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Monday, July 15, 2019
Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World
“It can be tricky here this time of year with the humidity,” said Philip O’Connor as he greeted us at his Seymour Biscuits production facility in Bandon on a very warm 4th of July. The date is appropriate enough as the USA is one of the countries to which these delicious biscuits are exported. And the shortbread biscuits, in their distinctive shamrock shape, also find their way to the states and other countries as they are widely available in tourist frequented shops (including Dublin’s Temple Bar) and are the best seller.
Philip was working on his coating line when we arrived and we watched as the little discs were covered with chocolate. Not too long afterwards we were tasting the little beauties. Lots of butter here and combined with the chocolate it makes for a beautiful crunchy experience on the palate. And the good news is that Philip is strongly thinking of adding these to his regular products next year.
There is a little story too behind the butter. Philip’s family are farmers and their land is a few miles east of Bandon. Their milk is supplied to a local co-op and it is from here that Seymours buy their butter.
So how did a farmer’s son get involved in biscuit making? “I started working in the car industry, in marketing in Dublin. But, while in college, I always had a hankering to get involved in the food or drink industry, though on the market side.”
The beginning was small. About 12 years ago, he began making biscuits in the family kitchen on one day a week and began to supplying locally. Then one year later, in 2008, this unit became available and “I jumped in.”
With all of the equipment having to be bought, it was a big gamble, more so as the financial crisis was unfolding. But he stuck it out and survived. Lots of changes over those few years including the demand for gluten free and zero sugar products. “Independent outlets are going off the scene much to my regret. There’s a lot of competition and it is hard to get shelf space. But I have diversified a bit and that helps keep the show on the road.”
Recently has introduced Cheese Sables and these terrific savoury biscuits, excellent as a snack, “are getting nice repeat orders”. So far, he has two versions, the original and one with garden herbs (I really enjoyed that a few weeks back). West Cork cheddar is used in both, so you don’t even have to have cheese in the house!
And he is looking at new lines for next year, maybe with lower sugar (perhaps replacing it with honey or natural sugar). He is doing more too with coffee shops and hotels, and exports are increasing.
And back to the coating line, or the “enrobing” line to give it its proper name. There are not that many of these around and his investment in it has enabled him open up a new opportunity, that of contract coating. Philip though is happy with his business model, “small and niche, high quality, lower sales maybe but with a better margin”.
You’re more than likely familiar with some of his current products. One of my favourites is the Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Bites. Then there are shortbread variations, the original Shamrock that we’ve mentioned, Shortbread Bites, Chocolate and Hazelnut, and the top of the range (usually seen round Christmas) absolutely delicious Social Circles.
And, thinking of presents for someone, home or abroad, take a look at the Spirit of Ireland Biscuit tin, displaying the iconic Rock of Cashel on its cover, the tin features individually hand-cut round and shamrock shaped Irish butter shortbread biscuits set within a custom made cushion tray. This is a special Irish product to give and receive. No doubt the biscuits will quickly be devoured and the tin kept forever. You can get many of the Seymour products online at https://seymours.ie/6-our-handmade-irish-biscuits
Seymours Fine Foods Ltd,
2 Cloughmacsimon Business Park, Bandon, Co. Cork.
Land line: +353 21 733 1129
Mobile: +353 86 330 9378
Monday, May 7, 2018
A Couple of Days in West Cork Syrian Food. Manning’s Emporium. An Eagle’s Nest. Burgundy on the Beach. Room with a View. Magic.
A Couple of Days in West Cork
Manning’s Emporium. Syrian Food. An Eagle’s Nest.
Burgundy on the Beach. Room with a View. Magic.
|On Garinish Island, with the Italian Garden in the centre|
Mid April and we’re off to West Cork for a couple of days. We get to taste Syrian food in Bandon, lunch at the amazing and expanding Manning’s Emporium, see the eagle’s nest near Glengarriff where we stay and dine at the spectacular Eccles Hotel before a wander around the large and engaging Bantry Market.
|Manning's Pizza oven|
First stop is in Bandon where we had a little lunch at the Bayleaf (LINK), a restaurant serving a delicious mix of Irish and Syrian food. Then a stroll around the town and a call to Ruth at URRU for coffee and also to check out the shelves stocked well with good food and drink. URRU by the way is expanding, upwards, and Ruth is waiting patiently for the stairs to be installed! It will be an even better place to visit and relax over a cuppa.
|Salad at Manning's|
The first major halt is at the beachside hotel Inchydoney Lodge, a spectacular place. We are here for the Louis Jadot Burgundy Wine dinner and, before that, a walk on the beach of course.
