Archive for April, 2008
Harley Farms, Pescadero, CA

It may start to seem like Kathy and I do nothing but cheese-related events, but this is not true. Currently we are not in production-mode with the theatre company, so we have only our day jobs keeping us busy.

Thanks to CSAA’s VIA Magazine (California State Automobile Association; Northern California’s Triple-A), and an article about Pescadero, California (only about an hour’s drive from San Francisco), we were reminded of Harley Farms’ excellent goat milk cheeses that we tried at the beginning of April at the California Artisan Cheese Guild’s fundraising event at the San Francisco Cheese School. Sunday’s weather (April 27th, 2008) was absolutely perfect. Kathy called ahead to see if we could take the farm’s tour (by reservation), but naturally with perfect weather, AND the article in Via just having come out, the tour was booked solid. Harley Farms

Artisan cheese making is not an easy task, and to be successful it takes not only a desire to make great cheese, but also a great business sense. I’m under the distinct impression that Harley Farm’s founder, Dee Harley, has a lot of both.  The goat milk cheeses from Harley’s are amongst the the freshest local cheeses I have had in quite awhile. Naturally all of the milk must be pasteurized since U.S. regulations require 60 days of aging for any raw milk cheeses [don't forget to attend the Commonwealth Club's Panel Discussion on Raw Milk Cheeses on May 19th, 2008 if this subject interests you], but the fact that the milk is freshly provided right there from Harley Farm its self, it makes a huge difference in taste of these young cheeses. Also, by using the milk only from their own goats, the farm is able to control the quality of the milk. This is not only by maintaining the health of the goat herd, but also by regulating exactly what the herd eats. The fresh ocean Kathy in front of Harley Farmair (the beach is only 2.4 miles away) also ultimately plays a part in the taste of the end product.

Despite not having the chance to take the tour (this time), Kathy and I found Harley Farm’s store to be very inviting. Artisan goat milk cheese is by no means inexpensive, but you truly get what you pay for. After sampling everything (perhaps twice), Kathy and I agreed to get some fresh Ricotta, and a cranberry walnut topped 7-inch round of their firmer goat cheese. We’ve got a bit of a stock-pile of cheese in the fridge at home right now. If you know us, you might want to invite yourself over for to share a cheese plate with us…

Some of Harley Farms Cheese Varieties  Flowered Cheeses

As I hope the pictures illustrate, the farm and the 1910 buildings are as inviting as theyDuarte's Tavern are picturesque. Pescadero, small as it is, has a lot to offer. Besides Harley Farms, I also strongly suggest making a stop at Duarte’s Tavern. If going for dinner, call for a reservation. Duarte’s is one of those excellent road-side restaurants which has made a name for its self by serving excellently prepared foods, and uses locally grown and produced foods. Since Pescadero is surrounded by some of California’s best artichokes, be sure to try some there as it comes into season. For me, any restaurant where I can have a martini in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other is pure perfection. Duarte’s is also one of the only nearby places I can think of that bakes up fresh olallieberry pies, so if you can’t get a table, think about getting a pie to bring home (and don’t forget to serve cheese with the pie!).

As a last thought to this post, I leave you with a bit of Spring; the video below is of baby kid goats running at Haley Farm.

“I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With”

WARNING: The movie, “I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” (2006), contains very little cheese.

“I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With” written, directed, and staring Jeff Garlin (you may know him from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” as Larry David’s agent), is a bitter-sweet story of a man hoping to find companionship. Kathy and I caught the film last year during its limited run, and no, we  didn’t see it just due to the title.

Truth is, I enjoyed this film very much. Although the film is marketed as a comedy, it is actually a remake of the academy award winning film “Marty” (1955). Garlin’s story does not hide this fact at all, including a running plot line that a remake of “Marty” is being produced in his city (Chicago). Despite not being a comedy per se, there were a few moments of pure genius which had me laughing uproariously. If, however, you rent this film in order to see cheese, or comedy, you will be sorely disappointed. You will, however, get to enjoy a sincere film well acted by a great number of comedians [Amy Sedaris, Sarah Silverman, Dan Castellaneta (voice of Homer Simpson) & Richard Kind, just to name a few].


Sunday Evening’s Cheese Plate (last Sunday; 4/27/08)

One of the many cheese tips which is both practical as well as true is to; “buy small amounts (or the amount you need) as close in time as you plan to eat it as possible.” This is particularly true of any cheeses which are cut from a larger piece or wheel. Your local cheese store should have the more ideal conditions to keep cheeses as fresh as possible than you would at home, so to avoid spoilage, undesired molds, or a change in the intended taste, follow the tip in bold above.

