There is something in Oregon you simply can’t miss if you are a fan of chocolate, the Brigittine Monks Gourmet Confections.
Since 1986, the monks have lived outside the community of Amity, in the heart of Oregon wine country. They have a 45-acre farm that they work, and started making their fudge when the group was in the San Francisco bay area, in addition to carrot cakes and breads.
“We found that the breads had a shorter shelf life,” said Brother Bernard, who oversees the operation. “When we moved to Oregon is when we really started to be known for our confections.”
There are five different flavors of fudge, chocolate royale with and without nuts, chocolate amaretto, pecan praline royale and chocolate cherry nut royale. All of the fudge comes in one-pound containers, and is available at many stores around Oregon, or online at the Brigittine’s Web site, www.brigittine.org.
In addition to the fudge, the monks also sell truffles, with a wide variety of flavors. Truffles come in 7.5 ounce packages and are also available online and at several Oregon retailers. There is a limited supply of the hand-rolled truffles, but they are usually available from October 1 through April 30.
You can get the confections at Made in Oregon stores, and even through Amazon.com, and all proceeds of the treats go to help support the monastery’s farm operations.
“During the Christmas season we stay very busy making our confections,” Brother Bernard said. “We make it every other week during the slow part of the year. It is our main source of income and helps us to pay the bills. God has really blessed us with the success of this.”
While the treats are magnificent, but best way to get a hold of one of the boxes of chocolate is to visit the monastery. In the farmland outside of Amity, down a mile-long gravel road, you can just feel the serenity of the farm. The monks – there are only eight of them left in the world and all work at the monastery – have set up a wonderful gift shop with not only their fudge and truffles, but any number of Catholic books, rosaries, candles and other items. Visitors can also sample the fudge during their visit – reason enough to make the trek!
In addition their mass is open to the public, so if you want to make a half-day trip to the monastery, which is about an hour from Portland, you can attend any number of services, which are in the morning, mid-day or in the evening hours. Times do change, so check with the monastery for specific times.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at the monastery is how quiet the area is. You get a sense of a quiet calm, because the monastery is well away from the main road and buffered by trees. The farm, which has a vineyard, apple and plum orchards and vegetable gardens sets the stage for an area that gets you away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
“We also have a guest house so if people want to take a retreat, they can do that,” Brother Bernard said. “We have a chaplain, but no ordained priest. We allow people to do that for a minimal donation.”
Season: The monastery and fudge are available year-round. However the hand-rolled truffles are only available from October 1 to April 30.
Getting there: From Portland, take Interstate 5 to Highway 99W, follow 99W through McMinnville and then turn onto Bellevue-Hopewell Highway. After two miles take a slight left onto Southwest Broadmead Road, then right onto Monastery Lane which becomes Southwest Walker Lane. The address is 23300 Walker Lane, Amity, Oregon.
Tips: If you are planning on visiting the monastery to get the confections from its source, the best plan is to call or e-mail ahead to find out the latest schedule. They can be reached at (503) 835-8080 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you time your trip right, you could witness a mass conducted by the monks. If you do visit the monastery, turn off your cell phone and take some time for quiet contemplation in a very quiet, rural setting. Contact the monks if you are interested in pricing and availability of spending a short retreat in their guest house.
History: Founded in 1370 and dedicated to a life of prayer and work, the Brigittine Monks are completely self supporting. The community started in Fresno then moved to West Virginia, then went to San Francisco and in 1986 moved to Amity. The fudge was started in San Francisco and focused on when the order moved to Oregon.
By Patrick Johnson