So Erin Zimmer and I were in Oregon, doing stuff like checking out farmers' markets and eating at food carts. We ate some fancy ice cream in Portland, but as we drove down the coast, I told Erin that I really wanted to write about the ice cream at Tillamook.
I have a soft spot in my heart for this stuff; it's the ice cream I grew up with, and the ice cream we'd enjoy on rainy days at the coastal summer camp where I worked (best solution to a rained-out hike? Take all the kids to the Tillamook Cheese Factory!) But I worried a bit that it was just the nostalgia talking, so I didn't really emphasize to Erin how good Tillamook ice cream is. She had to taste it for herself, unclouded by what I'll call the Ice Cream Cognition Theory.
I got pretty excited as we neared the production plant/cheese-stravaganza/loaf love tour that is Tillamook. And it was neat to check out the cheese-making facilities. But as we neared the front of the line in the ice cream area of the visitor's center, I spotted it, and our real purpose for the visit became clear.
The Ice Cream Adventure. For a mere $25.95, you can have not just some ice cream, but all the ice cream. Every flavor they've got, in what they call "a golf ball sized scoop" (traditional scoops are, well, a bit bigger than that) stacked in one platter-sized bowl. I'm not sure Erin and I even needed to speak to agree on the mission.
Even better: in addition to your 31 different-flavored scoops, you also get a performance.
Wanna hear it?
Thanks to the help of champion scooper Brandon Killian, we snagged a photo of each scoop as it was added to the bowl (in the order of the menu so we could keep track) and started our mission to taste every flavor of Tillamook ice cream.
Yes, our giant bowl of ice cream drew a few stares and questions. And we couldn't convince young Brandon Kilian to cut out of work early and help us tackle the project. But we persevered in the name of Serious Eats, tasting each and every flavor (though we didn't eat an entire scoop of any single ice cream...we're only human, even if we are veterans of the great We Eat Every Cheesecake At The Cheesecake Factory war.)
As we tasted, we were continually impressed by the the fluffy, elastic texture of Tillamook's ice cream, and how the flavors tended toward the nostalgic without being crazy-sweet. You won't see a foie gras flavor here anytime soon; this is old fashioned ice cream, and we like it that way.
Check out our thoughts on each scoop and our favorite flavors below.
Wild Mountain Blackberry
There are a lot of mountains in Tillamook's naming convention, but we don't mind. This blackberries-and-cream ice cream isn't intense, but it has a nice berry-and-seed finish.
The Whole Darn Thing
Perhaps a bit too much ice cream for two editors, even if we hadn't just eaten a giant Dungeness crab.
After each flavor was sampled, we really didn't want to look at ice cream any more.
Things started out a little rough with the banana split flavor—it just wasn't doing it for us. The scoop we got was mostly sweet strawberry ice cream made sweeter with bananas. There were walnuts and a little fudge in there too. Next!
Caramel Butter Pecan
Now you're talking. Sweet caramel swirls in plain vanilla ice cream, with some pecans for good measure.
Caramel Toffee Crunch
This one offered a generous serving of sweet caramel ribbons, without a ton of toffee crunch.
Classic Dutch cocoa flavor, and totally satisfying. The enjoyable texture of Tillamook ice cream comes through in the simpler flavors.
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Powerfully flavorful sheets of peanut butter add a blast of nuttiness to smooth chocolate ice cream. Not for the timid, but we liked it.
The cookie dough in this classic scoop is in pellet form.
Coffee Almond Fudge
I remember thinking this was a 'grown up' flavor when I was little—it's not too sweet, very creamy, and doesn't have too many almonds breaking up the texture. Perhaps my liking it now means I'm a grown up...
Cookies and Cream
Big cookie pieces: if you're digging, this one's full of rewards.
This one is less sweet than the coffee almond fudge, had has 'chocolate espresso chips' in it. It's definitely roasty, which dominates any sweet cream flavor.
Chocolate ice cream with marshmallow cream swirl and bits of graham crackers—what could be bad about that?
Tillamook makes a few different vanilla ice creams. The French Vanilla is custardlike with some rich egg flavors.
For kids only—yellow with pink and blue dots, this stuff is sweet and butterlike; it really tastes like uncooked butter and eggs.
The jellylike swirls of marionberries add flavor and sweetness, but we wished for big chunks of pie crust.
My childhood favorite—to me, this is what mint chip should taste (and look) like. The chocolate chunks aren't too sweet, which we liked. Erin approved; this definitely went on our "top flavors" list.
Vanilla ice cream swirled with jammy huckleberries; we liked it, but wished for a few more swirls.
Old Fashioned Vanilla
Creamy and dairy forward—this was our favorite of the various vanillas.
This one's only available at the cheese factory in Tillamook. It's classic and sweet-tasting, a bit like frozen orange soda.
Oregon Black Cherry
Nice big chunks of cherries made this an easy favorite.
This is at Scoop 19
About two-thirds loaded at this point...that's a lot of ice cream!
This old-fashioned flavor was on the sweet side but offered nice bits of strawberry to break up the pink monotony.
This flavor used to be seasonal, but it's now available at the cheese factory all the time. It has a crazy orange flavor and is super spicy. Erin recommends filling your spoon with half chocolate chip and half pumpkin.
Soft mini marshmallows and crisp almonds break up this creamy chocolate ice cream.
Root Beer Float
This was our server Brandon's favorite and we can see why; it tastes like frothy root beer with all the sassafras included.
We were amazed at what an exact replica of a pastry was possible in ice cream form—there's cinnamony butter filling, icing, and bun all here in the scoop. We really enjoyed it.
Though this one was on the sweet side from the strawberry, but the rich creamy cheesecake flavor balanced it; the dairy in this stuff tastes good.
Celebrating 100 years with brownie batter swirl (just like wiping your finger through the batter bowl). Rounded out with peanut butter cows and rich vanilla ice cream.
Classic chocolate ice cream with nice chocolate chunks and a fudge swirl; we like that this stuff's not overly sweet.
We were surprised by how much we liked this one—the dark chocolate ice cream is swirled with sweet but tasty white chocolate ice cream.
Classic, clean vanilla ice cream dotted with vanilla bits.
Vanilla Chocolate Chip
A simple flavor done really well. "I love this one," said Erin, even though we were dozens into our trial. The dark chocolate chunks are flavorful and not too sweet.
White Chocolate Raspberry
Kid-pleasing and sweet with ribbons of raspberry (though we could always use more, and a little more tartness.)
Tell us: have you ever embarked on the Ice Cream Adventure at Tillamook? Do you have a favorite flavor?