Unlike novelty ties or baskets of bubble bath and soap, gifts destined for the kitchen are less likely to get shelved or, even worse, re-gifted. A well-honed knife, a sturdy pepper mill or a really good bottle of olive oil are the kind of gifts that will never end up at a white-elephant swap.
Cook, the cozy Rittenhouse kitchen-classroom (253 S. 20th St., 215-735-2665), is the best place in town to get up close and personal with some of the city’s most talented chefs. And while tickets to classes with the likes of Lacroix’s Jon Cichon and Joey Baladino of Zeppoli fame are sure to please all of your food-loving friends, seats at Cook’s classes are only the beginning of the giftables they have to offer.
Tucked in a nook at the back of the shop is a closet-sized boutique filled with a cache of kitchen-wares, herbs and spices, locally made edibles, aprons and everything else you might need for a stylishly appointed kitchen. Fish scalers and lemon zesters sit next to cheese slicers and pizza wheels in all shapes and sizes. There are all sorts of elegant French imports like candles from Savon de Marseille and ribbon-tied jars of violet- and poppy-flavored pastilles from L’Ami Provencal.
On the local tip, Cook’s shelves are stocked with jams and preserves made by Becca O’Brien under the Green Aisle Grocery label. (Full disclosure: City Paper’s restaurant reviewer Adam Erace co-owns Green Aisle.) Made from produce sourced from Green Meadow Farms, among others, O’Brien’s hand-jarred and -labeled raspberry apple-rose and Bartlett-pear preserves pair as well with a slate of Manchego and Taleggio as they would with peanut butter in a sandwich. And if we’re talking sandwiches, Polish-recipe garlic dills from Jersey Gina’s Gems make great sour-crisp sides. Other edible offerings include Side Project Jerky, the hometown “jerky for gentlemen” in flavors like tamari-brown-sugar Mongolian, green-chile-spike Southwestern and cheesesteak-y original as well as mixes for making your own sugar-coated beignets.
With a wall full of gorgeously catalogued cookbooks ranging from locally authored picks like (on the day we dropped by) Marisa McClellen’s Food in Jars and Jason Sheehan’s Cooking Dirty to hulking volumes of Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon book, Cook’s collection is the kind of library that cookbook connoisseurs dream about. Issues of Lucky Peach are required-reading stocking stuffers.