Two weeks ago, I finally got to live out a five- year long dream of going to the Pacific Northwest when I explored the Oregon Coast with my partners at Tillamook.
Tillamook graciously invited me and a few other food bloggers (Ashley, Rebecca, Holly & Natalie, Carian, and Deborah) out to tour one of their farms, get a glimpse of their brand new (stunning might I add) Creamery and attend Feast which is a food festival they are a headlining sponsor of. If you want to skip the story and view the recipe, click here (but then you’ll miss out on the inspiration for it!)
Getting into Portland, I met my traveling companions at Tillamook’s Portland Outpost and we jumped in the van to head out to the Oregon coast to Pacific City, and our home for the next two days, the Headlands Lodge.
The next morning, we headed out to our first farm. We met Dr. Kate McCarthy Lott, the director of Farm Engagement at Tillamook County Creamery Association, and her job is to provide education to producer members of the co-op to ensure continuous improvement in milk quality and safety. As a veterinarian, she emphasizes priority in the health and care of the cows and she explained the advances in technology that have helped them ensure their cows are keeping well.
The farm we visited was one of the first farms on the West Coast to adopt an electronic feeding and milking system. Due to the rising costs of labor and lack of labor, our farmer hosts had to get savvy with new technology to make sure their milk production stayed top notch. The automatic feeders mix and sort the feed 24/7/365 providing perfectly proportioned nutrition to the cows with minimal deviation in waste.
The milking system is a self-milking system where the cows are encouraged to head into the milking stall, enjoy some corn and grain snacks, and regulates itself so that the cow is never uncomfortable or over milked. The cows love their milking time and you’ll often find that they line themselves up waiting to get milked!
Pulling up to the Tillamook Creamery we were welcomed by a beautiful modern structure with floor to ceiling glass windows and a full parking lot. We learned that since the Tillamook Creamery was rebuilt this summer, the facility has been welcoming over 10,000 guests daily treating their afternoon here like a dairy Disney Land where you can sample all of Tillamook’s great products, load up on Tillamook gear and see the cheese making processes in action.
We met with Jill Allen, Tillamook’s Director of R&D and a recognized Cheddar judge who shared with us how she judges Cheddar, the aging process, and instructed us on how to pull a cheese plug for quality testing.
We lingered there for dinner where we were treated to an impressive line-up of dishes all from the Pacific Northwest-inspired menu created by Chef Sarah Schafer for the restaurant downstairs. One of the outstanding dishes was the tomato soup with fried cheese curds. UGH I wish we could get the fresh cheese curds here in Atlanta- they were perfectly salty with the right bouncy texture and melted into softened perfection when you dunked them in your soup.
That soup and cheese curd combo had me craving tomato soup as soon as I got home, regardless that I came home to Atlanta where the temperature has been wavering at 90+ degrees all week. But to me, tomato soup is one of those all-weather soups when you add a bit of fresh basil and bright paprika to it.
So, I’ve recreated the Tillamook Creamery Tomato Soup for you in today’s post (here) and added the perfect grilled cheese to go alongside it since we won’t be able to recreate Tillamook’s fried cheese curds here.
Something I don’t want to make light of in this recipe is that if I’ve listed a brand or an ingredient, please DO NOT SUBSTITUTE. The key to getting the perfect grilled cheese is actually toasting it in mayonnaise, that way you get the perfect crust and it doesn’t get soggy like if you used a pan full of butter. Head over to this post here (or click the photo below) to take you to the recipe!