Cache Valley is a land flowing with milk and honey. You can taste it at the local dairies and food factories and see bees working in a hive at Cox Honeyland. At Gossner Foods and Pepperidge Farm, you can nibble free samples or buy discounted "seconds." Bluebird Chocolates and Aggie Ice Cream offer sweet nostalgia for former Utah State University students. The Cache Valley Visitors Bureau has even made up a list of some of these food finds for tour groups (www.tourcachevalley.com).
Summer is a great time for a food run. The weather's a little cooler up north, and you may already be headed to the Festival of the American West, Utah Festival Opera or Bear Lake. On the way home, you can stop at the roadside stands dotting U.S. 89 between Brigham City and Willard (also known as the Fruitway) for fresh-picked raspberries, cherries and peaches.I took a food-finding road trip to Cache Valley, and where possible, compared prices with what you'd find in local supermarkets. Here's what I found:
If you like to buy in bulk, have lots of freezer space or are planning to make a ton of grilled cheese sandwiches in the near future, you're in luck. But if you just plan to buy one 15-cent Creamie or a 49-cent FatBoy, it's not worth the time, gasoline and hassle.
Factory "seconds" can be irregular-shaped, broken or otherwise not up to standards. Don't expect perfection.
Plan on at least three hours from the time you get to Cache Valley, so you can navigate the busy traffic, peruse store shelves and compare prices. Add nearly two hours more if you're traveling from Salt Lake City.
Bring a large cooler to protect the cheese, ice cream or chocolate from the summer heat during the ride home.
Cox has been selling honey since 1929, and it also supplies the honey sold at the Trappist Monastery in the Ogden Valley.
Hunks of fudge are on display at the store's front counter. You have to work your way past a lot of gift-shop knickknacks to the back of the store to find the glass-enclosed beehive and the jars and buckets of honey.
Fun food find: Small, straw-like honey "sticks" are laced with herbs, such as ginseng and echinacea, for 25 cents each.As far as bargains go, there is a shelf of crystallized honey sold on discount. Crystallized honey is opaque rather than clear, but this is easily remedied by melting it over low heat. An 8-ounce bear-shaped bottle, regularly $2, is discounted to $1.60. In comparison, an 8-ounce jar of Miller's honey in Salt Lake supermarkets sells for around $3, and generic brands are $2.39. A notice on the door lists bulk honey specials: three 7-pound pails for $37.50, a 12-pound bucket for $22.80 and 60 pounds for $104.
Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread
About 800 to 1,600 loaves are baked here daily, using organic flour and natural "starters" instead of commercial yeast. In Salt Lake City, the bread is found in upscale restaurants, farmer's markets and specialty shops, such as Wild Oats and Caputo's. (You can also find it in Logan supermarkets.)
If you're used to Wonder or Sara Lee, you may find this bread a tad crusty, chewy and pricey. But it's carb heaven for those who love European-style baguettes, ciabatta, pumpernickel and so on.
Fun food find: Daily signature breads are $4 a loaf: Monday and Tuesday it's a caramelized onion with asiago cheese; Wednesday and Thursday, polenta jack; and Friday and Saturday, Kalamata olive in sourdough.
You won't find bargain "day-old" bread here. Sales manager Dave Oblock said the company is strong on the old-world philosophy of fresh bread bought daily. Also, since the bread contains no preservatives, it has a short shelf life.But there appears to be a price break: The Decker Five-Seed loaf I bought for $4 at the bakery sells for $4.79 at Wild Oats in Salt Lake City. The loaf's thick crust (as well as the chewy interior) is studded with pumpkin, poppy, sunflower, and light and dark sesame seeds. The clerk at the counter gave me a slice of fragrant walnut-raisin-cinnamon bread for the road. The shop has tables both indoors and on the patio, where customers can enjoy a slice of quiche, a croissant or sandwich. Hurry, though, this place closes at 1 p.m.
Aggie Ice Cream
Utah State University students are well aware of the dairy-sciences building on campus. On a summer weekday, there was a long line to buy cones, shakes and sundaes from the approximately 28 flavors offered. There are a few tables and chairs to cool your heels while enjoying the creamy confections.
Fun food find: Aggie Blue Mix, which is mint-flavored ice cream mixed with Oreos and white chocolate.A single-scoop cone is $1.70; a half-gallon of ice cream is $5.25. In the supermarket, a half-gallon of Dreyer's is around $5 and Snelgrove, $5.95.
Bluebird Candy Factory
There are actually two "Bluebirds" in Logan that sell chocolates. The Bluebird Cafe on Main Street sells candy made by the local Alvey's Candies, although the gift boxes say "The Bluebird Song's Candy." Bluebird Candy is a separate company, and it's around the corner on Center Street.
The cafe's one-pound gift box assortment is $10.95; a half-pound box is $6.95. You can choose individual chocolates from the glass counter for the same price per pound.At the Bluebird Candy Factory's gift shop, I caught a glimpse through the door behind the counter of the staff presumably boxing or dipping chocolates. A one-pound box is $12.95, and a small "duet" box of one dark and one light chocolate is $1.30. By comparison, a pound of See's chocolates is $14.10. When asked about "seconds," the clerk said there are only a few during the busy winter months, and they go quickly.