The following morning, after breakfast, we decide to take advantage of the emerging sun to walk the beach on the other side of the hotel before heading off west. First stop is at Manning's Food Emporium in Ballylickey. They too have well-stocked shelves, all kinds of food and drink.
|Eagle's next, top right|
But the major attraction is their expanding outside dining area (they have covered and indoor spaces too, in case of rain!). And we spot their newly installed pizza oven, going down a treat at the weekends.
A little lunch is called for on this occasion and one of us has a plate of crisp and beautiful salad while the other enjoys a delicious Ploughman’s on a baguette. Amazing freshness, colour, flavour and texture on each plate. And the tea was top class also!
On then to beautiful Glengarriff. With the sun in a strong position, it was an ideal day to visit Garinish Island. We got the boat at the lovely Blue Pool and our skipper took great care of us, making sure we had lots of time to enjoy the seals lazing on the rocks and then he pointed out the lofty tree top nest of the sea eagles. Enjoyed the walk around the island - we’ve been there a few times before - especially the climb to the Martello tower and the Italian Garden.
There is a new attraction here now, a guided tour of Bryce House. You need to plan this into your schedule. It starts at quarter past the hour and takes about 45 minutes. We didn’t have quite enough time but will visit on the next occasion. The ferry charge is 12 euro and there is a 5 euro fee to visit the island.
|On Garinish, Italian Garden|
More seals and another look up at the nest (there was an eagle standing there) as we made our leisurely way back to the Blue Pool. Time then to check in at the Eccles. We had specified a room with a view and it was rather special. After a little drink in the hotel's Harbour Bar, we strolled up to the village.
Dinner in the bar (the main restaurant opens for the main tourist season) was excellent. Breakfast was actually served in that lovely main restaurant, the Garinish, and that set us nicely. It was another sunny morning and ideal for a visit to the huge Bantry Market where everything from the best of local food to bric-a-brac is for sale. Well worth a visit.
Links for this visit:
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Syrian and Irish on the Plate at Bandon’s Bayleaf
The Bayleaf Bistro has been operating in Bandon for close to a year but I hadn't heard about it until walking around there the other day. Saw the menu, a mix of Irish and Syrian, and, since it was more or less lunchtime, popped in. The interior of the building is much the same as it was under its previous name The Chapel Steps.
We had two menus available to us: the Lunch Menu (mainly sandwiches, wrap, salad, burger) and the General Menu (Healthy eating choices, Make your own sandwich and generally more substantial dishes including a few Syrian ones).
I was temped by the traditional Syrian Bammia, an Okra stew, but, with a big dinner on the horizon, decided to leave it for another day. After a discussion, and a little advice from the friendly staff, we came up with a sharing idea.
One of our choices was the Shannonvale Chicken Wrap: local chicken fillet marinated with exotic Middle Eastern spices, served in a Syrian Wrap, and on the side there were homemade chips and seasonal salad. Top class piece of chicken, the traditional chips and salad were excellent and the Syrian contribution (including the bread wrap) was superb. Excellent, all for €9.95.
The big one (€14.95) to be shared was the one called A Taste of Syria, “a superb collection of our homemade traditional Syrian appetisers” and so it proved to be. It consisted of Falafel, hummus, quinoa tabouleh salad, mutabbel (blended smoked aubergine with tahini, natural yogurt, tomato salsa), rice stuffed vine leaves, marinated pitted olives, white chillan cheese, lebneh (thick natural creamy yogurt garnished with mint and olive oil), crisp fried vegetable samosa, served with warm pitta bread.
I think many of you will be fairly familiar with most of appetisers listed thanks to the rising influence of Middle Eastern cuisine in Ireland. Don’t think though that I’ve come across the mutabbel before (similar texture to the hummus but with different flavours). And it was definitely my first time eating that stringy and salty cheese (apparently one of many such across the Middle East) - won't be my last! Won’t be my last time visiting the Bayleaf either!
The Bayleaf Bistro
St Patrick’s Place
(023) 884 2589
For updates, check their Facebook page
Links for this visit:
Friday, October 7, 2016
Review: The Whiskeys of Ireland
by Peter Mulryan
“Whiskey. Irish for droplets of pure pleasure.” WB Yeats.
You’ll find tour guides in the many new Irish distilleries telling you that whiskey is a corruption of the Gaelic Uisce Beatha (water of life). No need to believe those novices! Yeats got it right and his interpretation is quoted on the back cover of the Whiskeys of Ireland by Peter Mulryan.
