This is the time of year we all strive to eat healthy--a desire that gets renewed each year after our overindulgence during the holidays. Whether it is a food item, like Rancho Gordo beans, great heart healthy olive oils from California or spices to enhance your dishes or tools to make things easier like the kale and herb Stripper , the Fagor LUX Multicooker to make healthy meals in minutes or the best juicer we have found (which is great for making quick vegetable broths as well!) ; we have the stuff that will make it easier to help you stick to your plan.
Kale can get a bad rap, but there is no denying its health benefits. Our favorite variety is the Lacinato variety, sometimes called “Dinosaur Kale.” When juicing kale we recommend adding some lemon into the mix for two reasons: the vitamin C in citrus actually helps your body absorb the iron in the kale better, plus it hides that “green” and slight bitter flavor some people don’t like. When eating kale raw, we like to put a little olive oil and a small pinch of salt on it and then give it a little massage. This helps break down the fibers (you will see a noticeable difference in volume after a few minutes!) which makes the kale less chewy as well as a bit easier to digest. Oh, and did we mention the kale stripper?
If you are just trying to cut back, the number one source of high sodium is processed food, so cooking fresh will drastically reduce your intake. When cooking, salt can play an important function even beyond taste. If you season with salt as you cook it will get into the food, will help break down fibers and draw out moisture allowing other flavors to go in. When you cook with salt you actually use LESS than when shaking it on at the table. And the food will taste better. If you are trying to use no salt at all, then we recommend adding a dash of something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice or use an ancient salt substitute, sumac. Sumac is the dried berry of the sumac tree (no, the berry is not poisonous!) and has been used for centuries in place of salt on food because salt was very expensive. (Roman soldiers were paid in bags of salt, giving us the word “salary.”) Sumac actually hits the same receptors on the tongue as salt and its slightly tart flavor helps heighten the taste of food.
2016 was a rewarding year for us, to say the least. In the spring our Half Moon Bay location was named “Best Homegoods Store” in the Bay Area in a readers poll and our Santa Cruz store received a similar honor as “Best Kitchenware Store” in The Good Times Santa Cruz. Our Half Moon Bay cooking classes were touted as one of the 5 Best Bay Area Cooking Classes. In February one of our products (the Chamba Comal) was featured in the Front Burner column of the New York Times!
The frosting on the cake was when our company as a whole was named the national “Retailer of the Year” Gourmet Retailer Magazine and concurrently the U.S. entrant in the international Global Innovator Award (gia).
Rather than rest on our laurels, we will strive to be even better and continue to be the best stores we can and keep improving and innovating in 2017. Thank you to all our customers for your support. You are why we do what we do.
This month’s Facebook giveaway is a Chamba 6 Qt. Soup Pot (SS4), the perfect vessel for healthy soups, beans and whole grains. To enter, just go to one of our Facebook pages for Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz and follow the instructions for the giveaway post. Tag a friend in your post and if you win, your friend wins one, too!
Learning technique is the best way to learn how to cook. Susie Middleton does a superb job in Fast, Fresh and Green of teaching 10 different techniques for cooking veggie-centric meals (don’t worry, some of the recipes have meat!) One of our favorite ways to cook veg this time of year is roasting them. It really brings out the deep flavors and transforms them into something completely different from steaming or boiling them. Here is a great example:
10 oz. cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp towel, and either halved or quartered, depending on their size
12 oz. green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1/4 c olive oil
1 t salt
1 t olive oil
1 t minced garlic
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes
1. Preheat the oven to 4750. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the mushrooms with 2 T olive oil and 1/2 t salt. Spread the mushrooms in one layer on half of the baking sheet.
3. In the same mixing bowl, toss the green beans with 1 T olive oil and 1/2 t salt. Spread the green beans in one layer on the other half of the baking sheet. Roast for 25 minutes, or until the cremini mushrooms are tender, shrunken, and darker brown, and the green beans are wrinkled and browned in spots.
4. Meanwhile, in a small nonstick skillet, heat 1 T and 1 t olive oil with the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to bubble, turn down to medium-low and cook for a minute to merge the flavors, stirring to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Set aside.
5. Transfer the roasted veggies to a serving bowl and toss with the oil.
All demos are open to the public and free of charge.
