Speaking in tongs

Boulder’s Tundra spoon-feeds restaurant and home cooks with the exact food tools of the trade

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3d rendering kitchen rack with utensils on white wall
Kittipong Jirasukhanont

The first time I walked into Tundra, I felt like a mechanic in an auto salvage yard or a florist in a field of flowers and weeds. I didn’t see rows of things and stuff. I imagined possibilities, meals that could be made, flavors created and feasts hosted.

On one shelf are stacks of stainless steel mixing bowls ranging from itty bitty to enormous. Another rack features specialized metal and silicone scoops, wire whips, ladles, mashers, peelers, spatulas and a world of measuring spoons. I was captivated by the large display of diverse, durable non-stick frying pans. 

There are a lot of local kitchen supply shops and kitchenware departments—places like Sur La Table, McGuckin Hardware, The Singing Cook, the Peppercorn—and I’ve visited them all.  

Tundra is different because it’s designed for professionals. Where Target might have two sizes of one kind of tongs, Tundra has a menu of styles and sizes of tongs depending on the use. 

Tundra is the Dick’s Sporting Goods of cooking stuff, great for those who are really serious about cooking as well as parents trying to stock their kids’ first apartment with inexpensive flatware. 

The ironic part is that I’ve driven past Tundra in east Boulder for years on my way to and from KGNU’s studios. I’m just writing about Tundra—open in town since 1993—because I had assumed that the store was reserved for people in the foodservice industry. A chef clued me in recently that home cooks can shop there too. 

If you’ve never shopped at a restaurant supply store, it can be a little intimidating. It helps if you come in with a list and a friend. That way you can converse with someone when you find the gluten-free toothpicks or a plastic storage bin big enough to use as a bed for a small child. 

Some of these tools are exactly the same as models you’ll find at a hardware store. For instance, a Microplane can work equally well shaping soft wood, grating Parmesan cheese or zesting limes. 

Don’t leave without checking out the metal oven sheet pans, an item anyone who has worked in a restaurant will recognize. The large sheet pans won’t fit in a home oven or dishwasher, but half and quarter sheet pans will. They are perfect for baked goods like cookies, as well as roasting whole meals. They aren’t pretty but they’ll last forever. 

You can also find and order more obscure and hard to find supplies for making sausage, for baking, as well as supplies for particular cuisines such as rice cookers and tortilla presses, plus pizza oven tools including peels in different sizes. 

Where else can you pick up a cotton candy machine for your garage that isn’t a toy?

Honestly, you won’t need a lot of what Tundra sells. Some implements like sauce pans are simply too enormous. Some items like coffee filters, plates and glasses come in Costco-sized cases. You may have a need for wait staff, bartender and cook garb at home, but most families won’t. 

It’s worth shopping for specifics at Tundra because the right tools will save you time making dinner on a Tuesday night. Some (but not all) of the goods are significantly cheaper than at big box retailers. For instance, the big wall of chef’s knives range in price from affordable
to astronomical. 

Handymen and mechanics know that tools are investments and you get what you pay for. I take a similarly long view. In a decade I’ll still be cooking with a professional spatula or a $1,200 Robot Coupe food processor. 

You can find consumer-oriented kitchenware in more colors and modern styles at department stores. However, aesthetically I appreciate well-designed modern utilitarian objects like knives and espresso machines as visual works of art that help me create
edible art. 

Chocolate and Whiskey for Dad

Two notable local artisan food concerns have teamed up to create some unique gifts for dads on Father’s Day. Boulder’s Moksha Chocolate has produced a limited run of single origin bean-to-bar dark Belize chocolate made from nibs dry-aged in a charred whiskey barrel from Boulder’s Vapor Distillery. Bars are available at Moksha’s Boulder tasting room. On June 18, Vapor Distillery hosts a whiskey and chocolate pairing event. Attendees will sample four Moksha single-origin chocolates from across the globe along with four Boulder Spirits craft whiskeys. Tickets: mokshachocolate.com

Local Food News

Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant has closed its east Boulder location and reopened in the former Shine location at 2480 Canyon Boulevard. … Patio season is back in downtown Louisville, where Main Street between Front and South streets is closed for the summer. … Coming soon: Boulder Social, a restaurant, bar and brewery at 1600 38th St., Boulder, formerly Ska Brewstillery, FATE Brewing and Jose Muldoon’s. …  We are assembling a comprehensive guide to farm stands in Boulder County and beyond to support local family agriculture. Help make the guide complete by emailing hours, offerings and detailed farm stand locations to: nibbles@boulderweekly.com

Words to Chew On

“A meal is never just a plate of food. It has the power to change the world. … We are not Democrats or Republicans, Americans or immigrants, meat-eaters or vegans. We are people of the world, who cook and eat and drink together.”
—Chef José Andrés 

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