Hi Everyone. I was up in Oregon on vacation with the family so I have not been around the internet lately. I had a great cheese trip planned — visiting Briar Rose Creamery on the first day of the year that they were getting goat milk — but snow prevented me from leaving the coast. Instead, I went to visit Tillamook which, though a lot less fun, was probably more useful for the book I am writing.
Look! Factory Cheddar:
167,000lbs of cheese a day is no joke. We sell about 4000-5000lbs of Tilly a year. At most cheese facilities we carry, buying that much cheese a year would get me a private tour. Here, I was up in the viewing section with the consumers ;):
It is worth noting that the two national brands of Cheddar that are thought of as “better quality” amongst consumers — Tillamook and Cabot — are both co-ops.
Look! I’m a Tillamook farmer!
I am not, however, a Blue Heron Donkey.
I visited this cheese company a couple of blocks from the Tilly factory. Causing me to laugh out loud — since i had just bought a lb of fresh curds from the Tilly factory — they were carrying Henning’s cheese curds all the way from Wisconsin! (I mean, they are better, but still…) I didn’t buy any cheese there but I bought some good chocolate truffles.
The rest of the vacation was spent vacationing. See:
I can’t go on vacation without stopping at least one cheese place. However, I didn’t realize that on this trip it would be so easy. We decided to vacation in Bend, Oregon for the hiking and for Beer Week, but it is also only ten minutes from Tumalo Farms. We are currently selling a ton of their Classico Reserve which is one of the best American Aged Gouda-style goat cheeses around.
I actually think all of the Tumalo cheeses are underrated. Great clean flavor. Good tang. Good sweetness. Great balance of added ingredients to cheese on their flavored cheese… they do not make a mediocre cheese. Partially because Cypress Grove launched their (Dutch) goat gouda (Midnight Moon) years before Tumalo hit the Bay Area, I have always thought that the Tumalo cheeses were really under appreciated down here.
And my timing for visiting was good because I even got to see a few little baby goats
The farm itself is beautiful. It’s in the high desert of Oregon, surrounded by mountains. If I were a goat, I would love to live there. It was overcast the day I visited, but it is hard to imagine a more picturesque setting.
Oh, what the heck, here is a picture of more cheese:
here is a picture of me and Flavio DeCastillos, the owner of Tumalo Farms. Can someone remind me to get a haircut before I go on vacation next time?
p.s. Little Jewels aging. I am putting this here so I remember to order some.
The emergence of Oregon cheese For years – at least to those of us outside the state — Oregon cheese was synonymous with Tillamook Cheddar. In terms of cheese states, the big three people tend to think of are California, Wisconsin, and Vermont. I would say that this year has made it obvious that people should start thinking of adding Oregon to that list – especially when considering blue cheese and goat cheese. I don’t think any state except California is making the variety and quality of goat cheese made in Oregon.
First off, the Rogue Creamery makes some of the best blue cheese in the country. The Seasonal Rogue River Blue may be my favorite American cheese, but the Crater Lake, Caveman, and Echo Mountain are on the next tier of amazing. Rogue has gotten a lot of attention among cheese folks in recent years, but they are just the tip of the iceberg that the rest of the country hasn’t discovered about the Pacific Northwest cheese community.
River’s Edge Chevre (no connection to the Crispin Glover/Dennis Hopper movie classic) is making incredible ripened goat cheese and one of the few smoked cheeses – “Up In Smoke” (no connection to the Cheech and Chong movie classic) that I heartedly recommend. Tumalo Farms makes amazing caramel-like aged goat cheeses; Pholia Farm is an amazing off-the-grid cheese company using Nigerian Dwarf goat milk.* Juniper Grove creates great goat tommes. It seems like every time I go to Oregon I find new cheese, this year La Mariposa and Briar Rose impressed me.
When I visited the Pacific Northwest on my book tour, I was actually amazed that they were even more locavore-centric than the Bay Area. Some members of the audience even seemed a little put out that not only did I bring California cheeses to sample, but some from Wisconsin! While I have my criticisms of the locavore idea, I do understand that in their region, you can get many of your needs met locally and be happy with the choices.
(BTW, I was going to make this “Pacific Northwest” instead of “Oregon”, but since two of my favorite Washington State producers have shut down recently due to FDA/food borne pathogen issues, (see entry later this week) I figured I’d just play it safe and leave it at Oregon.
*I should take this opportunity to again plug Gianaclis Caldwell’s Farmstead Creamery Advisor if you are thinking of starting your own dairy project!