While the first day of the Harry & David blogger tour took us outside into the pear orchards and to the chocolate factory, during the second day of the tour we were able to see the creative side of the company.
I had no idea how much time, effort and research goes into the company’s famous gift baskets. (They ship five million gift baskets during the holiday season!) Every year they design new baskets for the seasons and holidays and listening to Arlene Warner, the creative director of packaging and development, speak about trends and design inspiration was very interesting.
For the holidays this year their two big designs are quite different. One has a traditional holiday feel with greens, reds, plaid and nature elements while the other is more whimsical with bright colors and fun artistic designs.
The whimsical look was playful and everyone in our group got a kick out of Nanuk, the plush polar bear that doubles as a gift basket.
Just pull off Nanuk’s head to find your treats! That’s some slightly morbid holiday fun!
Our group had a lot of fun providing feedback on the gift baskets and offering ideas. Oftentimes our group would be split down the middle when it came to whether or not we liked certain gift baskets and boxes and I must give the creative team a lot of credit for creating such a wide variety of products to try to appeal to different styles. I personally like the more natural, rustic baskets or wood boxes, but there’s definitely a market for colorful baskets, boxes and tins.
One thing we all agreed on was how delicious the sweet treats tasted, even at 9:30 a.m.
Sampling cookies, Moose Munch, cupcakes, cheesecake and candy in the morning had our group on quite the sugar high. As someone with an enormous sweet tooth, I felt like a kid in a candy store and went to town.
My favorite sweet treat was the buche de noel that is essentially a chocolate sheet cake rolled up with a sweet cream coffee filling and smothered in rich chocolate frosting.
The coffee cream was light and fluffy and packed with coffee flavor. The shape reminded me of the pumpkin roll that my sister and I made for Friendsgiving last year! I want to try to recreate this at home.
The barks we sampled also stuck out to me and I really liked the chocolate peanut butter and banana bark and the macaroon bark.
The Moose Munch featured in the small bowl in the upper left of the above picture is the company’s new dark chocolate blackberry variety and it is easily one of the most delicious flavors of the popcorn I’ve tried.
Lunch followed shortly after the sugary samples and our group happily dug into sandwiches from a local sandwich shop, salad and Harry & David soups.
I initially went for the greens and filled my plate with salad and gumbo.
I then ate two halves of the caprese pesto sandwich and used the crust for dipping into a small bowl of creamy corn chowder that I also tried when I went back for seconds. I just have to try everything when it all looks so good! I actually ended up purchasing a few of the corn chowder mixes from the Harry & David store later in the day because I liked the soup so much and think it will make a perfect winter meal on a chilly night.
After lunch, our group had half an hour to walk around and chat at a nearby pond. The weather yesterday was perfect and it felt good to feel the sun on my face.
Once we headed back inside, we were split into two groups. My group tackled ribbon tying while the other group made gift baskets before we flip flopped.
Fancy bows! We were taught how to make gift basket bows and let me just tell you it is not easy! Our bows looked pretty sorry in the end and we agreed we’d leave bow-making to the experts.
While we waited for our turn to assemble gift baskets, we chatted the Larry Garrison, the vice president of assembly, as we watched the beautiful Harry & David pears undergo inspection. Larry used to live in Elmherst, Illinois, so I had fun talking to him about my former hometown of Palatine and our shared love of Chicago.
Larry told us that 200 hundred tons of pears are inspected a day and the fruit that doesn’t meet Harry & David’s standards is sold to commercial retailers or made into juice. The pears must also weigh a certain amount and the little white boxes you see on the conveyor belt in the above picture drop the eligible pears down to be inspected.
Then we got to play with pears of our own as we put together a gift basket!
We were able to send our basket anywhere and I sent mine to my mother-in-law because I know she loves Harry & David pears and she has a very special birthday coming up in November.
Matt made sure to keep his super-snazzy bow when he shipped off his basket. A wise decision.
Before calling it a day, our group spent an hour shopping at the Harry & David Country Village.
I made a beeline for the spiced apple cider tea I loved from our day in the orchards, but also bought pralines, chocolate covered cashews, pears, several soup mixes, salsa, pistachios and two fall kitchen towels. I could’ve spent hours in that store!
Following our time at the store, our blogging group had dinner at Pallet Wine Company and couldn’t get over the beautiful décor.
The food was fabulous and included seven courses, each one paired with wine. Harry & David wine! The company will be offering their own brand of wine next year and it was such a treat to be able to try the different varietals, all of which come from southern Oregon or Rogue Valley.
I’m not a big wine connoisseur (I’ll leave that to Matt) and just drink what I think tastes good, though I absolutely love learning about wine and the wine-making process. My favorite glass of the evening was the Gewurztraminer which was a white wine that had hints of tangerine, apricot, apple and baking spices.
Our evening at Pallet Wine Company ended the trip on such a high note. As our group of bloggers said goodbye to our new friends at Harry & David, we could not thank them enough for inviting us to Oregon, covering our travel, food and lodging expenses, and allowing us to take a peek into their company. Over and over again, I was impressed with the close-knit feel of the company and participating in this trip was an honor.
I must also say how much I loved spending time with the other bloggers on the trip. Since our blogging group occupied every room at the Magnolia Inn bed and breakfast during our stay, we said we felt like we were all back in college, since we could call down the hall to each other to borrow a necklace or a belt, walk around in our socks and chat late into the evening while grabbing handfuls of candy corn.
And Oregon. What a beautiful state.
Thank you again to Harry & David for such a memorable experience!