Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wander Oregon.

Yesterday we awoke with ants in our pants, a mild form of wanderlust, probably with a hint of cabin fever mixed in. We went wandering. We had one firm goal: lunch at Toki Teriyaki, one of our favorite places. It happens to be in Albany, so we headed down that way, and followed untraveled roads, detoured to follow interesting signs that led to nowhere, enjoyed looking at far stretching meadows full of grazing sheep, chasing sunbeams, and constantly taking off our sunglasses and switching on the windshield wipers, or vice versa.

Ah, Oregon and the beautiful Willamette Valley!

We found ourselves in Lebanon, Oregon. From what I heard, they pronounce it "LEB-e-nen." Growing up in Indiana, full of French names that are butchered, I never know how things are going to be localized. In the midwest, this is "LEB-nin."

It was larger than we anticipated; we wondered about where the funds for signifigant recent growth had come, what is the seat of it's industry, and also how that industry was faring in this economy. I know it has the unsavory distinction as having been home to one of the last drive-in theaters in Oregon until it was torn down to make a Super Wal-Mart, the first of its kind in Oregon.

It has an amazingly varied and apparently thriving downtown local business district. There was little empty storefront space available, and shops of all varities were open and doing business. For the small population there were also a good variety of eateries of different sorts. Of course there is also a busy stip of the usual suspects (out here it seems to be Oil Can Henry's and Safeway with a cast of supporting characters such as McDonalds, etc.).

We found a gem just off the main drag. It was easy to spot thanks to its bold purple facade. Victorian Chocolate Company is a time machine back to old fashioned candy making goodness. There are no bulk gummy bears and other crap here; it's all good old fashioned hand made candy--and you get to sample from the "leakers," which is a form of recycling in and of its own! The owners were behind the counter and happy to share and chat.

Kelly Reetz has been making candy as he was taught by an old master for over 20 years. His display case is an old timer refirb, and a discerning eye could see vintage memorabelia such as old candy boxes on the walls, too. He does carry some sugar free items which he does not make in house, but rather gets from another PNW confectioner. He was immediately up front about this, and seemed a little sheepish about it. We were in on Valentine's Day after they had been doing a brisk business, but the shelves were well stocked save for some runs on items like divinity... which I'll be going back for!

We sampled a dark chocolate orange cream from the beautiful tray of leakers. (I actually LIKE leakers... for I hate not knowing what I'm biting into!)

This fat girl and her diabetic side kick could not abstain: we got a small sampler box. Scot dove into the rum rasberry truffle that very same night, however, and declared it... *gasp*... perhaps even better than the chocolates of his youth from Oliver's Candies in Batavia, New York.

That is saying a lot.

I was happy to learn they had a history in the art and in the area. He had bought out a Portland chocolatier in the 80's, and they had been doing wholesale from that same general location since then. It's only been a few years since they opened their own retail outlet. They seemed to be doing well, and I know we're going to do our part to keep pitching in to help!

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