That said, I don’t always follow this tip as well as I should. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach (and often bigger than my wallet too), and at any given moment I may have anywhere from five to fifteen different cheeses waiting to be consumed at home. Ultimately I end up either making fondues, and/or asking Kathy if she’d mind us having a cheese dinner.

Here is this past Sunday’s fare:

Sunday's Plate of Cheese 4-27-08

Starting from the top (12 o’clock) and moving clockwise, here are the foods and cheeses you see above:  Summer sausage, Fresh Goat Milk Ricotta (bought on Sunday) from Harley Farms in Pescadero (CA), Shaft’s Bleu Vein Cheese (aged over one year. from Cedar Ridge, CA), domestic Habanero Pepper Jack Cheese from Rumiano’s, and lastly, Queso Ibores brought to us directly from Spain by my brother and sister-in-law. I guess I should mention that it is kalamata olives in the center of the dish. A fresh loaf of french bread which we picked up in Half Moon Bay at a bakery accompanied the meal.

The nicest surprise of the cheese plate was the Blue cheese from Shaft’s. Aged as long as it was, it had a rich taste but also a delicious creaminess which made it possible to spread easily onto bread. We currently have two other blue cheeses in the fridge, but I had been meaning to give this one a try since we got it. Although I love to be challenged by intense and strong blue cheeses, this was perfect as more of a meal-time cheese than a cheese to be enjoyed on its own. The natural rind of Queso Ibores is often rubbed with oil, ours had smoked paprika. Although it adds a little heat to the rind of the cheese, it is a sweet heat, unlike the domestic Habanero Jack we were enjoying. The Jack I put on our plate was mainly to accompany the summer sausage, as the other three cheeses needed no accompaniment to be enjoyed. Heavenly, and might I say “fluffy”, was the goat milk Ricotta. I have several pictures and some comments to write about our visit to Harley Farms, so that, like all the remaining cheeses in my fridge, will need to keep until I can get to it.

Helge Schneider – Käsebrot

While living and studying in Germany, Kathy and I became quite accustomed to being able to buy good quality bread on almost any corner, and were also thrilled that even malls tended to have cheese stores in them.

An often consummed snack or late dinner in Germany is Käsebrot, which typically simply refrences a sandwich of cheese. Two slices of bread, some butter, and some cheese. There’s also Fleischbrot, which is, you guessed it; a couple slices of bread, some butter and some meat. It is as if they never thought of putting both meat and cheese on the same sandwich. Or using any of the many wonderful mustards that Germany produces (reserved for Wurst, perhaps). Although you won’t find a Dagwood-style sandwich in Germany (unless you make one yourself), the quality of cheese you’ll commonly have for a Käsebrot puts almost any American sandwich shop to shame.

Without getting too much into a description of Helge Schneider, one of my favorite dADaIsTiC jazz mucisans/comedians, I’ll just say that the song on the YouTube below is his homage to Käsebrot. If you do not speak German, don’t care for dadaism, or comical jazz, then it may not be to your liking. If, however, you enjoy a bit of frivolity (this is the same musciain who wrote a hit song titled; “Cat Toliet” (”Katzenklo”), please enjoy. I’ll paste lyrics for “Käsebrot” below (in German).  Enjoy.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot,
super sexy Käsebrot.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot, Kä- Kä- Käsebrot,
sexy, sexy Käsebrot.

Butterbrot ind Quark,
schmecken sicher gut,
doch das Käsebrot
geht direkt ins Blut.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot, Kä- Kä- Käsebrot,
super sexy Käsebrot.

Schmeichelhaft – wie es da liegt
auf dem Tisch, neben Kakao.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot, Kä- Kä- Käsebrot,
sexy, sexy Käsebrot.

Zeitungsinserate liegen auf dem Tisch,
doch ein Stückchen Käse
schmeckt auch gut zu Fisch.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
super sexy Käsebrot.

Auf der ganzen Welt
wird sehr viel verzehrt,
Doch ein richtiges Käsebrot
wird regelrecht verehrt.

Käsebrot – lecker und gut.
Käsebrot – sexy, sexy.
Käsebrot, Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot, Kä- Kä- Käsebrot,
sexy, sexy Käsebrot.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Super, super, super sexy Käsebrot.

Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot.
Käsebrot – ist ein gutes Brot,
sexy, sexy Käsebrot.

