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Friday, May 29, 2009

Field Trip, part one

No Joke! And it's actually quite good.

I'm in charge of organizing a field trip for our Master Food Preservers group so a friend and I went on a little scouting expedition the other day, checking possible food-related destinations. Our first stop was at The Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon. Famous for their blue cheeses and cheddars, visitors can sample the many varieties: Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue, Oregon Blue, Lavender Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Chocolate Stout Cheddar, to name a few. A viewing window lets you see the cheesemakers in action, but nothing was in the vats when we were there.

Next we headed on foot to the Lilliebelle Farms factory and retail store. This is only separated from the creamery by a parking lot and a vineyard tasting room. If you park in the middle, you can walk to all three, though, being non-drinkers, we skipped the wine tasting. Central Point is billing this as the Exit 33 Artisan Corridor, but if you weren't looking for it, you'd just see it as an industrial area. Great idea and in five years time it will probably be all trendy and touristy (and crowded).

Jeff Shepard, Master Chocolatier at Lilliebelle Farms, makes exquisite artisan chocolates. Many are filled with organic berries from his own farm. The lavender caramel with fleur de sel is a favorite, but I think I liked the raspberry cordial I bought even better. Here too, there is a viewing window where one can get a glimpse of process.

A chocolate painting, entirely edible.

Chocolate being melted and/or tempered for dipping.

Back in the car, we headed toward the town of Eagle Point, home to Butte Creek Mill. This is the only water-powered grist mill west of the Mississippi. Bob Russell and his wife, Debbie, bought the mill four years ago and now grind whole grains into flour, which they sell in the mill's general store. Bob gives a great tour of the mill; his passion and enthusiasm for this historic treasure are infectious. Definitely worth the ten-mile side trip if you are ever in the Medford/Central Point area.

I'll post more after the field trip. I'm still working on the itinerary. My goal is to time it just right, so we are able to see cheese being made, chocolates being dipped and flour being ground all in one day.

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