I am guessing that the title of this piece will put some people off and attract others, but there is something for everyone so read on and get the whole story.
Wild Strands is a new and exciting adventure which is all about appreciating what we have naturally on our doorstep and how we can best enjoy fresh local produce with a twist.
So on a fine but chilly December evening I joined a group hosted by our guide and one of the Wild Strands team, William Mc Elhinney AKA ‘The Seaweed Man’ for what was described as. A Gourmet Slow Food Evening. A Celebration of the Native Foyle Oyster.
It certainly lived up to its name!
While many still associate Oysters with expensive champagne bars in the West End of London its origins as a staple diet as explained to us were much more humble. Oysters were the poor man’s food, Bia Bocht as it was known in Gaelic, and was perhaps even the first ‘Fast Food’ as they were readily available along the Irish coastline and Lough Foyle was and remains a prime site for quality Oysters. Oysters from the Foyle are mostly exported and are in great demand across the world but remain a relatively unknown delicacy at home.
The night started with a welcome non alcoholic hot punch infused with seaweed. Perfect for a winter evening and very tasty. There were snacks to whet the appetite including a mackerel pate and a selection of breads, but the winner for me was the seaweed pesto with cheese was a real treat.
All this while William gave us an overview of The Foyle and it’s hidden foodie secrets. Its not often you hear people trying to work out where the the other one forages and gathers the best seaweed!
Next stop was a visit to the Walled City Brewery where master brewer James Huey talked us through the brewing process for the different beers and where we sampled three of the locally produced beers while enjoying more freshly caught and filtered Foyle Oysters, This time they came accompanied by a choice of a blue cheese or a shallot and chilli dressing. I like my chilli and this worked really well with the fresh oysters and a nice cool ale to compliment it.
Well informed, well fed and having met new friends along the way it was time for a stroll across the peace bridge for the final stop of the evening, the cosy upstairs at The Grand Central Bar for the final tasting session.
Here we were treated to an oyster stew served with with brown soda bread with dulse and locally brewed craft beer, Dopey Dick. The breads were fantastic as was the stew and it all goes to show what can be produced with good simple local produce cooked and sourced with passion.