Cookbook: Your Well-Edited Echo Park Neighborhood Greengrocer

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Wed, Sep 1, 2010 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge Marta Teegen and Robert Stelzner get the day started at Cookbook. - J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz
  • Marta Teegen and Robert Stelzner get the day started at Cookbook.

Cookbook, the greengrocer on Echo Park Avenue that just opened Tuesday, harbors big ambitions in its 500 square-foot space. To find it, don't look for any LCD displays or flashing lights. Instead, mint plants hang from I-beams in each of the storefront windows. And eventually, when Cookbook's owners, Marta Teegen and Robert Stelzner, install window awnings, the reclaimed Douglas fir produce boxes will displayed out on the sidewalk just as you'd expect from any friendly greengrocer. "I've wanted to do some variety of this, and from living in the neighborhood we knew there was a need," Teegen explains. "With this space, a greengrocer was absolutely possible." The store is open daily from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Simplicity, along with a vintage 1968 framed poster by the Parisian radical collective Atelier Populaire, speaks volumes about Cookbook's mission: quality over quantity, honesty over hype, neighborliness over expansionism. These values might sound overly sincere, but it's hard to pick a fight -- aside from the ongoing Echo Park gentrification debates -- when a local shop stocks Café Fanny granola, Heirloom-LA (yes, these guys seem to be everywhere around town), Dr. Bob's ice creams, new-to-L.A. Sightglass Coffee from San Francisco, Strauss Dairy products, Creminelli salalmi, and Mill Road Orchard eggs. Other dry goods include PG Tips, an assortment of jams, Morning Glory Confections brittle, handcrafted pastas, and La Bella San Marzano tomatoes. There's also bags of King Arthur Flour and salt for basic needs. Produce is a greatest-hits type assortment from sustainable, mostly organic farms: Tutti Frutti, McGrath, Weiser, Mud Creek, Kenter Canyon, etc.

The deli case contains freshly made sandwiches by Heirloom-LA, as well as prepared food-by-the-pound that will change on a weekly basis based on different cookbooks (hence the shop's name). This week it's Teegen's Homegrown Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark, along with some recipes of choice by Heirloom-LA., such as artichokes braised with mushrooms, lima bean salad, garganelli salad, and a lovely sweet-and-sour inflected Syrian fattoush served with thick flatbread pieces. Sightglass's Blue Moon blend is the hot coffee house option served in French presses, and fresh mint tea is available. (Ethiopian, Sumatran, and Brazilian decaf beans are sold on the retail shelves.)

Teegen's background as a master gardener and chef informs both the store's carefully selected inventory and future plans. She hopes to add gardening and cooking courses to Cookbook's agenda, although without a kitchen she'll have to use another space. Food history and still life painting classes are a possibility, too. But in the meantime, "we need to get settled in here," Teegen says.

While Teegen tells us she and Stelzner try to cover as many food categories as possible, Cookbook's modest space means they can't go for a comprehensive approach. Which is fine by her, since Teegen doesn't care for overly busy store shelves packed with oils and vinegars. This former art gallery space is now being curated in a different way. "I just want to know, what are the two best?" Cookbook already excels at this type of editing.

Cookbook: 1549 Echo Park Ave., Echo Park; (213) 250-1900.

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

click to enlarge J. RITZ
  • J. Ritz

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