Friday, March 13, 2015


The first place we went after leaving the Portland Airport in our yellow Kia was to Tillamook, a small town of about 5,000 inhabitants located on the Pacific Coast just 75 miles from Portland. The city is named for a Native American tribe of the region.

To get there, we drove through the Tillamook State Forest, 364,000 acres of heavily wooded, fog-shrouded hills.

The point of our drive was this: The Tillamook Cheese Factory, the original cheese production site for the company. It gets over a million visitors a year.

There are a lot of unique, humorous touches in the factory:
. . . and we enjoyed all of them:
The self-guided factory tour is lined with information about Tillamook's past, present, and aspirations for the future:
We learned a lot about Oregon's Happy Cows (sorry California, but I think Oregon's cows are happier than ours):
We finally got to the cheesemaking part of the tour:

There are large viewing windows on the second floor that look out over the production line. 
Every now and then, a friendly hairnet-coiffed worker would look up and wave and smile.  (Do they give them a bonus for doing that? I would. Happy tourists make busy cashiers.)

Each of the eight stainless steel cheese vats in the picture below holds about 53,000 pounds of fresh milk, and each vat turns milk into cheese about three times per day. Ten pounds of milk make one pound of cheese, and since about 1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant every day, that means Tillamook machines and workers produce almost 170,000 pounds of cheese every day.
The octopus machine below is used to seal the packages. Each package is passed through a metal detector before it is shipped out just in case something fell or was slipped into the cheese by mistake. A million chunks of cheese are packaged every week.
Several displays showed the history of Tillamook advertising. Who knew that a "man's salad" requires cheese?  I'll keep that in mind.
Tillamook Cheese Factory even makes kosher cheese, supervised and approved by the requisite rabbi:
And now, a Top Three Countdown of the Best Things on the Tour:

#3. This Centennial Anniversary Quilt, created through a partnership between Tillamook Cheese and the Tillamook County Quilters' Association was cheery and very farm-ish:
#2. A nice tasting table that included four or five types of cheese is a must-do:
It's even better if you are the only people in line and can go back for fourths and fifths:
#1. My all-time FAVORITE part of the tour (how could anything else come close?) was the on-site Tillamook Ice Creamery:
There were 27 flavors available.  HOW TO CHOOSE?
It was tough--no, it was impossible--to pass up the Triple Scoop Ice Cream Sampler.  I had Salted Caramel, S'mores, and Tillamook Mudslide (on left). Rachael also had Tillamook Mudslide, plus Malted Moo Crunch and Mountain Huckleberry.  Bliss, sheer bliss.

After our tour and after we gorged ourselves on Tillamook products, we headed out to the car. Suddenly, we had a startling revelation.
Our little yellow Kia Soul was the 
exact same color as Tillamook cheese!
From that moment on, her name was Tilly.

Tilly took us back towards Portland. I know this will come as a surprise, but we found that in spite of the unlimited cheese samples and triple-scoop dish of ice cream, we were ready for dinner. Yelp and Tilly helped us find Mr. Bento, a fortuituous discovery. The owners and cooks were Japanese, and just about every one of the customers was Japanese--or at least Asian.

We shared a Salmon Bento Box: wild Alaskan salmon, rice, cucumber salad, green salad with ginger-orange-carrot dressing, two gyozas, and two shrimp tempura.  Just right.

Day One of our trip? A complete success!


  1. Interesting, never knew that Tillamook made ice cream.

  2. Your blog on the Tillamook Cheese Factory convinced me to add that to our trip plans when we drive to Olympia next month to see our son Chris. Cheese and ice cream in one stop!

  3. I have now gained 10 pounds just reading all your food posts. Did you guys power that car, Fred Flinstone-style, in order to offset all this delicious and fascinating food?