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OX v Rabbit as Belfast takes on US to see who's the best at matching cocktails to food

Countdown starts for the culinary match of the decade in New York

By Joris Minne

Published 27/09/2016

Former Belfast barmen, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry at The Dead Rabbit in New York
Former Belfast barmen, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry at The Dead Rabbit in New York
Stevie Toman

In terms of historic duels, the Rumble in the Jungle between Mohammad Ali and George Foreman, the interview David Frost conducted with Richard Nixon which ended the Watergate scandal and the famous 1942 vodka stand-off between Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill stand out as memorable clashes of titans.

But these pale into the shadows when we look at the forthcoming culinary cocktail-matching dinner battle between two of the world's most revered institutions, New York's Dead Rabbit and Belfast's OX.

The former clinched the 2015 Best Bar in the World title and OX secured a Michelin star earlier this year making them both ultra-proud Belfast products.

The Dead Rabbit is the creation of two Belfast barmen, Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, formerly of The Merchant. OX head chef is Stevie Toman.

All three know each other and are fiercely competitive. The joust came about following a profound, heart-searching moment involving Toman, Muldoon and McGarry who were discussing, late into the night, what they might do for Northern Ireland's Year of Food and Drink. And guess what? They came up with an idea that involved loads of local product and hard liquor. Dinner would be $200 per head and the best of the US food Press would be there.

This means that tonight we expect to see representatives from the New York Times, Chicago Herald, LA Times and naturally, the Belfast Telegraph, proud supporter of the best food and drink events our country initiates.

Tourism NI is used to presenting Northern Ireland to the tourist trade. But this is the first time two entirely independent players, (did I mention they're both from Belfast?) have taken on the challenge: to prove that we are not only a lovely, kind and welcoming people but capable of blowing the heads off internationally renowned critics.

Toman, McGarry and Muldoon have left behind any ideas of "our wee country" and taken on the world's best in a bid to show everyone that Belfast can punch as high as anybody.

Which leaves us with the mouth-watering question: who is going to win this food-&-drink-off? At first sight, the thought of five courses by Stevie Toman matched by five cocktails by McGarry and Muldoon, is daring, bold and audacious. But sure why not? Eating and drinking isn't all about white with fish and red with meat.

Tonight, we will see just how comfortably or not a side of Mourne lamb sits with a vodka martini, or how a nice piece of smoked Donegal salmon survives the onslaught of a sidecar (brandy, triple sec, lime and lemon, shaken, not stirred).

Belfast Telegraph

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