Harry & David Northwest Blogger Event!
Many years ago, Harry & David turned their extraordinary homegrown pears into the perfect gourmet gift for any occasion.
I’m a lucky girl to live in the amazing hometown of Harry & David, Medford, Oregon, and to participate this year in their awesome 80th birthday celebration. A couple weeks ago, a small group of west-coast bloggers came to Oregon to help kick off this extraordinary Harry & David Northwest Blogger Event, participating in a prestigious, education-focused bloggers event in the Rogue Valley.
Did you know that Harry & David was the first mail-order company to sell fruit, Gift Towers, FOMC (Fruit of the Month Club)?
I love how special and unique this makes their company!
Fresco Food Truck.
We started the first day with the bloggers coming to my house for lunch! (Hi, Haggis! –photo by Shutterbean.)
Yes, I was blessed to have the small group of bloggers over for appetizers and a “sack lunch,” from Fresco Food Truck, (they delivered them to us!) as we gathered around the table in my home, and caught up with each other.
I love these trips, because not only does Harry & David really invest in their bloggers, they encourage connection and catching up time for the bloggers. (Details on the “sack lunch” coming soon in separate post.)
The bus picked us up at my house and we took the scenic route for a behind-the-scenes orchard tour with Matt Borman, H&D’s Orchard Director. Most people know that Harry and David is best known for its signature product, Royal Riviera® Pears, which require special climate and soil found in only a few places in the world. Matt shared with us how unique and different each year’s growing cycle is, and that when growing high quality fruit, there is no recipe. There is just the knowledge and the experience of his team that determines the unique character of each season, and then they do their best to support the fruit on its way from flower to front door.
We stopped at the Royal Crest Orchard for a mini orchard reception. Which, by the way, we had just missed the gorgeous blossoms by about a week, but the view and weather were still stunning! (Beautiful flowers, above, by Penny and LuLu.)
3 orchard facts:
-This past season, the H&D pear orchards produced over 14,000 tons of harvested pears, grown on 725,000 pear trees over a 21 mile radius, 95% of which were Royal Riviera® brand pears.
-The Orchard Division also farms about 55 acres of peaches in 2 orchards in the Rogue Valley. This past season, these orchards produced over 400 harvested tons of peaches grown on 16,800 peach trees.
-At the peak of harvest, about 750 tons of pears, picked by approximately 320 pickers, were delivered to cooling facilities each day of harvest, which normally lasts between 25-30 days.
Dinner that night was at the Alchemy Restaurant at the Winchester Inn, where we were wined and dined, and the bloggers got to know the Harry & David staff, with an amazing meal and local wines in the valley.
Up and early the next morning we hit the Bakery/Candy Kitchen with the Head Chocolatier, Charlie Douglass, otherwise known as “Harry & David’s Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.”
We watched the master at work, as Charlie helped us make our our Easter chocolate molds out of premier chocolate. Oh, and Smore’s Moose Munch is Charlie’s fave!
3 bakery facts:
-Made over 105 million pieces of candy, of which nearly 77 million were truffles
-Baked over 139,300 fruitcakes and 309,000 cheesecakes
-Produced over 5 million lbs. of Moose Munch® Confection
New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro.
We enjoyed a delicous lunch at New Sammy’s Cowboy Bistro, where, after our delicous meal, we roamed their gorgeous gardens, where they grow all their own produce.
Gifts and packaging.
We then joined the Merchant team to discuss new Spring/Summer packaging (such fun bright colors and packaging designs), containers (totally practicaly and reusable, with universal appeal), specialty foods (wines and new fall items to come), and gifts, as they shared their “inspiration boards” and vision, and how they come up with their design. They showed us Mother’s Day gifts, new summer gift crates and tins (perfect for Father’s Day) ideas for a graduate or even a summer BBQ.
We also talked about how wine gifts are another perfect gift to give, and the H&D wines are made with grapes sourced and grown in Oregon, partnering with many local southern Oregon vineyards.
Here’s where it got real for us bloggers. We got to be a part of assembling our own baskets and towers! We saw firsthand the work that goes into each basket, one step at a time, with a personalized “packed by ….” with the’s packer’s signature (above).
It wasn’t as easy as you think. We had to listen and watch closely to get it right. I can’t imagine having to do this fast! :) We learned that each gift is packed with pride and personal attention!
3 basket and towers facts:
-Harry and David shipped nearly 8.2 million packages last year from all facilities to internet, catalog, stores and wholesale customers.
-Harry and David ships approximately 1.2 million Tower of Treats gifts each year.
-Annual call center volume last year was 1.6 million calls.
Rising Sun Farms.
We took a quick visit to Rising Sun Farms, where the staff treated us to a little brunch and shared tips and recipes about their delicious products, such as Pesto Dried Tomato and their Gorgonzola Cheese Torta (which H&D sell in their stores).
We also stayed at the Ashland Springs Hotel, in Ashland, Oregon, where one afternoon we snuck up to Ashland’s brand new juice bar, NW Raw, to meet Web, the owner, and to try some of their fabulous, refreshing juices!
We ended the last night with a delicous meal cooked by Harry & David’s own Chef Tim Keller, which was held at the most gorgeous DanCin Vineyard, right outside of Medford. Dan gave us a tour through his vineyards, as we sipped on 2011 DANCIN Vineyards Chasse Oregon Chardonnay, and then Tim paired 7 more varieties with the meal.
Chef Tim has a way of wowing guests with his creativity and culinary skills, so combining his menu, paired with DanCin’s delicious wines, made our finale dinner together very special – and very “local,” as he cooked with foods from the Rogue Valley.
After spendging 3 days with the fine people at Harry & David, I want to end this post with a BIG thanks to these 3, who taught us even more about why the company has such a steller reputation. I want to introduce our friends, Rhonda, Michael, and Stacy – who work in social media and public relations, and led us on this awesome 3-day tour.
Our time together was like a big gourmet gift wrapped up and tied with a giant bow on top. It summed up the great company Harry & David is, bringing people together with foods and produce handpicked from the orchards, all hand packaged, in exclusive designs, and shipped to arrive on time, in perfect condition. Always guaranteed.
To me, that is the perfect gift!
Harry & David paid for my trip, but as always, all opinions are my own.
Other blogger’s recap posts:
Hello and welcome to my home and table!
I’m Sandy—lover of food, family, cooking, THE BIG BOARD, travel, and bringing people together. Through great recipes and connection around the table, we become better, stronger, and more courageous people. Feasting on Life is real, and every time we do it, we grow a little more. Read more...