Toque Blanche - Half Moon Bay
Toque Blanche - Santa Cruz
January 7th, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
January 7th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
January 14th, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
January 14th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
January 21st, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
January 21st, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
January 28th, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
January 28th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
The next Toque Blanche Cooking class will be held Thursday, January 26th, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the beautiful courtyard at La Piazza in Half Moon Bay. It will feature Vegetarian Mexican cooking and will utilize Chamba cookware for some of the recipes. Cost is $36 ($60 for two). Bring one child under 16 free! Wine pairing is optional and can be purchased separately. Sign up here
Toque Blanche cooking classes are prepared by Stuart Cristol-Deman with assistance from Toque Blanche staff. Includes a 4-Course meal cooking demonstration and small servings of each course. Wine pairing is optional and can be purchased separately, here.
Have a Question? Call (800) 936-1055 10am - 6pm PST or email us 24 hours a day
Whether you need a new knife, some help keeping it sharp or a little brush up on your skills, we got you covered. (We also have covers for your knives!) One of the most important aspects of owning knives is the upkeep.
As you use your knife you create burrs, a rounding (read “dulling”) of the edge that causes the knife to slip rather than cut. Honing gets rid of these burrs and is something you can and should do at home on a daily to weekly basis (depending on the knife and usage). You can do this in one of two ways. The most common is by using a steel, (that long, rod looking thing in your knife block). It’s not difficult and our staff is happy to show you how to properly use this tool. (Ignore how you see people use them on TV!) Stuart shows you how in the video below.
If you feel uncomfortable using a steel, then a pull-through device might be for you. With these devices, the angle is set for you making it much easier for novices and pros alike to maintain a great edge. Which pull-through device you get might depend on what knives you have, but here is one of our favorites that can work for a variety of knife types, the KitchenIQ Angle Adjust.
Sharpening is needed about every six months when the knife has flattened out some and honing doesn’t bring back the edge like it should. Many pull through devices can do this as well, or you can have it done at one of our stores (we are now offering inexpensive, while-you-wait knife sharpening at both stores). After sharpening, wash the knives in warm water and remember to be careful handling them because they are now sharper!
We’ll sharpen your knives for free on Saturday November 19th at our Half Moon Bay store! Click here for details.
Selecting a knife is a very personal thing. The feel of the handle in your hand, the weight and rock of the knife as you cut, slice, mince and chop--all of these things can vary from cook to cook. However, if the knife you choose is well-made it will last you a lifetime and make your tasks a pleasure and not a chore. Our staff is here to help you select the right knife for you, but in the meantime here is a list of terms and tips that will help you in the process.
Holding a Knife– The best way to hold a chef knife is to pinch lightly with your thumb and forefinger where the bolster (see definition below) and blade meet, and then wrap your remaining fingers comfortably around the handle. This gives you the best control because you are at the pivot point of the knife.
Stamped vs. Forged Blades – Stamped blades are punched from a single sheet of steel and a handle is attached; they often lack the balance, sharpness and tensile strength of the forged blade. They are typically less expensive, but may need to be sharpened more frequently than a forged knife. Forged blades go through dozens of steps to create a temper and shape that create a stronger, sharper knife.
Bolster – The bolster is a shaft of metal where the handle and the blade meet found on forged knives. It helps create balance, giving the cook better control in the knife.
Tang – The tang is the shaft of metal that runs along the back spine of the knife and adds balance. The tang should be at the very least three quarters through the handle, but preferably a full tang that goes to the end of the handle.
Metal – Most knives today are made from High Carbon Stainless Steel, which combines the superior edge quality and maintenance of carbon steel as well as the stain resistant qualities of stainless steel.
Weight – The heft of a knife is a personal preference. European knives tend to be thicker and heavier, letting the weight of the knife do the work for you, where Asian knives tend to be thinner and lighter, following the “path of least resistance” and reducing fatigue if you are cutting for longer periods of time.
Hollow Ground – This is a scallop that alternates on either side of the blade creating not only a fine edge, but the hollows help release surface tension, creating the ability to get very thin slices of meat or fish.
Cleaning – Hand wash your knives and towel dry. Never put them in a sink full of water or in the dishwasher, as this could damage the blade and other items (and fingers).
Storage – Keep knives in a block on the counter or in a drawer. If storing in a drawer, make sure to use an edge guard of some sort; it protects the knife AND your fingers.
