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Best of...Wait until you see what's cooking here.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Kitchen stores have a way of being either too cluttered or not cluttered enough.

Either you're bumping into bamboo steamers and knocking Oxo tools off the shelves, or you're wandering half-empty aisles trying to find a butcher block in a store that doesn't carry cutlery.

Still, we'll take claustrophobia inducing or sparsely stocked over an Internet retailer or the local Big Box & Beyond.

Kitchen stores are becoming increasingly rare these days, and we think that's a shame. There's something nice about shopping for cookware at a store that's not staffed by a bunch of Carl's Jr.-eating twentysomethings who wouldn't know an anodized aluminum pot if it hit them in the nose ring.

For the perfect blend of clutter and room to breathe, our favorite store is south Eugene's Cook's Pots & Tabletops. It's the kind of place where you can window-shop for 20 minutes and walk away feeling like you learned something.

It's also the only kitchen store we visited where the sales staff actually tried to help us when we walked in the door. Stashed away inside the Southtowne shops, Cook's has the perfect mix of silly gadgets, colorful tabletoppers and high-end cookware.

We're not sure what Demeyere or Viking products should sell for, but we'll pay any price to hold these heavyweight pots and pans and hear from a real live human what makes the magnetic stainless line different from the brushed aluminum.

This is not the only place in town that carries Le Crusset or All-Clad. But we think it has done the best job of presenting this stuff as the sexy gear that it is. And anyone who can convince a bunch of cheapskates like us that a two-quart saucepan is worth $129 deserves some kind of special mention.

Cook's offers cooking classes and food events, too, including an upcoming dinner presented by Adam Bernstein from Adam's Place, a Friday night wine tasting and an organic food class. Again, this isn't the only place you can find cooking instruction and a smooth-touch can opener under one roof, but it adds to the sense that this store caters to everyone from serious cooks looking to hone their techniques to bachelors shopping for their very first slotted spoon.

So whether you're looking for a class on "Fast Vietnamese" cooking or want to join the Slow Food Convivium, Cook's Pots & Tabletops is the place. And if you're considering shopping at a discount retailer for cheap cookware with a lifespan shorter than the average housefly, at least pay a visit to your local kitchen store first.

You don't have to spend a week's wages on a fancy saucepan, but you just might want to after holding three bonded layers of corrosion-resistant steel and aluminum cookware in your hands.

Feels good, doesn't it?

Best of ... consists of a brushed aluminum outer layer with an aluminum core and stainless steel stay-cool handles and rivets. To view the Best of ... catalog, fire up the Web archive www .registerguard.com/bestof.

BEST KITCHEN STORE Cook's Pots & Tabletops Where: 2807 Oak St. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday Phone: 338-4339 Online: www.cookspots.com

CAPTION(S):

Gisela Schmidt assembles a single-cup coffee maker at Lane County's best kitchen store: Cook's Pots & Tabletops.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment; This Southtowne shop has all the ingredients: a place to putter among just enough clutter
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 12, 2006
Words:546
Previous Article:FRESH SHEET.
Next Article:Entertainers put variety on display.
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