Stumptown Profile: Beaverton Foods

Beaverton Foods
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By Sarah Keech
Photos by Matt Wong

If you’re anything like me, you’ve loved Beaver Brand mustards and horseradish products for a long time. But, did you know they’re all produced in the Portland area? Did you know the entire company came out of the trials and tribulations of a young mother just trying to survive the Great Depression?

I was recently invited to tour Beaverton Foods, and learning the history and visiting the spot where these quality products are made has certainly made me a lifelong fan…well, it really didn’t take too much convincing!

The History

Times were tight in 1929 in Beaverton, Oregon, so when Rose Biggi needed to put food on her family’s table, she became resourceful. She ground and bottled horseradish from her family’s farmland and traded it for local butcher’s meat to use in her spaghetti sauce.

A few years later, Rose had a chance meeting with Eve Meyer, the wife of Fred G. Meyer, who at the time was just opening up his first supermarket in downtown Portland. Rose began selling her horseradish at the new Fred Meyer store, which was no small feat as, at that time, traveling to downtown Portland from Beaverton was an all day journey and there were no paved roads. (And you thought travelling on Highway 26 was bad!)

Those small initial endeavors have evolved into what is now Beaverton Foods, the largest specialty condiment producer in the United States.

Rose’s son, Gene Biggi, now 83, is the current president and the driving force behind the company’s expansion in the condiment market, but growing this specialty company took many years and many, many taste tests to get to where it is now.

Gene initially expanded the business by creating the company’s first mustard, which all came about while he was on a date with his girlfriend at a Chinese food restaurant in Beaverton when he was only 19. Inspired by the flavor the restaurant’s hot mustard, Gene asked the chef how it was made and then set out to recreate the product in a more consumer-friendly manner. The resulting product, Hot Chinese Mustard, took two to three years for him to develop and perfect, and it can still be found in stores today.

With a keen eye for what his customers are looking for, Gene is also responsible for the first gourmet Sweet and Hot Mustard made in the U.S., and first Honey Mustard to be made and sold anywhere.

A constant innovator, Gene is credited as one of the first in the condiment marketplace to realize the importance of using plastic squeeze bottles instead of glass in the bottling process to ensure safety, freshness and ease of use for his customers.

The Company Today

More than 80 years and four generations later, the company remains loyal to its Washington County roots and business is thriving. Beaverton Foods is the corporate umbrella for many of the condiment brands you see in your grocery store and restaurants, including Beaver Brand and Inglehoffer. In fact, their products can be found in 98 percent of grocery stories in the U.S.

The business remains controlled by the Biggi family, with Gene’s son, Domonic, is the Executive Vice President and his grandson, Jeffrey, serves as the Food Service Manager.

Innovation and an eye for the future are still very important to their business. Some of their latest products to hit the market directly incorporate a growing food trend: bacon. But unlike similar bacon condiments (i.e., bacon mayonnaise), their products are healthier (low in fat, cholesterol and calories), yet the bacon flavor is bold.

Beaverton Foods is also taking on a new product line, authentic wasabi. In December 2010, the company purchased Pacific Farms of Florence to expand into the real wasabi market—which is very rare outside of Japan. With wasabi, the company added new equipment to their facility for processing and they hope to increase their wasabi sales as the national sushi trend continues to flourish.

The company employs about 80 people at their Hillsboro manufacturing plant, and the Biggis are pleased that even through the tough days of our recent recession they never had to lay anyone off.

The Biggi family and Beaverton Foods certainly exemplify Oregon’s pioneer spirit that hard work, ingenuity and innovation do pay off.

So let us know: What’s your favorite Beaverton Food product?

Review: Kornblatt’s Deli (NW Portland)

Kornblatt’s Deli
628 NW 23rd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97210
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503-242-1027 | Fax: 503-242-1027
Hours: M-F: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat & Sun: 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★½

Oh, the New York City-style deli dilemma…. It’s seems to be a rather important argument here in Portland. Yep, we’ve got Kenny & Zuke’s and their offshoot SandwichWorks, we sorta still have Rose’s…then…ummmmm?

