Say Cheese!

In keeping with our self-imposed limit of one major touristic activity per day, on Tuesday’s travel day we aimed for the Tillamook cheese factory. Starting the day in North Bend, we enjoyed better weather than we had seen for several days. The coast was beautiful, though perhaps not as breathtaking as in northern California. We stopped as little as possible (we were on a mission, after all), pausing only for necessities such as fuel and caffeine–and a couple of photos.
We arrived in Tillamook shortly after lunchtime and had no difficulty finding the cheese factory 🙂

We wandered in and embarked upon the self-guided “tour.” Essentially, they have a lot of informational billboards about the local dairy industry, cows, the cheese-making process, and the company’s history. Upstairs, you can look down upon cheese being made (sort of, it’s in closed vats), packaged for aging in the warehouse, and processed and packaged for sale after the aging is complete.

Packaging the 40-lb blocks for aging:

Loaf weighing (post-aging):

Loaf packaging (the octopus-looking machine seals the plastic wrapper tightly to the loaf):

Smoked cheese traffic jam on a line that appeared to have a wrapper problem:
Back downstairs, you enter the tasting line, where they have cheese curds (yum!) and samples of several of their cheeses. I liked the extra sharp white cheddar best (surprise, surprise) and also enjoyed the garlic chile cheddar. The tasting room leads, of course, into the buying room. They have a very nice selection of Tillamook cheeses, some local artisanal cheeses, other local foods, and cheese-y souvenirs.
They also have ice cream. I tasted the hazelnut salted caramel (good) and opted for the caramel toffee crunch. Maureen went with espresso mocha, as plain coffee was not an option. The verdict: good, but not mind blowing.
The visit to Tillamook meant an extra 1.5 hours of driving, but at least it was a pretty drive on winding roads through the woods. We arrived at the edges of Portland around 3:30 pm and found that Portland has even worse traffic than Denver. After dropping stuff (and a reluctant Rebbe) off with our hosts, we enjoyed a lovely home-cooked meal at the home of some of Maureen’s friends from her time in Santa Barbara. The meal even ended with our second ice cream of the day–this time McConnell’s (pumpkin pie), which we did not have in SB this visit, and Talenti (double dark chocolate).
Finally, Tuesday was the first night of Hanukkah, so we had a candle to light when we returned to our hosts’ home. We visited with them as the candle glowed–another good day.

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