Gourmet fare takes center stage at these delicious destinations across the West.
The only thing more fun than eating good food? Seeing how it's made—and scoring a free sample or two. You can do just that by visiting these producers, who offer behind-the-scenes tours, guided tastings, and flagship-store exclusives.
While Cowgirl Creamery makes most of its cheeses at its new plant in Petaluma, Calif., one cheese must still be produced at the original Point Reyes location: the Red Hawk triple-cream, which takes its signature orange hue from wild bacteria that thrive near Tomales Bay. Inside the creamery's converted hay barn, milk is agitated in silver vats, cheese makers scoop curds into molds, and rounds of cheese age on metal racks. Sample the full Cowgirl line at the counter or order your favorite in a sandwich at the cantina.
Ethel M Chocolates
At the Ethel M Chocolates facility in Henderson, Nev., you can watch as caramel melts in copper kettles and workers cut sheets of pecan brittle. If the post-tour chocolate sample doesn't completely quell your craving, tasting classes are offered hourly, with a view of the property's three-acre cactus garden.
Harry & David
Harry & David began in 1910 as a pear orchard, and from catwalks above the factory floor, you can still see the famed Royal Riviera pears getting hand-sorted, wrapped in foil, and packed into gift baskets. Elsewhere, you may spot popcorn tumbling with caramel in rotating drums, and bakers pulling fresh fruitcakes from the oven. The Medford, Ore., factory is busiest late summer through fall, as it prepares to ship millions of holiday gift packages.
New World Distillery
No fewer than nine botanicals—including sarsaparilla root, cinnamon bark, and dried lime—go into New World Distillery's Oomaw gin. Try to identify each during a tasting and tour at the newly opened Eden, Utah, facility. Owners Chris and Ashley Cross lead groups through what looks like a laboratory, past two 2,000-liter fermentation tanks, two stills, and 20 bourbon barrels for aging. Along the way, you'll learn how to read a label and what "proof " means in terms of quality and flavor.
Lucero Olive Oil
The prime time to visit Lucero Olive Oil in Corning, Calif., is October to December, when its olive orchards are harvested and the proceeds milled to make extra virgin oil. Five different tours are available, but all end at the tasting bar. "The tour is fun, but the wow factor is the tasting," says Kristin Cook, marketing director. "It's like wine."
Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room
Inside the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room in Seattle, you can watch, listen, and smell as pneumatic tubes shuttle green beans from storage silos to roasters and finally to the manufacturing line or the café bar. Snag a chair in the library to get a bird's eye view of the entire operation—or to peruse any of 200 tomes on java. Then head to the bar for a coffee flight.
This article was first published in Fall 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.