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.
All demos are open to the public and free of charge.
Toque Blanche - Half Moon Bay
Chefworks - Santa Cruz
September 24th, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
September 23, 24th &25th
September 29th, 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Buying local and shopping small are important values to you, our customers. They’re important values for us as buyers, too. Yes, we seek out items from all over the world, but we are very proud to carry many wonderful, locally-made items, too. “Buy local” is most evident in our food section, since there are so many talented people making tasty things with the bounty of produce in Northern California.
Toque Blanche’s Stuart has been working with Albert Katz for almost twenty years. Katz’s award-winning olive oils, vinegars and honeys have been a constant staple at Toque Blanche since it opened. Katz’s Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Gravenstein Apple Cider Vinegar are still some of our best selling items. Albert’s olive groves and his vinegar house (a converted carriage house!) are located in the Suisun Valley, just northeast of Napa.
For something a little different in the vinegar realm try Kokomo’s Verjus or Sonoma Valley Portworks’ Sonomic “Almost Vinegar.”
Verjus is the juice of green (as in not quite ripe) wine grapes. Not as acidic as vinegar or lemon juice but tarter than wine, Verjus is great in sauces for delicate items such as white fish, or in salads where you want the ingredients to really shine through. Kokomo Verjus is from a winery in the Dry Creek area of Healdsburg.
Sonomic is similar to an aged balsamic, but with the added benefits of being lead-free and a lot less expensive! Made in Petaluma by a company that makes Ports (Which Toque Blanche also carries), Sonomic is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Thick, sweet and slightly acidic, it’s perfect on a Caprese Salad, drizzled over roasted veggies or a grilled steak topped with blue cheese.
The other half of our Mutual Admiration Society (they LOVE Chamba!), Rancho Gordo Beans are a revelation. With flavor and texture, these heirloom variety beans from Napa and the Sacramento Delta have an almost cult-like following, and many of the Coastside and Peninsula adherents come to us for their fix. Since these are an heirloom agricultural product, sometimes they run out of certain varieties. We just look at this as an excuse to try something new. Our current favorite (with plenty of stock!) is the Domingo Rojo, a red skinned bean that works in almost any application, from the famous Red Beans and Rice to inside a burrito or just on their own. The pot liquor from these beans could be bottled and sold separately!
More fun stuff from Napa! These tasty compotes are made to pair with cheese on a cheese plate, but that doesn’t stop us from cooking with them. An omelet with their Dried Apricot & Shallot Compote and Goat Cheese is a great breakfast!
Hailing from Emeryville, Inna Jam uses only heirloom varieties of fruit grown within one hundred miles of their kitchen to make incredible jams and shrubs, a blend of fruit juice, sugar and vinegar used in cocktails or with sparkling water. Her jams are made with just enough sugar and pectin to hold together, but the true tasted of the fruit is what shines through and the reason this local gem has garnered national attention.
Also from Emeryville, and one of our newest finds, Cornology flavored popcorn is non-GMO and incredibly addictive! The Truffle – Parmesan or the Logeman Dark Caramel are our favorites depending on the day. If you can’t decide between sweet or savory, you can always try the Chicago Mix of Cheddar and Caramel.
If it is heat you’re looking for, look no further than this local hot sauce from the Palo Alto fire station, available in just plain hot, or Habanero. Firefighters are standing by… Plus, all proceeds go to the Palo Alto Firefighters Charitable Fund.
Something not quite so hot, but with a kick, these incredibly balanced mustards from My Kind of Mustard have quickly become a customer and staff favorite. From the sweeter beer or garlic mustards to the just-perfectly-hot-enough 3-peppers mustard, these condiments will elevate your creation whether it’s a simple sandwich or something more elaborate.
Phil Bava pays tribute to his Genovese roots in Escalon by making a fruitier, smoother olive oil than is usually made in California. Bava Olive Oil is great drizzled over fish or of course used in the Genovese classic, pesto.
Working in Belmont and San Francisco respectively, these chocolatiers create amazing confections. They can both be found right by the register. Why? Because we’re evil that way.
Not cloyingly sweet and with great flavor, this local Coastside honey is at home on your granola, yogurt with fruit, toast with ricotta or in your tea. Also available in a very limited dark honey while supplies last, this aptly titled “Dark Side of the Moon” is rich, earthy and treacle like. Avalable at Toque Blanche.
Available in Wildflower, Sage, Orange Blossom, and Meadowfoam. Don't know which you would like best? Try a sampler pack of all four. Carmel Honey company is dedicated to support and education for honeybee and pollination research. No bees, no food! Available at Chefworks.
These exquisite rolling pins are quite the gift for the baker in your life. No, they don’t have handles and they aren’t tapered. This gives you both more surface area to work with and also more control on the pressure used when rolling. Made in Philo, CA.