Panel May 19th: Cheese in the Raw: Evaluating Risks and Rewards

Monday, May 19th, 2008, 6:30pm at San Francisco’s Ferry Building (Port Commission Hearing Room, 2nd floor), is the Panel Discussion: Cheese in the Raw: Evaluating Risks and Rewards [thank you Anna, for alerting me about this]. It is hosted by the Commonwealth Club, and costs $15 (includes some cheese sampling).Jeremiah Owyang's picture of the SF Ferry Building

Can’t seem to link directly to the panel information, so follow THIS LINK to the commonwealth Club Website, then scroll to ” 5/19 Panel: Cheese in the Raw” in their Online Calendar for complete details.

Love to see you all there, cheese enthusiasts, so be sure to get tickets soon if you are interested.

[Photo by Jeremiah Owyang. Used by Permission]

Redwood Hill Farm’s Tour [Part 2]

Part One may be read by clicking HERE.

Attention! If it is still Spring of 2008, you may have a chance to take this tour yourself in Sebastopol, California. Remaining dates are: Saturday & Sunday, May 3rd & 4th, as well as Saturday and Sunday May 31st and June 1at. CLICK HERE for a .pdf flier about the tours.

After departing the Creamery, we drove the short distance (less than 5 miles) to Redwood Hill’s Farm. The farm is one of the most picturesque you could hope to see. It was exactly as their name suggests; surrounded by redwoods, on a hill. What also impressed me was that the buildings were all painted in red and white. It took a moment, but I realized that the association of barns to this color scheme is, for me, primarily due to a Fisher-Price farm toy set I had as a toddler.

Redwood Hill Farm Fisher Price Farm Set

            The goats were certainly the emphasis of this part of the tour. Although some of the creamery’s products were on display for tasting, I didn’t get the impression any could be bought at the farm. An excellent and well-informed staff was around to answer any and all of our questions concerning the goats, their care and the operation of the farm. Claiming no expertise concerning goat care and/or animal husbandry, I was glad the staff of the farm was so friendly and eager to answer any of our questions. As with any milk-producing farm, great care is taken concerning the health and sanitary conditions. Milked twice a day, we were told tha the goats eagerly line themselves up at 6am and 5pm each day (they receive some additional tasty feed while in the milking room).

Kathy with Goat

 The Farm portion of the tour is excellent for children and families for an excellent hands on understanding of milk production. We were fortunate to get there early, as the farm was opening for the tours, I can well imagine that it got pretty busy later in the day.

Anna with Baby Goat

 While in the milking room I asked how many gallons of milk were produced a day, and doing some quick math I realized that less than 10% of Redwood Hill Farms milk for the creamery was produced by their own goats. Although the majority of the milk is from other farms, they are all from the area, and as stated before, all from farms which are HFAC certified. The milk mixes as it is transported from the various farms to the creamery.  The approach of taste and quality control for cheese producers often varies by the size of the operation. Since no two batches of milk are never exactly the same, it is possible to have different tasting cheeses depending an any manner of factors from time of year to what the animals have been eating.

Ace SamplerWhen we finished at the Farm, we made our way over to the the Ace Cider Pub for lunch. It stands about half-way between Redwood Hill’s creamery and farm. Ace’s Pear Cider is commonly found, on tap, at many restaurants and taverns in the Bay Area, but this was an opportunity to try their other products.

 The various ciders were good, and I did find one which was as close to the taste of German Apfelwein, but not close enough for me to buy any to bring home. The lunch portion of our visit left a lot to be desired, I regret to say. We all agreed that Ace’s ciders may be best enjoyed with foods that you prepare yourself.

Overall, the trip was excellent, and should you be able to take Redwood Hill Farm’s tour, I highly recommend it. If you miss is, their products may be found at a great many stores, particularly in the Bay Area. Use their store locator, or order from them directly on the Internet.

[Thanks to Anna & Jeff for the last two photos on this post.]


Pickle Your Knees…

Grant, of the San Francisco based band Mandible Chatter, kindly sent a YouTube link by Ivor Cutler.

It combines a bit of dADaIsM, a little bit of reference to cheese, and I feel that the performer (Ivor Cutler) sounds a bit like Helge Schneider. Thanks, Grant! 


Redwood Hill Farm’s Creamery Tour [Part 1]

Farm Tour Sign

Thanks to the California Artisan Cheese Guild’s fundraising event at the San Francisco Cheese School, on Friday, April 4th, 2008, Kathy & I were fortunate to meet the General Manager of Redwood Hill Farm, Jennifer Lynn Bice.  Besides trying the several varieties of  Redwood Hill’s excellent goat milk cheeses, we learned that the farm and creamery would be having their annual farm and creamery tours. Convincing our good friends Anna and Jeff Jeff at Milk Receiving Dockto accompany us (despite the early morning departure) was an easy task, particularly since we’d also be able to also go to the Ace Cider Pub for lunch, which they had been meaning to visit. 


