Monday, September 7, 2009

Pescadero Pleasures – Harley Farms and Duarte’s Tavern

I first heard of Harley Farms in March of last year at, somewhat incongruously, a class entitled “Belgian Beer and Cheese” taught by Sheana Davis at the Cheese School of San Francisco. The first cheese in the 12:00 position on our plate that night was one called “Monet,” a snow white, fluffy goat’s milk cheese with a thin layer of herbes de Provence, decorated with flower petals.

Sheana told us that the cheese was produced at a small farm run by a woman named Dee Harley in Pescadero on the San Mateo County coast, not far south of Half Moon Bay. The cheese has nothing to do with Belgium, but it was very tasty and paired very well with a raspberry-flavored Belgian beer that Sheana had us try.

A couple of months later we attended another Cheese School class which sampled prize winners from the annual American Cheese Society meeting. Again we ran into the colorful “Monet” which had won first place in the Farmstead Cheeses category. Then, just a couple of days later, at a drop-in night at the Cheese School, we entered the room to find a whole wheel of “Monet” the size of a large pizza awaiting us on the table. By comparison to the small pieces we had had at the earlier classes, it was absolutely breathtaking.

Finally, when we first met Wil Edwards at a class at the Cheese School a few months later, we learned that Wil had worked at Harley Farms early in his cheese career. We also learned that, in addition to making great cheese, Harley Farms was one of the few goat cheese operations in Northern California to offer tours at their farm. Since then, Alex, Cass and I had been trying to figure out when we could visit Harley Farms and go on one of their weekend tours. A visit by their friend Amanda to the Bay Area this weekend provided just the motivation we needed.

Although I had never been to Pescadero, I had heard of Duarte’s Tavern (by the way, should you wish to avoid the same mistake I made, the pronunciation of “Duarte” morphed somewhere along the way from the original Portuguese doo-ART-tay to the current DOO-arts) and their famous olallieberry pie. Plus in March I happened to hear a very interesting NPR story about Duarte’s. Hence, we added a stop there to the agenda for the day, especially when we discovered that Harley Farms was less than a mile from Duarte’s.

I picked Alex, Cass and Amanda up in San Francisco under sunny skies and we headed south down 280 and across 92 to the coast. By the time we descended into Half Moon Bay we were in the fog and it stayed with us during the ride south along Route 1 to Pescadero. We had allotted 1.5 hours for the drive, but made very good time and arrived in just over an hour, so we explored Pescadero a bit before heading over to Harley Farms. Pescadero is not a big town - Duarte’s Tavern anchors the south end of town as does Arcangeli’s Market, pictured below, about 100 yards to the north.

After a brief exploration we made the short drive to Harley Farms, arriving just as the fog was beginning to burn off.

At the farm we were met by a woman named Pat who was leading the the morning tour. Harley Farms generally offers two 2-hour tours a day on the weekends – the morning tour starting at 11:00AM and the afternoon tour starting at 1:00PM. Ages 5 and under are free - the charge for ages 6-10 is $10 per person, and for those over 10 the charge is $20 per person.

Pat started us out with a brief history of the farm and a helpful admonition not to lean on the electric fence surrounding the field!

We then entered the pasture and met the nannies (adult female goats) of the herd who had been keeping their eyes on us.

The “adolescent” goats, who were born early this year, are apparently generally too rambunctious at this age to allow for contact with the general public so they are kept in a separate pasture. However, one of them, #76, had somehow found his way into the pasture with the nannies and certainly seemed well-behaved to us.

We wandered around the pasture for a while, being nibbled at periodically by the nannies who were very friendly and loved attention (or maybe they enjoy the taste of clothing). Pat said that Dee Harley strives to keep her goats happy and from what we could see she succeeds completely.

Pat explained to us that the farm is constantly striving to find additional ways to practice sustainable agriculture. Among them is the use of a “chicken tractor” pictured below – a bottomless chicken coop which is moved ever couple of days to a new location in the pasture to provide fertilizer directly to the soil (not to mention a nice perch for the goats). The chickens are rotated too as I imagine they must get tired of having goats constantly climbing over their coop.

Also on the sustainability front, the farm has been able to find uses for the goats’ production beyond mere milk!

Although almost all the animals on the farm are goats, there are a few chickens as noted above, as well as a pair of very woolly sheep and a couple of large llamas which guard the adolescent goats.

