Living Locally and Gluten-Free Tourism in Half Moon Bay, California- Oasis Foods and Harley Goat Farm
One 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:
This 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*
Harley Farms Goat Dairy
Pescadero, CA 94060
We 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 â€œRent A Goatâ€ 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)
It 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.) And 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 news article on the history of Harley Farms
Read Dee’s blog and experience life on the farm!
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.
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.