Recently, my constant search for the best chocolate truffles wherever I may roam took me up a small country lane in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to a place of peace, quiet… and Heavenly Chocolates.
Lives there a Nomad Woman on this earth who does not love chocolate? If so, I have yet to meet her. I most definitely am NOT her. I love chocolate in just about any form—hot, cold, bars, bonbons, drinks, sauces.
But truffles? Oh, truffles! Chocolate truffles! The magic of the hand-rolled ganache. The densely flavored outer coating of chocolate. The closing of the eyes and the sinking in of the teeth. Oh yeah. I do love me a truffle or two… or ten. And when they happen to be among the country’s very best chocolate truffles? For truffles that good, I’m even willing to tote some extra baggage weight to take a few boxes of those babies home with me, for myself and for friends who are high up on the “I love you lots” scale.
When it comes to the heavenly qualities of chocolate, the truffles I recently toted home have a unique advantage—being crafted by hand in a monastery. I’m talking about the gourmet chocolate confections made by the Brigittine Monks of the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon.
I discovered this place and their products years ago when visiting family in the Willamette Valley, just south of Portland. My sister was a real estate broker at the time and mentioned that she’d just sold a piece of property to a group of monks. And that they intended to support their monastery by making and selling fudge. And that it was astonishingly wonderful fudge. She was right and it was. It still is.
In fact, the fudge is so good it has been written up in The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Chocolatier and even People Magazine, among others. It’s been talked about on The Food Network, CNN and ABC Nightly News. It was even featured on Jeopardy! Yeah, see? This is good stuff!
The monastery, the only male Brigittine monastery in the United States, has been making this amazing, super-creamy, wonderful fudge since the 1970s, when they were still located in San Francisco. Then a few years after settling into their Willamette Valley home in the ‘80s, they added chocolate truffles to their product mix.
The Best Chocolate Truffles…Created Directly from Heaven?
With such a reputation for excellence with their fudge, of course they were not going to be satisfied with anything less than making the best chocolate truffles possible. So that is what they did. And while it is that melt-in-your-mouth fudge they’re most famous for, it’s the truffles that have me driving these Oregon country roads. It’s the truffles that have visions of chocolate-covered creaminess dancing in my head. It’s the chocolate truffles….
As you’d expect, the monastery is a peaceful place, set in pastoral farmland at the end of a mile-long gravel road. The grounds include a vineyard, a small orchard and a veggie garden tended by the monks to help them be self-sustaining.
The Brigittines are a contemplative order and one of their missions is to support themselves “by the labor of their hands.” “We don’t go out into the world,” explains Brother Steven, the monastery spokesman. “But all monasteries have to make a living. Chocolate is our means of support.”
The road ends at a tree-shaded area beside the Priory church. When I arrive, mine is the only car in sight. The main sounds are the breeze in the pine trees, an occasional bird tweet and my footsteps on the gravel. But then I step into the lovely small church, which is open to the public, just in time to hear the monks chanting the last of the mass. The sound wafts up into the wooden beams and falls onto me in a peaceful sigh. As it dies, they file out of the church to their lunch.
I stop to admire the quartet of jewel-toned stained-glass windows spilling colors onto the wooden floor at the back of the chapel-sized room. The space seems filled with grace.
Back outside again, the air seems even purer, softer, the clear Oregon air more benevolent. The shop where the confections are sold is just to the left of the church. Ring the bell next to the door and someone—a monk or lay worker—will come to greet you.
In the small retail space, you’ll find not only the heavenly fudge and those best chocolate truffles ever, but also dozens of books on saints, the liturgy and Catholicism in general. There are rosaries and medals and images and other holy items to remind you how blessed this place and these sweets are.
You’re also greeted by a sign with the purely pragmatic reminder: Chocolate is cheaper than psychotherapy and you don’t need an appointment.
And we know it’s the chocolate you’re really here for. Don’t try to pretend otherwise. You can pick up a T-shirt with the logo of the monastery and a Book of Saints, but we all know why you’re really here. It’s the chocolate….