Friends, food, travel… and CHEESE. What else could you need? Not wanting to arrive at the creamery hungry, we picked up some pastries at La Boulangerie de Polk in San Francisco (one of the few places in the Bay Area to have a croque-monsieur at a reasonable price), and made our way over the Golden Gate to Sebastopol (about an hour and fifteen minute drive from San Francisco).  


For me, a trip to a creamery is not unlike a pilgrimage. Although I didn’t expect everyone in the car to feel that way, I knew they understood. Anna & Jeff, for example, are well versed about Belgian  Beers, and once took a trip there almost primarily for the chance to enjoy them in the country of origin.  


The first thing that impressed me about Redwood Hill’s creamery was the sheer size of the operation. Jennifer Lynn Bice in the Cheese For an artisan-style cheese and yogurt creamery, they are producing quite a lot. Their facilities can currently handle about 7,000 gallons of goat milk, and on a typical day they receive about 6,000 gallons. Although Redwood Hill Farm does produce some of the milk for their creamery, they acquire the majority of the milk in the area from a number of farms. The humane treatment of the goats providing Redwood Hill Farm’s milk takes a top priority [the farm’s goats are HFAC certified (“Certified Humane Raised and Handled”)]. This is not surprising since Jennifer Lynn Bice’s initial efforts at her family’s farm were in raising award-winning show goats. Yogurt and cheese production were natural additions to Jennifer’s work with the farm’s goats. Aging CamelliaAlthough both Proprietor and General Manager, Jennifer is not alone in her work; many (if not all) of her eight siblings are, or have been, involved in helping make the farm’s output a success.


Kathy protects her shoesThe tour of the creamery consisted of two parts; the yogurt production, and the cheese production. Although conducted separately, both were very informative. They were, however, given at a break-neck speed. The basics were all there, and as any tour of a creamery will attract everyone from novices to experts concerning the ins and outs of milk processing, I wish I could have had another 20 minutes on each tour to ask all of the questions which came to mind. We were fortunate after the tour though, to speak with Jennifer at length. We thanked her again for opening up the creamery and farm for this yearly tour; it’s remarkable to see just where and how these wonderful products are produced. Anytime Kathy and I are going to be traveling, I search the internet to see if there are any creameries or good cheese shops along the way. This may not everyone’s idea of tourism, but it has often affected our travel plans. I recommend getting on Redwood Hill Farm’s mailing list so that you’ll know when they have their farm tour. [LINK TO CONTACT PAGE for Redwood Hill Farm]


Cheese SamplesNaturally we picked up some up some goat-milk yogurt for home, as well as a sample pack of three of their cheeses.  My favorite of what we sampled was their Camellia, which is a goat milk Camembert. Anna and Jeff were partial to California Crottin, and Kathy loves the goat milk yogurt which is much easier to digest then cow milk yogurts.


…Next entry will cover the farm portion of the tour. [PART 2]

[there are two more weekends of the farm tours. Click here for details]

Feta Moussaka & Swiss Vacherin Fribourgeois

Any day that your sweetie calls you at work and says; “I picked up some cheese for you,” is a great day.

Feta MoussakaKathy had run several errands on Wednesday and had prepared an excellent dinner for us, a vegetarian Feta-Mushroom Moussaka from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. Kathy felt that the balance of feta to mushrooms was off, and that it needed more mushrooms. Too much cheese? Is that possible? Honestly, I don’t know what feta Kathy used, except that she bought it at Trader Joe’s.

Will be enjoying some of this for lunch today too.

It was a dairy-infused evening, actually, because Kathy also picked up some Raw Milk Swiss Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco for me as a surprise [FYI: $15.99 a pound]. Raw Milk Swiss Vacherin FribourgeoisAlthough the “Pack Date” was listed as April 17th, we’re not sure how long it had been since it was cut from the wheel…  The cheese was reaching a state of just starting to turn. As you may know, you always want to slice cheese from larger wheels (for purchase) as close to when you plan to consume it as possible. Exposing surfaces of brined cheeses expedites their spoilage and can also change the character of their taste.

Vacherin Fribourgeois can be excellent in fondue, but we choose instead to snack on it as is, and I also melted some this morning onto some German Schwartzbrot.

Last night was two-for-one night at Oakland’s Parkway Theatre, so we finally got around to seeing “Die Fälscher” (”The Counterfeiters”). Well made, thought provoking and yes; depressing. Our spirits were greatly improved after some desert that Kathy prepared. Goat milk vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and brown sugar. The yogurt was purchased during our tour of the Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery. I hope to get a posting up this week from that excursion.  …Time to have some leftover Moussaka. Please comment if you feel so inclined.

Fresh curds. Bear with me; just getting started.

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