We are all familiar with the mega company that is Williams-Sonoma. It has grown to be one of the largest e-commerce companies in the U.S. after starting in California in 1956. It is the umbrella company which owns other mega retailers including Pottery Barn, West Elm, Mark and Graham and Rejuvenation. There are over 600 Williams-Sonoma stores across the U.S., and it is the go-to place for Julia Child wannabes to go to procure that special new gadget that promises to make meal prep so much easier, as well as the beautiful French lines of cookware like Le Creuset. The stores entice you in by always having something delicious simmering on the stove and you really believe that if you purchase all of the proper tools, you, too, will become the next Food Network star! We all know that, right? Well, there’s a lot more to Williams-Sonoma which is what we found out when we visited the beautiful new store at The Summit in Lexington.
Upon an invitation from Melissa Harp, an associate and former coworker of mine, Leigh and I arrived at Williams-Sonoma to enjoy a cooking lesson and to learn more about their other special offerings. First, let me say that the store there at The Summit is just gorgeous. I love the black-and-white checkered floor. So French! It is vast and packed full of everything a cook would want! It is kind of like a culinary Disney Land. In the middle of the store is a full kitchen with a mirror above the cooktop to allow those seated in the chairs lined up in front of it a bird’s-eye view of what is being constructed. Melissa had two place settings waiting for us. When she told us we were going to be making Croque Madame, we said, “Oui, oui!” We couldn’t wait to get started!
As any good cook knows, before you begin cooking, you must mentally prepare yourself. To aid in this endeavor, a delicious glass of wine is a must. The wonderful thing about the store’s location at The Summit is that it is in very close proximity to Cru Food and Wine Bar. The manager there is Eddie and he is a very generous man. He stopped by to pour us a glass of a very fine French Chardonnay, a gesture that was greatly appreciated by us. So with the right frame of mind, we were ready to get started with our signature dish. Melissa had the recipe all typed out for us and we began by making the roux for the Mornay sauce. Knowing Leigh is a bit more challenged when it comes to cooking, we let her get this part done under the careful guidance of Melissa. It was so fun feeling like professionals, using the high- quality tools and pans, and don’t even get me started talking about that oven! Maybe that’s the ticket to becoming a good cook, just having the right equipment? I don’t know. Maybe?!
Before long, we had grilled our bread, brushed it with the Mornay sauce, topped it with grated Gruyere cheese and carefully crowned it with a fried egg. Voila! To accompany this decadent yet simple entrée, Melissa tossed some arugula with Williams-Sonoma top-of-the- line olive oil (yes, it makes a huge difference), lemon juice, salt and pepper, for the perfect accompaniment. But y’all, the best was yet to come! I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the InstaPot. It’s the newest gadget that is similar to a crock pot, but with more options, and according to Melissa, you can cook just about anything in it! She proved this by making us a delicious triple citrus cheesecake. I love a good cheesecake, and let me tell you, this was one of the best I’ve ever had. The bright citrus notes, the creamy and smooth texture, it was truly delightful.
Once we were completely satiated, Melissa talked with us about the many services of Williams-Sonoma of which people may not be aware. For instance, you, too, can have a cooking lesson just like we had. Weekly, the store hosts a cooking class covering a wide range of topics. If you want to have a private lesson, that can be arranged, or they can host a bridal shower, girls’ night out group, whatever! We can promise you it will be a great experience. If you’re a bride-to-be, they have a private registry event that will make you feel like a VIP. You will receive personal attention, advice, answers to your questions, a free gift and refreshments. Plus, you will be assured that any gifts purchased from Williams-Sonoma will be something you will use for years to come.
Speaking of gifts, if you are a busy person (who among us isn’t) and need a gift for someone, call the store and they will be happy to pick out something for you, wrap it and have it at the door for a quick grab-and-go. What other stores offer this kind of customer service? The associates at Williams-Sonoma are passionate about their work. They are culinary lovers who are eager to pass along their knowledge and expertise to their customers. Designing a new kitchen or wanting to upgrade your existing one? They can save you lots of time and money by helping you lay it all out perfectly. I never would have thought about that, but it makes a lot of sense to seek the advice of someone who spends all day in the kitchen.
We could go on and on about how amazing this store is. It isn’t your typical retail outlet. It is so much more! The people, the inventory, the aesthetics, the classes, all centered around the art of cooking. Feeding our loved ones and building community around a shared interest goes far beyond the utensils and cookware. Stop by the Williams-Sonoma at The Summit and discover for yourself why it’s more than you ever expected.
Check out their list of upcoming classes by clicking here.
Here’s the delicious recipe for Croque Madame:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup grated Gruyere cheese, salt and pepper
6 large slices of white bread (we used Texas Toast)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 ½ ounces ham
3 small eggs
Grated Gruyere cheese
For the sauce, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour, then beat hard until you have a paste. Take off heat; let cook 2 minutes, then gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Return to heat, add mustard and nutmeg; simmer gently for 10 minutes, whisking frequently so the sauce doesn’t burn. Once the sauce thickens to the consistency of tomato sauce, take it off the heat. Add the cheese (keep some for garnish). Season to taste.
Take slice of bread and butter on one side, place ham slice, some cheese, and Mornay sauce. Place other half of buttered bread on top. Finish the rest of the sandwiches. Place sandwiches in a buttered frying pan and brown sandwiches on both sides. Top with Mornay sauce and cheese and put under broiler. Fry eggs and top sandwiches.
(The difference between Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame is the fried egg. It’s like a lady’s hat.)
PS: A big thank you to Melissa Harp for being the best hostess and providing us with an awesome swag bag!