Dry aged beef, world-class beans, and a slew of spices make for a more marvelous meal.
by Ari Weinzweig
Here’s some comfort food that’s ready to pick up from the Roadshow. It’s been a staple on the menu ever since we opened up back in the fall of 2003. Small bits of dry-aged beef chuck, simmered for hours with black beans until they’re tender, spiced with a little cumin, a bit of Muscovado brown sugar, lots of Ancho chili, and some spicy Pequin chile flakes. Very flavorful and good on its own, it’s also superfine on the Chili Cheese Fries, or beautiful on a chili-cheese burger. The chili’s got a good long finish—almost floral from the spices, but really subtly so—it’s hearty, but surprisingly, not heavy. Spicy, but not super-hot.
A big bean upgrade.
The Roadhouse chili has had a host of loyal followers for ages now! But the chili got even better last year when we switched the black beans from standard commercial offerings to Camellia Beans from the Hayward family down in New Orleans. Now that we’ve made the move to upgrade, I’m not sure what took us so long. Camellia itself is anything but new. The family-owned firm has been working with beans for nearly 150 years now, ever since the Haywards started trading in the Crescent City in the second half of the 19th century. In 1923 they began putting the Camellia brand on their beans and selling them around the country.
About Camellia Beans.
Now that we’ve made the move to upgrade, I’m not sure what took us so long. Camellia itself is anything but new. The family-owned firm has been working with beans for nearly 150 years now, ever since the Haywards started trading in the Crescent City in the second half of the 19th century. In 1923 they began putting the Camellia brand on their beans and selling them around the country. Putting Camellia Red Beans to work in the Roadhouse kitchen has been a big eye-opener and significant improvement in the quality of everything we use them in! We’ve finally figured out what nearly every New Orleanian has known for ages—Camellia beans bring exceptional quality to the kitchen! This is not hyperbole or hype. Most everyone at the Roadhouse agreed in a matter of days that you really can taste the difference.
Why are Camellia beans better?
Can there be that much difference in a bean? The simple answer is “Absolutely!” And why not? Beans are just as much an agricultural product as tomatoes, carrots, apples, or any other produce that comes out of the ground. There are thousands of low-price, low-quality options out there. Or, alternatively, one can seek out something really special—you’ll pay a bit more to get it, but you’ll benefit from the improved quality of flavor. It’s true with chocolate, it’s true with coffee, it’s true with beer. And, as anyone who uses Camellia knows, it’s totally true with beans. Every taste test I can find online, and every conversation with culinary experts I know, all say the same thing. Camellia beans are first-class; creamier and tastier. The family has become famous for buying well above the USDA’s highest standard for beans—their minimum is now known amongst Louisiana bean growers as the “Hayward Standard.” In a wonderful interview, nationally-renowned master seed saver John Coykendall said in his home state of Tennessee, “Camellia beans? Mercy! I love those things!”
All the ways to enjoy the Roadhouse chili.
All of this registered with me a month or two ago when I realized that we had started getting way more compliments on the chili than ever. The correlation with the switch to Camellia was impossible to miss. You really can taste the increase in creaminess and flavor that comes with Camellia! You can buy the chili by the bowl through the Roadshow. Add it to a burger. It’s great ladled over a warm Roadhouse biscuit. Pick up a quart and keep it in the freezer. Once you get some home you can add a bit of grated cheese or sour cream. Dig in, stay warm, and stay centered.