Six years ago, I made a decision to cook and bake with healthy whole grains as often as possible, a commitment that lead me to develop a big crush on a guy named Bob.
Through blogging, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of brands that I’ve stocked in my pantry for years, and my partnership with Bob’s Red Mill has been one of the most meaningful. In my kitchen, I depend on ingredients like Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour to make everything from the flakiest-ever whole wheat pie crust to decadent mint brownies. I’m borderline quinoa obsessed (reference: Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Quinoa Cookies; Chipotle Burrito Bowls; Crock Pot Chicken Quinoa Stuffed Peppers; this entire list), and I have fallen in love with a colorful world of dynamic ingredients like farro and coconut flour and millet that allow me to enjoy the same meals I’ve always loved, but in a much healthier way.
So, with my passion for using whole grains to make recipes healthier without sacrificing their flavor, I was over the moon excited when Bob’s Red Mill invited me me to Portland for an intimate blogger tour where I received an up-close look at the company, sampled a few newly released products, and met Bob himself!
Oh, and I ate and drank to my little foodie heart’s content. If you followed the hashtag #BobsBlogSquad on Instagram, you may have caught a few licks of our adventure. Here’s a fuller scoop.
Behind the Scenes with Bob
We started our tour at the Bob’s Red Mill headquarters, an energetic, lively office space, where I felt more wholesome just walking around. After saying hi to a few employees—many of whom have been at the company for decades—we walked into the office and met Bob himself.
Top row from left to right: Liz of The Lemon Bowl; Stephanie of Girl Versus Dough; BOB HIMSELF; John and Dana of Minimalist Baker; Cassidy our wonderful blogger rep. Bottom row: John and Sarah of Sarah Bakes Gluten Free; Julia of The Roasted Root; Carolyn of All Day I Dream About Food; yours truly.
We spent almost an hour chatting with Bob in his office, and I was left with two feelings: 1) Bob is more committed to dealing honestly and fairly in business and to creating high-quality products than any single person I’ve ever met, and 2) I want to be him when I grow up. He’s feisty, genuine, and yes he really dresses like that (hat included) every day.
After chatting with Bob, we toured the factory. I loved learning about and seeing the different custom-made machines that bring some of my favorite products to life.
Before our tour, I valued Bob’s Red Mill products, because they have allowed me to make my recipes significantly healthier without detracting from their flavor. Now, after meeting Bob and seeing the way the company strives to meet the strictest standards in every aspect of quality, safety, gluten free testing, and nutrition (many of the mills do not operate at the greatest possible capacity, because the additional friction would cause the products to lose nutrients), I have an entirely new level of respect for the brand.
Portland Sites & Eats. OK, Mainly Eats.
Though our trip to Portland was brief, we managed to squeeze in an impressive array of food and beverages. Liz, Steph, and I arrived a day early to explore/indulge before the tour began, and our entire blogger group was treated to one of the most memorable diners I’ve ever experiences. Here’s the bites.
Portland Food Trucks
I could eat three meals a day, seven days a week at a Portland food truck for months without repeating a dish. According to this website, at any given time, you’ll find more than 500 food trucks and carts serving the city. Housed in permanent “pods” located throughout town, Portland food cart offer an around the world gastro tour. At the single pod we visited, I had my choice of Moroccan plates, juicy gyros, loaded tacos, vegan bowls of all varieties, Chicago hot dogs, malts, and more. Anticipating a day of heavy eating ahead, I opted for a vegan black bean bowl with quinoa, barbecue tofu, and a creamy ginger tahini dressing that I’ll be striving to replicate until I return to Portland to check my work. This giant carton of earthy, wholesome goodness set me back a skinny $4.50. It was the best cash I’ve spent in a long, long time.
I visited Portland six years ago, a momentous occasion I consider my baptism in beer (well aside from Munich Oktoberfest circa 2006, but that is a tale for another time). It was then I learned that I loved IPAs, some of the best of which are brewed by Descutes. The beer list was long an enticing, so we did what any self-respecting trio of beer enthusiasts would: we each ordered a flight of six samples. Eighteen beers for the table please.
Actually, let’s make that 18 beers, a mountain of garlic parmesan fries, soft pretzels + cheese dip, and a hearty sausage link or two. Cheers.
At some point, I hope to go on a Portland craft beer tour, though considering Descutes is but one of 91 craft breweries in the Portland metro area (or so says oregoncraftbeer.org), I’ll like need to plan a few trips to hit them all (or find a second and third liver).
Whether you are craving killer fried chicken, a beautiful grilled Caesar salad with roasted tomatoes, or a cocktail that will tickle your toes, Imperial has it nailed. We split an array of dishes, and every single one seemed to outdo the one before it.
Salt and Straw Ice Cream
When you visit Portland, you must visit Salt and Straw. It matters not how full you are, if you already ate dessert, or that you’ll be standing in line for at least 20 minutes. This will be the best ice cream of your life. With flavors ranging from the fascinating (Green Fennel and Maple), to the wild (Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake) to the perfection of the classic (Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache), every flavor I sampled (an embarrassing number) was superb.
Kenny and Zukes
My breakfast at Kenny and Zuke’s was the moment I decided to make moving to Portland a long-term goal. I had a wallop of work I needed to squeeze in that morning, so I stole myself a seat at the counter, where I instantly felt a warm, fuzzy sensation that I was a regular. The staff was friendly, the coffee free flowing, and the food among one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten. My veggie omelet hit the spot after a night of ice cream and fried chicken, and while I hadn’t originally intended to order the latkes with homemade applesauce, at the suggestion of the guy behind the fryer I went for it. AY-YAY-YAY. Those latkes paired with the creamy applesauce were one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, period, and I don’t even like white potatoes that much. I think my When Harry Met Sally-esque reaction convinced the guy next to me to order them too.
Portland knows how to perfect all of my favorite beverages. In addition to an excellent selection of beer and cocktails, coffee is a city art unto itself. My favorite brew hailed from Stumptown Coffee. It’s smooth, rich but not bitter, and the only souvenir I bought the whole trip (house blend + this hipster mug).
Friends, we are crossing into last meal territory here. Bob’s Red Mill organized a special, chef-hosted dinner and tour for us at Departure, an experience I will be living for a long, long time.
Aside from Ben and my Netflix dates, I watch almost no TV. My one exception: Top Chef. Forget the drama and fight for camera time—at its core, this show is about serious chefs with a single goal: cooking the best food of their lives. The head chef at Departure, Chef Gregory Gourdet, was a finalist on Top Chef Boston, and I immediately connected with his light, bright flavors and drive. Thus, when I learned that not only would Gregory be at the restaurant that night, he would be giving us a personal tour and preparing a special 10 course meal using Bob’s Red Mill ingredients, I about fell off my modest platform heels.
If you can’t tell in the picture, I’m suppressing a squeal.
Going into our 10-course meal, I told myself I’d leave behind a few bites of each plate so that I could appropriately appreciate the later courses (and be forced to exit via stretcher). Forget it. Every bite was so well balanced and the textures and flavors so exquisite, it would have felt criminal not to polish every single plate.
Chef Gregory, please be my BFF. You can cook, I’ll do dishes.
Overall Impressions of Portland
Honestly? I want to live here. From the dynamite food scene, to the city’s walkability, to the overall openness and bright demeanor we encountered every where we went, I’m addicted to the vibe. I might not ever be hipster enough to belong, but I’m hoping to charm my way in, one craft brew at a time.