Eighteen years ago, bean purveyor Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo harvested his first heirloom bean – Rio Zape.
“They were pretty and easy to grow but I had no idea what to expect when I cooked them, says Sando. “They were similar to the pintos I liked but there was so much more going on. Hints of chocolate and coffee mixed with an earthy texture made my head spin.”
From that moment, Sando devoted himself to proving that beans are the perfect side dish and heirlooms deserve their moment in the spotlight as the star and not just as another ingredient. And people agreed that heirloom beans were worth saving, growing and cooking.
For Sando the importance of preserving heirloom beans goes farther than taste alone. The company efforts to help small Mexican farmers continue to grow their indigenous crops is the result of teaming up with Xoxoc to create the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project. “The amazing thing about this project has been that everybody seems to be thriving,” says Sando. “ Instead of growing bland, hybrid crops for international markets, farmers can continue to grow the varieties they know best, often varieties that have been grown for generations. And Rancho Gordo customers now have access to many completely obscure and wonderful beans that would be almost impossible to try otherwise.
“It’s a tiny little miracle, you take this thing that is like a rock and you turn it into something that is creamy and delicious. To this day, every time I cook a pot, in the end it’s so great,” he says.
On Sunday, July 8, Alta Baja will host the first-ever Rancho Gordo supper in Southern California. The event will feature three courses prepared by Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando’s favorite chingón restaurateurs: Delilah Snell and Richard Lu (Alta Baja and Electric City Butcher), Evan Kleiman (Angeli Caffe and KCRW’s Good Food) and Carlos Salgado (Taco Maria and LA Times 2018 Restaurant of the Year). Each course will highlight different Mexican heirloom beans offered by Rancho Gordo.
A dinner like this doesn’t happen every day. “It’s a mutual admiration society of everybody and it’s a tribute to all these people – it’s only this group that could motivate me and it’s really fun that it’s all coming together,” says Sando.
All proceeds of the supper will go to the arts program at Valley High School in Santa Ana (and there will be a art exhibit on display to enjoy with your meal). In addition, you can also purchase a copy of the new Rancho Gordo cookbook “The Rancho Gordo Vegetarian Kitchen” and have it signed. There will be two seatings for the supper, the first at 3 p.m. and the second at 5 p.m. To attend the supper, call Alta Baja Market to process your reservation and payment over the phone, or stop by the store and make your reservation and payment in person. See you there!
Alta Baja Market, 201 E 4th St., Santa Ana, (714) 783-BAJA; www.altabajamarket.com.
Cynthia Rebolledo covers anything and everything food, culture and spirits.