Two miles from the Pacific Ocean is the small village of Pescadero. It is in San Mateo County and feels like a world away from the Bay Area. In reality it is just over the hill from Silicon Valley and the hustle and bustle San Francisco and the peninsula. There are three big attractions in Pescadero for those of us who like to eat. Duarte's Tavern, Norm's Market/Arcangeli Grocery Company and Bakery, and Harley Farms. The three destinations add up to a day-long feast in one square mile.
Dee Harley is English. Umpteen years ago, she married a member of the Duarte family and settled in Pescadero on a nine acre farm. Today, with nine employees she makes a stunning array of fresh goat cheeses from her herd of 200 goats. Her make room is small. It has a bulk tank, a square pasteurizer, a cheese draining rack, a work table and storage shelves. Not a lot of room to crank out the many varieties of award winning fresh chevre, feta, and ricotta. Her cheese is distinctive as well as delicious. Many of them are covered with edible flower petals. They are edible works of art.
Jim and I drove to Pescadero with our friends Jim and Ali. We spent two hours on a Saturday, touring Harley Farms with one of Dee's employees, Shar. Shar let us spend time with the does. Since it is autumn, the fragrant bucks are cosying up to the girls and anyone else who would dare touch them. Some of our group learned how stinky bucks can be the hard way. The bucks are just as friendly as the does. The does are clean. The bucks are damp with their own urine and, uh, male essense. Shar answered questions about the goats and their care. The goats have nice, lush pastures and a good size loafing barn in which to live. The goats of Harley Farms are extremely friendly, and move from person to person, nuzzling them and wanting to be petted. They're great ambassadors for the dairy goat world. Most of them were quiet, too. I miss hanging out with goats. I know I don't want an entire herd to milk, but a couple as pets would be nice...and you can't beat the taste of fresh milk....
We moved into the milking parlor where we got to milk one of the does. The farm dog joined us and early awaited her afternoon treat. Lucky dog gets fresh goat milk with every tour! When it was my turn at the udders, I reached up, grabbed on to the udder, and got a good stream of milk right away. "You've done this before, apparently," commented Shar. "Yeah. Once or twice," I replied. This girl was calm and easy to milk.
The tour continued into the restored dairy barn. We walked through the sales area and into the "make" room, where cheese is made. We donned hairnets and washed our hands. Gathering around the pasteurizer, Shar explained how they make their fresh chevre. Many folks asked lots of questions. Shar handles the business affairs of Harley Farms, so some of the more technical questions she struggled with. Things got really exciting when she moved us around the work table and made a small, petal covered goat cheese. It was fun to watch her compose the disc. Petals were placed in the bottom of a small pie tin lined with plastic wrap. Shar then worked the cheese like it was play-doh and pressed it into the tin. A layer of dried herbs was spread over cheese and then it was topped off with more cheese. The plastic wrap then enveloped the disc, and viola! A work of tasty art! The group moved into the hayloft of the barn and we ate the freshly prepared cheese with fresh ciabatta bread. This concluded the tour and we were free to wander downstairs to sample and buy cheese. Dee was downstairs tending to the retail shop. She spotted Jim and I and came over to say hello. She asked how things were going. We told her about our plans to move to Oregon and my experience at Goat Lady Dairy. She lit up when I mentioned GLD. She wanted to hear all about the Dinners at the Dairy. They're an example of diversification that others want to emulate. She's still very supportive of our efforts and wants to see us make cheese, too! Harley Farms is doing really well and is getting lots of press these days. I'm really happy for Dee. Oh, and we bought some chevre and ricotta.
Dee Harley makes picks up her ciabatta bread from Norm's Market in Pescadero and serves it with her samples of goat cheese. Talk about eating local! Fresh local goat cheese on local bread that is still warm from the oven. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
Downtown Pescadero is about two blocks long. At one end is Norms/Archangeli's Grocery. Across the street at the other end of Main Street is Duarte's Tavern. Norm's/Archangli's is a local grocery store that has a bakery in the rear of the market. They bake Italian style bread all day long (every two hours I was told.) They also make their own line of condiments, salsas, mustards, and cioppino We struggled, trying to decide which delicious bread to try for our afternoon snack. An employee pulled up to the bread rack with a shopping cart full of artichoke herb bread, straight from the oven. Sold! I grabbed a warm, crusty loaf and put in into my basket. We also grabbed some olives and some cinnamon bread to take home. We took our bread, cheese, and selves and drove to Pescadero State Beach. We spread out our nibbles on a picnic table overlooking tidepools, a sandy beach, and the Pacific Ocean. The bread was still warm as we all tore into it. Big chunks of artichoke hearts emerged encased in crisp, chewy bread. OH MY! Perhaps the best bread I've ever tasted. A wonderfully balanced flavor, slightly salty with a dusting of herbs on the crust. I'm glad I don't live near this place. I'd overdose. We spread fresh chevre from Harley Farms on the bread and had an even more amazing fiesta on our tastebuds. We blissfully ate our bread and cheese while watching seals play in the surf and brown pelicans fly overhead.
As I mentioned before, Duarte's does seafood, soup, and pies right. Their cioppino features an entire dungeness crab with mussels and a white fish served up in a tomato, celery and herb broth. They give you a nut cracker, bib and basket full of sourdough bread. Yes we ate it. Yes we loved it. Yes, we took home a piece of pie. We were too full to eat it there.