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"I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife." – Zora Neale Hurston. Knives (besides being great metaphors for arming oneself to deal with whatever life brings) are among a cook's most important tools. In case you're shopping for a good chef's knife or a sharp paring knife, here are our recommendations for where to look.
- New West KnifeWorks (Wyoming/Online): New West KnifeWorks makes Japanese-inspired cutlery in the last place you might expect to find high-end Japanese knives: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We put the high-carbon stainless steel blades (the come from Seki, Japan) through the ringer and were able to sharpen them back to perfection with what felt like more ease compared to other knives.
- Amazon.com (Online): Their vast selection and good deals make them an obvious place to shop for kitchen appliances and gadgets, but they are so huge sometimes we forget to check there first. Faith bought her beloved Victorinox 8-inch Chef's Knife at Amazon for $23. They're not just books and music, after all.
- Zabar's (New York City/Online): Started in 1934 by Louis and Lillian Zabar this is a family operation and there is always "a Zabar in the store." Food aside, on the second floor is "one of the best stocked kitchen supply stores in the city," with a good knife department.
- Bridge Kitchenware (New York City/Online): It's been around for years and not everyone knows it. Now it has moved to a new location. Bridge Kitchenware is a mecca for cooks who want fine kitchenware sold by people "who really know the field."
- Seito Trading (New York City/Online): A great little resource if you are looking for anything needed for a professional sushi kitchen. Japanese knives are the stars here (they have six major brands), but you might also be interested in their professional towel warmers and cool Japanese pots and pans.
- Broadway Panhandler (New York City/Online): The Panhandler does a great job with knives. Prices are competitive. Shop in-store or online and read their tips on wood, knife and cookware care.
- Korin Japanese Trading Company (New York City/Online): Known primarily for their Japanese knives, prices can be an "eye-opener," but Korin only stocks "the best." Clearance items offer good deals year-round. NY Magazine says of the knives: "In addition to being crafted from performance-oriented combinations of high-carbon steel and alloys, many knives are equally exquisite as art."
- Sur La Table (Various Locations/Online): Sur La Table first opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1972, selling gourmet cooking paraphernalia. The website offers most of the merchandise found in the stores, and it's a great place to browse for high-end tools and cookware. Expect prices to be higher than Amazon or discount retailers, but also expect great customer service.
- Williams Sonoma (Various Locations/Online): When it comes to high-end kitchen tools, Williams-Sonoma is in a class of its own. Every store has that glowing feel of a well-polished kitchen and fine dining room. We find them expensive, but not always unduly so.
- Surfa's Commercial Kitchen Supply (Culver City/Online): Think commercial restuarant supply meets chef's boutique. While keeping prices reasonably low, Surfas manages to escape that grungy restaurant supply vibe (which we happen to love at times), while offering a full range of cutlery.
Photo: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan's review of New West Knifeworks