How Do They Do It?
So what makes this chocolate so good? What makes the fudge so creamy and the truffles possibly the best chocolate truffles you’ll ever eat? Are they really touched by an angel?
Well for starters, they use only the highest quality ingredients: pure cream and fresh dairy butter, local filberts and walnuts, genuine natural flavors and only Guittard chocolate, which comes from the oldest family-owned and operated chocolate company in the U.S., founded by a noted French chocolate maker in 1868. No preservatives of any kind are used either.
Also, the candy is made in relative silence. As a contemplative order, the Brigittines don’t talk as a general rule. It is not a strict silence—speaking is allowed when necessary to communicate—but there’s no chit-chat in the kitchen. “That’s what’s nice about the candy business,” says Brother Steven. “It is something we can do in silence and keep in communion with God.”
Perhaps there is something in this quiet, contemplative life that adds a special richness and depth to the product they produce. Perhaps it’s the level of concentration and attention to detail. Or simply the spirit of peace that permeates the walls and grounds of the monastery itself. Whatever, the chocolate seems just that little bit richer, smoother, more mellow for it, as if this amazing fudge and these best chocolate truffles do have something of the presence of God mixed right into their DNA.
With modern equipment and old-fashioned commitment, the fudge is mixed and poured, the signature swirl added to the one-pound blocks by hand. The chocolate truffle centers are hand-rolled then hand-dipped before packing.
The fudge comes in seven varieties, including the basic original fudge, with or without nuts, and varieties such as amaretto, extra dark, chocolate cherry nut, hazelnut and pecan praline. Prices range from $11.95 to $13.95 for a one-pound box.
The chocolate truffles come in a dozen varieties. To my mind, the maple ones are clearly touched by heaven and the butter rum chocolate truffles are most definitely inspired by an angel. Then there’s amaretto, mint, cherry. Or maybe you like orange, raspberry, or extra dark chocolate truffles. You will have to decide for yourself which ones you think are the best chocolate truffles. If you simply can’t make up your mind, the assorted box gives you six big bites of yumminess in one package for $13.95.
Whichever you choose, buy more than you think you’ll need or want. Trust me on this.
Discover Amity, Oregon
Before leaving the area, you should definitely check out the sweet small town of Amity. Step into the Coelho Winery to try some fine local wines. The tasting room is a comfortable space more like an oversized living room with a big wooden bar made of wine barrels and a cozy fireplace for drizzly Oregon days.
If you’re hungry, you can’t do better than to stop for a meal at The Blue Goat on Amity’s main street. This very comfortable, locally run place features wood-fired dishes cooked in a specially built cob oven. They use seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes almost daily but standard items include goat empanadas and their signature cob-oven pizzas. Innovative salads and small plates are giving The Blue Goat a growing reputation for excellence and drawing foodies from all over the Willamette Valley and beyond.
But wherever you stop and whatever you eat and drink… be sure to save room for dessert. Because once you’re back in the car, you’ll remember. You’ve got some of the world’s best chocolate truffles in there! And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hard pressed to stop yourself. You will have to open one of those boxes for “just a taste” of those Heavenly Chocolates.
If you can’t get to the Brigittine Monastery to buy their amazing fudge and chocolate truffles, not to worry…. You can order them from the Brigittine’s online store. They are also available in several retail outlets in the area and in the Made in Oregon stores in downtown Portland, Salem and other locations. Most convenient for me is the Made in Oregon stores right at PDX airport! If you forgot your chocolate truffles, you can pick up a couple of boxes just before your flight home!
The Brigittine Monks – Priory of Our Lady of Consolation
Amity, Oregon 97101
Phone: (503) -835-8080
The Blue Goat
506 S. Trade Street
Amity, Oregon 97101
111 5TH Street
Amity, Oregon 97101 USA
Phone: (503) 835-9305
For a glimpse of the modern preparation process of the best chocolate truffles and fudge at the Brigittine Monastery—but always with that blessed human touch—check out this video from.
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