A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
I'll admit to not doing my part to keep the Sauce Co. alive and cooking at its Heights location once Williams-Sonoma opened at nearby Midtown. Not that I spent my money at the chain instead of the local; both were generally above my budget, save for the occasional jar of Stonewall Kitchens' roasted garlic and onion jam. Good stuff, that.
But I have a natural preference for the local guy over the national company, so I was sad to see Sauce Co. pushed out west by the competition from Williams-Sonoma. But, the owner told me, it was all for the best. The new space was larger — room for more merchandise, as well as a kitchen where he could hold cooking classes.
Sounded great. And then, a few weeks ago, there I was strolling down Kavanaugh, and what do I see but a sign in the window of the former Sauce Co. advertising its new tenant: Eggshells Kitchen Co. Oy.
But Eggshells' new owners, who just happened to be inside putting together display shelves, had a different vision for their store. It would have some similarities to the Sauce Co., but with less sauce and more gadgets. Well, OK, I thought, best of luck to you.
Now both stores are open, and after having a chance to browse through them both, I can say there's room for optimism. They are at the same time similar and not-so, and both offer a tier of merchandise (read: inexpensive) that Williams-Sonoma doesn't.
Eggshells, owned by native Arkies Sarah Ort and Heather Smith, who recently moved back from Asheville, N.C., is the smaller of the two, of course. It's even smaller, really, than the old Sauce Co. — there are markedly fewer shelves and less merchandise. But it looks great, you could easily maneuver around with a stroller, and there's actually a pretty good selection. There's some higher-end cookware, bakeware and knives, beautiful wooden cutting boards, whimsical William Bounds pepper grinders that start at $40, but there's also plenty of smaller, less expensive stuff that would be perfect for gifts or for satisfying that retail therapy itch relatively painlessly. Multicolored plastic tumblers, for instance, are $4 each (8 for $24). A Kuhn Rikon paring knife that comes in a range of bright colors (including the blade, which is also covered in silicone so food doesn't stick to it) is $9. Sets of three coordinating flour sack towels are $9, and sets of six cloth cocktail napkins (not easy to find) are $20. There's a collection of colored bamboo serving bowls. My favorites: beautiful sets of decorative-yet-functional stainless steel measuring spoons meant to hang on the wall from a matching row of tiny hooks, and a spiral-y hanging wine rack. Eggshells has the advantage if you don't want to be overwhelmed by too many choices (I mean this in a good way — the store has plenty of breathing room), or if you live nearby and don't want to blow the gas on a trip to West Little Rock.
The reborn Sauce Co., now called Kitchen Co., has a more extensive selection, of course. They've got the same high-end Le Creuset and Emile Henry cookware they had at the Heights location, the same selection of gourmet sauces, jams and baking mixes. There's also a huge variety of bundt cake pans — my favorite is the pirate ship ($28). Seems like there are a lot more gadgets, too, and not just expensive ones — there are Oxo Good Grips, which you'll find at Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond, as well as a whole shelf full of fun, brightly colored silicone, plastic and wood cooking tools from Le Creuset and Zak. (My favorite of these is the Happy Cheeky Spoon, a plastic smiley-face slotted spoon from Zak. No way you could be mad you got stuck making dinner if you had that guy in your utensil crock.)
There's one shelf devoted to kids' cooking equipment — fun aprons from Mimi the Sardine, miniature rolling pins, even a pint-sized chef's hat. There's a good selection of red and blue color-coordinated melamine mixing bowls from Architec's Preps line.
Overall, pretty good competition for the chains, and worth the drive out there if you don't live nearby. For information on the cooking classes, call 663-3338 or ask at the store.