Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cheddar Cheese Beignets with Tomato Jam + Tillamook Blog2Farm Summit Part 1

Several months ago I received an email from Kelly at SodaPop PR inviting me to the Tillamook Blog2Farm Summit.  It was a simply click to respond to the email with a resounding YES.  I first met Kelly here and I was first introduced to Tillamook’s New Greek Yogurt.  It was simply divine and my favorite flavor is the Coffee House flavor.  I grew up with Tillamook but this was a perfect opportunity to learn more about this successful company and its high quality products.

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It seemed like light years away until the day arrived that I would jump on the plane to Portland to begin my journey to Tillamook.  I was ecstatic to learn that my good buddy Liren was invited and we would be on the same flight.  What a fantastic time to catch up.  We were transported in style from the airport to Hotel Lucia which is one of Portland’s chicest hotels. After unpacking and touring the hotel a bit, we decided to venture out explore Portland.  One of the Tillamook buses was right out our hotel offering Ice Cream to the bloggers - what a treat. We discovered Powell’s Books, Food Trucks, Voodoo Doughnuts, shops and the general vibe and culture of Portland.

It was now 5 O’clock somewhere so that meant Liren and I headed back to Imperial for a Prosecco with St. Germaine and a quick bite to eat before we would meet up with the other food bloggers and the Soda Pop PR girls.  I would highly recommend the handmade sausage – simply divine.  The Imperial perfects the Northwest culinary scene along with imparting a completely cool vibe. 

Chef Vitaly Paley is somewhat of a celebrity chef in this area and after tasting the food, I can understand why.  The atmosphere is current, creative and welcoming.  The evening began by mingling and enjoying passed appetizers and great wine.  It was nice to run into Jane who I met last year at another blogger event. We all sat down and enjoyed the wide variety of divine delights and got to know each other.  What a wonderful group of people – smart, nice and really into food.

After a group photo in the lobby we had the opportunity to meet, greet and chat with the CEO of Tillamook, Patrick Criteser.  He has held many leadership roles but as a native Oregonian, this was an opportunity that could not be passed upon. After speaking with him, you can sense his vision and dedication to the continued success, quality and growth of Tillamook. It was getting late, so we turned in to get some sleep before our early morning call to head to Tillamook.

Bottom Row:  Stephanie, Lizzy, Jane, Deseree, Anita

After a great breakfast, we loaded onto our luxurious bus and headed to Tillamook for a comprehensive tour of the factory.  The Tillamook Cheese Factory is over 100 years old with a rich history of quality and dedication.  It is an award winning Co-op of almost 100 farmers from the Tillamook Valley.  The Morning Star is the original ship that reached markets back in history to bring cheese to Portland and beyond.  Folks back in the day knew that good cheese came from Tillamook and that is still the belief.  Tillamook makes a perfect place to make great cheese due to the endless rain and nutritious grass for the cows to produce high quality milk.  The factory receives one million visitors each year to understand how this quality cheese is produced.  I felt privileged to be on this tour since we had the behind the scenes tour.

Our tour began with Dale Baumgartner who is the Head Cheesemaker for Tillamook.  Dale has been with Tillamook for 45 years and worked his way up.  He leads the effort to perfect and uphold the quality of Tillamook Cheese and is a valued member of the Tillamook team. A quote from Dale – “If someone were to ask me what makes Tillamook Cheese special, I would first say our taste.  We just flat make the best tasting cheddar you can find.  Then I would say consistency.  No place else can meet our standards for quality and produce a superior tasting cheese again and again and again.”

We toured the warehouse where all this delicious cheese is stored.  Let’s just say that 64 million pounds of cheese will stay put for a minimum of 60 days to develop the extraordinary flavor along with meeting the rigorous standards set forth by Tillamook.  At a moments notice a block of cheese can be located and tested for quality.  It was truly a marvel to see.  We then headed to meet Jill Allen who is the Manager of Product Quality.  Okay what a cool job – right?  She gets to taste cheese and ice cream along with being part of the team who creates new products and flavors.  Jill is a native Oregonian who has been with the company for a little over 14 years.  We were privileged to taste some new products that have not hit the market yet. (We signed a non-disclosure agreement, otherwise I would have shared)  There are two in particular that I will definitely purchase and hope they make it to the Bay Area.

After a delicious lunch, we shopped a bit in the expansive gift shop and then headed to the Oregon coast for our next adventure.  With such a wonderful trip, I decided to split this post into two parts.  Stay tuned for part two next week.  In the meantime, I was inspired by this divine cheese to make a snack for hubby and I last weekend.  The Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese was my hands down favorite and inspired me to make these Cheddar Cheese Beignets with Tomato Jam.  They were simple and tasty.

Cheddar Cheese Beignets with Tomato Jam

¾ Cup Flour
¾ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
½ teaspoon Dry Mustard
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
½ Cup Whole Milk
4 Tablespoon Butter, diced
2/3 Cup Grated White Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2 Eggs
Oil, for frying
Tomato Jam (click here for recipe)

In a small bowl, mix dry ingredients together (flour, paprika, mustard, salt and cayenne pepper).  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, add the milk and butter. Bring to boil then our in the dry ingredients.  Stir over medium heat until the dough forms a smooth ball – about 3 minutes.  Place the dough into a stand mixer bowl and add the grated cheese.  Blend on low speed until incorporated.  Add the eggs one at a time and make sure totally smooth until adding the second one.

Heat 3 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or equivalent to 350 degrees.  Drop a round tablespoon of the batter into the oil.  Fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove and put onto a paper towel.  Serve with tomato jam.


  1. Sounds like an awesomely delicious trip (great group too!).
    Love the idea of savoury beignets!!

  2. These beignets look fabulous, love the tomato jam!

  3. Sounds like such a fun and interesting time Lisa. And how fun that you got to continue the deliciousness when you came home with these yummy beignets. Love the combo with the jam too!

  4. Lisa! Thank you thank you for coming to the popsicle party yesterday! I'm so glad we finally met in person after all these years:)))
    Have a great week!

  5. Wow, sounds like a great weekend with some wonderful cheese and super food bloggers too, I'm definitely feeling envious. Your tomato jam appears again, I still haven't made it yet. These jam with cheddar cheese beignets looks so yummy right now!

  6. Again, what an absolute treat to have done this. Love it!


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