If you google "free things to do in the Bay Area," chances are that a tour of a fortune cookie factory will pop up at the top of the list. Always game for free AND food-related activities, I hopped on the chance to find out just how they got those hidden messages tucked safely inside the folds of the wafer.
Paranoid as I am about arriving at a place after hours or on an off day, I called ahead to inquire about the day's schedule. The man on the phone was clearly not a native English speaker; he merely kept repeating, "We open till 7 pm. You come any time." "Ok," I thought to myself, "This is kind of bizarre, but what do I have to lose?"
Several BART stops later, I found myself wandering through the brightly colored, lanterned maze that is Chinatown in San Francisco. 9-5ers raced through the streets around me as I desperately tried to keep stride with the New Yorker that accompanied me on this adventure. Guided by her I-phone (god knows I don't have one), we turned down an alley that looked more like a zone for illegal abortions than fresh baked delights.
And then we saw it. On the right hand sign was a miniature sign indicating that we had indeed arrived at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. In an airy, open storefront the size of a postage stamp, we were immediately greeted by the three employees and entire operation!
The same man who answered the phone stood by the doorway offering the rejected cookies as a sample of their wares and ensuring that anyone with a camera paid the requisite 50 cents for a photo of his ladies. This included the Floridian man, armed with a video camera, who kept referring to the edibles as "egg rolls" while filming!
Behind him, two women worked the assembly lines, making sure the batter was loaded into the dispenser, discarding cookies that didn't meet their exacting standards (boy, there seemed to be a lot of them), and carefully plucking off the prime tuiles from the hot iron press, filling them with a message, and folding them to fully envelope the surprise. Together, these two women made thousands of fortune cookies everyday, and I am pretty sure that they were all the nuts and bolts of the operation.
Satisfied with our discovery, we paid for a bag of adult fortune cookies and went on our way. A word of advice: don't spring the extra 50 cents (or whatever it was) for the naughty notes - out of about 10 that I ate, 9 were the same nonsensical and non-naughty message!