Living Locally and Gluten-Free Tourism in Half Moon Bay, California- Oasis Foods and Harley Goat Farm

March 19th, 2008 yum Posted in Bay Area, California, Fellow Food Bloggers, Gluten Free On the Road, Goat Cheese, Half Moon Bay, Local Food Movement, Travel, cheese, yum of the week 3 Comments »

gfmuffin.jpgOne of the things DH and I most like to do in the Bay area is go on weekend adventures, especially ones involving agri-tourism. The Bay area has a lot going for it, actually, with unique local farms, wineries and food companies, shops and of course beautiful scenery. One place that DH and I have returned to over and over is a little coastal town called “Half Moon Bay,” maybe partly because it has such a charming name. It’s a bit of a pain to get there- you have to drive through a windy, single lane road through trees and it inevitably gets clogged with weekend traffic- but once you get there, there’s a picturesque shopping street with restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as access to a (Very cold and windy) beach. I had heard rumors of a gluten-free friendly health-food store and wanted to go in, but every time I came, it was usually past closing time. This time we got up extra early (by noon! haha) and made it to:

oasisnatural.jpgOasis Natural Foods
523 Main Street
Half Moon Bay
(650) 726-7881

crackermuffin.jpgThis health food store was listed and reviewed positively by vegetarian sites and gluten-free lists, so I was hoping to pick up a few things for a gluten-free coastal picnic. It was a (small) thrill to actually be able to open the door and go in for the first time in four years. Quarters are cramped, but this little shop DOES have an excellent selection of Gluten-Free products, both mixes and prepared foods. A wide assortment of Pamela’s mixes, Kinnikinnick cookies, Gluten-free cookies and crackers are stored in this tiny place, and I was happy to pick up a box of Glutino round gourmet crackers for my picnic. Unfortunately, rents are high in Half Moon Bay and the prices reflect that- the crackers alone were over $5 and everything else was similarly priced for sticker shock. They offered hot rice and soups in the back, but the soup contained gluten (although it was vegetarian, yay!) so I had to pass. Probably the most interesting item was at the check out counter- a little basket of big gluten-free muffins, labeled accordingly and baked on site. There was only one left, so I snagged my very own almond poppyseed muffin made from Pamela’s Baking Mix. It was pricey, at $3, but I figured it was my only good freshly baked GF option for miles and I’d better take advantage of it.

Since one muffin and a box of crackers does not a picnic make, and DH was looking mopey and hungry, we went to some of the other spendy, spendy grocery stores on Main Street. Oh the prices made my eyes hurt. But, we managed to pick up tortilla chips and salsa. I was dying for guacamole but couldn’t bring myself to pay $6 for it. DH bought a loaf of french bread and some assorted fillings, and we went back on the road… because we had another destination in mind before we had our picnic. *Non-vegan review following*

The destination?

cheeseandwoman.jpgHarley Farms Goat Dairy
Pescadero, CA 94060
1-650-879-0480

goatmilk.jpgbeautifulround.jpgWe first found out about this goat cheese farm from the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce in response to our queries about local, small scale, family run dairies. I was very excited when I learned about the local goat dairy farm, Harley Farms, and the more I heard, the more I wanted to go and check out their operations and of course, taste their award-winning goat-cheeses. The farm is run by a British ex-pat named Dee Harley who started with six goats fourteen years ago and rebuilt and revitalized a 1910 cow dairy farm. Harley Farm is now the home of 200 some American Alpine goats and Harley Farm cheeses have won countless awards. Further, and perhaps coolest of all, Dee “was the first woman ever chosen by the Chamber of Commerce as Farmer of the Year in San Mateo county”. (source: I heart Farms) Harley Farms combines traditional methods with artistry and science, going that extra mile by using the traditional method of separating the curds and whey with cheesecloth bags and using (home grown) fresh flowers, dried nuts and dried fruits to create cheese that is as delicious as it is beautiful. The goats receive no antibiotics or hormones, and vegetarians will be happy to know that they only use vegetarian rennet. Harley Farms have also been recognized by the Slow Foods movement, and were invited to Italy “to represent one of 500 farmers that epitomize the group’s mission of . . .ecological food production, stewardship of the land and “the revival of the kitchen and table as centers of pleasure, culture and community.” (source: MetroActive) As if that wasn’t enough, Harley Goat Farms also recently won a Sustaneable San Mateo award for following “several environmentally-friendly practices by providing goats to the “Rent A Goat” program, where goats clear brush and grass. The farm won a four-year grant from the Natural Resource Conservation Service under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for creek bank restoration and water conservation. The farm utilizes recycled water to cool the milk and offers free manure to its neighbors.” (source: Sustainable San Mateo)