The perfect pour-over coffee station! Function and fashion plus caffeination equals happy! Made in Half Moon Bay by furniture maker Scott Smith, these ceramic and wood works of art leave you room to see the coffee in the cup and have wells designed to catch any drips when the cup is removed. Uses #2 cone filters.
San Rafael resident Michael Finizio was didn’t like how the old school ravioli pins worked; the filling had to be placed just so and there was very little space in between so they tended to fall apart when cooking. His re-working of the ravioli pin makes it much easier. Lay down the dough, spread the filling ¼ “ thick evenly across then roll the pin across and it squeezes the filling into the pocket and leaves ample room to cut them without worrying about them splitting apart when cooking. Check out the video below or come to the Toque Blanche cooking class on September 29th to see Michael make the ravioli in person!
The next Toque Blanche Cooking class, Home-Style Italian, will be held Thursday, September 29th, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the beautiful courtyard at La Piazza in Half Moon Bay. Cost is $36 ($60 for two). Bring one child under 16 free! Wine pairing is optional and can be purchased separately.
The next available class will be held, Thursday, January 26th.
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
Is there anything more comforting than crispy, crunchy, lightly toasted bread with a few simple, yet perfect, ingredients between them?
First, a quick language lesson. Panino is Italian for a sandwich, or more literally “little bread.” Panini is the plural. (Don’t get us started on one tamal, two tamales, either!) Panini can be hot or cold. But come on, everybody loves the hot ones! Fuhggetaboutit!
Crafting the perfect sandwich is easy, but takes some careful construction.
The first rule is editing. A panino is not about a ton of things stuffed between bread--just a few simple, well-chosen ones that go together well. A slice of dry, salty Prosciutto with some fresh, creamy mozzarella and a little basil oil; some goat cheese and fig jam; sautéed greens and Gruyere; Sopressata (a wine cured salami) with aged provolone and arugula. (Sometimes the best dish is made not by what is in it, but what is left out.)
Applying heat. Slow, even heat is the key to getting nice toasty bread, thoroughly warmed ingredients and melty cheese. Depending what is in your sandwich, some pressure can be applied, but too much and you have a mess on your hands. Well, actually in the pan or your panini press.
Do you really need a panini press to make a panini? Not really. Any good pan will do. Is it worth getting a panini press? Absolutely! Especially if you make sandwiches a lot. (Sandwiches do make great quick and easy dinners and you can put in them whatever you want--solving the picky eater problem!) A panini press heats quickly, evenly and efficiently, getting both sides at once. Plus, you can use it for grilling veggies to put on your panini as well! One of our favorites is a sandwich of eggplant grilled (on the press) with za’atar and a spread made from walnuts and labneh, a thick yogurt cheese.
We love the Breville Panini Duo because of the articulated top (doesn’t squish the filling out and toasts the top evenly!), it’s easy clean up and the flat bottom plate.
Why Does the Breville Panini Duo Have a Flat Bottom?
This is actually something we questioned when they came in. Grill marks are pretty when presenting your sandwich, but the flat bottom plate does a better job at even cooking, which will ensure your cheese is perfectly melty. This way, you get the best of both worlds.
Consider the bread
There are many great types of breads out there, but not all of them will make great hot panini. Save the country-style crusty breads for your cold sandwiches; when heated those nice crunchy crusts will become shards in your mouth making for an unpleasant experience. The secret to great panini lies in using softer, less crusty breads. But not when it is fresh! Day old bread will actually toast up nicer than fresh bread because the moisture content is lower.
Breville Panini Duo!
We're celebrating sandwiches all month and what better way to make your sandwiches than with this great machine!
Go to our Facebook page for Toque Blanche or Chefworks and tell us about your favorite sandwich for a chance to win one! (Winner chosen at random toward the end of the month for those who commented on the post.)
We'll be making paninis all month! Check out our list of weekly demonstrations here.
If you want to up your game and make your own bread, we have just the thing for you! We are proud to introduce the Ankarsrum Assistant, the ULTIMATE mixer for the home. Originally designed in Sweden in the 1940’s by Electrolux, the Assistant is still made in Sweden by the company that made many of the original parts and the motor, Ankarsrum, who also make the motor assembly for Vita-Mix blenders. It uses a belt-driven motor, which is more efficient and quieter than gear motors. The motor is 600 watts, and at 7 quarts the stainless steel bowl can accommodate a recipe that makes 12 POUNDS of dough! While it comes with a dough hook, the roller and scraper attachments allow for a gentler kneading for those recipes that need it.
Ashley from Ankarum USA, who has been baking since she was 12, has shared this recipe for a Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Bread made in the Emile Henry Cloche that would make a delicious panino!
