Travel and food go together like Abbott and Costello: they play off of each other, adding to the experience. Each individually might be amazing, but as a duo, they are a mighty force!
So when it comes to bringing these two passions of mine together, nothing does it better than visiting food factories. See your favorite foods get made (or harvested in some cases), try samples, and end up in a cafe featuring the best products. Count me in!!!
I have been lucky to have had the chance to visit sites like this all over the world, from the Mauna Loa macadamia nut plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA, to the Budweiser factory in St. Louis. But two food factory experiences stand out above the others.
Vermont is known for a few things: cheddar cheese, maple syrup, and Ben and Jerry’s. Just off interstate 89 in the tiny nothing town of Waterbury, VT is the home of this iconic ice cream chain. The factory is a wonderland of ice cream memorabilia, including a graveyard of “retired” flavors.
The tour is remarkably well done, and takes you in a small group through the various steps of ice cream making. Watching the conveyor belts speed pints of your favorite flavors down to their shipping plants, smelling the wonderful odor of sweet cream and chocolate (they were making Milk and Cookies while we were there), one will end hungry. The final stop of the tour is the tasting room, where a sign will tell you what you will be trying. With excitement, we hurried to the sign, to find:
On the other side of the country, midway down the Oregon coast, lies a small coastal town of Tilamook, home to the west-coast renowned (if not world-renowned) Tilamook cheese factory. For those of you who know me, you know that there are few things in the world I love more than cheese. So it didn’t take a ton of convincing for me to tour this Shangri-La of curds. Sadly, I didn’t look so excited. 😉
For me, though, the cafe was the best part. At many food factories, the cafe is just a tourist trap with things like Jelly Belly shaped pizza, not my style. Here, the grilled cheese came with not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of Tilamook cheese, with about 10 different choices to appeal to even the snobbiest cheese snob. They also have freshly made ice cream, made with the same milk as their cheese, and combined with local ingredients. All was superb, so much so that I spoke only using the word “cheese” for the remainder of the day. Not my most popular move, but fun!
How about you? What are your favorite food factory tours? Please share in the comments!