St Louis Finds
I found a book called Shop Like a Chef, published in 2013, which lists and explains many places around town to find various food choices and ingredients, especially obscure and hard-to-find items. I was familiar with Bob's Seafood at Olive and 170, but not Seafood City just a few more blocks east. Talk about not only a fish market, more fresh and live fish/shellfish than anywhere I have seen, but they also offer many meat, fresh produce, and Asian ingredient choices.
Most of the fish is priced under $10/lb, some under $5. Live lobster at $10/lb (Bob's is $14 and Schnucks is around $20). Fresh produce is a mix - some priced 1/2 of the main grocery stores, others about the same. Large selections for Asian food, dry and frozen. Looking for a wok? Plenty here. Have a hankering for pork blood or pork bung? This is your place! I must admit, however, I buy my fish at Bob's as I have been told by a number of people that is the best place.
This book also illuminates stores in the middle of West County that I did not realize, like the Mideast Market near 141 and Manchester. It also groups stores by area, so if you live in North County you can see at a glance what is close to you. I found this book at a butcher shop on Manchester Rd.
There are many places around town to stock up on your cookware, utensils, stemware, plates, gadgets and whatnot. From mall stores like Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma and La Creuset; to department stores like Macy's, Dillards and Target; to specialty stores like Bertarelli's, Kitchen Conservatory and restaurant supply stores.
I just visited Meridian Supply at 9950 Page, a restaurant supply store, and saw many good prices on everyday items. This store welcomes the public, not just commercial users, and there are many items you can purchase just one of, not a Sam's size bundle, although they have that too. This store is great for things like tongs, flippers, stock pots and large salad bowls. Not good for things like appliances, cast iron or china. As you wander thru the aisles, you will want to buy any number of things, but know you don't have room for it all. This is not really a store you would buy gifts at, like you might at some of the more expensive stores. But for everyday use that gets the job done at a reasonable cost and good selection, this is it!
Knives and Cutting Board
After going thru 2 or 3 different knives, I have decided to purchase a real one. If you do a high amount of cutting in your kitchen, you must run across this too. I have asked a friend who is a known St Louis chef, researched advice from various other chefs, and used my own experience, and here is what I have found:
The chef's knife is your main cutting tool. An 8 or 10 inch, light, well balanced, wood handled, high grade steel blade; good names are Zwilling, Henckels, Shun, Sabatier, and Wusthof, but can be others. Ridges or notches in the blade can reduce drag when cutting. Expect to spend around $100.
Other knives to consider are a paring, boning/filet, bread, and cleaver, depending on what you cook a lot of. There are others, of course, and many shapes and sizes, but you can do wonders with very few knives in stock. Keep them clean and sharp. I bought an 8" Wustoff classic (there are three lines of quality) and a 6" Wustoff gourmet and have been pleased so far.
I have been using an acrylic cutting board, but kept hearing that wood is best on the blade. You might consider having separate boards for raw meat vs. other foods, or flip the board over. The white plastic boards have some give and are easy on the blade, plus they are dishwasher safe. The wood boards are to be hand washed and periodically oiled.
I shopped several stores, and found Williams Sonoma to be among the higher priced (no surprise there, although nice stuff); Sur La Table (Frontenac) to be reasonable and great selection; Kitchen Conservatory (Clayton) to be less expensive with a nice, quality selection (only Wustoff knives); and Bertarelli's Cutlery (the Hill) which had a focus on knives and other kitchen ware. Prices were the best on the Wustoff knives at Conservatory (bought one here) and Bertarelli's (bought one here), although Bertarelli's is the only place of all of them that give you unimpeded access to the knives. I am sure liability guides the other stores, but it sure is nice to walk in and go back and forth between the many options quickly.
I also bought a 20x15 Boos butcher block, a nice sized cutting board of hard maple made in IL, and very popular among top chefs around the country. It is a pleasure to cut my vegetables with my new knife and board!