Cheese. Ice Cream. Cows. Wine. Fun.
Did I catch your attention? A few weeks ago I took a special trip to Oregon that was full of these immensely enjoyable things. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw a few of these shots and wondered what I was doing. Tillamook invited a dozen of food bloggers to visit their factory and one of their farms and I was lucky enough to be one of them! I have worked with Tillamook in the past (see my recipes for brown butter grilled cheese and beer float popsicles) and I absolutely love their cheese and ice cream.
Our first stop was Portland. I love this city – it’s one of those places I can definitely myself imagine living in. Even better, the first thing I got to do was enjoy a bowl of ice cream from Tillamook’s ice cream truck. Most people know Tillamook for their cheese, so every time it comes up in conversation I tell everyone that they must try Tillamook ice cream. It is so creamy and has rich, authentic flavors.
Portland has no shortage of incredible food (one of the things I love most about the city) and we enjoyed a tasty spread at Imperial, pictured above.The highlight of the night was Tillamook ice cream sandwiches, which two of my traveling buddies recreated: check out Peanut Butter Cookie and Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwich at Glorious Treats and Soft Gingersnap Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches at Heather’s French Press.
After a wonderful afternoon and evening in Portland, we took a beautiful scenic drive out to the Oregon coast, where Tillamook is headquartered. The first stop was the Tillamook factory for a special tour. The highlights: cheese samples, seeing the care with which the cheese is made, standing in a room with 10% of U.S. cheddar, and meeting Dale Baumgatner. Dale is the Head Cheesemaker and has worked at Tillamook since 1968. He told us all about the cheesemaking process and really lit up when he was talking about how they used to (and occasionally still do) make the cheese by hand. He was incredibly passionate about cheesemaking and upholding the quality of Tillamook cheese – it was a joy to listen to him.
Tillamook Cheesy Facts:
- Due to the aging process, Tillamook has 10% of all U.S. cheddar cheese in storage at their factory.
- It takes 10 pounds (1.16 gallons) of milk to make 1 pound of Tillamook cheese.
- More then 1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant each day and 500,000 pounds of cheese are made each day.
- Tillamook has 63 million pounds of cheese in inventory.
My favorite part of the factory visit was seeing the test kitchen. We learned all about their sensory team, who tastes 500 samples per day in their sensory lab to ensure that every product at every stage of its shelf life meets their high quality standards. It’s one of those jobs that sounds incredible on paper (get paid to taste ice cream and cheese!), but it’s really a tough job and they actually expectorate (spit out) all the samples.
The more I heard about the process from Jill Allen, Tillamook’s Manager of Product Quality, the more I was impressed by Tillamook’s quality standard. They taste test products throughout the development process to ensure that something tastes as good on day one as day 365 if it has a one year shelf life. If something is off after 12 months, such as soggy mix-ins in an ice cream, they remove it from the recipe, even if it was perfect for the previous 11 months.
The other good part about the test kitchen? The taste testing, of course! We got to try flavors that are in development and coming out in 2015. Sorry to keep you in suspense – I can’t share what they are, but I can say that you should keep an eye out, because they were all delicious! The other tasting we did was a blind taste test to compare two types of Tillamook cheese to unnamed popular competitors. It was incredible to see, smell, and taste the difference. In both cases, Tillamook was creamier, with better flavor and clearly better quality when you compared them side by side. After speaking to Dale and Jill, I wasn’t that surprised – everyone at Tillamook was so passionate about their work and clearly keeping everything to very high standards.
Dinner on the beach was another highlight of the trip. We stayed overnight in Pacific City and had a fun dinner across the street from Inn at Cape Kiwanda at Pelican Brewery. They set up a long table under a tent right in the sand and we enjoyed huge oysters, cheese, and good company. After dinner, we sat around a bonfire on the beach with s’mores, Tillabars (a MUST try!), and Union Wine Company’s canned wine (which is really good, don’t let the can fool you).
Our last stop was a Tillamook dairy farm. Tillamook is a co-op that’s owned by around 100 local farms, all within 45 minutes of the factory. We took a tour of the farm and learned about the incredibly hard working dairy farmers, who are up at 3am and work tirelessly all day. The cows must be milked twice a day, every single day, and must again meet high standards for Tillamook. Every batch of milk is tested for fat content (which determines how much the farmer gets paid per gallon), antibiotics, and disease.
Overall, I was blown away by the passion, care, and high standards upheld by every Tillamook team member that I met. If you ever get the chance to visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, I recommend stopping by to do the self-guided tour, enjoy some cheese samples and load up on their ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and sour cream in their store. If you’re far away, keep an eye out for Tillamook products in your local stores – I can practically guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
My fellow bloggers, clad in our yellow farm boots: Liren, Kitchen Confidante; Glory, Glorious Treats; Dorothy, Crazy For Crust; Jesseca, One Sweet Appetite; Heather, Heather’s French Press; Lizzy, Your Cup of Cake; Anita, Desserts First Girl; me; Deseree, Life’s Ambrosia; Rachael, Set the Table; Lisa, Authentic Suburban Gourmet; Jane, This Week for Dinner
I can honestly say I enjoyed the company of each and every one of these ladies! You should take a few moments and visit their blogs; they are all talented food bloggers with delicious recipes and interesting stories.
Although this trip was sponsored and facilitated by Tillamook, this is not a sponsored post. All of the text and opinions are my own.