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The 2023 Heirloom Bean Encuentro : Rancho Gordo Bean Supper at Alta Baja Market

Steve Sando and Evan Kleiman


My friend Delilah Snell is a wee bit nuts, She has the energy of a hurricane, but she also can have the focus of a mathemetician. She loves making people happy but she's absolutely particular about how she wants things done. I love hanging out with her but I also love her commitment to everything she does, which means basically that you need to get on board or get out of the way. I'm happy to get on board. 

Last autumn, we had the third Heirloom Bean Encuentro. I just show up and act glamorouos. Delilah and the chefs do the actual work but of course I was still exhausted at the end. I just give and give! 

The schedule for the three days was: 

Friday night
Film Screening Maclovia & panel discussion @ The Frida Cinema
Start the weekend with a special screening of Maclovia at Orange County’s only film arthouse -- The Frida! Steve Sando will open the film with an introduction and then after the film we will have a special panel discussion “Mexican Food Ahorita” led by LA Times columnist Gustavo Arellano. You can also enjoy a special “movie snack box” made with Rancho Gordo items during the film for an additional fee.

Saturday morning
Bean Bingo + Drag BRUNCH @ 4th Street Market Back Patio
As soon as we heard that Rancho Gordo was coming out with a bingo game set we knew we had to do this event! Culinary students at Santa Ana College (SAC) will create a Rancho Gordo breakfast bowl + pastries with Alta Baja serving unlimited cafe de olla, orange juice and mimosas while you play bean bingo hosted by Steve Sando and a special guest. Tickets include your meal, beverage and a bingo game to take home. All proceeds for this event go to the SAC culinary department for student chef coats and supplies.

Saturday afternoon
Film Screening Enamorada & panel discussion @ The Frida
Start the weekend with a special screening of Enamorada at Orange County’s only film arthouse -- The Frida! Steve Sando will open the film with an introduction and then after the film we will have a special panel discussion with Julia Newberry and Monica Casillas of Rancho Gordo. You can also enjoy a special “movie snack box” made with Rancho Gordo items during the film for an additional fee.

Saturday evening
Baja Wine Tasting with Vinos Los Angeles
Meet the importers of Vinos Los Angeles and learn about the wine-growing region of Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California while trying 5 wines from their portfolio and snacking on your personal cheese plate.

Saturday evening
Steve is a big mezcal fan and we have partnered up with Firme Mezcal and Mezcalistas founder Susan Coss for a casual night exploring the brand’s mezcal varieties with snacks from TKTK. Learn about mezcal production, what the different varieties are/how they differ and how to use the spirit in cocktails while sampling Firme’s entire line. 

Sunday morning
Join artista and community activist Alicia Rojas in this unique walking tour of the murals of Downtown Santa Ana. Alicia will lecture on the how the murals came to be, symbolism, artist significance as well as her own journey as an artist.
Tour starts at Alta Baja Market and includes a complimentary bottle of still/sparkling water or Cafe de Olla and upon your return a michelada or other house beverage of your choice.

Sunday afternoon
Our weekend concludes with a 5-course supper from some of the best chefs in Southern California!
All dishes will feature Rancho Gordo products. 
2023 CHEFS:

Each chef took a course and each course featured a great heirloom bean. 

Chef Diep Tran prepares her dish

Bricia Lopez of Gueleguetza accepts accolades for her dish. 
chef de cuisine Eric Linares of white-hot Heritage Barbecue dives deeper into his taco dish that ended up being declared as one of the Top 10 dishes for 2023 by The Los Angeles Times!

"Sure, Heritage Barbecue serves tacos at its always-packed San Juan Capistrano restaurant — brisket and pulled pork on flour tortillas with queso fresco, pico de gallo and salsa verde or roja. But one day this fall during the annual Heirloom Bean Encuentro at Alta Baja Market in Santa Ana, Heritage Barbecue chef de cuisine Eric Linares made rajas and refried bean tacos that were smoky, lush and, yes, meaty. These weren’t just any beans but the creamy yellow Mexican or Peruvian variety Mayocoba (a.k.a. Canario or Peruano) grown in California by Rancho Gordo. Linares’ refried Mayocoba bean tacos were part of the six-course dinner at Delilah Snell’s 4th Street shop. They were smeared onto flour tortillas and topped with charred rajas, crunchy salsa macha (also deliciously smoky) and fresh cheese. Simple and supreme. Here’s hoping they’ll be reprised in 2024.” - Los Angeles Times
The chefs prepare another course. 
I met Moises Plascencia at the first Heirloom Bean Encuentro and was impressed with his collection of seeds, including beans, that he gathered from his Santa Ana community. Many of the seeds were brought with the gardeners from Mexico and now they thrive and are saved here in California. 

Rancho Gordo made the tee-shirt Professor Plascencia is wearing as a fundraiser for his farm-to-school program. FARM2SAUSD is a variety of programs that use school meals as a conduit for learning, connect health to heritage, strengthen local food systems, and promote better living at Santa Ana Unified School District (SAUSD) Nutrition Services. The underlying goal is to build a more sustainable and just food system, taking a holistic approach to health, learning, and community. Funds from the tee shirt will help with food procurement, raised bed gardens for the students, education, and composting.

One of my culinary heroes is Taco Maria's Carlos Salgado. I'd heard about his award-winning restaurant and believed there was no way his cooking could live up to the hype. I was wrong. Plus, Carlos is a great guy. He makes me proud to be a Californian. 
Again, I just breezed in and sparkled, but these are the folks who really made the day happen. I can't wait for the 2024 Encuentro. 

I've done a really poor job of describing the event. I'll just say it was great. If you want to come, make sure you sign up for the Rancho Gordo newsletter, as this is where we'll announce the next one. 

The woman, the force of nature, the legend: Delilah Snell, with her bestie, Hook. 
All photos: Joe Bautista (and thank you, Joe, from all of us.)

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