Monday, April 5, 2010

My life-long "loaf" affair with Tillamook Cheese

There aren’t many foods from my childhood that I still eat today. I haven’t had Top Ramen, my favorite food in Kindergarten, in ten years. I no longer make Bisquick pancakes smothered with Log Cabin maple syrup for an afternoon “snack” like when I was in elementary school. And the last time I tried a Snickers Bar – my favorite Halloween score, I took one bite and immediately dismissed it to the garbage can.

As I’ve been exposed to new and different flavors that are superior to the tastes of my childhood, my palate has matured considerably. How could I go back to Top Ramen and Snickers after enjoying fresh noodles and chocolate bars made with Guittard? I won’t even begin to discuss my thoughts on the Taco Bell ground beef tacos I used to beg my mom for in junior high. Though, for the record, I no longer “quiero Taco Bell.”

Yet even with my more discerning tongue, there are still a few foods from my youth that continue to draw my affection – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream that’s been swirled into soup and Tillamook cheddar cheese.

My parents always have at least one “loaf” of the brilliantly orange cheese in the dairy section of their fridge, and it’s been our cheese of choice for crackers, twice baked potatoes, fajitas, and my mom’s slightly white trash egg casserole for as long as I can remember. A holiday at my parents’ home wouldn’t be complete without the Tillamook loaf involved in some capacity, and I don’t consider this a bad thing – at all.

When I received an invitation to attend a special Tillamook Cheese event at Akasha Restaurant this past Thursday evening, I was, of course, delighted to RSVP, “Yes!” I’d been curious about the Tillamook mini-buses that are currently touring the country for the Loaf Love Tour (I kind of want to own one now), and I was also really excited for the cheesetastic menu to be prepared by Chef Akasha Richmond. (She makes really good quinoa. And onion rings.)

On Thursday night, I showed up at the popular Culver City restaurant wearing a mustard color sweater that I felt was a little too close to the color of the buses for comfort. Which, of course, meant I had to take a picture with one of the three loaves parked outside. (It did not mean I had to print the picture out to show to my family at Easter. But I did anyway – I think my 13-month-old niece appreciated it.)

Upon my entrance into the restaurant’s bakery, I was immediately accosted with a familiar spread of appetizers – slices of Tillamook cheddar cheese with bread. I smiled, thinking of how at home this very same platter would be at my home. Yet even with my nostalgia for this and other traditional applications of the orange loaf, I was impressed with the different ways that Chef Akasha was able to incorporate the classic cheese into her dishes.

Yes, there was mac and cheese, but there was also a fried chicken salad with croutons made with cheddar cornbread. Yes, there were grilled cheese sandwiches, but there were also pulled-pork cheddar biscuits with crunchy slaw and a touch of jalepeño (incidentally my favorite bite of the evening). And yes, there were potato skins, but there was also a strawberry rhubarb crisp topped with white cheddar. (I couldn’t eat any because of Lent, but I hear it was delicious.)

I left the restaurant on Thursday night feeling even more confident in my continued love for the loaf and its place in my fridge next to my cave-aged Gruyere, Parmigiano Reggiano and Capriole goat cheese. It may not be particularly “gourmet,” but, ultimately, I think that’s part of what makes it so appealing. Especially since it is something I can share with that 13-month-old niece who happily devoured her snack of Tillamook cheese and crackers yesterday afternoon.

Akasha Restaurant
9543 Culver Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2618
(310) 845-1700

Check out My Last Bite’s write-up of the event here.

More information about the Loaf Love Tour can be found on the Tillamook website.


MyLastBite said...

Um, I'm so wanting your mom's casserole NOW!

So nice spending time with you Diana!

Cheese OUT.

: )

burumun said...

I heard about the mini buses, but I didn't realize how small they actually are. How cute!

weezermonkey said...

Have you been to the Tillamook factory in Oregon? Methinks you would love it.

The tour is worth the free cheese curds alone.

e*star said...

That was so fun, Diana! :) Yay for cheese.

Gastronomer said...

Your niece ought to be the face of Tillmook! She is a cutie!

Diana said...

Jo - It's amaaazing! I ate two big helpings of it for brunch yesterday. :)

Fiona - I didn't realize they were that small either! I think it would be sort of like a clown car for me, but I still really want one!

Weez - I haven't, but am dying to go so I can check out the ice cream. I hear it's unbelievable.

Esther - So fun! I'm glad we both chose cheese! ;)

Cathy - You caught us red-handed! We were totally fantaizing about my niece one day becoming the face of Tillamook when we took those pictures. I think she'd be perfect, don't you? ;)

Esi said...

I almost stalked the bus on Friday when they were hanging out with the grilled cheese truck...unfortunately I had things to do. Sounds like a fun time. Your niece is adorable.

Ashley said...


Jenn said...

Your niece is so adorable. I hope you have a lovely Easter! We survived lent!!!!! :-)

I want to ride in the Tillamook mini van!!! It just my size. hahaha...

Anna A. said...

I have been to the cheese factory in Tillamook, OR. Never seen so many fat happy peeps in my life! I love Tillamook, and of course they offer a wider variety of the magical loaves in the birth state. Sounds like a really cool event you went to!!

Nicole said...

Awesome!!!!!!! We love Tillamook, went to the factory a while back and it was a blast! :) YUM! Your niece is such a cutie and I noticed that she is wearing pink!!!! :)

Kung Food Panda said...

Great post D, sounds like it was a fun event at Akasha!

BTW, you have an adorable niece! :)

Sippity Sup said...

You mom's recipe not only sounds delicious but I know the memories attached make it all the more wonderful. GREG

Diana said...

Esi - You didn't stalk the mini-buses?!?! Silly life getting in the way of fun plans. Sigh.

Ashley - Yes, please! I'm dying to try their ice cream!

Jenn - Haha, it's definitely not my size! But I'd be okay with that. ;)

Anna - I don't know how anyone couldn't be happy in the presense of such cheesy goodness. Unless of course that person is lactose intolerant.

Nicole - Hah, I was so excited that she was wearing pink! Matches the blog perfectly! ;)

Danny - I pretty much turn into mush whenever my niece is around. I am so the proud aunt!

Greg - Definitely! The memories make food taste even better.

Kyna said...

Diana - i hereby invite you to Portland, Oregon for a visit. When you get here, we can immediately drive down to the Tillamook Chese Factory for a tour and all the samples! (technically you have to take a tour to eat the samples - we found that out the hard way when my dad cut the line and gobbled up samples on our last visit...only to be escorted out of the tour area - haha!)

So come visit us up here! I promise, fresh ice cream from Tillamook is amazing. And then we can eat it at the beach (although, that's where your beach beats ours, because you'll eat your ice cream with a winter jacket on up here).

But i digress.


NomsNotBombs said...

OMG CHEESE! Go, Akasha for coming up with that one.

Looks like it was delicious!