Whenever I get my hands on a new Irish food or drink book, I usually flick through the opening pages to see where it was printed and am invariably disappointed. This, printed in the Czech Republic, is no exception. If we are expected to support the Irish food and drinks industry, then our food and drink writers should do all they can to support Irish printers. But that's about the only gripe (one more - there is no index), I have against this excellent book.
|The new Connacht Distillery in Ballina|
Because, for a long time, there were spirits galore but no definition of whiskey, Mulryan says it is difficult to trace its evolution. But distilling was alive and well, if not up to FSAI standards, in the 15th century and the Crown passed a law in 1556, in vain, to put a stop to it. Eventually, after the collapse of the Gaelic order, a licensing system was imposed.
The first Irish patent was granted in 1608 but cronyism and corruption led to the collapse of the system. Taxation reared its head in 1661 and that reinforced the illegal side of the trade. And the same happened when a stiff tax regime was imposed in 1779. The underground operators sold their poitín and that became “the drink of the people”.
A more benign tax regime led to a booming whiskey industry in the 1820s and onwards. But that led to widespread alcohol problems and in stepped Fr Matthew. Distilleries closed by the dozen.
|On display in Teelings, Newmarket, Dublin|
The respectable side of the business examined the newly invented Aeneas Coffey column still and he had some initial success here before turning to a warmer welcome in Scotland. Ireland, pants down in Mulryan’s phrase, missed the revolution and would pay dearly.
Close to the end of the century though, the big players in Irish whiskey, including Allman’s in Bandon, were flying high again. Phylloxera dealt the French distillers a hammer blow and that too helped the Irish in what Mulryan terms “the Golden Years”.
Scotland too was on the rise but the bubble would burst as the century turned, fraudulent trading, recession, wars, and increased taxes all contributing.
|With the author (left) in his Blackwater Distillery|
Ireland now had its own problems: wars and then partition. We were behind internationally and now the domestic market collapsed. And, in the US, prohibition was looming. Closure followed closure.
There were back doors to the US market. The Scots didn't hesitate, the Irish did. Then we Irish had the “Economic War” with England and next came WW2. After they were over, in the US, the Scots were in and, except for Irish Coffee, the Irish were out.
It was a long tailspin, halted only in 1966 when the three (yes, 3!) remaining distilleries amalgamated. Eventually a new outlook led to a new distillery in Midleton (1975). John Jameson was the brand that led to the current revival, the brand that eventual and current owners Pernod Ricard used as a wedge to once more open the international market to Irish Whiskey.
|Cyril (left) and Barry of St Patrick's in Cork|
Meanwhile, Mulryan relates that an opportunity was spotted by John Teeling at Cooley and, thanks to the eagle-eyed entrepreneur, the Irish industry acquired a new and vibrant arm, an arm that is still reaching out. Now virtually every county has a distillery, many of them micro. The consumer, home and abroad, has never had it so good. Cheers to John Jameson (5 million cases in 2015) and the French marketeers.
Those marketeers include a salesman selling Jameson in a Vendeé supermarket sometime in the 90s. He was an insistent guy and I bought a bottle (the price was good too!) and I still have the free cassette tapes that came with it!
Mulryan's fascinating book covers the history, the rises and the falls and the stunning re-birth, in a lively manner, great for the experienced and novice alike. It is well worth seeking out for the history alone. But he also casts his keen and experienced eye (he founded and runs the Blackwater Distillery) over the current scene (sending out a warning to mid-sized operators).
|Whiskey by Hyde's|
The closing chapters take us, in plain and engaging English, through the making and blending and, most importantly, the tasting of our beloved Uisce Beatha, sorry droplets of pure pleasure. Slainte!
The Whiskeys of Ireland is published by the O’Brien Press and is widely available. I spotted it in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork selling for €19.95.
|Hands on research in Dingle recently|
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Rare Cookery Books Workshop – Keith Floyd. A Taste of West Cork Food Festival Event. Urru Culinary Store Bandon
If you love your rare cookery books and recipes and are interested in showing, sharing and seeing other people’s rare books then come join us for a round table show ‘n’ tell workshop.
The Rare Cookery Books Workshop continues this year with a particular focus on Keith Floyd – a one time resident of Kinsale and acknowledged by many chefs as the “Original Celebrity Chef”.
Food writer and Floyd fan, Dianne Curtin will lead the discussion by sharing her books from the era out of which Keith Floyd emerged. Kinsale based chef, Una Crosbie, will also share her memories and books from Keith Floyd.