After we finished our tour of the pasture, we moved to the farm buildings, first saying hello to the two billy-goats who are responsible for producing all those kids – aptly named Elvis and Lucky (a third, Romeo, having recently gone to goat heaven, although it is hard to imagine what additional pleasures he may be enjoying in the afterlife). From the pens we moved to the milking shed where Pat showed us the proper "OK" grip, and then unleashed us to try our hands at milking a couple of very patient nannies (see below and this video).

From there, after donning fetching hairnets, it was on to the cheese production room where we formed a round of Monet – mere child’s play -- including the application of some of the edible flowers from the Harley Farms garden that they use to decorate the Monet and Van Goat products.

Then upstairs to the Hay Loft where we happily sampled the Monet with some excellent ciabatta bread from the bakery at Arcangeli’s Market.

The Hay Loft is a beautiful room with a wonderful rustic dining table surrounded by a fanciful set of chairs, all made by hand and without the use of any metal by a Pescadero native named Three-Fingered Bill whose photo keeps an eye on things from the wall of the room.

As reported here, it appears we also have Bill to thank as at least one of the factors that led Dee Harley to Pescadero in the first place. The Hay Loft is also where Harley Farms' periodic seasonal dinners are held – see the below picture of the table set for one of those dinners, and here are two great related posts – one set on Flicker and a second from Justinsomnia’s blog about one of those seasonal dinners he attended in May (which, as you can see from the pictures of the baby kids, is definitely one of the best times to visit the Farm!).

After a final stop at the Harley Farms cheese store for more tasting (yummy feta, ricotta, garlic-infused chevre, etc.), we then made the short drive to Pescadero for our late lunch at Duarte’s Tavern. It seems that there is a fairly strong connection between Duarte’s and Harley Farms since Tim Duarte and Dee Harley are married!

Duarte’s Tavern was packed, but happily we had made reservations and were seated quickly. I went with their signature soup (a two-tone green combination of their famous artichoke and green chili soups), the cioppino and their famous olallieberry pie (with ice cream of course – once one has gone that far, why hold back?) – all were wonderful.

Then a quick stop back at Arcangeli’s Market to pick up some of their bread before heading north in a food stupor. It was a perfect day and we look forward to a quick return to Pescadero!


Andrew said...

Great post! Wish we could've been there to tag along. Vineyards are great, but interacting with the vines is somehow less rewarding. I hope you had a chance to examine the goats' freakish, horizontal pupils.

Connie's not so much of a goat cheese fan, but I'm inspired and am going to steal away to buy a wedge right now.

Again, a really enjoyable post.

csm said...

Fyi, Andrew did indeed run off and buy a wedge of goat brie ... the remains are currently chilling out in our fridge. For once, we are not going to fight over it.

Simona said...

Very nice! I'd love to take a closer look at that Monet. It really looks breathtaking.

alce said...

It's also worth it to drive about 20 minutes south and hit the Pie Ranch farmstand, where you can buy Pescadero-grown wheat! And in July, you can pick ollalieberries themselves at Coastways Ranch, just across the highway from Año Nuevo State Reserve, home to the elephant seals.

Pescadero is one of my very favorite places.

harley farms pescadero said...

Nice post. People who are very fond of domestic animals specially goats should definitely visit the famous Harley Farm. You can have the delicious cheese and learn the mthods to make it. The goats graze the verdant pastoral lands especially planted for that purpose. There are lots of attractions to look for in this farm.

gastronomichael said...

Any who have been to or may be considering a trip to Harley Farms may enjoy the following poem by Mark Doty which appeared in the February 8, 2010 issue of The New Yorker:


The little goats like my mouth and fingers,

and one stands up against the wire fence, and taps on the fence board
a hoof made blacker by the dirt of the field,

pushes her mouth forward to my mouth,
so that I can see the smallish squared seeds of her teeth,
and the bristle-whiskers,

and then she kisses me, though I know it doesn't mean “kiss,”

then leans her head way back, arcing her spine, goat yoga,
all pleasure and greeting and then good-natured indifference: she loves me,

she likes me a lot, she takes interest in me, she doesn’t know me at all
or need to, having thus acknowledged me. Though I am all happiness,

since I have been welcomed by the field’s small envoy, and the splayed hoof,
fragrant with soil, has rested on the fence board beside my hand.

-Mark Doty