Yesterday, we decided to take our friend Charles and go roaming the "Other Valley" aka, Napa. After getting our passports in order and making sure we had all our shots, we set out on our trek. The object of our mission was to make a pilgrimage to two legendary foodie shrines. Shackfords' Kitchen Store
and Rancho Gordo.
No sooner had I put a Facebook notice up about my trip to Rancho Gordo, then I had a message from old Santa Monica pal and Kensington Dog Park crony Dianne Lange, asking me if Rancho Gordo was a real place. She'd thought it was just a bean company. Yes Dianne, there is a Rancho Gordo and it's great!
I'd wanted to get over there for quite a while. After meeting Steve Sando a couple of weeks ago at the Epicurian Connection here in Sonoma and buying and cooking some of his beans, I decided to see for myself what this mystical bean palace in Napa was all about.
There was also another reason. When I lived in LA full time, I haunted a place called Surfas. It was for me bar none, the greatest restaurant and culinary supply store I'd ever been in. I could be found there most weekends and before any studio meetings that were nearby. It's just down the road from Sony Pictures which made it very, very convenient.
Every time we go to LA on business, I make a stop there and bring back what I need. I'd been looking for something similar here without going all the way to San Francisco or Oakland. I'd heard about Shackfords and was eager to get over there and see it for myself.
While not as large as Surfas by any means (after all this is Wine Country we're talking about not LA) it still had a whole lot of stuff a cook might want at pretty good prices.
I knew we weren't far from Rancho Gordo, so I decided to consult Lord Google and the GPS on my iPhone. Lord Google directed me to Industrial Road. I found myself passing trailer parks and empty spaces. According to my Google directions Rancho Gordo was somewhere near a spaying and neutering clinic. Hmmm, I thought. Both Paula Wolfert and Judy Witts Francini have given cooking demos out here. That must have been interesting for them.
Pretty soon I found myself in an empty parking lot near a deserted storefront, part of an industrial block. There was no Rancho Gordo, Lord Google was...WRONG!
I quickly whipped out my iPhone and called Rancho Gordo where Linda directed me to the proper address. It turned out to be just a couple of blocks from Shackfords!
We arrived at the proper address in a few minutes and entered a wonderful world of heirloom beans, grains, corn, cookbooks, chocolate, Mexican movie posters from bygone days and clay pots.
I was in bean heaven. Steve Sando has gathered the best of the lost world of beans and made them available to everyone.
I chatted with Linda behind the counter about cooking and food, and she told me Diana Kennedy was going to be visiting Rancho Gordo soon. I grabbed my basket and selected some large, meaty dark red Ayocoto Morado beans, some Premium Crimson popping corn for Alan (no hulls, no sticky bits in the teeth!) and chocolate with guajillo chili.
So Dianne, when you visit Sonoma next time, we'll take a bean tour. All you have to do is click your ruby slippers together three times and say there's nothing like beans, there's nothing like beans, there's nothing like beans.