March 19, 2004
The farmer owned Tillamook County Creamery Association, the nation’s oldest such organization, established 1909, incorporates all 25 of the county’s cheese factories and 150 dairies. The cooperative hosts this large Visitors Center, that has over a million visitors a year.
The free self-guided tour (see maps below) explains the history of the cooperative and the entirety of the cheese making process. An observational gallery overlooks the manufacturing and packaging rooms where you can be mesmerized by the repetitious never-ending stream of cheese blocks progressing along the conveyor-belt system, occasionally vanishing inside machinery to reappear as increasingly smaller bricks, ultimately taking on the shiny sheen of plastic wrappers completing the process.
“A tradition of quality” --another claim. Tillamook cheese is of a superior quality. Period. And while cheddar, specifically, is the most famous Tillamook product there are other products: different cheeses, sour cream, milk, butter, yogurt, and a rather wonderful ice cream.
Other Services and Amenities:
--The Cheese Sample counter offers plates of several cheeses for tasting, with toothpicks provided to spear the bite sized pieces. I found the fresh cheese curd tasty. I really enjoyed its texture but a friend likened it to chewing a sponge.
--The Farmhouse Café (see partial menu below), naturally features lots of cheese dishes. We ate a quick lunch here. To me a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickle and mustard is comfort food. I was comforted. Breakfast served until 11am and stuff like soups, salad, sandwiches and fries the rest of the day.
--Ice cream counter with 40 flavors of ice cream (regular and sugar free), frozen-yogurt and soft-serve. Higher butterfat content means creamier, better tasting ice cream. Tillamook Premium has 13.5% butterfat (a rather high amount), both a plus and minus, lots of enjoyable calories.
--A fudge counter offering free samples.
--A large gift shop.
--Northwest Gourmet Foods shop.
--The Cheese Shop sells all Tillamook’s product lines prepackaged and ready for consumption. With so many you can’t try them all here. The store locator might help you purchase the products more locally.
On 101, 2-miles from city center, the facility just north of town is highly visible and well sign-posted.
The website has extensive maps and driving directions.
Open: 8am-6pm (Labor Day - Mid June), 8am-8pm (Mid June - Labor Day), except Christmas and Thanksgiving.
From journal In and Around Tillamook, on the Oregon Coast