Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blogger Brunch at The Cook's Warehouse

I've been cooking since I could reach the stove, so I naturally have a special love for kitchen and culinary stores. I used to get in trouble for using so many groceries in failed cooking "experiments". I've learned a lot since then and, to my delight, culinary technology has advanced quite considerably. And I'm happy to share that my cooking these days is more expertise and less experiment, although I still find myself often trying something new.

Having never taken a cooking class, outside of a Home Economics class in school approximately a bazillion years ago, I learned most of what I know of cooking by watching my mother and grandmother cook...some of those memories go back to before grade school. I don't remember a lot of my childhood, so that tells you a little bit of how special those particular memories are to me.

Mary Moore & Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse
Mary Moore & Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse

Since I've been back in Atlanta, I've had the awesome pleasure of meeting quite a few of our celebrity chefs and culinary celebrities, including Mary MooreFounder and CEO of The Cook's Warehouse, Atlanta's premier gourmet store and cooking school. Mary recently invited me to a Bloggers-Only Champagne BrunchLet it be known that Mary knows how to throw a party!

In the photo above, that's Mary on the left with Chef Jennifer Hill-Booker, who was there to not only prepare brunch for us, she made the whole experience a cooking demonstration! Many of the dishes we enjoyed were from her cookbook, "Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent."

Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

Before I go much further, I wanted to let you know why I'm blogging about a gourmet store and cooking school, not an obvious tourist destination, but I think it should be!

As much as I'm a lover of all things tourism, I'm also a foodie—no surprise to those who know me or to those who have read wanderlust ATLANTA for a while. To tie the two together, I want to offer The Cook's Warehouse as not only a destination, but also as a magnificent source for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home, wherever that might be.

I'ts definitely a destination when it comes to treating yourself or gift-giving for ANY friend or loved one...their selection is brilliant!

When I travel, "the" souvenir I get for myself is a book about the city I'm visiting. They not only make for an awesome collection, they allow me to revisit that city any time I want. Some in that collection are also cookbooks, which makes for a whole other way of reminiscing a vacation. I love that The Cook's Warehouse stocks so many cookbooks written by local chefs, and we have some awesome chefs in Atlanta! 

Black-Eye Pea Hummus | The Cook's Warehouse
Black-Eyed Pea Hummus | The Cook's Warehouse

One of the dishes we enjoyed early on was Chef Jennifer's Black-Eyed Pea Hummus. Having lived in the Mediterranean for more than two years, I have a special relationship with hummus. I'm not a hummus snob mind you, but when you've had the real thing, it's ridiculous to eat something sub-par. There was nothing to fret on this occasion...Jennifer's hummus is magnificent!

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our other hosts, David Dunford, Corporate Sales and Events Manager at The Cook’s Warehouse, and Jim Brams, Public Relations for The Cook's Warehouse. Both were and have been awesome to work with...thanks, guys!

Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

I love spicy olives! But the best thing on this hors d'ouevres plate—we made our own plates from dishes Chef Jennifer had prepared earlier—was her homemade pimento cheese! That's another dish that can be worst-in-the-world -or- make you want to grab the bowl and leave the other guests to fend for themselves. I was of course in polite company, so the bowl snagging wasn't an option, but based on comments I heard from other bloggers, I wasn't the only one who entertained the notion.

Part of the program was a presentation of new or popular in-store products, quite a few of which caught my attention. I've never mastered the art of grilling, but a Big Green Egg might encourage some experimentation—or I could take a class! They also showed us a bowl-at-a-time ice cream maker—love that one! While I've never met a cool kitchen gadget that I didn't like, I'm particularly fond of a good cast iron skillet, thanks to all the amazing dishes my mother created with hers, which belonged to her father.

One of the features that make The Cook's Warehouse such a popular destination is its cooking classes. And there are a LOT to choose from. I seem to remember that the knife skills class is the most popular. A quick scan of their class listing reveals that some sell out, so plan ahead. Then again, there are so many to choose from you're sure to find one you'll enjoy, even when planning last-minute.  

Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

This salad (above), as simple a salad as it may appear to be, is one of the absolute best that I've had in...I don't know how long it's been! I love arugula and oranges, but the vinaigrette Chef Jennifer made in real-time was perfection. In case you're wondering, I do believe it was this early in the meal that I knew without a doubt that I'd be buying her cookbook that day. She autographed it and included a lovely inscription. Thank you, Chef!

Chef Jennifer's "Orange & Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette" is truly brilliant! I want more! More, more, more! I could eat that dish every day.

Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

I love eggs. Always have. So I've had a lot of them in my lifetime. One of the greatest, and fun, challenges with liking a food so much is coming up with new ways to enjoy it. I can honestly say that I've never had my eggs quite like this...Chef Jennifer's Spring Omelet Roll. And again...delicious! This was also a recipe from Field Peas to Foie Gras.

Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse
Bloggers-Only Champagne Brunch | The Cook's Warehouse

In Chef Jennifer's cookbook she says that Blackberry Cobbler (recipe in the book) is her favorite, even though when she was in Paris, she mostly made cobblers with strawberries or raspberries, which were more readily available. I've shared before that my personal favorite dessert was my mother's Blackberry Dumplings—I could eat my weight in that dish!

I hope to soon be recreating that recipe with my mother (that's going to be a special day), but in the meantime, I'm going to give Chef Jennifer's Blackberry Cobbler a try...I know it'll be amazing! There's also a recipe for Coconut Cake, which was my grandmother's favorite, so I'll be trying that one as well.

There was a LOT packed into this two-hour event, and "delicious" doesn't even begin to describe the food and drink and camaraderie with fellow bloggers and the presentation of what's newly available at The Cook's Warehouse. This was our menu for the brunch:
  • Black-Eyed Pea Hummus
  • Black Pepper Biscuits with Pimento Cheese
  • Roasted Olives with Preserved Lemons
  • Spring Omelet Roll
  • Orange & Arugula Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
  • Roasted Gazpacho Soup
  • Chocolate Brownies with Georgia Pecans
And our bubbles were Private Label Guyot Choppin Brut from Sherlock's Wine Merchant...quite delightful!

Cookbook Author Signing Events | The Cook's Warehouse
Cookbook Author Signing Events | The Cook's Warehouse

The Cook's Warehouse is one of the most incredible gourmet shops I've ever been to, and I've been a customer of their Midtown/Ansley Square location for years! I've yet to attend a cooking class, but understand that their Knife Skills class is the most popular. 

When it come to gift-giving, when the recipient, I'm all about Star Trek and/or kitchen gadgets, or kitchen counter appliances...I'm not that picky, but a top-grade mixer would be awesome! Especially in laser red. Actually, my friend Mike, who has an awesome singing voice, has ALWAYS gotten the Star Trek gifts exactly right. He knows I'm a foodie, but indulges the Trekkie in me.

One thing about The Cook's Warehouse...allot yourself ample time to browse. They have an incredible amount of inventory! And whoever is doing the purchasing for the stores (there are several locations around town), they're sourcing only top quality, cooking gear that you'll actually use. 

If I recall correctly, Mary started the store after going to numerous stores to find a particular item, but couldn't find it...and it wasn't that rare a cooking item. I seriously doubt that's going to happen to you at The Cook's Warehouse...they have everything!   

Travis with Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse
Travis with Chef Jennifer Booker | The Cook's Warehouse

I first met Chef Jennifer at the event when she was inducted as a Georgia Grown Executive Chef. Georgia Grown is a program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Grown Executive Chefs are ambassadors for buying and using Georgia-grown and Georgia-made products. I personally have great admiration for the program.

Chef Jennifer is also a relatively new member of Les Dames d'Escoffier International - Atlanta Chapter (LDEI), an invitation-only nonprofit organization of professional women in the hospitality and culinary arts. They're also very active in philanthropy.

I knew that Mary Moore was also a member, but it wasn't until this brunch that I learned that Mary was Chef Jennifer's sponsor—the member who nominated Chef Jennifer for membership. It's a small world we live in!

I'm a HUGE fan of LDEI, and will be writing more about the wonderful work they're doing and the opportunities they afford Atlanta tourists, visiting and local.

Chef Hugh Acheson, Book Signing Event | The Cook's Warehouse
Chef Hugh Acheson, Book Signing Event | The Cook's Warehouse

Chef Hugh Acheson, you know him if you're an Atlanta local and you know him if you'rea fan of Top Chef, was at The Cook's Warehouse for a book-signing event (The Broad Fork) immediately after the Bloggers-Only Brunch. He graciously let me make a photo. "Thank you, Chef Hugh!"

You can have your own photo of Chef Acheson by picking up one of his cookbooks and/or getting a free copy of the official Georgia Travel Guide for 2015—he's on the cover! You can also view the Guide online. It's an excellent resource for planning vacations and finding things-to-do in Atlanta and throughout Georgia!

Speaking of vacations and sightseeing, I wanted to remind everyone that foods, cookbooks and and kitchen gadgets make great souvenirs, for yourself or friends and family back home. So, skip the cheesy shot glass and t-shirt that they'll never wear, and get them something that they can cook from or cook with for a lifetime or savor for a special occasion.

The Cook's Warehouse is certainly a perfect stop for such a thoughtful and fun souvenir. I'll be talking more about The Cook's Warehouse in a future post when I'll be sharing ideas for an Atlanta Culinary Vacation!

In the meantime, you can sign-up for their newsletter at their website (lower left corner).

Thank you again, Mary Moore! I've long been a fan of The Cook's Warehouse and am so glad to get to know your store better. See you around town!


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