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: Sushi Train (Tualatin)

Sushi Train
19239 SW Martinazzi Avenue
Tualatin, OR 97062
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Ph: 503-885-2545
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Lunch money: $$-$$$
Rating: ★★★★★

[Note: I originally reviewed Sushi Train more than three years ago (where does the time go?), so I felt I should update everyone on one of my fave “secret” sushi spots.]

I honestly have no idea how I discovered Sushi Train a few years ago, but it has become a favorite destination with a special place in my stomach (and the stomachs of several of my closest friends). You see, Sushi Train is a tiny place in the middle of a strip mall in Tualatin…yes, you read that right, Tualatin. As in the ‘burbs Tualatin. Yet, anytime I’m craving good, quick sushi, this is my go-to place.

Sure it’s quite the hike for many of us PDX urbanites who both live and work in town, but—trust me on this—it’s well worth the almost 30-mile round trip trek! If you already live or work in the Tualatin area then you are just a tad bit luckier than the rest of us sushi lovers.

As the name infers, Sushi Train is a conveyor belt sushi spot. The dining area is a mix of counter seating and tables, but even with a group I prefer counter seating…it’s just more fun!

The sushi at Sushi Train is not only very fresh and tasty, but some of the plates could almost be considered edible pieces of art. One thing that I especially like about Sushi Train is that there is typically lots of variety on the “train” to pick from. Of course, if you don’t see what you want on the conveyor belt, just ask one of the many chefs and they will quickly whip up whatever you’re hungry for.

While there isn’t much explanation as to what the plated items are (and that can be a little confusing if you don’t have sushi a lot), you can usually identify what’s on a plate by matching the plate’s color on the menu charts. Or start by perusing the sushi menu then look for matching item on the belt. This is especially fun if you are in the mood to try something new.

Plates range from $1 to $4, so it’s easy to fill up without spending tons of cash. I can usually get out of there completely satiated for less than $10. Even if you have a huge appetite and your finished plate stack goes sky high, you’ll probably be surprised how reasonable the prices are. Continue reading Review: Sushi Train (Tualatin)

Stumptown Lunch News: Grand Openings

Hello Lunch Lovers,

We’ve been away for a little while; this economy has even the Lunch Lady pinching her precious lunch pennies.

But we have two new lunch spot openings to report.

If you are in the Pearl/Old Town area, Chez Joly has officially opened their doors. They are located at 135 NW Broadway and are open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday and offer brunch on Sundays.

Chez Joly is a moderately priced French bistro, which will be a fantastic addition to the neighborhood.

In other grand opening news, Sushi Land’s latest location across from Bridgeport Village in Tigard is now open, too! The newest train-style sushi spot is located at 7194 SW Hazelfern Road. Sushi Land is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

We hope to check out both places in the near future.

Cheers!

HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Dragonfish Asian Café
909 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
503-243-5991
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Rating: ★★★★½

It’s rare that I go to sushi places where you order off the menu, as I’m a diehard sushi train fan. But the Sushi Hour at the upscale Dragonfish Asian Café is absolutely worth a visit.

Sushi Hour is their version of happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close daily), and it’s a terrific way to sample the restaurant’s upscale fare without breaking your budget. Located in the lobby of the Paramount Hotel, the restaurant on one side and the lounge, where Sushi Hour is offered, on the other.

The best part of Sushi Hour is that you can enjoy an array of the selected nigiri, sushi rolls and small plates for possibly less than a single entrée over in the restaurant. There is a minimum drink purchase requirement, but the specialty cocktails, beer selections and the sake and wine lists should easily cover that.

On our recent visit, my HH friend and I were pretty hungry and ordered four out of the five sushi roll options, a couple pieces of nigiri, two orders of pot stickers and a plate of the caramel ginger chicken. If that sounds like a lot of food, it was! But the food was so good we ignored our filling bellies and chowed down. Continue reading HH Review: Dragonfish Asian Café

Review: Hot Pot ‘n Sushi

Hot Pot ‘n Sushi
10127 NE Cascade Parkway
Portland, OR 97220
503-284-6075
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I had to take my boyfriend to the airport, so why not stop off for a little sushi on the way, right? We had previously spied Hot Pot ‘n Sushi on a trip to Cascade Station a few weeks prior and decided to test it out.