What you cut ON is just as important was what you cut WITH. Glass, marble, granite, porcelain and those cheap white plastic boards are BIG NO-NOS. These will dull your knives
Quality wood boards, or cutting boards from Epicurean Surfaces are what we recommend.
Wusthof Knife Sets – we have 2, 3 or 7-piece knife sets to meet your needs, and if those don’t work, spend $300 on open stock knives and get a free 7-Slot block with shears and a steel for free!
Wusthof Classic Ikon Sale – ALL knives in the Ikon line are on sale! We have found the rounder handles of these knives feel better to people with either larger or smaller hands because of the fullness of the handle.
Shun Kanso 7” Santoku – Kanso means “simplicity”, and that is exactly what this knife exemplifies. AUS10, a high carbon vanadium stainless steel with a rustic look for strength and durability and a simple contoured tagayason wood handle completes the look. Normally $114.95 now $89.95.
Shun Dual Core Kiritsuke – The Dual-Core line from Shun uses two hard metals of various strengths, VG10 and VG2, so that the edge wears down at slightly different rates, creating micro-serrations to keep the edge razor sharp. Normally $299.99, now $239.99
Go to our Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz Facebook Page and tell us which knife in your kitchen you absolutely can't live without. You’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win this 5-Piece Knife Set (a $199.95 value)! Winner will be chosen at random at the end of the month.
Pizza. A food that can be oh-so-amazing or can go horribly wrong. Soggy dough, rubbery cheese, dripping in grease; these are just some of the things that can go awry. (Sorry, New Yorkers. Not really...) But with a few tools, some technique and know-how, you can be whipping up pizza that is better than most take-out.
The hardest thing to replicate is the intense, dry heat of a wood-fired oven. A pizza stone will provide a decent facsimile. It will heat up, hold the heat and help pull moisture from the crust while cooking. The main issues with pizza stones are that they only get as hot as your oven, which is about 400 degrees cooler than a wood-fired oven gets. And the other problem is that most pizza stones tend to crack after some usage if you are not careful.
We have solutions to both these problems!
The main reason they crack is that most pizza stones are made of coarse terra cotta, which is great for pulling moisture from the dough, but is also great for absorbing oils. When oil is absorbed into the clay, it expands at a different rate than the clay does during pre-heating, thus creating stress fractures in the stone. After doing this a few times, the stone will crack.
The solution? A better stone. Emile Henry makes our favorite pizza stone because it is glazed, yet still able to pull moisture out of the dough due to the crazing effect. Crazing is name for the small cracks that appear in the glaze. They won't affect the ceramic underneath, but will help increase the amount of moisture the stone can take in. So the more you use it, the better it gets! The 12 and 14 inch round stones even have ridges that lift the pizza up and help create air-flow underneath and more room for moisture to escape. These also have a raised lip on the rear of the stone to prevent overshooting it and causing a pizza disaster! They also come in a rectangular option for you non-conformists/pizza rebels.
As for the temperature issue, take your Emile Henry stone outside and use it in a Big Green Egg. The egg can get up to 900 degrees, and with ceramic walls and directional heat it makes an amazing pizza! If you want to use your Big Green Egg or regular grill for pizzas, we highly recommend the Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas Cookbook.
Now that we have the where and how to cook your pizza figured out, let's talk about the pizza itself.
Since it’s the base the pizza is built on, you should not give the crust short shrift. If the crust has no flavor, the whole pizza will taste flat. (See what we did there?)
Like most simple things, the ingredients are key. David, from our Half Moon Bay store, frequently makes pizza at home. He insists on using Italian Doppio Zero flour in place of the all-purpose flour prescribed in most recipes. Doppio Zero (or “double zero”) flour is very finely milled, and is the flour that by law has to be used in Naples to make pizza dough. This is his favorite recipe for dough, here.
A traditional tomato sauce is a great thing, a nice blend of sweet, acidic and herby flavors to counter the yeastiness of the crust and the mellow cheese. You could make your own, but if you make the dough ahead of time for quick weeknight meals, we suggest having some tasty but shelf stable sauces on hand, such as the Pomi Pizza Sauce. If you want to season it your own way, try the Contadina Passato di Pomodoro which is just tomatoes put through a food mill and a bit looser in texture than the Pomi Pizza Sauce. You can cook it down a little if you want, or leave it as is for a different experience.
