In-Store Demos: December 2016

Posted on December 02, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments

All demos are open to the public and free of charge.

Toque Blanche - Half Moon Bay

Toque Blanche - Santa Cruz

December 3rd11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Inna Jam Tasting

With uses as varied as breakfast (fruit jam on a cornmeal biscuit, anyone?), as a rub on a roast (Jalapeño or Fresno Chili jams) or on a fancy grilled cheese sandwich (fig jam or apricot chutney) these locally sourced organic jams are a must have in your kitchen!

December 3rd, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Whole Spice Tasting

Truly fresh spices and exotic flavors will enliven your pantry and elevate your palate! Start a global tasting adventure--straight from home!

December 10th11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Polenta Tasting

Polenta made in Le Creuset stew pan.

December 10th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Fusion Salt Tasting

Learn to deploy finishing salts in your everyday cooking, with artisanal combinations like White Truffle, Spanish Rosemary, Sriracha, and Chipotle. Add zing to popcorn, salads, risotto, egg dishes, and more!

December 17th11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Fundidora Salsa Tasting

Put a little spice in your stocking with these wonderful small batch salsas!

December 17th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Sonomic Almost Vinegar Tasting

The perfect complement to any meal, great for gifts!

December 24th11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sonomic Almost Vinegar Tasting

If you prefer something a little sweeter for your stocking, this is just the thing!

December 24th, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Carmel Honey Tasting

Come taste four different varietals of honey: Orange Blossom, Wildflower, Sage, and Meadowfoam (which tastes like marshmallows!), and pick your favorite for tea, oatmeal, toast, or cheese plates. Yum!

December 31st11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Rancho Gordo Black Eye Peas Tasting

Bring a little luck in with 2017 and this traditional Southern delight.

December 31st, 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Palo Alto Pepper Sauce Tasting

Turn up the heat and flavor of your food with these perfectly balanced hot sauces. Sample the staff-favorite Pepper Sauce, or try the Habanero or Ghost Pepper versions...if you dare!


Posted in Upcoming Demos

It’s Knife Month at Toque Blanche

Posted on November 02, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 1 comment

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.

Question of the Month:
“What is the difference between sharpening and honing?”

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.

Tip of the Month:
Selecting a knife

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.

On the Surface of Things…

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. 

Knife Specials

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 7SantokuKanso 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 

November Giveaway – Wusthof Studio Set

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.



Posted in Articles

Pizza and You!

Posted on October 24, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments


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!

Question of the Month:
Why do my pizza stones keep cracking? 

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.

Makin' Dough

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.


Getting Saucy! 

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.

Baby, You’re the Tops

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.

The Ole’ In & Out

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….    

Tip of the Month:
Cheese, please…

 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.

Posted in Articles

Toque Blanche Named Kitchenware Retailer of the Year!

Posted on October 05, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments

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.

--Charles Nelson

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,, 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.


Posted in Articles

Where’s Chefworks?

Posted on October 05, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments

Chefworks is now known as Toque Blanche, just like its sister store in Half Moon Bay.

As you may already know, a toque blanche is the white pleated hat that a chef wears. The name was chosen to emphasize that the store exists to serve the needs of cooks—the home chefs as well as the professional ones.

Some background about the stores: Toque Blanche in Half Moon Bay was opened by Charles Nelson in 2006. In 2013, he purchased Chefworks in Santa Cruz from the original owner. Although each store is distinct, they share the same drive to find and stock the best cookware and accessories. And the management and staff at both stores are all enthusiastic home chefs.

We look forward to continuing to serve you under our new name.

Posted in Articles

Cooking Classes

Posted on September 18, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments

The next Toque Blanche Cooking class will be held Thursday, January 26th, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.min 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. 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

Posted in Classes

Celebrating Local Artisans

Posted on September 18, 2016 by Adriana Nelson | 0 comments

We Buy Local, Too! 

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.

Katz and Company

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. 

Kokomo Culinary and Sonoma Valley Portworks 

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. 

Rancho Gordo 

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!

Pig & Squirrel 

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! 

Inna Jam 

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. 

Palo Alto Firefighters Hot Sauce

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.


My Kind of Mustard

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. 

Bava Olive Oil 

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. 

Neo Cocoa and Poco Dolce 

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. 

Half Moon Bay Honey 

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. 

Carmel Honey Company

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. 

Lest you think it’s all about the food, we do have some locally made products as well!

Thomas McFadden 

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. 

Cimarron Studios 

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. 

Repast Supply Co. 

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! 

Posted in Articles

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