Buy local: It’s a mantra repeated with such frequency in the bountiful Willamette Valley that it’s almost lost all meaning. Let’s take a step back and look at some numbers. According to the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition, a 2010 analysis estimated that Lane County consumers are spending less than 5 percent of their food money on locally produced food.
“OK, but locally produced food is hard to find,” you scoff.
Actually, that’s wrong! Lane County has an astonishing variety of locally grown foods — milk, veggies, fruit, herbs — and now that the Lane County Farmers Market is open on Thursdays as well as Tuesdays and Saturdays, locavores have even more opportunities to buy fresh produce.
The Willamette Valley is also home to numerous food makers that distribute their products locally as well as nationwide. We have granola makers, salsa crafters, chocolatiers, juicers, yogurt producers — you name it.
That’s why EW decided to do this issue of Chow a little differently. Instead of highlighting new restaurants, we’re taking a look at local businesses, people and companies that make food. There are so many that we couldn’t possibly list them all in one issue, but we’ve tried to at least provide a snapshot of what local food production can offer. You can find many of these products in local grocery stores, farmers markets and even online.
So dig in and find out what delicious things your neighbors are making.
Blue Lotus Chai, founded in Eugene by Barbara and Stephan Cameron in 2010, makes it easy to brew a cup of milky, rich chai with its packets of powdered mix. It only takes one-fourth teaspoon of the mix added to water, milk and sugar to brew spicy, sweet goodness. The powder dissolves in hot water, making the entire cup of tea smooth and uniform in flavor. Find Blue Lotus Chai at a vast number of local establishments, including Red Barn Natural Grocery, Sweet Life Patisserie, Noisette, The Kiva and more, or check out bluelotuschai.com.
Eugene hosts a number of tea purveyors, including Yogi Tea in Springfield (yogiproducts.com), with its iconic herbal blends — seriously, its “Throat Comfort” tea is a godsend — and Labrang Tea Traders, which offers a tantalizing black tea blend called “Daydreamer’s.” It is sweet, mellow and comforting, with vanilla beans, red-rose pedals and cardamom pods. Head over to labrangtraders.com for more blends. Meanwhile, J-Tea International, which opened its second teahouse last month on 19th Avenue, sells tea from Taiwan and China, giving Eugene a glimpse into Eastern tea culture. Founded in 2004 by Josh Chamberlain, J-Tea has an enormous selection of tea blends, including “Eugene Breakfast,” an orange pekoe black tea with smooth texture and tangy taste. Find more at jteainternational.com or head to 2778 Friendly Street.
With a cute storefront in the Farmers’ Union Marketplace near Fifth Avenue and Olive Street in downtown Eugene, Chocolate Decadence provides gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan chocolate to candy lovers with dietary restrictions. Don’t think this is some kind of second-class chocolate — Chocolate Decadence makes divinely tasty morsels, from its chocolate-covered coconut balls to its buzzy chocolate espresso bar. Get your chocolate fix at chocolatedecadence.com or visit the store at 152 W. 5th Avenue in Eugene.
Snacks & dips
From dessert-like confections to the perfect summer party snack, Cosmos Creations in Junction City has you covered. This company does amazing things with puffed corn. Its “Salted Caramel” snack is sweet, crunchy and melts in your mouth, while “Spicy Sriracha” tingles on the tongue. Cosmos started in 2004 but expanded in 2012 to its production facility in Junction City, and has been cranking out addictively delicious oven-baked corn ever since. Look up cosmoscreations.com to get your snack on.
You can trust De Casa Fine Foods to supply all the salsa, hummus, bean dip and tortillas needed for dinner or a football party. Manufactured in Eugene, De Casa’s tortillas come in a variety of sizes, from adorably miniature “snack” size to hefty “burrito” size. All tortillas are vegan and pair well with De Casa’s salsas, which come in mild, medium and hot. See the full line of products at decasafinefoods.com.
Sauces & Spices
Yep, there’s a vanilla producer in Eugene, and it has the cutest name ever: Singing Dog Vanilla. The company says it works with farming families in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, giving them a share of profits in exchange for sustainable growing practices. Singing Dog Vanilla sells its vanilla in traditional extract form, as well as vanilla beans, vanilla salt, vanilla coffee and lip-quenching vanilla lip balm. Get your vanilla fix at singingdogvanilla.com.
Marty Parisien and Bill Wiedmann founded Red Ape Cinnamon in 2013 with the goal of distributing everyone’s favorite holiday-reminiscent spice. Red Ape’s cinnamon is organic and grown in Sumatra. As you might have guessed, “Red Ape” is a reference to orangutans, natives of Indonesia. Red Ape says it donates 5 percent of its profits to “organizations that protect orangutans and their habitat.” The company has also “adopted” a handful of great apes through Orangutan Outreach, a nonprofit dedicated to saving the primates. Head over to redapecinnamon.com to learn more.
Milk & Honey
A fixture in Eugene since the 1970s, GloryBee overflows with honey and a love for bees. From its factory store on the outskirts of Eugene, GloryBee makes all of its products, including wax candles, cooking and baking supplies, a vast assortment of honeys and other sweeteners, and a comprehensive collection of beekeeping gear, helping out people interested in starting their own hive. GloryBee also gives back to the buzzy pollinators it depends on — through its “Save the Bee” initiative, GloryBee says it has raised $65,658 for the Oregon State Honey Bee Lab to help fund bee research. For more, visit glorybee.com.
Nancy’s Springfield Creamery, owned and operated by the Kesey family, got its start in 1970, and the company is still going strong. Nancy’s yogurts, cottage cheese and sour creams are ubiquitous in Lane County, as is their cute, colorful packaging. Nancy’s says most of its milk comes from farms within a 50-mile radius of Eugene — so you can thank local cows for all that creamy goodness. Head over to nancysyogurt.com for more.
Aptly named, So Delicious has spent the past 25 years making dairy-free delights in Springfield. Its ingredients include dairy alternatives like coconut milk, almond milk and cashew milk, and So Delicious doesn’t stop at beverages. It also makes frozen desserts — check out “Dark Chocolate Truffle” ice cream made with cashew milk — yogurt alternatives and coffee creamers. The Eugene-based company was purchased by WhiteWave in 2014. Find more at sodeliciousdairyfree.com.