In addition to being a center for wine and food, and increasingly the arts, Napa Valley is home to passionate food lovers, both professional and amateur. They include chefs, food writers, video producers and compulsive home cooks.
They can buy their ingredients from many sources up and down the valley, from the Oxbow Public Market to Cal Mart, from farmers markets during the summer to Vallerga’s, Sunshine, Browns Valley Market, Whole Foods — and even Trader Joe’s.
But the valley also boasts some remarkable stores that feature the tools to prepare wonderful food. A few have been magnets for foodies for a long time, but four have undergone significant changes of late, one moving into a large new site downtown.
Let’s take a look at these kitchenware stores:
Napa Valley Kitchen Gallery
The Napa Valley Kitchen Gallery is at 952 School St., nvkitchengallery.com or 253-2828.
Napa Valley Kitchen Gallery is the new kid on the block: In late April it will move to Napa Square in downtown Napa’s west end from an original site on Lincoln Avenue near Napa High School.
The new store is a big space, and has both quality tools for cooking and many attractive settings for serving.
Unlike many high-end stores, it sells the Victronix line of stamped knives with molded plastic handles. That doesn’t sound impressive until you realize why they’re used by many restaurants and cooking schools: they’re inexpensive, ergonomically designed and practical.
The store also carries exquisite Japanese and German knives, as well as the tools and equipment food lovers lust after.
In its new space, the Kitchen Gallery plans to offer cooking demonstrations and classes, but that awaits discussions with the city of Napa.
Shackford’s Kitchen Store
Shackford’s Kitchen Store is at 1350 Main St. in Napa, 226-2132.
Shackford’s Kitchen Store is Napa’s venerable cooking store. Recalling nothing as much as a crowded old-time hardware store when you have to get help to find many items, Shackford’s stocks variety of equipment for both chefs and home cooks.
Just look for tall John Shackford. He’s all business but can help you with anything. I once went in to buy a new $20 carafe for my coffee maker, and he sold me a 75-cent piece of plastic instead.
Its stock of parts for kitchen tools like mixers, food processors and coffee makers is legendary. When I lived in San Francisco, Sur La Table referred me to Shackford’s for parts for my Kitchen Aide mixer.
They have real chef’s clothing, too, so you can make like Emeril to impress your guests.
The prices are good, and they will sharpen your knives and food processor blades — bring them in on a Thursday.
The store’s clerks still write your order on small pads with carbon copies, but they will take credit cards.
Shackford’s is on the edge of downtown on Main Street, an easy walk from the center.
The Tyler Florence Shop
The Tyler Florence Shop is at 710 Main St. in Napa, 254-9977 or tylerflorence.com.
Tyler Florence’s new store is as far a cry from Shackford’s as imaginable. It contains everything you want and nothing you need. It opened last summer in the Riverfront complex in downtown Napa in front of Florence’s Rotisserie & Wine restaurant.
It’s filled with gorgeous, appealing and generally expensive products — many for the table rather than the kitchen, encouraging you to set a table to impress your friends.
Florence’s own line of equipment is for sale, and it’s of excellent quality.
NapaStyle (in Yountville)
NapaStyle is in the V Marketplace at 6525 Washington St. in Yountville, napastyle.com or 945-1229.
NapaStyle in Yountville is the retail store of TV star chef — and according to my female friends, “heartthrob” — Michael Chiarello. It’s in back of V Marketplace in Yountville right across from his Bottega restaurant, one of the toughest reservations in Napa Valley.
Like — well, TV star chef and heartthrob Tyler Florence’s store — NapaStyle is full of things you will decide you can’t live without.
It sells many stylish and innovative products. Quite a few are repurposed antiques and imports from Europe, perfect for the Napa lifestyle.
The store sells a number of Chiarello’s food products, too.
And you can also grab a panino or salad there, or taste some wines from Chiarello’s own company.
While you’re there, you might want to try to get into Bottega; sometimes just showing up works better than trying to reserve.
Dean & DeLuca
Dean & DeLuca is at 607 South St. Helena Highway in St. Helena, deandeluca.com or 967-9980.
Unlike the other stores highlighted, Dean & DeLuca just south of St. Helena is a gourmet food store as much as a kitchenware store, but its selection is wide and impressive.
It leans toward the high-end, but there is a selection of tableware in the back of the adjoining wine section. Some would be at home in a bistro in Lyon.
While there, you’re likely to be seduced by the incredible selection of food items, especially the cheese and charcuterie. They also prepare many foods to enjoy on a picnic and a huge selection of local wines.
Steves Hardware is at 1370 Main St. in St. Helena, 963-3423.
Steves (no apostrophe) Hardware has been a staple on St. Helena’s impossibly appealing Main Street for ages. Now it’s built an adjoining annex filled with every imaginable food preparation and serving item, from utilitarian cheesecloths to fancy machines and serving dishes.
It has an especially large assortment of innovative and interesting serving ware.
A hint: Park in back.
Spice Islands Marketplace at the CIA at Greystone
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone is at 2555 Main St. (Highway 29) in St. Helena, ciastore.com or 967-2309.
The misleadingly named Spice Islands Marketplace is the campus store at the Culinary Institute of America in the old Greystone Cellars north of St. Helena. The store was recently moved, expanded and upgraded into a destination of its own.
Unfortunately, it’s a treacherous snare if you like to cook or bake.
Stylist, utilitarian, developed just for America’s top cooking school or sold everywhere, it’s likely to be for sale here.
The school has persuaded some leading brands to create special versions with its logo, and naturally, they’re first-rate if not bargains.
Many of the other stores mentioned above carry some cookbooks, but the CIA is in a class of its own. If you can’t find a cookbook here, it’s probably not in English — or is out of print.
It features books by the many food writers who call Napa Valley home, too, as well as its own textbooks and those written by its staff.
If that weren’t enough, it has chocolate and olive oil tasting bars, and sells those products, too.
There’s no wine tasting, but you can take a class at the CIA’s adjoining wine school or taste at the restaurant upstairs — or at about 300 other places in Napa Valley.