Hmmmm. What to say about Hot Pot ‘n Sushi? It pretty much sucked.

The sushi was boring and they didn’t offer a large enough selection. I kept waiting for their House roll to roll on by on the track but never saw one. I didn’t even see one California roll. What? I’ve never seen that before. They also pretty much only served sushi rolls, I only witnessed a handful of nigiri dishes and they didn’t look all that appetizing. Continue reading Review: Hot Pot ‘n Sushi

Review: Sushi Land

Marinepolis Sushi Land (Lloyd location)
1409 NE Weidler Street
Portland, Oregon 97232
503-280-0300
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Rating: ★★★½☆

There are a handful of Sushi Land locations around the metro area and they all feature the train-style conveyor belt of small sushi plates.

I have now visited two of the Portland area Sushi Land restaurants. Typically I go to the Pearl District location when the nearby Sushi Takahashi is too busy. But recently an eastside friend suggested we check out the Lloyd District location.

There isn’t too much difference between the Pearl and Lloyd locations when it comes to the food, but the Lloyd location does seem a little less upscale than the Pearl. There might be more seating at the Lloyd location, but it has more of a “diner counter” feel to it than the Pearl location.

It wasn’t too crowed when our party of three arrived, so we seated ourselves and dove in! The friendly server came by quickly to take our drink orders. Continue reading Review: Sushi Land

Review: Sushi Train

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Sushi Train
19239 SW Martinazzi Avenue
Tualatin, OR 97062
(503) 885-2545
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Rating: ★★★★★

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Yes, gas prices are officially through the roof, so a lot of people are eating out less frequently let alone taking a relatively long drive just to eat out. But if you are a sushi fan, you might want to hop on I-5 and head to Tualatin for some delicious Japanese eats!

At least one person I know asked me not to write this review, as he didn’t want the secret of this little suburban strip mall sushi gem “outted” to the general public, but I couldn’t resist. This place is a little hard to find, but well worth the trip.

I am a fan of train-style sushi restaurants, as you might have guessed by my review of Takahashi, so I was thrilled to have a new place to try out. Honestly, I was completely skeptical at first. Good sushi in Tualatin? I definitely had my doubts. When I saw that the place was sandwiched between a Radio Shack and a Schlotzsky’s Deli, I had even more doubts.

But once I walked through the door and sat down at the counter, any doubt I had completely vanished. Not only was the sushi fresh and extremely tasty, but many of the rolls were almost too pretty to eat! Continue reading Review: Sushi Train

Review: Sushi Ichiban (formerly Takahashi)

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Sushi Ichiban (formerly Sushi Takahashi)
24 NW Broadway
Portland, OR
503-224-3417
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Rating: ★★★★½

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If you ever decide to all gonzo and try to stalk the Lunch Lady, there is one surefire place you can find me: Saturday at lunchtime at Sushi Takahashi on Broadway. But you’ll have to look hard because I’ll probably be camouflaged by the throngs of other cheap sushi lovers who flock here on that golden day of the week.

Yes, there are three Sushi Takahashi locations across the metro area, but I’ve only dined at the Broadway location—and I’m perfectly happy with that. You see, the Old Town location is just steps away from my urban weekend hideaway, and when I know there is delicious sushi on special within a just-roll-out-of-bed-and-pull-on-a-hoodie distance, I am SO freakin’ there!
Continue reading Review: Sushi Ichiban (formerly Takahashi)

Review: Todai Sushi and Seafood Buffet CLOSED

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Todai Sushi and Seafood Buffet
(Inside Pioneer Place)
340 SW Morrison Street, 4th Floor
Portland, OR 97204
503-294-0007
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Rating: ★★★★☆

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It’s not everyday I get to enjoy endless sushi, salads, noodles, teriyaki chicken, multiple desserts and more all in one place! So I was extremely excited to try Todai—I actually skipped dinner the night before just so I could get my fill at the massive buffet.

Yes, Todai is an oasis of seafood delights. All over the bright and clean dining area, patrons roam, their oversized plates piled with tasty treats. One person might have piles and piles of sushi, while another might be enjoying a bowl of udon and yet another could be snacking on shrimp.

Ahhhh…. It was a feast for my sushi-and-seafood-loving eyes from the very moment I stepped inside. Continue reading Review: Todai Sushi and Seafood Buffet CLOSED