Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Whether you're an experienced cook or not, visiting a kitchen store can be therapeutic. They're cheerful, colorful and their staples like soup pots and pie plates conjure the smells and memories of home. These days they're also stocked with scores of gadgets you never knew you needed — egg thermometers, julienne peelers, vacuum food sealers — that are terrifically fun to browse.
The stores below all cater to professional gourmets and home cooks alike. You'll sometimes find better deals or a broader selection of budget brands at Target or Dillard's, but not always with the same customer service, from people who actually know how to cook.
Eggshells Kitchen Co. This Heights-based store carries name-brand gourmet cookware, bakeware, knives and gadgets, with an emphasis on Arkansas-made products (like Microplane cheese graters, Bentley patio glasses made in Perryville and gorgeous butcher blocks made from Arkansas wood). Look for the store's Razorback tailgate party display with Razorback-stamped meat branding irons, a steel jalapeno pepper grill and Razorback cake molds and cookie cutters. Eggshells generally puts on two cooking classes a month taught by local chefs in a kitchen located in the back of the store, where it also offers cooking-themed kids birthday parties. 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd. 664-6900. eggshellskitchencompany.com. Gift registry available. CC accepted. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.
Kitchen Co. Known as Sauce Co. when it was located in the Heights, Kitchen Co. moved to the Pleasant Ridge Town Center in 2008 to compliment the Fresh Market grocery store crowd. The store's quality and brand of merchandise is competitive with Williams Sonoma, but Kitchen Co. offers more depth in the variety of certain gourmet gadgets like julienne, serrated and ceramic peelers and colorful oversized metal fish spatulas for the grill. It also carries a large collection of Le Creuset cookware, in a multitude of colors. Despite its name change, Kitchen Co. retained its favorite sauces and spice rubs, like the tub of "Rub for Love" salmon rub, a sweet, spicy combination of brown sugar and paprika. One downside: We've found service at the store unhelpful, bordering on unfriendly. The store offers cooking classes throughout the week, on wine pairing and French cooking to New Orleans picnics. Pleasant Ridge Town Center, 11525 Cantrell Road. 663-3338. kitchenco.net. Gift registry available. CC accepted. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Krebs Brothers Restaurant Supply. As tempting as they may sound, 85-ounce silver scoops, two-foot tall potato mashers, industrial deep fryers or commercial "Sonic"-style ice machines probably won't work for home cooks. But Krebs, the almost 80-year-old supply store on which local restaurants have long relied, has plenty for home use, too. The store carries brands like Chantal, Emile—Henry and Kuhn Rikon and has enough experience to steer customers from a high-priced department store brand to a more reasonably priced equivalent. Crafters love Krebs for its meticulous containers and measuring devices. The thrifty sort goes in on cases of heavy-duty pint glasses to split among friends. 4310 Landers Road, North Little Rock. 687-1331. krebsbros.com. Gift registry available. CC accepted. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.
Williams Sonoma. This gourmet chain is where we go to gawk at shiny stainless steel saucepots, sparkling Ruffoni Convivium Hammered Copper Cookware and glass-encased state-of-the-art knives. Steel Grill Outdoor Cookware dominates the front of the store during summertime with fine-mesh covered vegetable and fish skillets and "slider" hamburger presses. Williams Sonoma uses real food to demonstrate its products, like strawberry slicers and apple and pineapple corers. Mom and dad bakers will find an especially festive selection of kid-friendly cookware, like Whoopie Pie baking tins and cookie sandwich pans, BEABA brand baby food makers and cookbooks for babies and toddlers. The store offers registries for brides, birthdays and housewarmings. Every Sunday at 1 p.m., it hosts classes on techniques, like knife skills and poultry basics. Several times of month, it hosts cooking classes; visit the website or call for a schedule. Midtowne Shopping Center, 201 N. University Ave. 663-3019. williams-sonoma.com. CC Accepted. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sun.
T.J. Maxx. The overstock of kitchen stores. You never know what it will have on the shelves as the store gets new discounted stock every week. Still, it's a good place to find ordinary-to-gourmet name brands like Kitchen Aid, Cuisinart, and even Kuhn Rikon items at half price, from bakeware and cast iron skillets to bamboo cutting boards and mushroom slicers. You may even spot a Viking Cookware saucepan if you're lucky. 9100 N Rodney Parham Road. 225-6240; McCain Plaza, 4132 E. McCain. 945-5520. tjmaxx.com. CC accepted. 9:30-9:30 Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.