NEW YORK - A serious cook needs serious tools. And even those who just dabble in the kitchen know that stocking the room with useful appliances and utensils makes the work easier, quicker, or simply more fun. For the lowest prices and hugely abundant selections, hop in your car (first make sure the cargo area is cleared out to make room for your purchases) and drive here, where the best kitchenware stores make their home.
In the once-industrial Chelsea area, now an art gallery mecca, you can find the popular New York Cake & Baking Distributor and, nearby, Bowery Kitchen Supplies. A bit south and a few avenues east, in Greenwich Village, is Broadway Panhandler, and farther north on the Upper West Side is the renowned Zabar's.
If baking or candy making is your passion, head straight for New York Cake & Baking Distributor. Here, baking pans, cake stands, mixing bowls, and utensils of all sizes, along with cookie cutters (hundreds, in all shapes and for all holidays), are crammed into one large room that smells faintly of chocolate. Cake decorators will have a field day checking out the food colorings, icing mixes, and other decorating essentials. Word is that Martha Stewart shops here. Though the prices aren't the cheapest of the lot, the selection is mind-boggling.
About a half-mile away is the imposing Chelsea Market building, an indoor food court that was once the home of the National Biscuit Co., maker of Oreos, Mallomars, Saltine crackers, and other packaged treats. Amy's Bread now bakes here, Hale and Hearty makes soups, and the Lobster Place sells fresh seafood. These and other vendors are housed inside the long mall that stretches from 9th to 10th avenues between 15th and 16th streets. Tucked behind a gelato stand is Bowery Kitchen Supplies, a stuffed-to-the-gills shop that sells to home cooks, restaurants, and the Food Network next door. Originally located in the Bowery with other restaurant supply stores, the shop sells pots and pans, glassware, china, bar goods, gadgets, knives, and more.
You won't get much farther in your search on an empty stomach. Either grab something from Chelsea Market's diverse offerings, or walk a half-dozen blocks to the lovely Cookshop. No, this isn't another place to buy Le Creuset or copper casseroles, but rather a cafe, complete with outdoor patio. A satisfying midday meal might include a seasonal vegetable salad, the daily pizza baked in a stone oven, or a classic burger, a masterpiece that centers around a grass-fed beef patty topped with applewood smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, and chipotle ketchup (see recipe at right for a version inspired by Cookshop's). If you're walking all day, fortify yourself with spiced fries and mayonnaise.
Even if you've got a tower of purchases, stop at Broadway Panhandler, near New York University. In fact, if Greenwich Village is your one and only destination, you'd do well to start and finish here. The store, in its current location for two years, offers a wide selection for both home cooks and professionals. Whether your needs are for baking, grilling, sautéing, braising, or serving, or if you're looking to buy gifts or gadgets, this shop has it all.
As does Zabar's, a food and housewares emporium that has been a fixture on the Upper West Side for 75 years. Zabar's first floor will satisfy cravings with hundreds of cheeses, smoked fish, prepared foods, and breads, while the upstairs satisfies cooking, baking, entertaining, and cleaning urges. Products hang from the ceiling and are jammed into every cranny in a room the length of half a city block. The selection is staggering. If there's a company that makes a machine - coffee, juice, bread, ice cream, panini, waffles, rice, etc. - Zabar's carries it.
Travelers' advisory: You will spend more time and money than intended. Once the car is full, head out of town. Otherwise you may need to renovate your kitchen to hold everything.
Bowery Kitchen Supplies, 75 9th Ave. (or 88 10th Ave.), New York, 212-376-4982; www.bowerykitchens.com
Broadway Panhandler, 65 East 8th St., New York, 866-266-5927; www.broadwaypanhandler.com
New York Cake & Baking Distributor, 56 West 22d St., New York, 212-675-2253
Zabar's, 2245 Broadway, New York, 212-787-2000; www.zabars.com
Cookshop, 156 10th Ave., New York, 212-924-4440; www.cookshopny.com