Next up in our series of must-see bookshops is one close to home. Located on Lexington Avenue between 93rd and 94th, Kitchen Arts & Letters is a beautifully curated shop that only stocks books on food. A majority of the books are cookbooks but I also found three on the art of napkin folding and a collection of short stories all about meals.
The store has a certain allure for me. It’s close to my apartment, I walk by it every day, and I know that Alex Guarnaschelli loves it. But I never ventured in for one reason or another. Ever since Jeff and I started discussing doing blogging about bookshops, this is one I knew I had to profile. So one day last week I finally made the stop after work.
The shop is small but neatly organized into easily understood categories. I found gluten-free cooking near vegan books and cake books near ice cream books. I entered the store while an employee was explaining, what sounded like, a series of memoir-type books to a customer and his wife. Their baby was asleep in his stroller near the wine tasting books.
The employee spoke knowledgeably about several books and listened to the customers desires. It made me cringe thinking about the time I was in a Barnes & Noble and a staff member couldn’t even find a book that the computer told a customer was there. It is the human touch, the passion for books, and in this case a passion for cooking, that we miss out on when we shop online or visit a cookie cutter behemoth.
Kitchen Arts & Letters also has an extensive collection of out-of-print books that are as beautiful as they are old. When I came home after my visit to research the shop, I found an old Eater profile that mentions the vast collection of old and out-of-print books in the basement. The profile also told me that the shop’s customer base is 70% chefs. So I guess Guarnaschelli isn’t the only one.
I settled on a Michael Symon book. Not the coolest or oldest or most interesting book in the shop but definitely one that I need. I’ve been dying to find simple recipes for weeknights and every colorful page of this book caught my eye.
I can honestly say this shop made me question my Pinterest-ing ways. Why pin and forget when I can go and get expert advice on a book and then go home to experiment? The experience made me realize just how much I love food and how much I respect it.
On my way out I stopped to snap a couple pictures of the facade and was stopped by a gentleman who said he was an ex-cop who frequented the store, “I bought 10 of the last Finnish cookbooks in English. Finland won’t send them anymore!” He smiled and added, “I went there for a girl but I didn’t fall in love with her, instead I fell in love with the country!”
These are the customers that Kitchen Arts and Letters attracts. I urge you to make a trip uptown and experience the secret inspiration that chefs have known for years.
Thanks to Eater NY for all the pictures. Mine were corrupted!