Enter the new food-themed book store Bold Fork Books in D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
“The more I spent time in the restaurant industry, the more convinced I was that D.C. could really use a place to bring together not only professional cooks and foodies, but also home cooks, and that was sort of the genesis of Bold Fork Books,” founder Clementine Thomas told WTOP.
What’s in a name?
“The name actually comes from an M.F.K. Fisher book called ‘With Bold Knife and Fork,'” Thomas said. “She is a food writer, was a contemporary of Julia Child, wrote a lot about travel, a lot about food, and I just thought the idea of Bold Fork was just so evocative of curiosity and tasting, all of the things we approach cookbooks with.”
It’s located in the old location of Pear Plum Cafe, next to Each Peach Market.
“We decided to partner on a little cookbook pop-up in the cafe space about a year ago,” Thomas said. “It was a small assortment of cookbooks, maybe I had about 25 or so…. Then of course COVID hit, so they closed the cafe, then over the summer invited me back to do a larger-scale pop-up. At that point, I had about 100 titles and took over the entire space on the weekends.”
Pear Plum Cafe closed in March and Bold Fork officially took over the space in October, although the market is still there.
“When they decided to close cafe operations permanently, we started talking about a shared space arrangement where they would retain the bakery in the back for their market, Each Peach Market, and I would take over the front of the space for the permanent book store,” Thomas said.
Born and raised in D.C., Thomas became co-owner of Chez Billy Sud, a French bistro in Georgetown, in 2014.
“I’m half-French, so the restaurant was really close to my heart,” Thomas said. “So I spent the past five years working at Chez Billy and during that time always had this dream percolating of opening a cookbook store. Whenever I go to another city with a cookbook store, that’s always the first place I go.”
What types of cookbooks can you find?
“We have general books, international, single subjects like grilling, cheese-making, fermenting, baking, dessert, food writing, cocktail, wine, kids — so it really runs the gamut,” Thomas said. “It means I can really zero in on the breadth of offerings within the culinary genre. You get a lot more variety within that one category than you might get at a typical book store.”
Any recommendations for the holidays?
“There is ‘The Flavor Equation’ by Nik Sharma, an extraordinarily deep dive into the science of flavor,” Thomas said, also recommending Julia Bainbridge’s “Good Drinks,” which is dedicated exclusively to alcohol-free drinks.
“Another excellent book is ‘In Bibi’s Kitchen’ by Hawa Hassan. That is all about Eastern African cuisine through the eyes of grandmothers,” Thomas said. “Those are my top picks for the season.”
She eventually hopes to have authors into the store.
“The post-COVID dream is to do author events, classes, tastings,” Thomas said. “The really wonderful thing about sharing this space with a bakery operation in Each Peach Market is that there’s a bakery in the back, so we can open up our curtains, which are dividing our two spaces, and do cooking classes and demos, so the opportunities are really limitless.”
But why come to a brick-and-mortar book store instead of ordering on Amazon?
“Cookbooks are just one of those categories of books that haven’t been hit in the same way as other genres,” Thomas said. “There’s still something people love about getting their hands physically on a cookbook and thumb through it…. We also have our website [where] we’re working on getting our entire inventory uploaded, so shipping and curbside pickup are also options.”
Listen to our full conversation here.