Steve Sando is a man who cares about beans.
He briefly describes the genesis of Rancho Gordo on the company’s website, and it’s a story of nonlinear increase in hobby obsession which will resonate with what many of us can recognize in ourselves (or, booze help you, in your geeky partner.)
You know what I mean: for decades you don’t give half a damn about shoes. One day, you’re mildly dissatisfied – you wish your favorite sneakers had shorter laces, perhaps, or that your boots were just a touch lighter. Six months later, you’re almost broke and deeply in debt, raising three species of goat to compare leather quality for making your own shoes. Arguments online about what type of steel to use when forging your own toe protection inserts can reduce you to a quivering rage, stomping around your yard, screeching incoherently.
This deeply upsets the goats, and the leather quality is poor.
Steve was disappointed with the quality of tomatoes available at the grocery even in Napa, California. Now he’s running a business selling heirloom beans and grains mostly from growers in northern California, supplemented by farmers in Peru and Bolivia. If you feel the need for some explanatory steps in the middle of that progression, you’ll probably never find yourself trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the goat. If that sounds like you, you’ll probably enjoy reading Steve as he talks about his beans.
In a culture of mass-produced, packaged authenticity – with varying degrees of success (defined alternately as quality and profit; either fits) – Rancho Gordo stands out as a slick presence without the icky pretense. There’s no motions towards authenticity here. There’s no need. Rancho Gordo beans are available online or at a total of 10 locations throughout the US, or at their local farmer’s market. Show up on Friday for fresh tortillas. This is far from a chain - it's a small group of people doing their best work. Their website is well put-together, visually appealing, and helpful, but you won’t find an up-to-the-second inventory system. Instead, you might find a quick but helpful note when your order arrives – hey, we didn’t have this, but these are close and also really good so we threw them in instead.
As for the beans, it’s easy to dig up glowing reviews online, see which wineries are using Rancho Gordo beans in their post-tasting snacks. As for me, I can tell you – after a life never eating any beans that didn’t start with red and end with the name of a slightly nutty author of vampire novels – I’m excited about beans. All the varieties I’ve tried have been interesting, whether I enjoyed them or not. I’m looking forward to trying new kinds. I give the gift of beans. I highly recommend trying them out.
In addition to the beans, Rancho Gordo sells various grains and spices. I’ve been happy with everything I’ve bought from them, but there’s no doubt that the beans are the main attraction. Also available are an array of recipe ideas and recipes, news on upcoming varieties or how the harvest is coming along, and so on.