Did you ever see a wild hibiscus blossom that blooms in a glass of champagne? I never had until I visited the Chef's Pantry in Loganville. In fact, a lot of what owner Marcia Davidson stocks on her shelves I had never seen or even heard of before.
Davidson takes pride in specialty items that she has spent hours tracking down from all over the world. She offers accomplished cooks and curious customers alike the opportunity to see and smell before they buy. And unlike online shopping, there are no minimum purchases or shipping fees.
"I love investigation and finding things," said Davidson, a retired special education teacher from Grayson High School.
Among the finds sharing shelf space at Chef's Pantry are low-sodium and gluten-free soups, olives from 400-year-old trees, Spanish saffron, clarified butter and demi-glace. Many of the food items, like the truffle oil and black truffle salt, received top honors from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
For the really discriminating cook, Davidson offers spices that can be hand-blended on demand. And for those who don't want to cook at all, every Wednesday she takes orders for fresh-baked bread delivered on Thursdays.
"The jalapeno-cheddar-garlic is one of the most popular," she said.
In the refrigerated section, Davidson keeps real Spanish chorizo, duck and mushroom pate and novelty cheeses like cheddar laced with Guinness beer.
Holiday specialties include mulling spices for cider and wine and Wayzata Bay Turkey Brining Spice, which with all its colorful speckles is pretty enough to use just for decoration. Hanging from hooks are countless stocking stuffers like herb grinders and colorful cutlery, including pink-handled Kyocera knives, from which a percentage of profit goes to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.
And, of course, any chef's pantry needs nice things for cooking and serving.
Chef's Pantry carries Staub and Emile Henry cookware, both from France, and it is the only store in the Southeast that carries Fissler cookware from Germany.
"For the month of November we're offering 20 percent off the sets in time for Christmas," Davidson said.
For those interested in partying, the selection runs the gamut. For the cocktail crowd, Chef's Pantry carries award-winning wines and three brands of wine glasses: Riedel, known for its striking shapes, Schott Zwiesel, which is virtually unbreakable, and Eisch, a breathable glass that is sandblasted inside to release the wine in minutes.
And for football fans, Davidson keeps Jaccard tailgating stoves in stock.
Seasoned chefs and beginners alike can participate in Chef's Pantry's monthly cooking demonstrations.
This afternoon, chef Jennifer Booker, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the head of the culinary program at Grayson Technical High School, will demonstrate make-ahead appetizers for the holidays. Future programs include cooking demos by executive chefs from various area restaurants.
With Christmas and Hanukkah coming up, Chef's Pantry will be stocking more holiday items for gift giving. But if all those choices make you feel like a kid in a candy store, you can always get a gift certificate - which can make anyone's shopping a piece of cake.
Chef's Pantry is located at 3939 Atlanta Highway, suite 105, in Loganville. For more information, call 770-466-9550.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at email@example.com.