Friday, July 25, 2008

Olallieberries, goat cheese and beans in Pescadero, California

Photo of olallieberriesTwo weeks ago I went on a olallieberry picking trip to the coast of San Mateo County near Pescadero. The berries are grown by Swanton Berry Farm, a farm that is known for organic strawberries and having a unionized workforce, on some land to the north of their strawberry fields (The company's history and agricultural methods are surveyed in a chapter of Samuel Fromartz's Organic, Inc. and in one of my posts at The Ethicurean). Olallieberries were created in the mid-20th century in Oregon by crossing the youngberry and the loganberry; "Olallie" means "berry" in a Native American language of the Pacific Northwest (Wikipedia says it is "Chinook jargon").

I converted most of them were used into jam (following a recipe for mixed-berry jam on Epicurious), others became into a syrup for drinks, and the last cup was baked into Heidi Swanson's salt-kissed buttermilk cake.

You can read more about olallieberries on Swanton's web site or at In Praise of Sardines, which is written by Brett, a professional chef who is opening a new restaurant in San Francisco this year. His fondness of olallieberries is so great that he almost named the restaurant Olallie. (After much deliberation and a long on-line naming exercise, he chose the name Contigo.)

Photo of olallieberries
After picking, we went into the town of Pescadero to visit Harley Farms Goat Milk Dairy to see the goats and taste some cheese. They make great cheese, including a feta that is sharper than Redwood Hill's and a rich goat-milk ricotta.

Photo of goats at Harley Farms, Pescadero
The little structure on which a goat is standing in the photo below seemed to be a coveted spot among the goats. It reminds me of one of the episodes of the often extraordinary radio program called Radiolab (from WNYC). In that episode, the narrator recalls a time when he was driving down Highway 101 and saw a goat standing on a cow. The sight was so shocking that he pulled off the highway to take another look. He ended up finding a box of 50 year old letters from a woman to soldiers stationed overseas during WWII. The episode tells her story as the producers try to find her relatives to return the documents. It's a great piece of radio. (You can download or stream the episode at Radiolab.)

Photo of goats at Harley Farms, Pescadero

I've been going to Pescadero a few times a year for the past few years (the coastline is an amazing place to watch nature, with seals, birds, and other creatures), usually arriving via Highway 92 in Half Moon Bay (the fastest way when traffic is light) and coming back via the backroads. On the way to the backroads, I always pass a place called Phipps Country Store, but never managed to stop. This time, however, we were a leisurely mood. Phipps has a little farm animal zoo with some beautiful chickens (and some funny-looking ones too, like the pair that looked like a little like Tina Turner on a bad hair day). In the store they sell myriad beans, some of which are grown by them, others obtained from outside sources (they post a list in the bean area that tells which are grown at Phipps Ranch and which are from outside suppliers). The bean fields at this time of year are quite lovely, as you can see in the photo. They also have "U-Pick" berries during various times of the year.

Photo of bean plants at Phipps Ranch


Random link from the archive: Drink Locally - Reading U.S. Wine Labels

Technorati tags: California : berries : cheese : vegetarian : Food

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where I've been

Photo of Wagon Train from Wikimedia Commons
Mental Masala has been dark lately because I've been busy with projects on other blogs.

I'll be contributing some posts to the Slow Food Nation blog during the summer. The collection of authors is impressive and diverse, so be sure to add it to your RSS feed or reading list. I'm quite happy with my latest post, which is about eating during the California Gold Rush. I also wrote about a San Francisco company that will turn your backyard into a vegetable garden and do all of the maintenance and harvesting for a weekly fee (the garden owner gets to keep all of the vegetables).

Over at the Ethicurean, I reviewed a research paper that examined whether reducing food miles or changing one's diet is the more effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I also have something about Wal-Mart's new local foods gambit (Tom Philpott's take on the subject is worth reading too), bioplastics (i.e., plastic-like substances that are compostable under the right conditions), and worker safety -- or the lack thereof -- in the poultry industry.

Finally, at Eat Local Challenge, I have some words and pictures from a tour of Eatwell Farms in Northern California. Below are two photos, the first of a field of lavender (Eatwell sells lavender for use in body products and foods), the second of this year's wheat harvest.

Photo of lavender field at Eatwell Farm in California


Photo of 19th century wagon train from Wikimedia Commons. Photo of lavender field at Eatwell Farm by the author.



Random link from the archive: The Indian Restaurant Menu

Technorati tags: Food