Top 9 Locally Sourced Restaurants: No. 5

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EUGENE, Ore. — When asked how she came up with the idea of Vanilla Jill’s, Megan Stevens’ answer is direct and honest: “We love to eat and we love to cook.┬áIf anything, it was just a craving. It was something I wanted to eat and wasn’t available in the city.”

She and her husband Tim teamed up to make it available, but with a few basic guidelines.

“We couldn’t have gone forward with a business and not gone the sustainable route,” she said. “It’s been really exciting and given us passion and enjoyment in our work because we’re doing something that needs to be done.”

The basic ingredients used in Vanilla Jill’s frozen yogurt come from local dairies and the fruits used for flavor come from local farms.

“It builds community and goodwill,” Megan said. “On top of all of that, we’re not making the same kind of footprint environmentally if we were bringing the same stuff over from China or that kind of thing.”

“When it comes from further away, it has to be picked before its prime,” pointed out Tim. “Local produce — things that are picked in their prime — they taste better.”

The Stevens’ devotion to sourcing local isn’t always easy. Strawberries — one of the shop’s most popular toppings — won’t be around much longer. The couple, though, came up with a fruit compote as a winter fix for summer berry addicts.

“That allows us to use locally-grown marionberries, strawberries, blueberries and even cranberries,” said Megan. “We just cook the cranberries and the other fruits get put in while the cranberries are still warm. It kind of melts them, but we don’t actually have to cook them, so they still have that raw flavor and nutrition.”

The couple’s hard work is paying off now. Two and a half years in, Vanilla Jill’s has three locations and the Stevens hope to see more new faces come through the doors.

Added Megan: “If you support a local business that also supports local businesses, you’re better supporting your local economy.”

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