I love Bob's Red Mill. Love them. Love them. Love them!
Our local grocery store in Berkeley carried a huge amount of their products and we bought buckwheat flour to make crepes, waffle mixes, and various beans to make soups. We are big fans of the food, but I knew very little about the company.
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When we planned our itinerary for the summer we knew we were going to spend some extra time in Portland given it was candidate #1/2 for our next home. I had big plans for the various restaurants we were going to eat in since I had been missing San Francisco's culinary scene since we left. Portland filled a gap in my epicurean soul. I also knew that Bob's Red Mill was based in the Portland area so I reached out to them for a tour to learn more about this company whose products I absolutely love.
I took the public factory tour which is 90 minutes long and is given every weekday at 10 and 11:30. It's an excellent tour! Our guide was so knowledgeable on the company history and products, I was extremely impressed!
We spent a while in the gluten-free factory area. The company has completely separate facilities for conventional and gluten-free fabrication and they take cross-contamination seriously. It was also the cleanest food or beverage factory that I have ever seen. They have that expression it is so clean you can eat off the floor…I would do that at Bob's Red Mill!
The francophile in me loves the fact that the stone mills are French Buhr millstone hand-quarried in La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, a little town in north-central France that has been supplying stone for centuries, including the Roman empire.
(This town also has a beautiful World War I memorial that is equivalent to the tomb of the unknown soldier, memorializing unknown soldiers from this terrible war.)
A critical aspect of working with these millstones is that they never run out of grain. If empty, the top and bottom stones rub against each other and burn. Our guide shared a cute story about the origin of an expression I am sure many of you know: “keep your nose to the grindstone,” I won't share the details, you need to go on the tour!
And how many of you have kids that did plaster of Paris projects in school? Or [yuck] had a cast? The name plaster of Paris was derived from the fact that the finest plaster in the came from Paris. So when people ordered plaster, they requested plaster of Paris. The plaster was used to keep the millstones in place on the back of the apparatus.
Bob's Red Mill is using more advanced equipment today, but inside the steel and metal are still French millstones. And you can see the results of their work in the clear packages (except the flours) that their products are sold in so that you know exactly what you are getting.
I have had the privilege of working at three companies in which the founder was still around. Their presence adds another layer of passion and pride that is hard to replicate once they leave. They are the keepers of the history, the raison d'être. With Bob's Red Mill, it's Bob Moore, along with his wife Charlee who continue to inspire its employee-owners to craft some of the best whole grain products in the business. He's 87 years old and still goes to work everyday!
Bob and Charlee came to Portland to retire, but in their efforts to eat healthy, particularly focusing on whole grains, they realized the market for these types of products was severely lacking and they decided to create their own. There are 189 cities in the state of Oregon and the Moores took to weekend roadtrips looking for old milling equipment to buy to create their original manufacturing site, a red mill. Unfortunately, that red mill burned down, but Bob rebuilt and today they are in their third facility with 400+ employee-owners and never-ending devotion to healthy eating.
The range of products they offer today is nothing short of spectacular! There are 366 products all of them created with the goal of getting people to eat more whole grains. Bob sources his ingredients from select farms ones that have been identified as having preserved heritage seeds and that are non-GMO. When Bob says “to your good health” he means it.
After you complete your tour, for an added treat go to the mill store and restaurant one mile down the road. We did some serious damage at the store! We stocked up for the next few months on the road when we'll be deprived of access to a lot of healthy food. Okay…we also bought some oatmeal cookies that were too die for!
Two new products we bought at the store have changed my life!
Confession: I don't like brown rice. I haven't found any that I like and I have been searching for a LONG time. However, Mr. Misadventures and I keep trying because we know it is better for us than white rice. While at the mill store, we decided to buy the Country Rice Blend. We took it home that night and made salmon and some of the rice. I couldn't believe it when I took the first bite. I literally said out loud, “where have you been all my life!”
The three different kinds of rice that are in the mix: whole grain brown rice, Wehani (not sure what that is), and Black Japonica offer just the right balance of texture and flavors, earthy, but not like eating hay. We went back and bought more. I will continue to seek this out in every store I go to! I'm in love!
The other product (of the many, many we bought) I picked up is their new oatmeal on-the-go cups. I have tried plenty only to find them too sweet, too dry or too clumpy. The morning after my tour, Mr. Misadventures went off to do a sunrise shoot at Oneonta Gorge so I was on my own for breakfast. I fixed myself the blueberry and hazelnut cup with a coffee.
I don't even like blueberry that much, I will eat it in things, but I don't seek it out. Mr. Misadventures loves them, so this cup was meant for him, I grabbed it by mistake. I'm glad I did because I love it! Not too sweet, great texture. Plus, I wasn't able to finish the whole cup and I ate some cold later. I have NEVER eaten cold oatmeal. These cups are perfect for us on road days and I can see how they are equally perfect for office breakfast and to give to kids on the way to school.
I love the fact that both blueberries and hazelnuts are one of the many bounties of Oregon. 95% of all hazelnuts in the US come from Oregon! That's staying local, supporting local farms, and sourcing close to the heart. Another reason why I love this company.
If you are in the Portland area, I highly recommend you seek out this free tour, it was fun, educational, and a great way to learn more about a small food company that is making an effort to feed the world in a healthy and delicious manner. Plus, they are just good people.
How about you? Have you tried Bob's Red Mill? What's your favorite product of theirs? Will you be seeking them out?
[Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I reached out to Bob's Red Mill for a tour for my Locals I Love series. I took the public tour. I was given a gift card which I used in their mill store towards the purchase of products. I bought I lot more than the gift card I was given. They also gave me my new mascot, a Bob bobblehead! As always, all opinions remain my own.]
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