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goatshopsign2.jpggoatornament.jpgIt is rare to come across a farm where artistry, environmental concerns, and care for animals is combined so dramatically, and it’s no surprise to me that Harley Farms has won so many awards and gained such recognition in their field. When you visit the farm, you definitely feel that you’ve come to a very special place that provides balm and respite from a world where most goods are mass-produced and soulless. You can visit the farm on weekends, and they hold tours (reservations required), or you can just wander out and peek at the goats and their babies in the field and watch the chickens and roosters bouncing freely around the yard. You can also visit a charming little shop featuring all their cheeses for tasting and purchase, including the glorious flower strewn variety, sundried tomato chevre, herbed chevre, and even goat cheese ricotta or herbed spread. One slightly disappointing feature of the cheese tasting area is that it is all served with bread, so us gluten-free folks can’t taste anything. (It’s possible if you ask nicely that you might be able to get them to open something fresh for you, but I didn’t go to the trouble.) DH and I enjoy saying saying hi to the goats and perusing the cheeses for some nice selections to take home with us (and enjoy in a picnic.) flowerschevre.jpgapricotchevre.jpgAnd now, perhaps, you see why I bought those spendy crackers! Our favorites are the sundried tomato topped goat cheese, the cranberry (with a walnut surprise filling) and apricot (with a gorgeous green pistachio filling). We also like the herbed cheese, but it’s more commonly available, so we stick to the unusual combinations that Harley Farms is famous for. You can buy local artichoke products at the shop, as well as super free-range chicken eggs. If you’re interested in purchasing some cheese but can’t visit the farm, you can find it in some California Whole Foods cheese cases (Los Altos etc.) or purchase it online through their web site. The price tends to be lower in their shop than in Whole Foods, but this kind of quality, painstakingly produced cheese isn’t inexpensive. In our current economy, business must be tough, but I hope that Harley Farms continues to succeed and receive well deserved accolades for their efforts. Beauty wherever you find it is special- and their cheeses and farm are very beautiful indeed. And did I mention that of course, the cheese itself is gluten-free and vegetarian?

a beautifully written piece on Harley Farms by I heart farms
a news article on the history of Harley Farms
Read Dee’s blog and experience life on the farm!

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happy animals at Harley Goat Farm

If you’re wondering what else there is to do for Gluten-Free or agri-tourism in the Half Moon Bay, let me recommend some of my favorite stops. We love Cameron’s Pub, a ridiculously atmospheric British pub with double decker red buses parked outside (for smoking and games) and a mini “village shop” inside. I like their enormous baked potatoes (their mushroom and cheese topped potato has enough calories to get you through a 10 mile hike in the Cotswalds) and hard cider on tap. Apparently Pierce Brosnan and family stopped there for a pint and hearty meal once and everyone’s still excited about it. If you drive a bit farther you can go to Phipps Country Store and farm for a ka-jillion varieties of dried heirloom beans in bins available for purchase, fresh goose eggs, an aviary (for viewing pleasure), and the opportunity (in season) to pick strawberries, blackberries etc. And of course, once you’ve picked up some fresh fruit or veggies, fresh goat cheese, artichoke salsa or other local goodies- nothings more fun than having a picnic on the beach, or, if it’s terribly cold and windy, having a picnic in your car at some spot overlooking the ocean. Salty, creamy goat cheese and crackers, crisp apple slices and maybe a gluten-free muffin- no matter what you have, it’s better with the taste of salt water in the air and the sound of the ocean crashing around you.

If you enjoyed this article on gluten-free, foodie adventures in Half Moon Bay, you might also enjoy my article on

Heirloom Tomatoes in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Or
a comprehensive list of all my Bay Area travel reviews

We also find our copy of “Weekend Adventures” to be an invaluable source of travel ideas around the Bay area.

*Note: Cynthia at the Heirloom Tomato heaven, Love Apple Farm has a beautiful blog you should check out. If you happen to be local, definitely pick up some of her heirloom tomato plants, on sale starting March 15th, only available at the farm. I plan on going early in April to pick up some new babies.

