-free spring has guaranteed an exceptionally good crop (you could say apple turnover is up) for the county’s 250 commercial growers, and they’re itching to share the fruits of their labours during the Armagh Food and Cider Festival.

The annual celebration (September 21 to 24), attracts thousands of visitors - especially foodies and lovers of naturally-produced and preservative-free cider - keen to sample the very best of world-class local produce.

Harvesting apples in Armagh
Harvesting apples in Armagh

Here are five culinary highlights from this year’s event:

A Night in the Orchard (Sept. 21/22)

Dine on the lawns of mid-18th century Crannagael House, where the first Bramley seedling in Northern Ireland was planted way back when. Locally produced foodstuffs and artisan ciders will be served with live music accompaniment in the heart of the beautiful Armagh countryside.

Details: £65/€71pp. To book, call 004428 3752 1800.

Harvest Supper and Concert (Sept. 22/23)

Following a canapé reception in the award-winning 4Vicars restaurant in Armagh city (4vicars.com), guests will visit the elegant Robinson Library almost next door for a short concert before returning to the 4Vicars for supper.

It's apple season in Armagh...
It's apple season in Armagh...

Among the library’s treasures are Jonathan Swift’s own copy of Gulliver’s Travels (1726) with corrections in the author’s hand.

The 4Vicars, owned and run by husband and wife Gareth and Kasia Reid, opened in 2014 and is the current holder of the Georgina Campbell award for Best Casual Dining Restaurant in Ireland.

Details: £50/€55pp, drinks extra. To book, call 004428 3752 7772.

Pairing Under the Stars (Sept. 22)

Chef Sean Farnan and his wife Ramune of the Michelin-recommended Moody Boar restaurant in the grounds of Armagh’s Palace Demesne will host a wine, cider, tapas and chocolate evening in the splendid surroundings of the Palace greenhouse.

Details: £66/€72pp. To book, call 004428 3752 9678.

Groucho’s @ the Orchards (Sept. 24)

For one night only, the renowned Groucho’s restaurant of Richhill will operate as a pop-up at the Armagh Cider Company near Portadown. The Troughton family have been growing apples on their 100-acre farm at Ballinteggart House since 1898 and began their commercial cider company in 2005.

This evening of  food sharing and cider pairing in the barn will begin at twilight and, if participants are lucky, Groucho’s will have made a big batch of apple butter, which isn’t yet available commercially but should be - it would fly off the shelves.

Details: £35/€38pp. To book, call 004428 3887 1874.

Food Tours and Trails (Sept. 22 & 23)

Leading local chefs have joined together to offer two guided food and cider tours in Armagh city and surrounds where guests can talk with chefs and producers and eat and drink along the way.

Details: £70/€76 (Sept 22); £55/€60 (Sept.23). To book, call 004428 3752 1800.

For further details, see armagh.co.uk/foodandcider.

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