I love to bake, I want to be a great cook someday (I really don’t have the experience under my belt to even call myself a cook, much less a good one!), I get giddy over kitchen accessories, food photography and scrapbooking are in my heart and in my blood, and even with all this, writing up this post has still taken me by surprise. Aside from my first post on La Merceria, I’ve never written about kitchen accessory, tool, and gadget shops on the blog but it makes sense to do so. Great food, creative cooking, and fun baking don’t just fall from the clouds; there are so many tools that we use to create our food, from humble dishes to gastronomic masterpieces. Independent kitchen accessory stores are so great because they carry unique products that you may not be able to find in large chain stores, they provide the community around them with outlets to experiment, learn, and grow in the kitchen, and let’s face it, foodies foam at the mouth when it comes to gadgets that are cute and of great quality.
Nestled in the Wychwood Barns neighbourhood on St. Clair West, Clay is one such example of a kitchen boutique that simaltaneously caters to the novice, the experienced, and the hardcore foodie. As the sister shop of Carlos Flores’ and his wife Sandra’s CocoaLatte, Clay is an extension of CocoaLatte’s kitchen with everything from panini presses to coffee mugs, grinders, and accessories. Since its opening in December of 2010, Clay has provided the surrounding community with kitchen goodies for wine and cheese lovers, coffee addicts, avid bakers, burgeoning chefs, and even kiddie cooks in the making!
The inspiration behind Clay emerged from a desire from CocoaLatte’s customers, as well as from the surrounding neighbourhood, for a shop solely devoted to cooking and kitchen products. I know it seems easy enough to say, “oh, well just purchase things from Wal-Mart or the department store or Ikea”, but we can’t forget that certain areas in the city don’t have practical access to these types of stores. Even if they were easily accessible by public transit, which many people rely on to go about their day-to-day activities, it’s not fair to assume that everyone will go across town for the sake of obtaining a new mixing bowl. Clay strives to create relationships with their clientele and to make everyone with any level of cooking experience feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the skill set and the products they purchase.
My favourite things about Clay are the bright colours and cute accessories! I am absolutely in love with the bright primary coloured ice cream bowls, the traffic light coloured spatulas, ladles, and slotted spoons, and of course, the pretty patterned table linens! If I had to choose my favourite items, it would have to be the squirrel walnut cracker (which my friend Wini would be gaga over!), the red, yellow, and green utensils, the ice cream bowls, the kiddie section, and the kitchen stationery and sticky notes set!
The shop itself is divided into a number of different sections that cater to particular forms of cooking, baking, and drinking: wine glasses and accessories with cheese cutting boards; colourful and whimsical kitchen linens and napkins; roasting pans, skillets, kettles, and griddles; stoneware cups, bowls, butter dishes, and ramekins; coffee mugs, grinders, and tea boxes; glass bowls, cookie cases, mason jars, muffin and cupcake pans, cookie sheets, and measuring cups; larger appliances such as stand mixers, blenders, and panini presses; a wall of goodies including egg poachers, walnut crackers, juice reamers, ice molds and trays, spice racks, mortars and pestles, fruit and vegetable slicers, ice cream bowls, spatulas, ladles, slotted spoons, and wooden and bamboo utensils; cookbooks, food books, and cute stationery; spices and jarred relishes; and finally, a whole bright and cheery section of children’s cooking knicknacks!
The children’s section is so adorable! There are beginner children’s cookbooks, little aprons, lunch bags, sandwich cutters in fun shapes, bamboo, silicone, and acrylic safety utensils, and bowls and plates with fun prints and patterns. This section is really sentimental to me because one of my absolute favourite toys when I was little was my toy kitchen. I played with my toy kitchen every day after coming home from kindergarten, pretending to pour juice from my little plastic pitcher (and sometimes pouring real juice, ha!), sticking things in the little plastic oven and fridge, and placing my beloved plastic pots and pans on the little stovetop. Those tiny transparent coppery brown pots and pans were my pride and joy and I loved them all the more because they looked exactly like my mum’s real ones! It’s so sweet to see such kid-friendly kitchen things because although some are hesitant to involve little ones in cooking activity for safety reasons, it can be a great learning and bonding experience as well as a creative outlet.
No matter how we feel towards cooking (some love it, some loathe it), feeding ourselves is an inevitable part of life and kitchen boutiques like Clay offer us an outlet to explore, learn, and grow in the world of food. This may just be the 5-year-old in me talking, but I can’t wait to outfit my future kitchen. For the time being, I’m happy to browse and daydream until then.
Clay is located at 659 St. Clair West, just steps away from CocoaLatte and the St. Clair streetcar line in the Wychwood neighbourhood. Clay will be marking their 1st anniversary this December on December 1, 2011! To celebrate, a number of products are currently on sale for 20% off. The shop is open daily at 10am. You can view Clay and CocoaLatte’s Facebook page here and CocoaLatte’s website here.