Speaking of different experiences, why stop there? Other options that make a great sauce are pesto with goat cheese, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes; vinaigrettes, like an Italian herb and shallot vinaigrette with cheddar cheese and broccoli florets and even sweeter jams or compotes, especially when paired with sharp cheeses or salty meats.
Don’t go too crazy when adding toppings; just a few good things spread evenly over the pie, but not piled on. Remember, you gotta get this thing in the oven and you don’t want stuff rolling off all over the oven and burning! Leave about a ½” clearance to the edge of the crust.
For grating your cheese we recommend the Cuisipro graters. They have a laser-etched and grooved surface, resulting in very little drag especially when doing semi-soft cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella. Grating block cheese is better for pizza, as the anti-caking agents in pre-shredded cheese packaging can affect the flavor and texture.
When using a pizza stone, you will need a peel to get it onto and off of the hot stone. Our favorite is the Epicurean pizza peel from the same people that make our favorite cutting boards. The thing we love about it is that you can cut on it without gouging it like wooden peels, and when you make a bunch of pizzas for friends and family, you KNOW you’re going to run out of cutting board space!
Once your dough is rolled out, lightly flour the peel and place the dough on it. Give the peel a little shake to make sure the dough slides, loosening it in spots where it doesn’t if needed. Top the pizza as desired. Give the peel another little shake to make sure the pizza still moves now that it is topped. Get the edge of the dough as close to the lip of the peel as possible. Open the (preheated) oven, and place the front of the peel just above the back of the hot stone. Holding the peel at a very slight angle, give it 2 or 3 little shakes to get the edge of the pizza onto the stone. When about a third of the pizza is on the stone, give the peel a good yank to get the rest of the pizza on the stone.
Use the peel during cooking to lift up the crust and check for doneness. When cooked to your liking, use the peel to get the pizza out of the oven. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and then cut. We like the Cuisipro pizza cutter for its ergonomic design, which allows you to get your hand over it giving you more leverage, as well as its easy-to-clean removable wheel. For something a little different, we suggest the Epicurean Pizza Cutter for quick and easy slicing of pizza and quesadillas. A quick rocking motion is all you need….
When you try out a new pizza joint (for those times you don’t make it at home!) try the plain old cheese pizza. That gives you a chance to see what they put into the simple stuff: The crust, the sauce and the quality of the cheese they use. If they don’t get these right, chances are the rest of the pizzas won’t stack up either.
We just received some great news: The Gourmet Retailer Magazine announced today that it has named Toque Blanche / Chefworks Kitchenware Retailer of the Year and the U.S. Global Innovator Award (gia) winner! This is the biggest award in our industry so we are very excited.
I want to thank you, our loyal customers, for your on-going support and encouragement; without you there is no store. And of course the talented management team and staff at both stores who work so hard every day to make shopping (and cooking) more fun and worthwhile.
This is what they said in their announcement:
The Gourmet Retailer, a co-sponsor of the U.S. gia for independent kitchenware retailers, selected Toque Blanche/Chefworks as the U.S. winner after soliciting and reviewing nominations from the industry.
“The Gourmet Retailer was not only impressed with Charles Nelson and his team’s ability to create a memorable shopping experience with compelling merchandise displays that inform and inspire, but also with the stores’ joint online presence and site’s mobile functionality,” says Anna Wolfe, editor-in-chief of The Gourmet Retailer.
In addition to its stellar stores that are staffed with knowledgeable and enthusiastic employees, Toque Blanche/Chefworks stores are active in their communities and support fundraisers that support public education. Other community outreach includes sponsoring the Half Moon Bay Farmers Market and HEAL, a school gardening program that promotes healthy eating in schools.
While other retailers are looking to establish an online storefront, Toque Blanche has sold online since its inception in 2006. Earlier this year, mytoque.com, which is the site for both stores, was redesigned so that it is easier to view and navigate on mobile devices.
The International Home + Housewares Show (IH+HS) and International Housewares Association (IHA), primary sponsors of gia, will recognize Toque Blanche/Chefworks and housewares retailers from more than 20 countries at the 17th annual gia awards in Chicago on March 18.
Toque Blanche/Chefworks will be profiled in the February/March 2017 issue of The Gourmet Retailer magazine.