The Seattle-based cookware emporium stocks pots, pans, gadgets, cookbooks and tableware for recipes both obscure (Day of the Dead sugar skull molds) and ordinary (coffee mugs). It's not surprising that chefs like Julia Child, Alice Waters and Jacques Pepin frequent the original Sur La Table: The place looks like a dream kitchen.
Umber concrete floors, track lighting and steel shelves set a sunny mood. Helpful staffers -- wearing aprons, of course -- explain how to use more unusual items. That tomato shark, which looks like a mini melon baller with fangs, gets the seeds out of Big Boys or Romas. Tiny ceramic pie birds nest in the center of the pan, releasing steam as the pie bakes. Other equipment -- nigiri sushi molds, Maryland crab-shaped cookie cutters -- fuels ambitious culinary projects.
Everyday, professional-style basics also top the menu: Henkels and Wustof-Trident knives, Le Creuset cast-iron pots, All-Clad and Calphalon pans. Tres francais equipment ranges from copper brioche molds to Emile Henry's oven-to-table casserole and quiche pans in
bright red, yellow or blue pottery. Tart rings -- round, square, even Christmas-tree shaped -- hang from a pot rack overhead.
But what makes SLT stand out from other stores is the sense that if it goes on the dinner table or helps make a party brighter, you can find it here. An extensive selection of kitchen and dining room linens ranges from retro tea towels decorated with a vintage cowboy to elegant place mats painted with wine grapes and goblets ($5.50 each). Ceramic dishes from Italy and Portugal include golden sunflower plates fit for dinner with Van Gogh and a rabbit butter dish that seems to be made of lettuce and cauliflower. Other delish finds: party-pretty paper plates and napkins, recipe files, wine glasses and ceramic tiki tumblers plus the paper cocktail umbrellas that go in them.
If all this cookware inspires hunger, a library-like cookbook section sells hundreds of titles, from "The Joy of Cooking" to the just-released "Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia." Cooking magazines -- Food and Wine, Martha Stewart Living, etc. -- lurk by the cash register. It's enough to make you want to go home and get cooking.
-- Jennifer Barger