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June 2011

Notes from the Road

I've been on a little tour of my native state with my two sons. We're trying to see as many missions as possible. That's the goal. The reality is I love being with them and helping them to know that there is more to summer than hours of X-Box.


After so many great road trips, it's great to travel California and still be impressed. We've had some great food, fairly ok cheap hotels/motels, incredible beaches, fascinating and beautiful missions and so much more.

Montalvo Food and Wine Classic

Last month I served our heirloom beans at the Montalvo Food and Wine Classic in Saratoga. If you live anywhere in the south bay, I suggest you try and go next year.


Dozens of wineries and restaurants are set up in a spectacular setting and you, the guest, get to roam and graze and have a completely swell time.


The weirdly unseasonal rain didn't slow things down a bit. For me, it was fun to visit some place so near that was completely foreign to me.


I served runner cannellini from one of the Puebla clay cazuelas we have, warmed up by little cans of sterno.


I had both sons in tow. Nico likes to help serve.


I was in my area the whole time or I would be able to tell you about all the other participants. I will say the vibe was great and I plan on coming back as a guest next year.


All of the beautiful photos are from Chris Schmauch, GoodEye Photography + Design

More Fun in Kansas City: The Rieger Hotel

The boozy cloud of my Kansas City trip has finally lifted and it's been fun going over my photos. Excuse me for repeating myself, but what a great town.


On the Friday night, we had a special heirloom bean dinner at the Rieger Hotel. Chef Howard Hanna has been making all kinds of noise as the chef of this elegant nightspot. He's an innovative cook with his feet firmly on the ground. I was flattered that he wanted to host a dinner in our honor so we sent the beans on ahead of time so he and his staff could play with them and decide how their menu would work.


We had two long tables set up in a special room for us. I got to meet some longtime online friends for the first time and catch up with some "golden oldies" I hadn't seen for ages. The room and the staff were top notch.


The meal went like this:
Rancho Gordo popcorn with Gremolata
Ceci beans with Mediterranean Spices

Amuse Bouche
Red wine braised Octopus with Alubia Criollo, Bone Marrow puree and cucumber

Scallops, Shrimp, Oysters, Conchas and Citrus

Heirloonm bean Salad, Yellow Indian Woman beans with pecorino and sage, braised Tuscan kale with garbanzo beans

Susan's Meyer Lemon Chiboust, Piloncillo Cake and Canela Whipped Cream.


I wouldn't dream of picking a favorite dish.


The Rieger is for me very rrepresentative of Kansas City. The glory days for the city seem to have been the 1930s and '40s. As the stockyards fell, so did its importance. The good news is there are hundreds of great old buildings waiting to be refurbished and a vibrant counter culture ready to support a clever entrepreneur's efforts. There are a lot of tourists from around the midwest with cargo shorts and t-shirts that say funny things but there are a lot incredibly hip people doing interesting things as well. You add a growing dining scene, the world-famous barbecue, classic jazz and R&B and it all adds up to a real destination.


This last shot is of K.C. native Susan Sanchez (and by coincidence, Rancho Gordo's general manager!), Chef Hanna, Chef Jennifer Maloney of Cafe Sebastienne (more on her later), a "robust" version of me, and Tony Glamcevski of Green Dirt Farm (and more on him to come as well.)

Happy Father's Day

Due to logistics we're celebrating Father's Day today. The youngest admitted all he had was a homemade card and I said that's what I preferred. He said he'd feel burned if that's all he got and I said that one day, he'd understand. (The card, by the way, had the word FATHER translated into about 20 different languages, all thanks to various Google searches. I think he's brilliant.)


Breakfast in bed included a bowl of instant Cream of Wheat and grated Taza chocolate. It was perfect and I'm lucky to have two such perfect sons in such an imperfect world.

I wonder who is going to do the dishes. I wonder if I really wonder.....

Kansas City Barbecue

This post is obviously not for my vegetarian or vegan friends. I may be joining you soon after this week's meat overload!

I spent a really swell four days in Kansas City, hometown to our General Manager, Susan Sanchez. There's a really incredible food scene there but today I want to remember the barbecue. They have a tradition, just like Texas or Memphis, but it's very different and very delicious.


We ate at both Bryant's and L.C.'s and both were great. L.C.'s has the advantage of superior beans. I don't normally love baked beans, BBQ style or not, but these were great.


The secret is that the beans are cooked in a pot right in the smoker with the meat. You can see the pot here on the right.


Less appealing, but more colorful, was the potato salad. Call me a snob, but I just couldn't manage it!


Otherwise, L.C.'s is worthy of your attention when you visit Kansas City. L.C. himself is often there, working in his makeshift office and making sure the all is running smoothly. I think he's my new hero.


