Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meeting Lowell Herrero



The first Lowell Herrero painting I saw was in form of a cow calendar at a friends house in Canada.
I was immediately drawn not only to the cow, but how it was painted: big, oversized but enormously friendly and calm. So I began to look out for Lowell Herreros paintings, especially for the cows of course, that just lies in my nature..., but also for his other work.
Trying to explain what fascinates me about his paintings is not an easy task. For one, in our ever so hectic and bustling world his art emanates a comforting calmness. His oversized figures, human or animal, have a certain soothing effect to me. They are so down-to-earth, pure, contained within themselves, joyous and content. There is no stress, running and disharmony. Everything is as it is supposed to be, natural!
Then the colors! I am a color person, you will hardly find any black&white photography in my work. Looking at Lowells colorful paintings opens my heart. Just look at the luscious lavender or even better the cadmium orange, my absolute favorite.

Now my good fortune had it, that my dear friend and fellow photographer Cherie made it possible for me to actually meet Lowell Herrero in person.
On a recent trip to the Napa Valley we drove to Calistoga and the home of the Herreros.

Even standing at the gate I realized, everything here is breathing and living art. Then the gate opens and and one feels transported right into an Italian estate. Nestled in a lush olive grove lies a beautiful Tuscan farm house solely designed by Lowell Herrero. And again, art is everywhere, iron and copper statues of typical Herrero women stand on ladders and seem to harvest olives of the trees, and other smaller sculptures line the way.
I was beginning to feel a bit nervous, I was about to meet an artist whose art I'm admiring since over a decade. But Cherie left me no time to ponder by jumping out of the car and walking right into the outstretched arms of Janet, Lowell Herrero's wife. After a short introduction and a warm welcome extended to me, we entered Lowells' studio.

Lowell, who was in the process of designing and painting Halloween costumes for his wife and himself, greeted us with glee and welcomed us in his realm.

My eyes darted between the artist and all the wonderful original painting. I had a hard time concentrating at first because it was such a visual overload. The Herreros, obviously used to the overwhelming effect the studio has on visitors, began to debate teasingly about the design of their costumes and gave me time to look at all the paintings. What an experience to suddenly see the originals of artwork one has only seen in books or on the computer. Not only that, but also to see some work in progress, to see how much thought and work goes in it.
For the moment I was speechless.

But it got even better, Janet showed us through their house with many more originals and shared the stories of various paintings with us. What a treat. And again, everything breathed art. The Herreros not only are artists, they collect the art of other artists, too. To walk through their home is like a stroll through a personal museum, just better.

Back at the studio I had the chance to chat more with Lowell, this time with all my attention, about his travel to Europe and about how his art evolved over the years. Originally we had only planned to stay a few minutes, and suddenly we realized it was getting dark and we had spent hours!

We left with a bottle of original Herrero Olive Oil, a warm hug and unforgettable memories.

Thank you Janet and Lowell for this memorable afternoon!

Please check out Lowell Herreros' website at :

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Harley Farms Autumn Dinner

My dear friend Monika and I are both long time fans of Dee Harleys' award winning goat cheese, and as we read the following excerpt from the Harley Farms website, we became curious and secured us a space at one of the Autumn Dinners last Saturday.

"On our funny, intimate tour of the farm, allow us to introduce your guests to our milking herd of American Alpine goats, our restored Victorian milking parlor, and our world medal-winning dairy.
Gaze over the pastures and gardens as you nibble our cheeses on the hayloft balcony. Draw up your folk-art chair to our astonishing long barn table as you're served local (10-mile radius) and seasonal foods cooked in the farm kitchen.
Almost all of our food grew in the farm gardens or once grazed the pastures, and is served on our handmade Harley Farms pottery service and pewter goblets. The owls will be hooting over the barn long before you're ready to leave! Rustic charm is never this real."

With an empty stomach but full of anticipation we arrived at Harley Farms right around 4 pm, in spite of the pouring rain. This friendly sign ushered us inside the warm and cozy shop, where we were to meet our fellow diners.

Before the official start we had plenty of time to taste all the different kinds of cheese and were offered a delicious hot apple cider. Exactly the right drink for the all too early autumnal weather.

The store sells not only cheese, but also herb infused oils and vinegars...

... and luxurious body (and soul) creams, lotions and soaps.

After a brief but thorough introduction to the farm and its history our knowledgeable guide Janet led us on towards the barn. Usually the guests would stroll out to the goats in the pasture, but since neither the goats nor we liked the rain too much we took a stroll down the "food alley" of the stable. It is breeding time right now and hence the goats are with the billy goat, which was rather obvious to the nose...Janet had warned us...and also explained, that they are only together during this short period of the breeding season to avoid having the cheese smell, well, like a billy goat.

Meet the girls:

While Janet endured patiently Elvis', the billy goat, advances, she explained the ins and outs of the daily chores with the goat farm. And we had plenty of time to interact with the cute and friendly female (= not stinky) goats

Ahhh, the fresh air after the stables was sure nice...! After washing our hands we stepped into the milk parlour and got an introduction into the milking process. Since the goats are right now only milked once a day, we didn't see the actual milking, but got a good idea of the procedure.

Following the "milk pipe" we went from the milk parlour to the dairy. But before we could enter the holy hall, we had to put on some snazzy hair nets. This alone put a smile on everybody's face, which only widened after we saw that there were more cheese samples waiting for us.
Janet explained how the milk gets pasteurized, slow not flash, to preserve the aroma and how then the different cheese are made out of this milk. Also how sustainable this dairy is working: Usually it would take hundreds of gallons to help produce the cheese every day, but Harley Farms uses a closed system, so the water can be used over and over again for one whole year, instead of being wasted on a daily basis. They even collect the whey, which drains from the cheese, and have the goats drink it. A delicacy for them and nothing goes to waste.
We tried, now more aware and appreciative, the four different award winning Harley Farms cheeses: The signature chevre, the fromage blanc, which is essentially the same cheese, just not as well drained and therefor more spreadable; the brined feta and of course the fresh ricotta.