So, if you are a fan of Floyd or have a rare cookery book or two that you would like to share with like-minded enthusiasts or if you are just curious, then come along, with your books, memories and little stories for an afternoon of chit chat and discovery.
€6 including light refreshment
Booking advised as space is limited.
Contact Ruth for further details and booking 023-8854731 or book on line www.urru.ie
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Chapel Steps Three Years OnTempting New Menu
Bandon’s Chapel Steps celebrated their 3rd birthday in September and confidently moved into their fourth year with a brilliant new Autumn Menu, full of great choice and sprinkled with innovation too. All well cooked and also well served if our visit last week is anything to go by.
The lovely room, the centrepiece of the O'Reillys’ restaurant, will still see orders for fish and steak. These have been on the menu from day one, the fish from nearby Union Hall, the black Angus beef from even nearer home.
There were at least three different fish dishes on the menu when we called and, indeed, one of the specials allowed you to taste all three on the one platter. Our choice was the Medallions of curried scented monkfish in a tempura batter with saffron yogurt and tangy couscous. This was delicious, the fish not smothered by the thin veil of batter, and the tangy couscous was a terrific match.
And my choice? Not an easy one. Even after the fish and steak, there was still a Butternut and Feta Gratin, their Beef Burger, Duck 2 Way, Blade of Beef and chicken. The one I did pick was the Celebration of Pork: pan-fried pork belly, Rosscarbery black pudding croquette, smoked pork cheek, celeriac puree, salsify, apple and pear jus. Quite a long description but just a short one to sum it up: excellent. That smoked cheek came in its own mini-pie and was quite a treat. A quality dish indeed.
Back to the starter now and again the thing that strikes me is the great choice on the list. You can actually see the full menu (aside from specials) here. I don’t think I’ve ever had a mackerel smokie before so I went for it: diced smoked mackerel, tomato concasse, and topped with parmesan herb crust. Full of texture and flavour and a great way to start.
Our other starter was the Chicken liver paté with fig and apricot compote and warm toast. Easy enough to put out a slice of top notch paté but matching it with this particular compote made it a winner.
And another winner came at the end. We were facing defeat though when the dessert list was presented but made one last joint effort and ordered the Warm Treacle Tart, with praline, honeycomb, quince, caramel sauce and caramel ice-cream. Don't often see this on a menu. More's the pity as it was terrific. Next time though, we might manage two between us, this and perhaps the White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake!
And the good news is that the Treacle Tart features on the Chapel Step’s Christmas Menus, both lunch and dinner. The menus feature a mix of seasonal dishes (including Christmas Pudding of course) and some of their regular favourites. Prices are good: €22.00 for lunch, €30.00 for dinner.
We had a lovely meal the other night, trying out the new seasonal menu as guests.
|Photo courtesy of Chapel Steps|
(023) 885 2581
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Ortus Café & BrasserieBandon’s New Arrival
Ortus has spiced up the dining scene in Bandon since its arrival on St Patrick’s Quay earlier this year. They started in February and were fully into their stride by April.
Though there is quite a bit on Tripadvisor, I hadn't heard anything about it until a week ago. I was in Bandon for the Frank Krawczyk event at the weekend and, afterwards, strolled over to Patrick's Quay for dinner.
Pretty good menu there, fish from Baltimore, beef from a local butcher, and it took us a few minutes to study it. First up, we got a basket of tasty bread along with some even tastier hummus. And then came a delightful amuse bouche of foccacia bread topped with cheese and vegetables.
Soon our starters were served, looking well, all at the right temperature. One was the Crunchy Goats Cheese with aubergine, and paprika relish, mixed leaves and balsamic dressing (8.25), the other Pulled Pork with Gubbeen fritters and a garlic mayo (7.75). Both were excellent and each had a little touch of spice that seems to feature, in a rather pleasant way, across the menu.
Now we were really looking forward to the main courses and we would not be disappointed. My pick was the Crispy Lamb cutlets that came with a mildly spicy Ras el Hanout and a delicious confit of Mediterranean vegetables, a lively flavoured dish with a great mix of textures and flavours, the vegetables playing quite a role here, adding hugely to the pleasure of eating this one (18.50).
Our other main course was Slow roasted spicy pork belly with tomatoes and roast potatoes, also some mashed potatoes on the side (18.50). The pork was beautifully cooked, so tender and tasty, and the spice brought it to a different level.
