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10 Fine Dining-Worthy Home Kitchen Upgrades, from Top Seattle Chefs

Eater logo Eater 4/8/2020 Gabe Guarente
a table topped with plates of food and a glass of wine: Seattle chefs recommend pantry upgrades to vinegars, olive oils, and more. © Shutterstock Seattle chefs recommend pantry upgrades to vinegars, olive oils, and more.

With everyone hunkered down during Washington’s stay-at-home order, stocking home kitchen pantries has become essential. The newly-launched Eater at Home provides resources for beginners and advanced cooks alike, with advice on cooking techniques, sourdough starters, tools of the trade, and more. But for Pacific Northwesterners who want to add more flair to their kitchens, Seattle’s top chefs are here to help.

Below, James Beard Award-winning Canlis chef Brady Williams, Tarsan i Jane’s Perfecte Rocher, and Eden Hill’s Maximilian Petty share some of the ingredients and equipment that could make even the most basic meals a little fancier.

Pianogrillo olive oil ($45.99, ChefShop). While any sort of olive oil is a pantry essential, the higher quality stuff provides an instant upgrade. Williams recommends this product from Sicily, which is pricey, but worth it for the depth of flavor. “The olives are hand picked every October and pressed within the same day,” says Williams, who says it’s best used for finishing dishes or making dressings (even on vanilla ice cream), not for cooking.

a close up of a bottle: Pianogrillo olive oil is good for salads. © ChefShop Pianogrillo olive oil is good for salads.

Buckwheat honey ($21.99, iGourmet). This ingredient, made from the nectar of buckwheat flowers, is a favorite of Petty’s. “Any style of malted honey with floral notes with a little sweetness is perfect for finishing roasted game or adding a complex sweetness to vinaigrettes and sauces,” he says.

Minus 8 vinegar ($41.99, iGourmet). This is another pantry basic that can become a luxury item, depending on quality. Rocher suggests stocking up with a few different vinegars or sherries that vary in body (light to full). While he makes vinegars at the restaurant from leftover fruits and wine, some of the commercial ones he loves include this Canadian product, Vinaigre de Citron, and Gam Sikcho (Korean persimmon vinegar).

Microplane grater ($12.99, Amazon). Mandoline slicers and microplane graters aren’t uncommon for home kitchens, but Petty says that they can be great tools to highlight ingredients in more refined ways, such as shaving or grating fresh ginger and garlic, instead of using a dull knife. “Making salads with fresh shaved kohlrabi and grated nuts or cheese over the top is just a simple, beautiful touch that makes a meal special,” he says.

Soy salt ($39.99, ChefShop). This is a flaky salt made in Japan from single-brewer shoyu that has been fermented in 100-year-old cedar vats, bringing a flavor that matches the price tag. “I love adding it to roasted meats like pork and lamb, which we do at the restaurant, or to stews over rice,” says Williams. “It’s subtle, but adds a ton of umami.”

a bowl of food on a plate: Soy salt helps elevate meat dishes. © ChefShop Soy salt helps elevate meat dishes.

Black garlic ($8.99, The Spice House). The aged version of regular garlic was a hot restaurant trend years ago, but chefs still swear by it, especially Petty, who praises its sweeter, “time roasted” feeling. While there are bulbs available for retail, those with patience can make black garlic at home with a rice cooker or proofer, which can be a “fun project,” says Petty. The process takes weeks, but there’s no time like the present.

Thermomix ($1,499, Thermomix Official). At Tarsan i Jane, Rocher uses a wood-fired hearth to cook his tasting menus, but he also loves the versatility of a Thermomix. Basically, it’s a blender, slow cooker, sous vide, fermenter, and kettle all in one. A luxury, for sure — but possibly the only main cooking tool one would need, aside from pots and pans.

Daikon radish ($4.99 for 100 seeds, Green Seed Garden). It’s still a little early in the season for the spring produce bounty to arrive, but there are plenty of root vegetables for anyone looking for a home fermenting project. Williams recommends seeking out daikon radish for kimchi, which can be found at local markets once they come back, or available in seeds packages for gardening aficionados.

a cup of coffee on a table: Tinned salmon has a long shelf life and is versatile. © Drifters Fish Tinned salmon has a long shelf life and is versatile.

Tinned salmon ($20 for a package of two, Drifters Fish). Copper River salmon season isn’t until May, but Williams recommends seeking out smoked preserved and tinned 2019 sockeye at the local, community-supported fishery Drifters Fish (they make for a good appetizer or salad topping). Customers can also reserve a salmon share for the upcoming season.

Superbags ($30-$88, Modernist Pantry). These are a less messy alternative to cheesecloths and other strainers, and Rocher lists the fine mesh bags among his essentials for home kitchens. They can also be fairly versatile: some can be used as effective coffee filters.

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