You know how Samin Nosrat traveled the world for her hit Netflix show “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat,” tasting esoteric, artisanal ingredients that make her entire being almost ignite with delight — ingredients you very much wish you could immediately taste yourself? If you have the patience and the considerable cash, the James Beard award-winning cookbook author has links on her website to order them. A few lead directly to the producers, but most of them go to Amazon.
An argument could be made that buying from the behemoth here in Seattle is shopping local, but … Enter ChefShop.com, a brick-and-mortar-in-Interbay and online-everywhere enterprise that Eliza Ward and her husband, Tim Mar, have been running for 20-plus years. They carry all the “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” specialty items — or very similar ones, made the same painstaking, old-fashioned ways — plus a dizzying variety of other stuff of food nerds’ dreams. Samin (if you’ve seen the show, you know she’s a first-name basis type) would absolutely approve of ChefShop’s house-packaged Dutch-processed cocoa powder ($23.99 for 2.2 lbs.) — at 22 to 24 percent cocoa butter, it’s got 2 to 4 percent more fat than the best commercial-grade cocoa. ChefShop owner Eliza (she’d like you to call her Eliza) will tell you it truly makes a difference, whether you’re baking or just making extremely good hot cocoa (she sometimes uses half-and-half, which Samin would also doubtless endorse).
Ordering online is fine, but if you’re in Seattle and you’ve never been, you’re going to want to get yourself inside ChefShop. Marooned among warehouses, the shop’s interior surprises: worn-but-glossy hardwood floors, shelves salvaged from a local school, a jazz soundtrack and big papier-mâché ducks and geese watching over the proceedings (ask Eliza where they came from — it’s a funny story).
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More importantly, ChefShop has tasting stations for, yes, soy sauces, salts and olive oils — and vinegars, too, for your acid enjoyment. Eliza will give you a precious little spoonful of a soy sauce made on the island in Japan featured in Samin’s show, by a neighboring family producer, and it will be (like Samin says) sooooo good: toasty-tasting, very strong but very smooth, with something about it akin to a very dark beer ($16.99/12.1 ounces). The special Japanese salt is here, and a sprinkling in the palm of your hand is more beige-colored, richer, more rounded and definitely more oceanic than regular salt ($29.99/300 grams). If you’re me, you’ll find out that your new favorite Ligurian olive oil costs $38.99 for a 500 ml bottle (and if you spring for it, as both Samin and Eliza would tell you, you’ve got to live a little and use it up pretty soon, because olive oil has a limited shelf life).
You can also sign up to get in on ChefShop’s intermittent shipments of two-year-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano ($80/2.5 lbs., $119 with shipping), made by happy Italian cows and people as shown on “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” Eliza also stocks Ligurian pesto ($12.99/6.35 oz.) that comes in a jar — on the show, pesto gets made by Samin and a marvelous Italian woman with a mortar and pestle in an absurdly gorgeous outdoor setting. By phone, I asked Samin: Is it OK to eat pesto from a jar?! She laughed and said everyone in Italy does it. “There’s no shame in that, to get your dinner on the table!”
At ChefShop, Eliza was also eager for me to try, and hear about, some of her impressive selection of honeys. She gave me tastes on little wooden sticks, along with more in-depth info on how the bees do it than Samin’s show had time to provide — Eliza’s obsessed with honey, and, as with many other things in the shop, can offer a fascinating education. (She also team-teaches ingredient-highlighting cooking classes, which seem very much worth considering — they’re on the website. So are various local chefs’ personal pantry inventories — Canlis’ Brady Williams likes the special soy sauce, too.)
Eliza very much hopes to get her hands on some Melipona honey from the Yucatán, the female harvesters of which are featured in Samin’s “Acid” episode (which also explains how all honey is, confoundingly, acidic). She’d love to show you around ChefShop and talk to you about how, if you’re able, supporting original, artisan, heirloom foods really matters.
ChefShop.com: 1425 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle; 206-286-9988 or 800-596-0885; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; chefshop.com