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Gluten Free Adventures Part 1: Heirloom Tomatoes from the Santa Cruz Mountains

August 27th, 2007 yum Posted in Bay Area, Local Food Movement, tomatoes 8 Comments »

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Growing your own Organic Heirloom Tomatoes

I told you all in a previous post in March that we went on a foodie adventure in the Santa Cruz Mountains and had a wonderful time. On that visit we stopped at the local heirloom tomato farm, Love Apple Farm, which sells heirloom tomato plants in the spring and grows and sells an amazing variety of tomatoes in the summer to local clients and a foofie restaurant in Los Gatos, Manresa Restaurant. In March I bought four heirloom tomato plants from the amazing tomato lady at LAF, and signed myself up for her newsletter with tomato growing tips and farm news. widejoe.jpgAll summer I’ve been feeding and watering my plants, and I’ve had the fun of watching them grow from about 5 inches or so to six or seven feet tall. I’ve shown you a few photos of tomatoes from my balcony garden- notably, the Costoluto Florentino pumpkin shaped tomato that I nicknamed “Tall Joe” because the plant kept growing and growing, and a Japanese Oxheart with pepper or heart shaped tomatoes. I’m also waiting for Tall Joe’s friend, a Purple Calabash, AKA “Wide Joe” (right) who is determined to grow over and out of the balcony entirely, to come into season. When their days of glory have passed and the balcony is empty again *sniff*, I guess I’ll have to start daydreaming of the season next year, when I can try my favorites again (Tall Joe Jr?), and maybe try growing a few new varieties.

How to Grow Heirloom Tomatoes on Your Balcony

Photos One, Two, and Seven: Costoluto Florentino tomatoes growing on Tall Joe
Photo Three: Three plants from L to R (Wide Joe- Purple Calabash, Tall Joe- Costoluto Florentino , Japanese Oxheart)
Photo Four: Same Plants, with tallest plants (Tall Joe and Japanese Oxheart) most visible
Photo Five: DH reading, surrounded by our tomato plants
Photo Six: The Plague Victim, (a Siletz) struck by an infestation of aphids and thus in exile on the other side of the balcony. Good producer but he will not be invited to join us next year.

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But once you grow beautiful, unique heirloom tomatoes, what do you do with them? Here are some recipes that I have made using my tomatoes:
mytomatoes.jpgtomatoesasst.jpgGrilled Zucchini with Tomato and Olive Salad
Pico De Gallo Recipe
Basil Olive Oil Bruschetta Recipe
Ancho Enchilada Sauce Recipe and
Grilled Portobello Sandwich with Sundried Tomato Feta Spread Recipe
Ratatoille Recipe

Returning to the Love Apple Farm
tomatojam.jpgtomatorow.jpgA few weeks ago I received an email from the Love Apple Farm informing me that they had opened up the tomato stand for the season. I immediately wanted to return and check out some of the varieties that I hadn’t grown this year. Love Apple Farm is a cozy, homey place with herb gardens, small sheds, and green things growing all around, and is an excellent antidote to the cookie cutter strip mall atmosphere that dominates much of Silicon Valley. But the true stars of the show are the amazing tomatoes- quirky, unexpected creatures of all shapes and stripes. When we showed up at the doorstep this Saturday afternoon, they were offering tastings of their red or black tomato jam- I was thrilled by the idea, but had to rely on DH’s report to decide which one to buy. (They were served on wheat crackers.) Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide which tomatoes to try- I ended up getting six, all of different varieties- Lemony, Homer Fikes, Orange Russian 17, Hippy Zebra, Mr. Brown, and a Cherokee Green… I never knew tomatoes could have so much personality and be so much fun! The Love Apple Farm has completely opened my eyes to the joys of unique, heirloom vegetables, with all their quirks. I don’t know that I will ever be able to look at the bland red globes in the supermarket the same way again. Just look at the gorgeous Orange Russian 117 below- isn’t it the prettiest tomato you’ve ever seen? It was delicious simply prepared with salt- I can only imagine how divine it would be with a little olive oil and some julienned basil…

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As a side note- when I brought my tomato jam home, I didn’t quite know what to do with it- until I was reheating some of my buckwheat crepes and decided to make a traditional galette with goats cheese and thinly sliced apples. On a whim I added a dollop of the tomato jam- and was completely blissed out on my snack. This morning I took some Glutino GF crackers and spread them with a little goat cheese and tomato jam- it was delicious. If I have time, I’m so going to try to make my own tomato jam- it’s amazing stuff!

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I found Love Apple Farm by doing a Google search for “Santa Cruz,” “winery” and “farms” – and now it’s become a favorite destination. You’ll never know what local farms and gluten free treats may be lurking in your area… until you do a search for them! Enjoy, and I’d love to hear about what you find!

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