So you add all those up and you get a terrific meal, served with a calm courtesy. If you add them up in a different way, you see they come to €53.00. But because they all qualified for the Early Bird Menu (up to 7.00pm on the Saturday night), we paid only €35.00 for the two courses. So there you are, good food and good value at Ortus.
Ortus Café & Bistro
1 St Patrick’s Quay
Phone: 087 7214726
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Good Food from Bandon and Good Wine from Bordeaux
Made a short visit to Bandon Farmers Market last Saturday. And every stallholder I called to said I was great to come out in the rain. But if you'ee not willing to go out in the rain in Ireland, you’re going to waste half your life.
Great to see some familiar faces like Shirley Kingston, the market co-ordinator, and some new ones as well. Of course, it’s all about the food and I was delighted when Nathan Wall of the Saddleback Pig Company in Baltimore showed me his new product: Sweet Black Bacon Smoked. He tells me it's proving very popular. We’ll have more on Nathan and his fantastic “black” rashers in the next week or so.
No shortage of bakers here and Heavens Cakes, well known in the English Market, had some sweet things on offer. Good too to see Dunmanway Baking Emporium with a stall here, including a baguette that we needed for the evening.
And another surprise was the stand manned, if that’s the word, by Toni. Jams, chutneys and pickles, and relishes of all types, including Red Currant Jelly, Rose Hip and Apple Jelly and Fruit compote. She also sells her eggs, all at a very reasonable price.
The rain, by the way, was bad enough at times but there were clear spells as well and we took advantage of one of those to trot over to the quay and call in to see Ruth Healy in her fabulous food store and cafe at URRU. The warm cups of coffee and a massive ginger cookie were more than welcome.
Bandon is indeed well supplied with places to eat and, of course, things to eat. I had spotted the well stocked, well laid out butcher shop of Martin Carey on previous visits and made a point of calling this time.
This award winning store has a huge choice of meats but we went for the French trimmed lamb shanks, served up later that evening with market vegetables and a red wine gravy. The red wine, Chateau Lamothe Vincent, came from Bordeaux and not all of it went into the cooking!
The starter, a bruschetta using the baguette from the market, some Atlantic Sea Salt and a tomato salsa (all along the lines suggested by the Turkhead Delights cookbook), was excellent as was the dessert, a crumble with rhubarb (from the back garden) and orange. But mainly it was Bandon and Bordeaux. And I really couldn’t tell you if it was raining when I tucked into the lamb!
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Speciality Nights at Chapel Steps
|Rosscarbery Black Pudding|
Wednesday is the night for steak lovers. You have the choice from an 8oz Fillet, a 10oz Rib-eye or 12oz Sirloin with all the trimmings for just €20 per dish ... All Night, every Wednesday Night!
CL choose the fish special that evening and it was superb as was my own main course: Caramelised Duck Breast with beetroot, lavender and butternut squash.
|Glass of Rioja|
For all the latest, check out their website
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Baltimore’s Saddleback Pig Company
Got a pleasant surprise on a recent trip to the Bandon Farmers Market when I came across the Saddleback Pig Company from Baltimore. Stopped to have a look at the joints, the rashers and the sausages and soon had a hot piece of sausage in my hand as a sample. Gorgeous stuff, full of great flavours and a lovely supple texture, real meat.
Got a pack of the sausages, a new mix: gluten free sausages 100% pork, cracked black pepper, cumin, oregano, sweet smoked paprika and garlic. Very tasty indeed and they sold out last Saturday! So get to Bandon early this Saturday or maybe Clon on the Friday.
Had a chat with Nathan Hall who is very proud of his small family run farm at Rath Hill on Baltimore: “We are a small family run farm situated specialising in the breeding and rearing of rare breed Saddleback pigs. Though only a small business we concentrate on the welfare of all our pigs which are reared and run outside where they are free to root and forage. Our pigs are raised on a diet of mainly vegetables and rolled barley which are chemical free and do not contain any growth enhancers allowing the pigs to mature over a longer period of time giving the meat a fuller flavour.”
Their Dry cured bacon is naturally smoked or unsmoked in a cure made up of sea salt, raw cane sugar and a mixture of herbs and spices. Hams are produced in a brine of white wine, rosemary, bay, thyme, pepper and juniper. All cuts of pork are available fresh or frozen. And they certainly looked great on the stall in Bandon.
You can find them at Clonakilty Farmers Market every Friday and in Bandon Farmers Market every Saturday. Find out much more about them on their Facebook page.
Location: Rath Hill, Baltimore Co. Cork.
Phone 086 2633219.