Patti Bess: Tess’ Kitchen store to expand |

Patti Bess: Tess’ Kitchen store to expand


For Alice “Penny” Short, taking over Tess’ Kitchen on Mill Street was the perfect next career move except for one little detail: timing. She bought the locally iconic cooking store from Steve and Rachel Rosenthal in January 2020. And then promptly closed it on March 28. We all know what happened after that. Though the following year for her new business wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, still it thrived in a roundabout way. People all over the country, facing isolation and children home from school, focused more on home cooking and baking. Unlike many other retailers, she didn’t exactly thrive but survived quite well.

Penny grew up in Truckee, and her first job was in the local shoe store. She spent 35 years as a wholesale sales representative for the Reno and Northern California region working mostly with kitchen and home accessory lines. In 2019 she joined the staff at Tess’ as the store manager to get to know the business before buying it.

Tess’ Kitchen store has been a popular fixture on Mill Street for more years than I can remember. It covers three floors, 6,000 square feet of space including a commercial kitchen. The business is supported 80% by locals, but in the past year the influx of new people moving here has been a boost. Re-opening the store in May, the challenges for 2021 continued. Like other retailers, Penny has struggles with supply chain problems, but much of what she ordered will arrive in time for Christmas shopping.

“The city’s decision to keep Mill Street open only for pedestrians is a challenge for our store and other retailers,” Short commented. “We can’t close the street and still serve our community. We need convenient parking especially for our senior customer base. In hot or rainy weather it’s very difficult to sell and pick up large electric appliances that need to be carried to a car a few blocks away.”

Tess’ popular cooking classes and Chef’s Table are also going through a major change. Alan Tangren, longtime chef from Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, ran the program for the last seven years. He recently retired. Penny is searching for new talents that might like to teach there. Wine and cheese pairing classes will continue this November and December. She hopes to get cooking classes up and running by January or February.

In spite of all the challenges, Short is expanding to an additional store in the Fowler Center, actually in the same location as the old Wooden Spoon next to Save Mart. The new Tess’ Kitchen and Culinary Center will feature even more gadgets and gizmos, bakeware, cookware, custom gift baskets as well as electrical appliances. Their grand opening is planned for Nov. 14 and 15. Call 530-273-6997 for information or visit

Patti Bess is a freelance writer, culinary educator and cookbook author. She lives in Grass Valley

Rainy Day Soup

Is this soup weather or what? Stuck at home again? Grab those last tomatoes and peppers from the garden or the Farmer’s Market, and enjoy one of my old favorites. I’ve done some tweaking here and there. You can do likewise to make it your own.

I consider soup the ultimate convenience food. It does take time to prepare or to at least be around the kitchen while it bubbles away. I used canned beans here to save time. A total comfort food and rich in nutrients, soup lasts for days and is ready in minutes for an easy meal. When my children were young, I often blended some of the soup if they complained about too many vegetables.

Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Three to five crushed garlic cloves

One heaping cup of chopped onions

Three quarters cup sliced carrots

One green pepper, chopped

One cup zucchini chunks

Two medium potatoes, cut into bite size

One to two teaspoons salt (to taste)

Black pepper

One teaspoon dried marjoram

Two teaspoons dried basil or about one quarter cup chopped fresh

Five cups stock or water

About a half can of tomato paste (more if desired)

Two cans cooked white beans

One cup sliced black olives

Two tomatoes, diced

Lemon juice to taste

In a large soup stock pot sauté in olive oil the first eight ingredients.

Add the marjoram, basil, tomato paste, stock or water, and red wine to the same pot. Simmer for twenty five to thirty minutes or until all vegetables are softened but not mushy. Add the beans the last few minutes of cooking. Just before serving, add the sliced olives, cut up tomatoes and lemon juice to taste. A spoonful of Parmesan or a dollop of yogurt/sour cream makes a good garnish.

— Patti Bess

From colorful tea pots to copper lined cookware, Tess’ Kitchen has everything for the home cook.
Photo by Patti Bess
Pots and pans for sale at Tess’ Kitchen in downtown Grass Valley.
Photo by Patti Bess
Colorful aprons on display and for sale at Tess’ Kitchen.
Photo by Patti Bess
Tess’ Kitchen store has been a popular fixture on Mill Street and covers three floors, 6,000 square feet of space including a commercial kitchen.
Photo by Patti Bess


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