One Last Post in Praise of Quinoa

There's no one as obnoxious as the repenting sinner, but I'm just nuts about quinoa. It's healthy, filling, delicious and relatively inexpensive.


Imagine the nutrional powerhouse of chicken stock, beans, quinoa, tomatoes and some potatoes. And it tastes great. You don't get too many deals like that in this life.

As a grain, it's fine but I think quinoa really shines when you use it in a soup like this.

OK- I'll shut up about it, for a while anyway.

Playing Hookey

Yesterday my two sons and I made the trek from Napa to Saratoga (two and a half hours!) and worked the super fancy and fun Montalvo Food and Wine Classic. I am so lucky to have such patient kids! We didn't get back home until almost midnight so today was sleeping in and then a movie (my first, since Yentl, I think) and then our favorite taco truck.


I hope I don't have a lot of driving to do for some time.


Black and White Quinoa

Quinoa is such a funny grain. The first time I ate it I just couldn't understand what the big deal was. It tasted like Lite Couscous to me. Many pots later, I can't get enough of it. It's not as hearty as rice but it's much more delicious and it's quick to make. The only problem is the cream-colored grain is not very exciting on a plate.


I can be as superficial as the next person so what I do is mix our black and white quinoa together to make a much more attractive ingredient. And it still tastes great. The secret is to cook it in lots of boiling, salted water. I start with half a bag of black, as it takes about five minutes longer to cook, and then I add the white and strain the whole thing when the quinoa is finished.

You can use it as a simple grain but more and more I find myself adding it to chicken broth with vegetables. I wouldn't serve it to company but I like it a lot.


Beautiful Bean Sandwich

Steven Callagan was a heavy, unhealthy fellow who completely switched his life around. His new enthusiasm for "right living" is contagious and he's even penned an e-book about his experience.

I asked Steven if he'd share a recipe and what follows is from his email. I think he's pretty inspirtational, and flattering:

I eat two bean sandwiches every day of the week. I eat one for lunch and I eat one on the way home from work. On the weekends, to prep for my bean sandwiches, I cook two pounds of beans and zap them in my food processor, adding just a tiny bit of water at a time, until I have a paste, which I call my bean spread. It would be called hummus if I used chickpeas or garbanzo beans. I like to use at least two different kinds of beans, like Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Beans and Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stallard Beans, so that I can get a variety of nutrients and a combination of flavors all combined into one bean spread.

I use my bean spread just like I used to use peanut butter. I spread my bean spread on whole grain low sodium bread (sometimes I spread my bean spread on both pieces of bread). I sprinkle on some salt free herbs and spices, usually my own blend of rosemary, thyme, sage, and cinnamon that I grind up into a powder with one of those small herb or coffee grinders. I also like to add Rancho Gordo Oregano Indio and Rancho Gordo New Mexican Red Chile Powder to my herb and spice mix when I really want to flavor it up. Then I add some veggies, like lettuce, onion, shredded carrots, cucumber, and tomato. Done. One beautiful bean sandwich ready to eat. Repeat as needed.

I don't cook with salt because salt retains water in my body, which thickens my blood and strains my heart. I don't cook with oil because oil clogs the arteries of my heart and it clogs my cells, preventing my natural insulin from delivering glucose to my cells, leaving the glucose in my blood, raising my blood sugar levels, causing diabetes.

It took six months before I could taste food cooked without salt and oil, eight months before I liked food cooked without salt and oil, and ten months before I preferred food cooked without salt and oil. Now, everything I eat tastes sweet to me. I can even taste the natural sugar that is present in beans. That's right, those beans that tasted so dull and bland to me twenty two months ago, because my taste buds were over saturated with all the salt that was in the food that I was eating, now actually taste sweet to me, and I can now taste all of the wonderfully subtle and complex flavors that are present in all of the wonderful varieties of heirloom beans offered by you and Rancho Gordo.

I can not thank you enough for all of the wonderful work that you do to bring the most fabulous beans in the world to market and for helping to make the world a healthier place. I have eaten a lot of beans in the last twenty two months and I can say without reservation that Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans are by far the freshest dried beans that I have tasted. The subtleties and the complexities of their flavors are truly spectacular.

And for better or worse, if I hadn't of had my heart attack, and if I hadn't of had severe diabetes, and if I hadn't of been forced to cook for myself without salt or oil, and if you hadn't of brought the most fabulous beans to market, I would never have been able to appreciate the beauty that beans are. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Here's the Amazon link to my book, Bean Up: How I Beat Heart Disease, Diabetes, & High Cholesterol.