Tickling taste buds of speciality cheese lovers in Holywood

Interview Sept 6 SM Farm

Cheese lover Sam Cu-

rry has teamed up

with a leading North-ern Ireland butchery business to increase awareness and grow sales of speciality cheeses.

The Artisan Cheesemonger is the small business established by Sam in August on the back of a successful career in investment fin-ance. He recently sold his investment business in Northern Ireland and was “keen to do something totally different”, he says.

The Artisan Cheesemonger is the outcome of that aspiration and also reflects his love of “great cheeses” and his interest in meeting people.

He has set up a speciality cheese counter in colla-boration with Corrie’s Farm Butchers, a locally-owned, very successful and highly respected meat retailer with

a network of 10 shops throughout the greater Belfast area as well as Holywood and Newtownards.

The Artisan Cheesemonger’s first cheese counter has just opened in Corrie’s popular butcher’s shop/deli in Holywood, County Down, an affluent community five miles from Belfast. Mr Curry is now offering shoppers an extensive range of Irish and continental cheeses. Customers can choose port-ions freshly sliced in the shop or purchase pre-packed cheeses.

The new business is the first in Northern Ireland to focus exclusively on speciality cheeses and will also offer other products, such as biscuits and chutneys, as an accompaniment.

Mr Curry, who is from Comber, County Down, has seen a growing interest in speciality cheeses in Northern Ireland: “I know from my own network of family and friends as well as business contacts that more people than ever before are keen to try different cheeses than traditional cheddars. This is largely the result of travel to other parts of Europe and further afield.

“It’s been my experience from working on the counter in Holywood, over the past few weeks, that people here are now interested in sampling different cheeses from here and abroad.

“I’ve been busy inviting shoppers to taste different cheese and talking to them about the products. And I’ve found the vast majority subsequently buy a cheese they’ve enjoyed in the shop.

“In addition, awareness of speciality cheeses here is being increased by our own artisan cheesemakers such as Dean Wright’s Triple Rose from Tandragee, Mike Thomson of Mike’s Fancy Cheese in Newtownards, Paul McClean of Kearney Blue, Castlereagh, Dart Mountain’s Julie Hickey, Dungiven, and Christo Swanepoel of City Cheese from Ballywalter.

“We now have impressive and award-winning blues, beer-washed and goat’s cheese. And Ballylisk has just launched a really interesting cheese washed in Armagh cider. So, there’s a lot of innovation here in speciality cheeses.

“While most of the delis here carry a variety of cheeses, Northern Ireland doesn’t really have a retailing business dedicated exclusively to speciality cheeses. I hope to develop successful cheese counters within Corrie’s in line with their focus on creating artisan food halls,” he adds.

He has a number of exciting initiatives planned to expand interest here in speciality cheese. These include samp-

ling sessions hosted by cheese producers from Northern Ireland and, in time, from the Republic of Ireland.

He’s quick to acknowledge the “sterling service” of leading local delis, such as Arcadia on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, Sawers in the city centre and Indie Fude in his Comber home town, in encouraging local and Irish producers in particular.

“I believe there are opportunities for all of us from the growing interest in quality cheeses from here and abroad. It’s potentially a very significant market opportunity,” he continues.

Speciality cheese, pioneered originally by Fivemiletown Creamery in County Tyrone, a small dairy which launched Ireland’s first brie and Europe’s first-ever blue brie, is a developing category within the dairy industry here that’s long been dominated by cheddars.

Corrie’s, of course, is an important partner with a strong market presence and an impressive reputation for outstanding meat and a growing range of prepared meals with provenance and full traceability.

Based on the family farm near Greyabbey on the Ards Peninsula, Corrie’s is now a thriving retail and wholesale meat business that stretches back to the early 1950s.

The retailing operation, now led by William Corrie Jnr, began in 1974. It opened a farm shop in a converted barn three years later. The cattle farm covers 1,200 acres and includes butchery halls and a Himalayan salt chamber for dry-ageing meat.

In addition to its extensive network of shops, Corrie’s has been supplying premium fresh meat to the food industry throughout Northern Ireland. Customers include hotels and restaurants.

It has also introduced butchery courses for con-sumers keen to learn about the different cuts and how to prepare and cook meat. The thriving prepared meals, especially the range of pies, have racked up UK Great Taste Awards.

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