Stone Creek Kitchen
Rockin’ Food : Stone Creek Kitchen assembles a hit list of retail cooking tools, gourmet hot food and cheffing classes.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Stone Creek Kitchen is the kind of place that requires some serious time to dig in. So I blocked out half my day in order to seize the grand experience, and was left with the feeling I’ve had when visiting other countries, madly loading up on regional delicacies with abandon.
Kristina Scrivani, chef and former Whole Foods marketing and creative director, along with friend Linda Hanger, a longtime book publisher and all around hostess, opened in place of Clementine’s on Highway 68 in Monterey around three months ago. On my first visit I was inspired by the exciting, hard-to-find treats, rare herb and salt mixes to spice up my pantry, healthy and artfully prepared dishes from the deli counter and raw food techniques and tastings from an inaugural cooking class series taught by friend and longtime local Kari Bernardi of Super Natural Chef.
I was pleased to discover all the local favorites were represented in the retail section of the store: ACME coffee sold and poured (personal drip, no less), Happy Girl Kitchen Company’s array of ketchups, jams and such, Lulu’s Chocolate, and Earthbound Farm cookie selections.
I like that SCK uses compostable containers (supplied by Carolyn of Passion Purveyors) of anything edible – dried porcinis, green lentils, Spanish Marcona almonds, giant corona beans, cornichons, etc. – and the overwhelming variety of seasonings lining the wall which are mixed by Kristina herself. Her signature “sex in a pan” paella spice mix was too tempting for me to resist. So was the Vietnamese cinnamon, “ancient Chinese secret,” bittersweet paprika, Caribbean salt, Moroccan tagine spices, black truffle mushroom salt, straight up vanilla granules, espresso Brava salt (best used for chocolates or deserts), and ground Aleppo pepper (which has a fruity and complex flavor without the heat behind it).
Smelling and sampling all of these wonderful herbs was an experience in itself, not to mention a visit to the whole section dedicated to chocolate fondue, complete with personal carafes with space for a burning candle underneath to keep your chocolate saucy (2 for $18.99). I found special herb scissors so you can mince herbs directly onto your dishes ($10.99), a collection of local and country specific wines, fancy cheeses, olive oil in bulk or by the bottle, balsamic vinegars in every flavor imaginable (including wild cherry, fig and pear) and adorable aprons ($32.99). There’s also every kitchen gadget imaginable to make your culinary life a breeze, top of the line pots and pans, colorful colanders, cookbooks, place settings, you name it. Stone Creek Kitchen has it all with friendly, helpful staff full of good information and tips for the foodie in you. And that’s just the retail section.
The deli-café case boasts seasonal specialties consisting of local produce, some sourced from the Pacific Grove Farmers Market. It was no wonder that the tomatoes actually had flavor, then, delivered by a large tomato goat cheese tart ($7.95) with handmade crust and an tomato artfully stuffed with Greek gigundes beans, basil and lemon zest ($2.99). I also liked the vinegary three bean salad with haricot verts, more gigundes and kidney beans ($9.99/pound). Both the sweet Italian sausage-spinach-mushroom lasagna in a bechamel sauce ($10.99/pound) and green poblano chili and chicken casserole (also known as gringo enchiladas given the layers of tortillas, $9.99/pound) are to die for, with sauces that were evenly balanced with generous fresh ingredients.
The housemade sweet treats were divine as well. Chocolate “marble” with dried cherries, pistachios and coarse sea salt ($14.99) was my favorite, but be warned, it’s not to be eaten late at night or expect not to sleep – the strength of this fine Spanish chocolate sent a quiver up my spine on first bite.
The delightful deli woman fessed up that all dishes are created by Kristina using all the items she sells in the store. Friday’s super-popular specialty is the Spanish-style paella dish ($16.99/pound). You can buy the pan it comes in to make it easier to sizzle, or return it for the deposit. The only thing not made in SCK’s redone commercial kitchen are the little, intricate marzipan-based petit fours ($2.50) made by a “cute, little old man up in Sonoma,” which made me want to buy them as I imagined a sweet old man with little glasses putting the beautiful detail on these tiny cakes.
The Raw Foods 101 class held a total of 12 attendees seated around the thoughtfully laid out teaching kitchen. As we sipped cucumber and mint water out of wine glasses, the Super Natural Chef explained the kind of tools needed in a raw food kitchen and how to use them – namely, a Champion juicer, Vitamix high speed blender, Cuisinart and a dehydrator. Our first lesson was how to properly sprout alfalfa and red clover seeds in a jar and why sprouted seeds and nuts are much easier to digest due to the enzymes released. Next we watched how easy it was to make delicious almond milk and cheese, almond and pecan pate, dehydrated flax seed crackers and Banana Berry “nice” cream using only frozen fruit and a juicer, tasting all along the way. Demystifying raw food was never so delicious.
Check out the online schedule for the continuing food series sessions – classes range from $65 to $75 per person for a two to three hour lesson – and swing by the shop for a foodie adventure all your own. Just be sure to set aside enough time to do it right.
STONE CREEK KITCHEN 465 Canyon del Rey Blvd., Monterey. • 10am – 7pm Mon-Fri; 11am – 6pm Saturdays; closed Sundays. • 393-1042, www.stonecreekitchen.com.