If you like to cook (and eat!) there isn’t much that’s more fun than visiting a food-related business. Many companies have become destinations in and of themselves, where you can tour the production area, sample what’s being made, and buy items to take home. Smaller producers, in particular, tend to have limited distribution; so the only way to try and buy is to visit them. But this makes for lots of fun field trips! Not all the places listed below give tours, and some of them are large companies with many locations– but all are enjoyable places to spend a few hours or a day. What’s your favorite food destination? Let us know!
Parlee Farms, Tyngsboro MA: parleefarms.com. Pick all kinds of fruit at this beautiful farm in Tyngsboro, shop at the farmstand, feed the goats, and enjoy apple crisp or other seasonal treats. Great for kids and families. During busy times (which is most times!) fields or orchards can get picked out, so check the website before you go; they update daily.
HMart, Burlington MA: hmart.com. Truly a unique grocery experience! You can buy 12 kinds of kimchi, pork belly three ways, 4 types of bok choy, and innumerable snack foods that you’ve never seen before. Many labels are only printed in Korean, which leads to interesting experiments. There’s a bakery on-site and a food court where you can indulge your bibimbap or Korean barbecue cravings. Warning: don’t go on the weekends– it’s crazy crowded!
Wegman’s, Northborough, MA: wegmans.com Visit the largest supermarket in New England and find out what all the fuss is about. Rochester-based Wegman’s has an almost cult following; customers sigh over their favorite products and rave about their store brand. Awesome cheese department, extensive prepared foods, grass-fed and organic meats at decent prices. The store has an espresso bar and cafe. Wegman’s will open in Burlington MA in October, if you don’t want to make the trek to Northborough. Also best avoided on the weekends.
Nashoba Valley Winery, Bolton MA: nashobawinery.com. Though they now make wine from grapes too, this winery got its start making wine from other fruits: apples, pears, cranberries, blueberries, and more. They produce wines in a variety of styles and have branched out into beers as well. You can tour the winery and attend a tasting ($6.00 for 5 samples), browse in the extensive shop, and picnic on the apple-orchard grounds. You can also pick your own fruit: peaches, apples, pears, and more. There is a restaurant on the premises, J’s, serving lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Tuscan Market, Salem NH: tuscanbrands.com/market Get a taste of Italy only 35 minutes from Chelmsford! Tuscan Market features cheeses, salamis, bread, pasta, wine, cookies, olive oil….you get the idea! Many items are made in-house and are available frozen. There is a cafe and espresso bar on the premises. The market’s sister enterprise, Tuscan Kitchen, is located across the parking lot and is a full-service restaurant. Though reviews of the restaurant are mixed, the market gets an unequivocal thumbs-up.
Penzey’s Spices, Arlington MA: penzeys.com. Any spice you can think of (and some you can’t!) can be seen and sniffed at this small shop on Mass. Ave. They are known for their high quality and diverse inventory; they also create an extensive array of spice blends. Their online store is convenient if you don’t feel like a road trip.
Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME: stonewallkitchen.com. The flagship store of Stonewall Kitchen is a little more than an hour away from Chelmsford. The complex of buildings contains the production facility, cooking school, and store with cafe. Have breakfast or lunch on the terrace outside, then sample your way through jams, mustards, sauces, and dips. The large shop also carries kitchenware and gift-y items. If you’re feeling flush, sign up for a “class” at the cooking school– professional chefs demo a meal while you sit back, watch them work, and enjoy the results of their labors. If you’re not up for the drive, SK now has a store at the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua.
When Pigs Fly, Kittery ME: sendbread.com. Just a few miles south of Stonewall Kitchen is the headquarters of When Pigs Fly. In the bakery shop, sample any and all of their flavorful breads before you buy, and if you love them all, don’t despair– they freeze well! Attached to the store is a large bar/restaurant serving a long list of craft beers and a delicious, eclectic menu. It’s always a really tough choice deciding whether to eat here or at Stonewall Kitchen. When Pigs Fly has a slight edge because it has table service and an extensive bar– and it’s fun to watch the cooks shoving pizzas into the wood-fired oven.
King Arthur Flour, Norwich VT: kingarthurflour.com. The King Arthur Flour company has been going strong since 1790. It’s an employee-owned, family-run company, and their dedication shows. The thrice-expanded store now features a cafe, bakery, shop, and classrooms for demos and baking classes. If you’re a baker, your heart will skip a beat checking out the incredible array of ingredients and cookware they have available in the store. You can also pick up fresh-baked bread while watching the bakers make more, and enjoy coffee and a snack while you contemplate your purchases. Norwich is an easy 2-hour ride from Chelmsford; if you don’t want to make the trip you can order anything online.