Big shift coming: The subscription boxes that went out earlier this month (March, 2021) will be the last ones I send. Ben to Table will still remain open for business, but the focus will shift to:
* Regular offers over email (like what had previous been the monthly add-ons), which will be the main way to get new products, and where most of my energy will flow. Sign up for email in the footer to stay in the loop!
* On the site, you'll still be able to get the one-off gifts and bundles you love, like thoughtfully curated conservas or the Gourmet Pantry Jumpstart.
* Custom gifts, bulk orders, and corporate gifts (including unbranded/white labeled services for anyone who wants their own brand or experience to be the focus)
Why? And what now?
Ultimately, while I enjoyed putting the boxes together each month -- and I got a tremendous amount of fulfillment from the customers who provided such positive feedback -- there just hasn't been enough growth in the subscriber base to make the numbers work.
A huge amount of the work that goes into each month is self-imposed: trying to find *just* the right set of ingredients to a) do honor and justice to whatever cuisine I'm featuring, b) come from producers I'm excited to feature, c) come to a reasonable place in cost to me, and d) come to a reasonable place in total retail value to make sense in aggregate for the box.
So, this is partly about trimming down on that -- by focusing more on a "here's some cool stuff I've vetted and got a good deal on, do you want some?" model, I'm hoping to substantially lower my overhead and ongoing labor costs (my own labor, mostly), while *also* substantially lowering the barriers to entry that many folks feel toward a subscription.
There will still be bundles of different types for sale on the website, but my focus will turn much more fully to periodic offers sent out via email. The plan will be to send offers every few weeks (depending on what I've got!), and then do shipments every month or two, once we start to fill boxes up.
Before that, though: The fire sale. I've got a *lot* of remnant inventory. Rather than go through it 1-by-1, I'm selling mystery box bundles for $65, which will all include at least $115 worth of stuff, and likely much more. Some of it will be previous add-ons I didn't sell out of, some of it will be extra items from past subscription boxes. Either way, it's a fantastic deal for the best pantry items in the world -- get some for yourself, and order extras for friends and family!
And, one more thing: I remain really hopeful that the type of curated boxes I've been putting together can work very well as corporate gifts, as well as for virtual events or other group experiences. I've done a fair bit of that, but would love to do more if you're interested. Please get in touch if so.
Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. I'm enormously appreciative of the subscribers who've stayed on for so many months, and I hope you won't mind too terribly as we switch up how things work around here.
Read all about what to do with your Essentials for this month! Here's what's in the box:
* Blue Masa Flour (Masienda)
* Santanero Negro Delgado Bean (Rancho Gordo)
* Prepared Hominy (Rancho Gordo)
* Camargue Red Rice (Benoit)
* Marfax Crop Rotation Beans (Maine Grains)
* Mexican Hot Chocolate (Villa Real/Verve Culture)
As always, you can check out the "How to cook: Beans" post for both the santanero negros and the marfax beans, and it's basically the same idea for the hominy.
Blue Masa Flour (Masienda)
Masienda is at the forefront of making heirloom corn varietals from Mexico available for use in the US by chefs and home cooks alike. This nixtamalized masa flour comes from heirloom blue cónico corn, grown in the highlands of Atlacomulco in Estado de México. It’s extremely flavorful, easy to work with, and beautiful.
All you need to do is add water to create a dough you can use for tortillas, tostadas, tlayudas, huaraches, and more. The proportion is roughly 1:1, though you'll probably use very slightly less water than that, and of course elevation will affect the hydration levels.
Masienda have a bunch of demos online for making tortillas, and they're a great place to start. If you don't have a tortilla press, never fear! I don't either. Simply put a plastic bag around two cutting boards you can press together.
Similarly, a good cast-iron pan or griddle can easily substitute for the comal that's traditionally used to cook tortillas.
And here's more info on this particular masa.
Santanero Negro Delgado Bean (Rancho Gordo)
Black beans are the quintessential Oaxacan food – and this is Oaxaca’s most prized variety, brought to the US through the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc project.
These beans are renowned for their broth; you’ll want to cook them simply as pot beans, and then use and transform in any number of ways. You can of course serve them directly, or use them whole in a burrito, bean salad, or soup. You can use them in this black bean paste recipe, as a super tasty spread on tortillas. Or you could make enfrijoladas (tortillas in a black bean sauce), which also uses avocado leaves and epazote from the Taste of Oaxaca box this month.
Prepared Hominy (Rancho Gordo)
This nixtamalized hominy is the key ingredient to pozole, the classic Mexican stew (and there’s a Oaxacan version that includes mole!). You can follow the instructions on the bag to cook it, and then here are the top uses:
1) In a classic, Mexican posole: Recipes abound, with many adherents to different versions (Steve Sando from Rancho Gordo published a whole posole cookbook, in fact!). The general idea is a heavily flavored (with different Chile powder) soup/stew — it’s usually thinner than what I imagine with the word “stew,” but thicker than the average soup. Basic ingredients like onions, carrots, garlic, and oregano are essential. It’s excellent with long-simmered chunks of pork shoulder, or great with dark-meat chicken. Just add the already prepared hominy toward the end, or cook it in the soup itself if you’re using a protein that can handle it (like braised pork shoulder).
2) Don’t call it “posole”: Hominy is also great in other soups and stews that just shouldn’t be called posole. For instance, it was delicious in a soup with pimentón, shrimp, and green beans, and also in a stew with tepary beans and turkey.
3) Could be a great alternative to a whole grain for “grain salad” type of recipe, with veggies and a protein of some sort.
Camargue Red Rice (Benoit)
Camargue is a famed rice-growing region in southern France; the red rice here is a fusion of the old wild red rice that used to grow in the region and the white rice brought in after WWII. (If it looks familiar, it’s because we also featured it mid-2020, to high praise!).
Flavorful and versatile, this rice cooks up in about 20 minutes.
Marfax Crop Rotation Beans (Maine Grains)
We’re used to seeing Maine Grains for their grain and flour products; they’ve introduced these delicious, organic beans which come from the crop rotations used by their farmers to limit pests, diversify production, and enrich the soil! Cook these like the Rancho Gordo beans we know and love – rinse, bring to a boil, then a low simmer until done.
Here's more info on the whole crop rotation setup and ethos -- worth a read!
Mexican Hot Chocolate (Villa Real/Verve Culture)
These Oaxacan chocolate tablets include almonds, pecans, and spices – tasty on their own, but perfect for making a warming, Mexican hot chocolate. Just follow the instructions on the tag (whisk together with milk over low heat) and enjoy!