Sunday, August 21, 2011

Road Trip! Lillie Belle Chocolates and Rogue Creamery

I swear I didn't know about the foodie dream stop when I pricelined the hotel. I swear I didn't when I made the decision to take the planned road trip to the Oregon Coast in two days - HONEST! But I certainly wasn't dissappointed when I mapped nearby food to our winning hotel to find one of my favorite US chocolatiers and their neighboring cheese artisan. Suddenly our road trip was looking very very nice...

We had to stop at the Jelly Belly factory on the way up and arrived a few minutes to late for my chocolate and cheese. I could wait until morning...maybe... to bide the time we had a gluten-free pizza a Kaleidoscope in Medford. But this post is about chocolate and cheese, not pizza.

Bright and early in the morning I took out the running stroller and the boys scooters and we took off for a short morning jaunt on a chocolate and cheese adventure (amid truckers perplexed gazes wondering what strange women runs with three kids in tow from a hotel)...

The Lillie Belle shop is a small one room shop, with full windows peering in on tempering and enrobing machines, chocolate molds and copper kettles so you can see the small production. It was not running that Saturday, but I could talk the kids through the process. They have adorable chocolate and candy scultpures that engrossed the kids (luckily Gabriel did not take off a chunk). But the highlight is their chocolate.

The Lillie Belle lavender salted caramel is one of my all time favorites. They aren't shy with the lavender, but it isn't too overpowering, the texture chewy but not sticky and the rich caramel perfectly complemented by the generous salt. They also sell a Smokey Blue Cheese truffle using the neighboring Rogue Creamery's smoked blue (below). It tastes like a complex chocolate cheesecake. Both of these I have had and enjoy, but imagine my drooling, kid with sticky hands pressed up against a candy store window demeanor when I say all the creations of these talented artists.

The boys just had to buy the "Don't Eat This Chocolate" bar after trying a small chunk in the store and then blowing smoke out their red tinged ears. It is a spicy blend of chilis and was Jason's treat from the trip. The lovely chocolate velvet almonds cooled the impact of the chocolate, and the sampled vanilla cream tasted like a fine marshmallow. I bought a box of chocolates for the road. I adored the pistachio cup and the marionberry cordial. In fact, there was no chocolates I didn't like, although I didn't love the texture of the aporkalypse bacon studded chocolate.

After getting our fill at the chocolate shop, we headed over to the cheese shop next door. The folks there were truly lovely and allowed us to sample every cheese we could in the store. Isaiah entered the store swearing that he did not blue cheese. He left a fan of them all. Each blue cheese is a bit different than another, some saltier and brighter, some deep and a bit sweet. The Caveman is pungent and a bit numbing. I really enjoyed the Flora Nelle, which had an almost floral flavor. Not usually a fan of Gorganzola, I actually enjoyed their version. The boys loved the smoked blue, happily loading it on their tomatoes for a bacon-like goodness. We picked up some cheese curds for the car ride, but since we were there on a weekend they were not producing that day. 

The shop carries cheeses from other creameries, but we didn't try those. They also have a line of cheddars. Most of them have ales in the, so they are not gluten-free. Isaiah liked them if you want to take a 7 year olds word for it! The shop allows you to view the cheesemaking process and has an informative video. In addition, they have all you need to build a picnic or build a lovely gift basket. 

We enjoyed our trip so much, it was our stop on the way back... To buy gifts of course...