The dairy was the last step of the farm tour and so, after we returned our lovely hairnets, we climbed up the stairs to the converted hayloft. A magnificent table beautifully laid out with hand made pewter dishes and decorated lovingly with flowers awaited us. The table was made locally from one single tree and seats twenty comfortably on high backed, also locally hand made, chairs.

We all found our place at the long table and mingled with other cheese enthusiasts as suddenly a heavenly smell filled the air. Dee's son, who also faithfully updated the Giants fans, brought in freshly clay oven baked pizza for appetizer. I can't recall all the different toppings, my favorite was one with pesto, and, of course, goat cheese:

The tasty pizza was followed by a spicy roasted vegetable soup, served here by Dee Harley

Before every course Dee would explain to us, what we were about to eat and where it came from. It was really amazing to me, that she and her team could put together this fantastic gourmet menu and all ingredients were planted or raised and harvested in her garden or just around the little town of Pescadero. Showing and proving to us, that it is not necessary to fly or truck in food from far away places, it's right here and plenty of it!

Then my absolute favorite dish of the evening entered the stage: Harley Farms Goat Cheese Ravioli with fried sage in a browned butter sauce....melted in my mouth...hmmmm sooo good. Sorry, no picture, I was too busy with eating...

After this culinary climax, the main course, duck over seasonal vegetable and rosemary potatoes and for the vegetarians, filled butternut squash, sprinkled with lots of goat cheese combined with seasonal vegetable and rosemary potatoes had a hard time competing. But,of course, it lived up to all expectations and was delicious!

And for desert: Baked pear over marzipan rounds with berry syrup drizzle and ginger snaps

Although I thought, I was absolutely stuffed, as Dee came around to offer bits of her chocolate brittle to go with the tea or coffee, I could not resist...

In short: An exceptional dinner experience right to my taste and a successful continuation of my quest for more "food awareness" (see October Conservation tips)

A must for every goat cheese lover!

Check out the 2011 dinner schedule:

For more information regarding the farm, the farm tours and the farm dinners, click here for the Harley Farm website.

A big thank you to Dee and all the dedicated staff for this unforgettable and insightful evening.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October Conservation Tip


How often are we actually thinking about what we eat?

How often do we read the labels on the food items we buy?

How often do we buy processed food, because it is so convenient?

How often does our appetite versus our better knowledge decide what we eat?

It started all with a simple question from our younger son, as he was reading the ingredient list of one of his cereal cartons: " Mom, what is Polydextrose and Turmeric Oleoresin? " Being able to explain that Polydextrose is a form of sugar was as far as I got, and I have a degree in Veterinary I had a closer look and discovered that the cereal that is called Fruity Pebbles actually contained not even a milligram of anything even close to a fruit.
Ok, I thought, that's easy to fix, just read the labels, buy food as unprocessed as possible and only if you can pronounce the ingredients...That's easy and all is fine.
So far, so good.
Then I read a book report about a book called: " Eating Animals".
Being already "food alert" through the former episode, I decided to read it and it quite triggered a research and thought avalanche.
What I realized by reading and researching about this particular branch of the food industry was shocking, mildly put.
So I thought I put together the material I read and watched, and hope to get you interested in doing some reading, too.


"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer has a little trailer for that: Eating Animals Trailer

"Farm Sanctuary" by Gene Baur
Very inspiring, check out their website at

"Dominion" by Matthew Scully
I just begun to read this book, so I can't really say much, but it starts very interesting...

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan will think back to above mentioned Fruity Pebbles...
Check out his website for more info: The Omnivore's Dilemma

"Slow Death by Rubber Duck" by Dr. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
This book is not only about food, but all the "other" dangers in our every day life, that I bet most of us are not aware of.


Food Inc.
See their website for more info and a trailer: Hungry For Change

Meet your meat
I needed a few attempts until I could watch the whole movie, although it's only 12 minutes long. Please do not watch it with little kids around you. I dearly hope what is shown in this movie, although unforgivable and unforgettable, is only the extreme and not the standard.


Animal Welfare Approved

American Humane Association


There are many more books, movies and website out there, I just put together the ones I read and saw and thought they are the most informative.

In the end, after doing all this research, I came to the conclusion that if we accept the quote : We are what we eat, then we need to decide: Who do we want to be?"

I decided for myself, and I would be curious to hear from you. What do you think, how did or will you decide?

Friday, October 8, 2010

In Memoriam

This last Sunday a dead pregnant blue whale beached at Bean Hollow State Park, a beach just about 20 minutes south of Half Moon Bay.
A very sad incident and only after lot of soul-searching did I decide to put it on my blog.

The examining scientists believe that she died after colliding with an unidentified large ship. They found at least three broken vertebrae and bruises on her belly.
In the last couple of years two to three blue whales died each year on the California coast due to collisions.
That is especially tragic, since blue whales are endangered after being hunted almost to extinction and now are just on the verge of coming back. The blue whale was probably on her way to the Sea of Cortez to give birth.

This particular collision though killed two blue whales, the female and her male baby...
The fetus likely got discharged post mortem due to the gas build up inside the female whale.

her eyes are closed now

baby whale

It was a grim outing, to say the least. Some of the onlookers were as equally sad and upset by the devastation in font of us as I was. Many though, seemed to see this as a variation of an amusement park attraction, which left me really disturbed and...speechless.

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