On January 28, Northern Ireland Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, including Tourism, Jonathan Bell visited the Big Apple to unveil the 2016 Year of Food and Drink in Northern Ireland, a year-long celebration set to entice foodies world wide to the country to sample all on Northern Ireland's tasty treats.
From Lough Neagh eels, to Bramley apples, to the increasing number of microbreweries establishing themselves across the country, there's something for the pickiest of eaters and those who love whatever you put on their plate alike.
“In Northern Ireland, we are often guilty of taking what we’ve got for granted, but that is most certainly not the case when it comes to our excellent food and drink offering," said Minister Bell.
“It's not unusual to go into a restaurant and ask what the special is. We know that by their very nature, our fresh ingredients make Northern Ireland food more than a bit special. Now is the time to let the world know just how good it really is and launching the NI Year of Food and Drink in ‘the Big Apple’ is an important part of raising our international profile."
If the promise of a full and content tummy isn't enough, there are many other great reasons to book your flight to Belfast. We sat down with Minister Bell during his New York visit to find out exactly what Northern Ireland has to offer during 2016. Here are ten of the best:
1. The Gobbins Cliff Path
As well as the magnificent Giant's Causeway, make sure to fit in a trip to the dramatic coastal walk in Co. Antrim, the Gobbins Cliff Path.
Originally built in this beautiful but isolated location in 1902, the pathway has recently been restored bringing visitors over crashing waves, sunken caves and across sheer cliff faces.
2. Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark
With walking, cycling, fishing, caving, canoeing and cruising as well as the incredible wildlife, landscape, and geology, this Country Fermanagh geopark is perfect for the adventurer in all of us.
An incredible subterranean world at the foothills of the Cuilcagh Mountains, a tour of the caves themselves even involves a boat ride through this miracle of nature.
3. Strangford Lough and Mount Stewart House
"The major tourism attraction of the area I represent is Strangford Lough, and there’s a little beautiful place in there called Mount Stewart House, which has a huge history if you go back to the council of Vienna and the countries that ruled there," Minister Bell told IrishCentral.
"They still have the furniture there. It’s been fully restored to the cost of millions of pounds and also has one of the top ten recognized gardens in the world."
4. The Titanic Experience
With over two and a half million visitors walking through its door since opening, the Titanic building and the Titanic area is a must-see in Belfast: "When I was little, I grew up in an area that was literally beside the shipyard. Working class children right beside this massive shipyard where thousands of people used to work when the shipbuilding industry was strong, but now there was a waste ground close to houses where we used to ride our bikes and kick football and it literally was a waste ground, it was use to store scrap metal and coal.
"Today Baker and McKenzie, Citigroup, have just transformed it, that whole area, into the Titanic building, and just transformed the area into something very, very special."
5. Great nightlife
And it's not just a great place for families, Northern Ireland promises a lively night out, as well:
"The cities in Northern Ireland have a buzz.
"People want to come and experience it so whether you want to see something cultural or you're young and you just want to experience the bars, the nightlife, the craic, in Belfast or (London)Derry, you’ll get more than you can handle.
"What we’ve found is when we get people over, they want to come back."
6. Good starting point for the rest of Ireland
With direct flight into Belfast, there's no reason why you can't break from tradition and begin your Irish adventure somewhere other than Dublin or Shannon:
"When people come to Dublin, they want to visit Belfast. When people visit Belfast, they want to visit Dublin.
"People want to see the Guinness brewery, they want to see the Giant’s Causeway, they want to see the Cliffs of Moher, they want to see Titanic Belfast, and the reality is that with the transport links and everything else, it’s all accessible.
"We’re not a big country, I think you can fit us into some of the Great Lakes!
"You can do it all and you can enjoy it all and I want people to enjoy it all."
7. Belfast is the second safest city in the world
Belfast has been transformed in the past few years, according to Minister Bell: "The UN produced some figures and said Belfast, the city I grew up in, is now the second safest city in the world.
"We’re now second only to Tokyo, and that’s not me telling you that as a Northern Ireland person, a Belfast boy and somebody who loves my country, that’s the UN looking at the world and saying Northern Ireland has the second safest city."
8. Golf trips
For those looking to unwind by teeing up, Northern Ireland can also officially boat the greatest golf course in the world: "We’ve just had Golf Digest say that with Royal County Down (golf course) we've got the best golf course in the world, promoted by three brilliant golfers: Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, Graham McDowell who have worldwide recognition."
9. And, of course, food!
"What we’ve learned from so many of our tourists that have visited with us is their identification with food and with unique foods that are on offer [in Northern Ireland].
"They give us something unique in terms of a selling point, from potatoes that have international status, to Lough Neagh eels, to the whole variety of breads.
"Let’s look at all the different types of food that we have and bring it all together themed from January, which was breakfast month, February will obviously be around love with Valentine's day and it runs right through to Christmas and Christmas foods and all those special things."
10. And drink.
With a growing number of microbreweries and craft beers, as well as the spirits produced in the country for years, Northern Ireland can more than compete internationally.
In 2016 you can get a (literal) taste of the incredible food and drink that Northern Ireland has to offer. Celebrating the tastiest produce, including the Bramley apple and the Lough Neagh eel, it is set to become a foodie’s paradise for 366 days with events happening all over Northern Ireland throughout the year.
You can view a full list of events here but highlights include the Mourne Seafood Cookery School, the Comber Farmers’ Market and the Belfast Out to Lunch Festival in January.