The beans have arrived

The beans arrived! Twelve pounds of heirloom bean fabulousness was waiting on my doorstep when I returned home from work Tuesday evening. It was the highlight of my week.

"What beans?" you may be asking. The beans I've been meaning to write about for a while, but haven't found time. Now is the time.

I went out to dinner for with the vivacious Caroline a few weeks ago. We met at Poole's Diner, one of my favorite Raleigh restaurants. It's hip, it's happenin', it's downtown. It really was a diner in its former life, complete with tin ceilings and a Formica-clad bar saved in the renovation. Chef/owner Ashley Christensen serves local, seasonal, hand-crafted food at Poole's, usually of French or Italian pedigree, sometimes with a Southern twist. The Grand Marnier-spiked chicken liver pate is to die for.

I have worked in a few nice restaurants and I understand the special touches they offer, but this woman churns her own butter. Churns butter! Takes the term housemade to a new level.

Caroline and I enjoyed deviled egg salad and fried green tomatoes with roasted tomato relish; a lovely frisee salad with asparagus, poached egg, bacon cornbread croutons, and Banyuls vinaigrette; North Carolina soft shell crab on Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stallard Beans; and a Royale with Cheese (I love a good Pulp Fiction menu reference).

Everything was good, but my soft shell crab was the hands-down winner. Yes, the crab was lovely — a seasonal crustacean crisped to perfection and lightly sauced with a bit of aioli. But those beans. The beans! They were amazing. Rich, earthy, and melt-in-your-mouth fantastic. These are the beans I've been looking for.

I've read about Rancho Gordo for years —  it's made the pages of The New York Times, Saveur, Gourmet (R.I.P.), Bon Appetit, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Founder Steve Sando raises heirloom beans and seeds in California's Napa Valley, and ships his products internationally, and though I'd visited the company website several times in years past, I never made a purchase. After my meal at Poole's I marched forward to my trusty Mac G5, credit card in hand, and bought dried beans online. Many, many, many dried beans. With a flat $8.00 shipping rate, why buy one little bag? Stock up. Branch out. My pantry now holds 9 varieties of beans I've never heard of.

Dear reader, you are in for many a bean recipe. One pound of Good Mother Stallards sit submerged in water, waiting to be unleashed this weekend.

If you visit Poole's — and if you're in Raleigh, North Carolina, you must put it on your To Do List — know that reservations aren't accepted. Be prepared to wait. The charming tin ceiling is lovely to look at but doesn't help the noise factor. I've had to wait a little longer than I'd like for food in the past, though that wasn't the case on my most recent visit (do remember that everything is made to order). Oh, and you won't be given a menu. Several chalk boards hung on walls list the evening's selections, so you may have to get up and walk across the room to see your options. 

You should go. No doubt. The food is consistently terrific.


  1. Hi, look forward to exploring your blog. I saw from your comment on my post that you are coming to SF. Not sure if you have a car, but if you are interested in exploring, but given your fondness for beans, you may want to check this place out in Pescadero, CA - its a bit of a drive from SF along Hwy 1. http://www.phippscountry.com/ I've not tried Rancho Gordo, but will have to. Phipps I can vouch for. I sense a bit of comparison shopping on my end coming up.

  2. OysterCulture,

    Thanks for exploring my blog and letting me know about your favorite bean vendor. I plan to stay in the city a few nights and then head to Napa/Sonoma, but itineraries can be changed. Perhaps there's a bean face-off in the future!

  3. Absolutely love this blog. My first experience with one and sent to me by vivacious Caroline's mother, my friend since childhood. She is visiting with me now and we are excited about trying your deviled eggs, being the Southern gals that we are. Would also like to try the heirloom beans, yum...When Caroline and I come to Raleigh on the way to our next UNC basketball game we will plan on a meal at Poole's.....

  4. Linda,
    Thanks so much for your kind remarks! I'm thrilled that you and Big C are reading the blog. The deviled eggs are great - just a matter of adjusting to your taste. And the heirloom beans are worth ordering - full of flavor with very little work. Have a great time at Poole's Diner.