Tillamook, OR – Say “Cheese”!

Before visiting the West Coast, I had never heard of Tillamook cheese. After one taste, I was hooked. And the best part was actually the ice cream! We visited the farm and factory, as well as the nearby Blue Heron farm in the town of Tillamook, OR.

On a pretty early September day, we went out looking for cheese. First, we stopped by Blue Heron French Cheese Company, a farm and store featuring delicious brie and plenty of friendly four-legged friends: pigs, llamas, goats, donkeys, and sheep. Inside the main building, we browsed through the store and sampled delicious herbed olive oils and cheese.

Next, we visited the famed Tillamook dairy factory. Although the first European settlers arrived in the area in the 1800s, it wasn’t until the renowned Canadian cheesemaker Peter McIntosh brought his cheddar cheese-making expertise to Tillamook County that the cheesemaking industry boomed. Nicknamed “Cheese King of the Coast,” McIntosh shared his know-how with the locals who joined forces in a co-op, and vowed to always maintain the highest quality standards. Committed to quality, the creamery won many awards over the years.

The visit was impressive: the presentation and the taste were exquisite. We learned about the process from cow to cheese, and observed the production from a second floor window. We learned about the different types of cows, enjoyed the interactive educational displays, and took a ride in the orange VW van that used to promote Tillamook products west of the Mississippi as a part of the “Bring tasty cheese to the people” campaign.

We admired a wooden sail boat adorning the courtyard. I wondered why a creamery would need a sail boat and learned that back in the 1800s, the fastest way to deliver fresh product to the Portland markets was by boat rather than by car, over the mountains. That is why the creamery built their own ship, the Morning Star. In a 60s re-branding effort, the Morning Star image replaced the cute Tillie off Tillamook, the co-op’s “spokescow” previously used in ad campaigns.

We ended our visit with a delicious and generous serving of ice cream. I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area!

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