Spending more than a month in Portland afforded us the opportunity to spend time with our daughter, get some things repaired on the Bighorn and the Silver Fox, and explore more of Portland and the surrounding area. Although we had been in Portland last year, there are many things to see and do. In addition to finding respite in the Lan Su Gardens (see previous post), we went on several tours and learned about some outstanding Oregon products.
Being that chocolate is one of our favorite foods, the first place that we went was the Creo Chocolate Factory. Located in Lloyd district of Portand, this “bean-to-bar” chocolate factory was a real treat. They offer daily tours for a fee and we signed up for the “Make a Bar” tour. We were fortunate to have one of the owners of Creo, Tim Straub, as our tour guide. Tim, Janet (his wife), and Keith (his son) opened Creo Chocolate Factory in 2014. It is important to have high quality cacao beans to make great chocolate and they import cacao beans from farms in Ecuador. They have built a special relationship with a particular cacao farmer that provides them with top quality ingredients. Once the beans arrive to the U.S., Tim and his family roast, crack, winnow, grind, conch and temper the beans and the chocolate. They then mold the chocolate into bars that they package individually. This time-consuming process that can take months to complete is truly a labor of love.
Tim and his family are very committed to this endeavor and view their chocolate-making as a ministry as well as a business. They believe that they are helping farmers in other countries by purchasing cacao directly from the producers. Allowing more profits to go directly to the farmers improves the lives of many Ecuadorians. Tim also believes that chocolate brings people together. They look for opportunities within their community. They offer tours to individuals, community groups, and host other activities to help forward their goal of “making a positive impact on people’s lives.”
David and I enjoyed not only the tour but also getting to know Tim and his family. We can attest to the fact that Creo Chocolate is some of the best that we have ever sampled. On our tour we learned a lot about the process of making chocolate and we got to make our own chocolate bar to take home. If you would like to join a tour or purchase some great chocolate, here is a link to their website.
While we were traveling back from Alaska, we listened to a Podcast called “How I Built This” and one of the episodes was about Bob Moore who started Bob’s Red Mill. The Guy Raz interview is excellent and a recommended listen. This successful enterprise offers a number of gluten-free and non gluten-free products that are sold in many grocery stores throughout the United States. David and I have known about this company for some time but we did not know that it was based in the Portland area. This international company is located south of Portland in the town of Milwaukee and it produces high quality grains, flours, and baking mixes using stone grinding mills and stone milling techniques. We found out that Bob’s Red Mill has a free tour of their facility once a day and we decided to take the tour.
Bob Moore and his wife, Charlee, began providing whole grains to the local community in the 1960’s. Their store became so popular that they eventually began distributing their products throughout the United States. Today they also have a growing international market.
While on the tour, we got to see how they process the grains. In addition, we learned that they have contracted with specific growers around the world to ensure that there are no pesticides used on the plants and no GMOs either. As a result they use only high quality grains in their production. Also, we observed that they have a large section of the facility that is dedicated to the production of gluten-free products.
While we were there, Bob Moore stopped by and greeted us. Although he is 90 years old now, he still works full days and is very active in the day-to-day operations of the company. Now, however, he is no longer the sole owner of the company that bears his name. When he turned 81 years old, he decided to give ownership of the company to his employees via an Employee Stock Ownership Program. Today everyone is an employee-owner of Bob’s Red Mill. According to Bob Moore, “It was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked with me for over 30 years and each and every one of them deserves this.” It is inspiring to learn about how Bob Moore created this company and to see how he is using its success to benefit others, both his customers and his employees.
After our tour of the factory, we stopped by the Bob’s Red Mill store and restaurant that is about a mile from the mill. We had a great lunch there and also purchased some of their products. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukee.
Tillamook products can be found in many of the grocery stores out West. They provide great cheeses, dairy products, and ice cream. Our daughter, Ashley, took us to visit the Tillamook Creamery which is about 1.5 hours west of Portland.
The Tillamook County Creamery was founded in 1909 by a farmer-owned co-op to support the farmers in the region. Today there are about 100 farmer families that supply the milk to the Creamery. Since these families are owners of and producers for the Creamery, they take pride in the quality of the Creamery’s products. As an example, they do not give any growth hormones to their cows and take good care of their animals. They are also very involved in their community and provide grants and give some of their products to benefit school lunch programs, food banks, and other groups.
The Tillamook Creamery Visitors Center has just been remodeled and offers self-guided tours of its facilities. This new Visitors Center has a store, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, and offers free cheese samples. During the tour, you can see how the different cheeses are produced, aged, sliced, packaged, and labeled.
We were surprised at how many visitors were on-site while we were there. There is a large parking lot that was full and plenty of overflow parking as well. One of the draws is not just the ice cream, but the ability to purchase cheese curds. Apparently this is the only location that offers this “squeaky cheese” for sale.
The day trip that we made to Tillamook County Creamery was delightful. The cheese samples and the ice cream were delicious. So, if you find yourself near Tillamook, OR, you should definitely stop and spend some time there.
An additional benefit is its proximity to the famous Oregon coastline. We visited the town of Rockaway Beach and enjoyed both the beach and the beautiful ocean views.
3 thoughts on “Chocolate, Kamut, and Cheese – Culinary Treats around Portland, Oregon”
Especially since Bill worked in manufacturing for almost 30 years, we love factory tours! Sounds like these are some we need to add to our list to visit while in the Portland area!