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The Tortilla Project Arrives!


There was a day when I was visiting one of the farmers with the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project in Mexico and an idea hit me. All the bean farmers we met also seemed to be growing corn. Red, white, yellow, purple, blue; could they grow enough for us as well?


It turns out the answer is yes. So now what? Well, I looked into opening a tortilleria (tortilla shop) here in Napa but after the nightmare with the health department over opening our store to sell dry beans, I knew it would take nothing short of a lobotomy to get me through the process. Instead, I thought, who makes the best tortillas in the Bay Area? La Palma in the Mission makes excellent corn tortillas from nixtamalized masa. Now we're partners in this project and last Saturday we introduced our first commercial batch of tortillas, made from a corn called Blanco Iturbude.

I arrived at 7:30 am at La Palma with my 9 year old son Nico. The van filled up with the perfume of fresh, hot tortillas and our stomachs growled. En route, Nico opened a pack and we greedily wolfed down the tortillas and at one point we were laughing. These were so incredibly good! This was going to work!

We arrived right at 8:00 at the Ferry Plaza farmers market and it was a scene. Everybody was ready and everybody was wow-ed. We sold out by 11:00 am, even with twice as many as I thought we'd need for the day.

The tweets on Twitter were coming fast and furious:

The new @RanchoGordo heirloom corn tortillas are incredible.

Got a big stack of @ranchogordo heirloom corn tortillas at Ferry Plaza FM: still warm + only $3!

Díos mio, the @ranchogordo heirloom corn tortillas are swoon-worthy. So soft and fresh.

The new @ranchogordo tortillas are warm at the booth and out of this world. No exaggeration -- get them now.

Now we have another kind of white corn plus a red and a blue and we'll just be going through the supply until we're done. The really nice story about all this is that these farmers now have a market that pays them more for their heirloom corn varieties that have been in their families for generations, than growing GMOs or even hybrids. We buy out their stock, after saving for seed and their own use, and they don't even have to try and sell it at the market. Here in the Bay Area, a whole new group of foodies will be introduced to La Palma and their great work. And we all get delicious, old fashioned tortillas. Everyone wins!

For the foreseeable future, the tortillas will only be available at the Saturday market in San Francisco. Not at La Palma and not at our store in Napa. We hope to branch out to these two locations next. Wholesale and distribution are also in the plans, as are chips, but we have no dates to offer you. We won't be selling them over the internet but we are working to find similar partnerships like the one we have with La Palma in other towns. I know people are anxious to get their hands on them but we want to do this slowly, and right, and make sure we can handle everything before we expand.

Anyway, to say that I am happy and proud is an understatement but I won't be relaxing until I can figure out how to get hot, fresh nixtamalized tortillas to everyone in the country who wants them.

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