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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this! It was such a wonderful evening. I wonder why there is no picture of Elvis...