Gossner Foods Inc.
Besides the company's popular Swiss cheese, you'll find mozzarella, provolone, cheddar, Monterey Jack and Muenster in the gift/thrift shop attached to the factory. There's usually a cluster of customers around the sampling station, smearing crackers with various cheese spreads or feeling rubbery cheese curds "squeak" between their teeth.
There are beautiful bricks of cheese for $2.05 to $2.85 per pound, depending on the type. By comparison, supermarket cheese usually costs $3 to $5 per pound, depending on the brand.
"Economy cuts" the irregular pieces left over when the cheese is cut into blocks are even better bargains. They sell from $1.70 per pound for Colby-Jack to $2 per pound for Swiss and $2.35 for sharp cheddar. End cuts vary in size, so you don't have to buy a huge brick to get a price break. Sure, they're misshapen, but as a Colorado woman remarked as she filled her cart, "With prices like this, who cares?"
Fun food find: Cheese curds fresh, young cheddar cheese before being processed into blocks and aged are $2.60 per pound. (Eat them within a day or two, or they lose their Silly Putty texture.) I bought some low-fat Swiss, which was surprisingly tender, meltable and well-flavored.
Gossner offers wares from other purveyors for one-stop shopping if you're short on time: Aggie Ice Cream cones; Weeks Berries jam, juices and syrups; Cox honey; Old Gristmill bread; and flavored cartons of milk that are irradiated and don't need refrigeration.On Fridays and Saturdays you can also find Crumb Brothers bread. Gossner also sells shelf-stable milk in single-serve cartons for 30 cents each, or $7.35 for a case of 27. In addition to plain 2 percent, they come in various flavors, such as chocolate, strawberry, root beer and mango.
Heart to Heart Foods Inc.
Here's where you'll find Creamies ice cream novelties in orange, banana, chocolate and vanilla. The company's front office has a freezer case where I found boxes of Creamies at $1.99 per six-pack and $6.24 per 24 pack.There were two big "deep" freezers, the first piled with individual Creamies "seconds," for 15 cents each. In supermarkets, a six-pack box of Creamies is around $2.59. The second freezer contained 3-gallon tubs of ice cream for $10.
Pepperidge Farm Outlet Store
The thrift store is north of the company's administration entrance. Near the cash register there are free samples of broken cookies and Goldfish crackers.
Several rows of shelves were stocked with Goldfish crackers (40 cents for a 2-ounce carton), and 6-ounce packages of cookies, such as Milano Mint and Chantilly, for $1.25 each. In grocery stores, these packages of cookies are around $3. Big plastic bags of mixed cookies, some broken, are $1.75 each.
In the freezer case against the wall, 16-ounce Pepperidge Farm pot pies are $2.59; tubs of vegetable and Italian lasagna are $6.60 each; and Dessert Classic cakes, $3.59 each.Fun food find: A 2-pound bag of assorted Godiva chocolates for $5.50. A note in the bag said that the candies have minor flaws but "still elicit the same superior Godiva taste experience." On Amazon.com, these are a mere $36 for a pound. The sales clerk said although the chocolates aren't made at the factory, they're in the store because Campbell's owns both Pepperidge Farm and Godiva chocolates.
Casper's Ice Cream
Casper's is a couple miles northwest of the Pepperidge Farm plant (look for the Casper's Malt Shoppe sign). This is home to the square, squat FatBoy ice cream sandwich and nut sundae-on-a-stick.The store also offers shakes, malts and sundaes with comfortable-looking booths and tables to rest at after a long day of bargain-hopping. There's also a drive-through window. Individual FatBoy sandwiches are 49 cents, and a box of 12 is $4.52. Grocery-store prices are around $6.99 for a 12-pack. According to the sales clerk, "seconds" must be bought in boxes of 50 ($11.26 for a box of 50).
Other notable purveyors
Weeks Berries of Paradise, 880 E. 8600 South, Paradise. When in season, strawberries are $20 per case and raspberries are $25. Shoppers should call ahead to make sure someone is at the store. Weeks Berries jams, syrups and juices are also sold at Gossner, where a 15-ounce bottle of black currant/raspberry juice is $5.99, an 8-ounce jar of red raspberry jam is $5.99, and 12-ounce bottles of berry syrups are $4.99 (435-245-3377).
Alvey's Candies, 1300 N. Main, Logan. This local confectioner, which supplies The Bluebird Restaurant's chocolates, has a retail shop at the Cache Valley Mall (435-753-8888).
Rockhill Creamery, 563 S. State, Richmond: Raw-milk cheeses are hand-crafted from the farm's Brown Swiss cows. The farm has a stand on Saturdays that is open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., or you can buy the cheeses at Crumb Brothers, Liberty Heights Fresh in Salt Lake City and farmer's markets (435-258-1277 or rockhillcheese.com).
Gardener's Market, 100 S. 300 East, Logan. On Saturday mornings this farmer's market offers many of the above products, as well as produce, crafts and live music.