Just 5 1/2 hours north of San Francisco and a few hours south of Portland is the Rogue Valley, a growing area for wines and an area full of amazing artisan food makers – including one of the most awarded cheese makers in the U.S. and a chocolatier voted one of America’s top 10.
A Cheesy Day at Rogue Creamery
It’s worth a visit to Rogue Creamery to taste a variety of cheeses that may be hard to find elsewhere. We reveled in the 2010 World Cheese Awards Silver Medal winning Caveman Blue – sublimely creamy, just blue enough – and the very impudent tongue stinging Brutal Blue, a unique blue cheese experience as far as American blues are concerned.
The new-ish Rogue Creamery tasting room is awesome with artisan food from all over as well as local, including a local bread made with Rogue cheddar cheese as well as lots of beers and Gary West beef jerky.
For road trips, the bags of cheese curds – pesto, jalapeno, chipotle – are a perfect finger food.
Lillie Belle Farms Chocolate Factory and Shop
It’s a happy coincidence that the companies whose cheese and chocolate combines into the Smokey Blue chocolate truffle share a parking lot.
You can stumble from Rogue Creamery over to Lillie Belle, optionally stopping at the wine tasting room in the back of the lot, cheese company whose Smoky Blue marries with a Lillie Belle chocolate truffle where you can see some of the most creatively flavored and pretty chocolates being made as well ataste and buy.
Many of the berries for fillings are grown in Jeff’s garden nearby. But perhaps more importantly 😉 Jeff explained the liquor flavors use only top shelf spirits, at the insistence of one of the chocolate makers. (Don Julio tequila and Maker’s Mark, for example)
Unfortunately we arrived too late (in life) for their absinthe marshmallow smores made with home made anise seed graham crackers – a concoction that needs a repeat performance.
Do cherry cordials remind you of a drugstore? Not these. Check out how fresh bing cherries are soaked and soaked and soaked in a thick mixture of rum infused with vanilla beans. (Warning watching this may be intoxicating.)
I gallantly tasted a freshly dipped cherry cordial: a thick chocolate shell encases the very pure bing cherry and rum filling. For the full story, see how they coat the molds with chocolate, then shake it out to make the shell…let it harden, fill it up, and then cap off the bottom. Each cordial (and any of their wrapped candy) is individually wrapped by hand, rock music blaring in the background all the while. Artisans with attitude!
You’ll find lots of samples – spicy, bacony, nutty. All like nothing you’ve ever had…and I’ve been around the chocolate block.