Williams-Sonoma cooking store opens in EdmontonTuesday, September 25
This past weekend saw two important milestones take place.
Unfortunately, Saturday brought with it the official arrival of fall. Although the weather shows no real signs of changing, it’s inevitable and we can’t avoid the oncoming onslaught of cold and dreary days.
Thankfully though, Saturday also brought the arrival of the new Williams-Sonoma. For the foodies out there, the opening of the first location in Edmonton has probably been circled on your calendar for months.
While our neighbours down the QE2 have been able to enjoy this Mecca of all things culinary for years now, we have been deprived for far too long. For those of you that are oblivious to this little gem of a cooking store, let me fill you in.
Founded in 1956, Williams-Sonoma Inc. is the premier specialty retailer of home furnishings and gourmet cookware in the United States. Their brands are amongst the best known and most-respected in the industry.
They have grown to more than 250 stores and do a large volume of business through e-commerce.
The secret behind their success is their dedication to customer service, and perhaps even more importantly, their strong commitment to quality.
You can rest assured that when buying a product found on their shelves, you are buying nothing but the best.
They even go to the extent of taking the time to know the local food community before arriving in town. They scout out local restaurants, bakeries, markets etc., to select only the best of the best to attach their name to.
That’s why when they reached out to me last month to take part in their grand opening weekend I was flattered. It turned out they had dined in one of our establishments and quickly saw the synergies of our two brands when it comes to quality and customer care.
Being asked to prepare a dish and perform a cooking demo on opening day for their loyal following was an exciting opportunity, but perhaps the best part was the opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the store two days before the grand opening.
My tour was guised as a site inspection to determine what equipment I would have to work with on opening day, but the reality was I was more interested in seeing all they had to offer. As I took the tour I was not disappointed.
Everything the home chef could need was at hand’s reach. Perhaps the most impressive display was the selection of chef’s knives available. There was no sign of the Wiltshire stay-sharp knives or tin can cutters that had their place in so many middle class homes in the ’80s and ’90s.
There was nothing but top-of-the-line knives used by professional chefs — Wusthofs, Globals and Shuns as far as the eye could see.
I was a little like a kid in a candy store, and it really took all of my will power to not fill a shopping cart myself.
When Saturday came, my admiration for their brand only grew. As I walked in the place, the aroma of fresh baked goods filled the room.
The place was packed with people, and yet there was no sense of any franticness that might be associated with a first day of business.
The greeting at the door was extremely warm and welcoming. From there I was quickly approached with offerings of pastry samples and more warm smiles.
The team was so helpful in the set up of my demonstration and even helped to serve the soup I prepared, all the while, ensuring everyone knew just who it was that prepared it. As my demonstration wrapped, the lined formed even deeper, and before I knew it we were at the bottom of my soup pot.
All in all, the day was a great success and the team portrayed a great deal of class. I wish them nothing but the best as they enter our marketplace, and I’m confident that they will be a smashing success.
Here’s the recipe I prepared for the special day. A great fall soup, featuring one of my favourites, butternut squash.
Butternut Squash, Corn & Potato Chowder
Makes 4 lt. or 8 bowls of soup
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 whole butternut squash
1 oz. butter
3 cloves garlic
4 thick cut slices, Irvings Farm bacon
2 whole corn on the cob
1 red, yellow, and orange peppers
1 red onion
4 russet potatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
3 lt. chicken stock
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 Tbsp. chipotle peppers
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by preparing the vegetables, peel, seed, and large dice the butternut squash, peel and mince the garlic, remove corn kernels from cob, seed and large dice the peppers, peel and large dice the red onion, peel and large dice the potatoes, set all vegetables aside in separate bowls
Julienne the bacon
Mince the chipotle peppers
Now it’s time to build the layers of flavour, begin by melting the butter in a medium soup pot
Add the bacon, and lightly saute until it begins to lightly brown
Add the aromatic red onions and garlic, and cook until translucent
Add the squash and potatoes and cook quickly, 2 minutes or so, remember to lightly season as you go
Now add the peppers and corn, cook another 2 minutes, stirring regularly
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, allow to reduce, then add the chicken stock
While it comes to a simmer, chop the rosemary and thyme
Add the herbs, and chipotle paste to the pot, followed by the cream
Simmer another 5-10 minutes, to allow the potatoes and vegetables soften
Adjust the seasoning and serve