Place the cloche base in the oven and preheat to 400º.**
Position stainless steel bowl on the Ankarsrum and put scraper and dough roller into place. Dough roller should be resting against the side of the bowl. Start by adding water, oil, honey, salt, and gluten into the stainless steel bowl. Turn machine on, allowing liquids to mix on the slowest speed (speed knob set to 12 o’clock) for about 1 minute. Add approximately half the amount of flour as well as the yeast. Turn speed up to a low/medium speed (about 2 o’clock) and add another cup of flour. Adjust the arm/roller away from the side of the bowl and lock it in place, so that the roller is applying gentle pressure to the dough as it passes between it and the side of the bowl. Add the last cup of flour and adjust speed to a medium speed (about 4 o’clock). Add the tomatoes and cheese and set the timer on the Ankarsrum for 4-6 minutes.
The Ankarsrum will turn off automatically when the timer runs out. Once the dough has been kneaded, let it rest in the stainless steel bowl for 10 minutes. This will make it easier to shape. Turn dough out onto a floured board. Taking the edge of the dough, fold it towards the middle, pressing down with the heal of your hand. Rotate the dough around so that you fold the other side in towards the middle until you have formed a smooth ball. Place dough ball (ugly side down) in the center of the hot cloche base, slash dough if desired, place dome on top of base and place in preheated oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until crust is golden brown. [If using for Panini, go for the lesser amount of time with the lid off so the crust doesn’t get too crunchy!—Stuart]
Yields: 1 (2 pound) loaf of bread
*Cook’s Note: To use freshly milled or store bought whole wheat flour, I recommend using a hard white wheat flour. Due to the amount of moisture in freshly milled whole wheat flour, I recommend reducing the water to 1 1/2 cup for this recipe.
**Cook’s Note: Every oven is different. If you know your oven runs a bit hot, bake this recipe at 350º.
While not everyone has heard of Sous Vide cooking, chances are you’ve eaten food cooked using this method. It’s been a restaurant tool for a few decades now, and if you have tasted a perfectly cooked piece of meat where the color and doneness is consistent from edge to edge, it was probably cooked sous vide.
Literally translated from French, it means “under vacuum,” so named because the food being cooked is sealed in a food safe plastic bag that is vacuum-sealed. It is then put into a temperature-controlled water bath and cooked to perfection for a prescribed period of time, which can range from 20 minutes to 2 days depending on what you are cooking and the results you want.
I grant you, 2 days seems a long time to cook something and that something sure isn’t for spur-of-the-moment dinners. But cooking a tough piece of meat at a low temperature over that length of time breaks it down without drying it out or over cooking it. It’s like the ultimate slow cooker. And when you cook sous vide, food is pasteurized in an oxygen-free environment, so it can be cooked ahead of time and refrigerated for several days with no adverse effects. This is what restaurants do; sous vide a steak and cook it perfectly medium rare, then when you order it, they take it out, sear it and serve it.
This is great for entertaining because it enables you to spend more time with your guests and not worry about overcooking or drying out your food. Which brings us to another great benefit of sous vide cooking: You don’t ruin expensive cuts of meat from overcooking, and cheaper cuts of meat are cooked to perfection (chuck steak turns turned into filet mignon!), so you are saving money either way. (Sous vide was invented by French chefs so they wouldn’t lose half the weight of fois gras when cooking it in a pan.)
But most recipes don’t take two days! For a recent Toque Blanche cooking class, we cooked 12 pork chops all at the same time in our favorite sous vide cooker (more on that in a second) at 143° for one hour, then just seared them in a cast iron pan and used the juices from the bag to make a quick pan sauce. The actual cooking time is minimal. See the recipe here.
While it’s been used for decades in restaurants, sous vide has only recently made it into the home kitchen market. They were previously only available through restaurant supply stores and cost thousands of dollars.
The main thing a sous vide cooker does is maintain a very even and extremely consistent temperature. The first machine for home use was a large tank with temperature controls. While it was a closed system, there was no water circulation for such a large volume of water, creating hot and cool spots which could lead to uneven cooking. It was also big, bulky and ugly and hard to fill or empty.
The second style to arrive for home use was a clip-on unit to use with your own pots, but it’s an open system which allows for evaporation and temperature fluctuation.
Our favorite,* and what we think the best, is the new Tribest Sousvant cooker. This unit is a closed system with a water circulator. It is very precise; the temperature variance when we tested it was just one half a degree over a 72 hour period. It not only solves the problems of the other home units, it does so in a stylish way and is easy to fill, empty and program. The base unit and lid fit into the tank for easy storage as well.
Local inventor, Lynn Neff tells the story of the making of the Sousvant in this short video.
*We liked the Sousvant so much at Toque Blanche that we made an investment in the company to enable them to get the machine into production more quickly!
Not really. Most of the time you can use a food safe freezer ziplock bag. Seal it using the displacement method: place food in the bag, seal the closure about ¾ of the way, and then slowly lower the bag into the water. As you do, the water will help push the air out of the bag. When the top of the bag gets close to the water, seal it the rest of the way.)
And some foods, like eggs, come in their own packaging, so just drop them in and let them cook!