So while we were walking around doing some sunny afternoon shopping on NW 23rd we happened upon Kornblatt’s Deli and promptly decided to give it a try. Having firsthand knowledge of the delicious true NYC deli experience and having visited Kenny & Zuke’s on a number of occasions, with only so-so results, we weren’t going to hold our breathe about Kornblatt’s. It could easily be hit or miss.

The first thing we noticed at Kornblatt’s was the massive number of menu offering on the equally massive-sized menu. Not just your usual corned beef, pastrami and bagels with cream cheese and lox, Kornblatt’s offers a wide arrange of breakfast, lunch and dinner options—and the full menu is available all day! Score one for Kornblatt’s!

Our lunchtime pal warned us that the popular Empire State Sandwiches were “bigger than your mouth can handle” (and the menu warns “no wimpy appetites allowed”), so we decided to try something a tad lighter.

Since the bagel options take up an entire page of the menu, we decided that would be the more reasonable route we’d go for. We decided on the Salami Tires (salami, deli mustard and provolone) on a garlic bagel. This is one of Kornblatt’s Hot Top bagel sandwiches, served open-faced and with the melt-y cheese broiled to perfection. It turned out to be the perfect sandwich size for lunch. The bagel was garlicky and chewy, the salami was tangy, the provolone was smoky and the deli mustard was spicy and seedy. The side dish we opted for, the coleslaw, was fresh and crunchy, but a little on the mild, watery side.

Verdict: delish! Continue reading Review: Kornblatt’s Deli (NW Portland)

Review: Rose’s (Lloyd location)

Rose’s Restaurant and Bakery
(Lloyd Center location)
1200 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon 97232
503-954-2758
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Rating: ★★★★½

On a recent rainy, dreary Portland day, my lunch partner and I were looking for some hearty comfort food to get us through the bleakness that is fall in the Pacific Northwest. We took off toward Lloyd Center hoping to find something new and, hopefully, really tasty.

Rose’s isn’t exactly a new name in the Portland restaurant scene. The original Rose’s deli and bakery opened in 1956 over on NW 23rd Avenue. Since that time the restaurant has grown to six locations across the metro area. The Lloyd Center location is the newest, which opened in July 2008.

The reason Rose’s has been able to flourish over the past 50 years is simple: the food is great and the service is outstanding. The menu is packed with deli goodness, like Rose’s Famous Reubens, half-pound burgers, specialty sandwiches, pasta dishes, a plethora of salads and tummy-warming soups (including the popular Matzo Ball). And don’t forget the meat-friendly house specialties like pot roast, baby back ribs, meatloaf and pork chops.

When we arrived the restaurant was pretty dead, so we were seated quickly at one of the large booths. The walls of this Rose’s location are lined with flat-screen TVs and there are two quirky Portland-themed murals, which add to the bright and light atmosphere. Continue reading Review: Rose’s (Lloyd location)

Review: Kenny & Zuke’s

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Kenny & Zuke’s
1038 SW Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205
503-222-3344
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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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A lot of people have been raving about Kenny & Zuke’s. So much so that I was extremely excited to try Portland’s new “authentic” New York-style delicatessen. On a recent sunny day my lunch companion and I decided to stroll over and check it out

Kenny & Zuke’s is located in the same building that houses the all-too-hip Ace Hotel, so that might have been the first sign of what I was about to experience. The restaurant itself is bright, clean and airy. The entire waitstaff is decked out in t-shirts with deli-related humorous sayings. There seemed to be a very large staff on duty, but it took forever to be seated, have our order taken and then actually get our food!

I’m not saying Kenny & Zuke’s was bad. I’m saying that Kenny & Zuke’s is expensive and overrated. By comparison, one of my favorite really-in-New-York-City delis, Ess-a-Bagel, has a very similar menu, but everything is about half the price! And they are in New York City! Something is very wrong about that! Continue reading Review: Kenny & Zuke’s