All of the restaurants in the Napa Valley area of Northern California make it a great vacation destination for food lovers, but if you’re like me, you probably still want to do some cooking when you get home from that vacation instead of just going out to eat! One of the great things about Napa and the surrounding areas is that there are lots of amazing kitchen stores that stock cool gadgets, specialty ingredients and anything else that you might want to add to your home collection. I visited quite a few on my last trip, so here is a rundown of some of the spots you might want to stop at if you’re visiting the area.
In Napa itself, you’ll find Shackford’s Kitchen Store. The shop looks unassuming from the outside and you’ll probably notice the big collection of cookie jars in the window before you go in, but you’ll be amazed at how much stuff is packed into this store. They have all kinds of equipment for professional bakers and cooks, as well as plenty of stuff for the home cook. I saw several people ordering restaurant equipment on my visit, people picking up several chefs coats, as well as a few people just checking out the cookbook selection or the latest Wilton pans.
This week, I was interviewed by one of the new writers – Alanna, who also writes Two Fat Als- over at Slashfood. Some of you may recall that I wrote for Slashfood for quite some time. The interview is a good one and Alanna came up with some good questions. The only question I’m not sure I gave a good answer to was Where do you shop for baking supplies? because I wished that I was able to be more specific.
Truthfully, I shop absolutely everywhere.
Grocery stores are the most convenient places to shop in general and I always pick up staples there. Flour, butter, sugar, yeast, etc. I check the baking aisles and the candy aisles for new products that I think would be tasty in, for instance, a cookie recipe and I always check out the fruits in case there are any especially tempting looking seasonal items to add to the usual assortment of staples (fuji apples, bananas, red grapes, etc) in my fruit basket. I am fortunate in that my local markets usually have a good assortment of spices and flavorings, as well. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are the two stores I shop at most often, but any grocery store will do for these types of things.
Specialty stores are another favorite. Into this category, I put the restaurant supply store, craft stores and kitchen stores. A basic restaurant supply store yields inexpensive pans, utensils and cake/cupcake boxes. A slightly better one will usually have bulk baking supplies – flavorings, essential oils, chocolate, flours and spices, to name just a few. Either the prices are good or the selection includes things that you just won’t find at a regular store (chocolate extract and super-strength coffee extract are two that I always get). Craft stores, like Michael’s, often have an aisle fully of candy making and flavoring equipment, as well as a ton of stuff for cake decorating. Seasonal cupcake wrappers, pastry bags, fondant and chocolate molds are typical buys. These stores also often stock cake boxes and trays. Kitchen stores, like Williams Sonoma, tend to be more expensive but are great sources for specialty pans and some imported ingredients (Maldon Sea Salt – my fav!).