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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, January 11, 2016
Taste of the Week
It wasn’t exactly the feedback I was expecting. Shortly before Christmas, I was visiting friends and one of the little food gifts I had left was a pack of Social Circles from Seymour Biscuits in Bandon. I met my hosts a few weeks later and they told me that the Social Circles were absolutely gorgeous but “we were fighting over them!”
So there you are. If you decide to try Social Circles, our Taste of the Week, then my advice is to get at least two packets. These biscuits are seriously addictive! I did get the two packs for a post Christmas get-together and they vanished in no time.
Everybody seems to love them. A pack contains six shortbread biscuit pieces which have been immersed in Belgian chocolate with added Madagascan vanilla pod, pecan, cardamom spice and natural orange extract; you get three of Cardamom Orange and three of Vanilla Pecan. I got mine at Bradley’s (Cork) and they are also available at the best gourmet stores and hotels in Ireland and their new website allows customers throughout the world buy online.
They make lots of other biscuits too - the fresh milk comes from their own farm nearby - and you can check them all out here
Friday, January 30, 2015
Generation to Generation
|Garett, on duty.|
“I believe the survival of the English Market over the last hundred years is down to the families who have ran the stalls from generation to generation. They have kept it going.” So said Garrett Murphy, as we chatted over a cuppa in the Farmgate Cafe. Garrett, a current stallholder, knows what he is talking about!
For fifty years, his father Michael ran the Roughty Fruit King stall in the centre of the market, until ill health came in 2011. Four generations of the Murphys worked there, in different locations, until they settled on the current stall in 1961. Nowadays, Garrett and his sister Margot Ann work in the new look foodie stall (now called The Roughty Foodie) and they have help from time to time from younger members of the family.Two thousand and eleven was the year of the Queen’s visit and the Murphys, in transition from a specifically fruit stall to something more general, weren't ready for her but, with help and encouragement from the City Council and fellow traders, they were up and running for the peak summer months.
“It kinda fell into our laps,” says Garrett as he recalled those anxious months. “But we could see the change of emphasis to quality. We could compete with the supermarkets on quality though not on price. So we took that new direction and grew organically. We soon had a few local producers on board, including Macroom Mills, Glenilen and our home-baker.” Garrett will never forget that first Saturday. “Everything cleared. We had nothing left on the shelves.”
They moved along from there with new producers coming on board, including Brian from Beechwood Farm and his brother Colm from Horizon Farms, Mags (who makes a great Lemon Curd) from Heavenly Preserves and Betty Smith with her jams and marmalades. Also joining were Harty’s Jellies, Taste the View, while local strawberries came from Rathcooney.
“The two months July and August of 2011 were great. The tourists came flooding in and kept buying, the locals too despite the parking problems. Traders told us it would get better in October and November but that didn't happen and we were worried until December and the run-in to Christmas which proved massive for us and had us back on track”.
I asked Garrett what the most popular products are. “It is seasonal so, for example, we sell a lot of porridge in the winter months. Jams, preserves and honey are always very popular and so too is cheese.” What has surprised you over the past few years? “This Christmas it was the amount of hampers and Irish cheese and crackers that we sold. At Christmas 2011, goosefat was a huge seller.”
What are his own favourites? Licking his lips he had no hesitation: Eddie Hicks’ fantastic bacon jam and Ballybrado Supreme Spelt muesli. He has great time too for Kitty Colchester’s Happy Heart organic rapeseed oil and the High Bank Farm Apple Syrup. And indeed is enthusiastic about every single product he displays!
The stall is packed with food. But it is not just food. Tourists love the Seaweed Bath. The Goats Milk soap from the Burren is very popular too and he has a great candle-maker from Portmagee on Valentia Island. So do go in and explore. You never know what treasure you’ll find in Roughty Foodie.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Bradley's Have Your Food and Drink
Michael has the country covered
Amazed at the selection of Irish foods now available in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork. The customers are obviously enjoying it all and so too is Michael Creedon, a Bradley himself. It is turning out to be quite an adventure and Michael loves meeting the small producers and seeing what they have to offer. New ones are being added all the time; Wilkie’s Chocolates and the Amodeo Salad Dressing are among the latest arrivals.
|From the south|
Bradley’s started out as a dairy in 1850 but, in more recent years, became well known as one of the best drinks specialists in Cork. Wine or Whiskey, Vodka or Gin, Bradleys was and is yer only man. Then along came the craft beer revolution and the small producers soon found they had a friend in Michael and his collection of beers just grew and grew. Now they all talk about the famous “wall of beer”.
And just as Michael extended a friendly hand to the local brewers, he was at the same time doing the very same with regard to food producers. “The small producers have time to talk, take the trouble to ring back. The contacts are personal and encouraging.” And the result is that he is well on his way to covering the whole country. And remember, you can shop online.
|The eastern bloc!|
I picked, more or less at random, a few baskets during a recent visit. These photos represent only a small part of the offering of beers and foods (and, by the way, are not meant to be matching suggestions!).
In the South selection, you’ll see bigger names such as Gubbeen and Atlantic Sea Salt along with that new Amodeo dressing. Mella’s Fudge is a personal favourite as is that fabulous Lisanley Honey from East Cork. Seymour’s Biscuits, Cookies of Character and Ballybrado’s Crisp Breads are all recommended. And for drinks, you're spoiled for choice and we had room for very few in the shot.
|West by North West|
Let’s now have a look at that packed basket from the East. Not much room for beer but we did squeeze in a couple from the packed shelves. Second Nature's Rapeseed OIl and the versatile and delicious Highbank Orchard Syrup are prominent and then you've got the tasty products of Big Red Kitchen, Dalkey Mustard and Just Delicious. Goodness from the grain by Ballybrado and Ballyminane and, after all that, you might like a cuppa from Niks Teas or maybe one of the beers!
No shortage of beers in the North West selection with an explosion of brewers in Galway, Roscommon and Donegal. The Foods of Athenry are well represented with their granolas and crackers and no shortage of seaweed products by Carraig Fhada. And, of course, that well known Donegal Rapeseed oil.
Quite a selection, I’m sure you'll agree. But there is much more in the shop, so do drop in and have a look.
Thirsty now after all that but what beer will I have? Such a choice!