Dislosure: I was a guest of Cookshop Plus West Hartford and Hartford Baking Co. at a blogger event they held. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions remain my own.
Last Sunday, I ventured out to West Hartford, Connecticut, for a local blogger event at a relatively new kitchen store: Cookshop Plus West Hartford.
I arrived a little early, so I would have a chance to browse the store before we got down to business. Cookshop Plus West Hartford is located on Farmington Avenue in the center of town, which is a great place to go wander the streets and shop the day away anyway. City planners dream of idyllic downtown areas like this. James and Samantha Hines partnered with her parents, Joanne and Terry Ryan, to open doors in December 2015 (Joanne and Terry also own the sister store in Australia). While you’ll find all the regulars on their shelves–OXO, Zyliss, Capresso, King Arthur Flour, Breville, etc.–they pride themselves on having some special stuff you really can’t find anywhere else.
Form and function abound at Cookshop Plus. A rainbow wall of Le Creuset. Nordic Ware bundt pans in a variety of fun styles. Just about everything you need to bake and decorate cakes. Espresso machines and coffee makers of all kinds: pour over, French press, stovetop espresso, and more! A fabulous selection of Kitchenaid (my kitchen workhorse!). And knives, so many knives.
Part of why I was there was to witness a knife demonstration, which will be a regular offering in the shop. Cookshop Plus wants to be more involved with the community, and these knife demonstrations will be their first step to achieving this goal. In the demonstration, James Hines–one of the shop’s owners–explained to us how most home cooks use the wrong knife for the job. One cannot carve a pumpkin with a paring knife! In order to help ensure their patrons are well-equipped, Cookshop Plus offers the following brands of knives: Global, Savannah, Messermeister, and Wüsthof (Wüsthof being what I use in my own kitchen–I just love the way their knives feel in my hands!). Feel is a big part of knife selection–how the handle fits your hand and how it is balanced matters more than brand name or size. It’s a good idea to check them out for yourself and see what feels good to you. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t use it, and then you’ve just tossed money down the drain.
Taking care of your knives is even more important. You can have the top of the line tool and if you don’t maintain it, it’ll be worthless. Don’t EVER put your knives in the dishwasher; it strips layers off the blade, dulling the knives and accelerating their deterioration. It also ruins the handles, making them brittle long before their time. Hand wash, dry, and put away immediately. Sharpening regularly will also extend the life of your knives. I am the worst at this. I have a honing steel, but I am so afraid of using it–I know that if you approach at the wrong angle, you can ruin your knives. It’s so much pressure! James showed us a multi-purpose sharpener, which will be my next kitchen purchase for sure! It’s pre-set to the angles required by different knife types–European, Asian, and serrated–and takes all the guesswork out of it. Run your knives through once a week or so and they’ll be in tip-top shape!
In between demonstrations, we relaxed at the coffee bar, where we sampled an assortment of pastries from Hartford Baking Co.–muffins, scones, cheese danishes, and more!–and sipped on NEAT coffee. I really love that Cookshop Plus sources their coffee from a Connecticut roaster–it’s a small touch that shows their commitment to the community. (And my flat white was divine! So much so that I had 2 of them, which helped me buzz my way through the day! Plus, what’s not to love about being able to get a cup of your favorite caffeinated brew while shopping? It’s the best of both worlds!)
Then Scott Kluger arrived from Hartford Baking Co. to teach us how to shape pretzels. I’ve made pretzels for the blog before, but they always ended up all bunched up and small. Now I know why. Scott explained that we had to make sure to roll out the dough ropes until they reached the tips of our “wing span” (close to the same as our height!). When you’re stretching the dough out more than 5 feet in length, it’s a lot easier to achieve those large pretzels you’d find in their bakery in West Hartford. (There *might* even be a photo of me shaping my dough up on the internet…)
(That’s Rosa Diana of Lady Diana’s Pearls in the video, BTW.)
The best part of the demo, though, was learning that Hartford Baking Co. will start offering baking classes soon! I worked in a bakery for 2 months when I was 21, and I’ve dabbled in bread at home, but there’s nothing like having access to the equipment found in a quality bakery. Benefit from their generosity and become an expert in bread!
The first two classes on the calendar include:
March 13th – The Art of the French Baguette
March 27th – Brioche, Brioche, Brioche
You can find information on how to sign up on the Hartford Baking Company’s Facebook page.
When’s the last time you checked out the gems in your community?
Thank you, A Little Bird Told Me, for inviting me to this event! It was great getting to know more about the businesses in the area!
Cookshop Plus West Hartford
977 Farmington Avenue, West Hartford, CT
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