IN THE STACKS // Kitchen Arts & Letters // New York, NY

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.

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Photo courtesy of Eater NY

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.

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Photo courtesy of Eater NY

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.

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Photo courtesy of Eater NY

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! 

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