Richmond’s chefs, home cooks, and those with an eye for impeccable design already know Rob Bland, the proprietor of Accoutre— a home goods store & pantry that also looks to aesthetic and personality as something not frivolous, but absolutely foundational to a life well-lived. And while we dig all that, we marvel at Rob’s dedication to craft, conversation and common sense. “I want to bring beautiful pieces to the table, but they must have a utilitarian purpose.”
Rob shares with us his story and his killer recipe for Pork Dashi.
Before there was Accoutre, what field did you work in? Before I opened the shop, I cooked professionally for about fifteen years. I was fortunate enough to have some very immersive work/life travel experiences, and learn cuisines and technique from true masters. I also had a handful of years in wholesale sales.
What inspired the concept of Accoutre? The concept of the store was something I’d been kicking around for a few years before I actually put it into motion. The biggest motivator in bringing Accoutre to life was the store I wanted to shop at didn't exist in Richmond — which really bummed me out. As a home cook, professional, and someone who seeks design-craft and uniqueness in the objects and tools acquired for all things cooking related, I made the store I wanted, and the one I wanted for my neighbors, peers, and friends.
What was the inspiration and philosophy behind your business? My parents were both in the floral industry (my dad was in wholesale flowers for 35 years and my mom owned a retail florist for about twelve years), so I learned a lot about business from observing them.
I also really hate the throwaway, gimmicky garbage that’s passed off to consumers, so it’s super important to me to provide my community with long-lasting and excellent quality goods. And y’all know I'm a design nerd. Put ’em together and you have Accoutre’s philosophy: “Form and Function.”
What does a “well-appointed” home mean to you? [My parents] taught me about the fundamentals of cooking from a very young age, and to be appreciative of well-crafted goods to make intentional, lasting purchases with the things you surround yourself with. I think that's sort of where I came up with the tagline for Accoutre, “goods for the well-appointed home.” Plus by definition, Accoutre means “to outfit,” so it just all came together!
In what ways have your business and personal practices changed during COVID-19? Firstly just being super aware of my actions and how to protect my own health and the health of those around me (not just friends and family, but the strangers in the grocery store or waiting in line outside to pick up to-go food), by keeping the virus in the front of my mind without letting it consume me in anxiety or fear. Additionally, the physical store has been closed since March, and thus I've made the pivot to be a fully online business (even with a new shop location in the works!). That’s been a whole new side of things to learn and become proficient at, while also keeping in mind the objectives I’ve been wanting to take the store into its further developments and evolution.
What’s the one thing you believe everyone should have in their home? Start with good knives! Or at least sharp ones if yours are dull (I can help you with that, too!) Ninety-nine percent of whatever you’re doing in the kitchen is going to start with a knife. Use the correct ones for different tasks and preparations. I think between three to five various knife styles can get most home cooks through a multitude of necessities. After that, you can start adding more task-specific tools as your skills develop and your range of preparations expands.
Do you have a proprietary bit of advice for someone looking to dive into cook(ing/ware)? I believe that the more you appreciate and enjoy the objects in use, the more engaging they become. Cooking becomes super fun, and less of a chore. And the reminder that it’s cool to experience a new flavor or ingredient you’ve never had before, and to savor the skill and traditions behind those components.
With more time being spent at home (and in the kitchen), why is Accoutre more important now than ever? I think it’s imperative to pay attention to quality. Goods and tools for living need to be of the highest quality in both design and implementation. A lot of us don’t have a ton of disposable income right now, so it’s critical that we make intentional purchases and invest in objects that will serve us for no less than the rest of our lives.
The food offerings I’ve been sourcing are really something to behold as well. Pure foods with zero bullshit and painstaking attention to detail and craft are something we all really need to be mindful of, for our long term health and for our complete enjoyment of every meal we eat from now on.
Boketto is a Japanese concept that means: To gaze into the distance without thought. We created “Boketto Moments” as times when things seem to come together effortlessly when a moment is filled with enough resonance that you can simply “be.” What makes for your Boketto Moment? When I’m cooking, I’m mindful of myself and my actions, but not preoccupied. The self and the ego disappears, and I really just feel connected to what I’m preparing in a very finely tuned way. I feel like I have a lot of my best ideas when I’m prepping ingredients.
Top 3 Boketto favorites, GO! Dark Horse Pickled Mustard Seed; Boketto LAB Gua Sha Tool; La Lyra Soap (Moon Shadow); Bodha Incense. Okay, that’s four!
What is a goal of yours for the next decade? Accoutre (the brand and store) providing excellent design and service to the Richmond community will always be a perpetual goal as we grow and evolve. I want to continue to do my very best to leave the world a little better than when I came into it, whether that concerns environmental, social, or educational issues. It would also be really cool to be able to do some international traveling again, right?!
2 quart pork stock (recipe follows)
1 T dark sesame oil
1/2 cup + 1/2oz unseasoned mirin
1-1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into half inch pieces
5 large dried shiitake caps (or 2 T Dark Horse Organic Umami Powder)
1/2 cup bonito flakes
20g (2-3 pieces) Rishiri konbu
2 T whole black peppercorns
3 cup water
1.5oz Ito Shoten tamari
1/2oz Keepwell black garlic vinegar
Dark Horse Organic Black Salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients (except tamari, vinegar and the additional half ounce of mirin), into a medium sized stock pot. Cover, and bring just to a slight boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently for two hours. Allow the stock to cool to room temperature, then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium sauce pan. Bring the strained stock to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the tamari and mirin and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature and then add the vinegar. Taste, and adjust with a pinch or two of black salt.
2 pig trotters (ask your butcher to halve them lengthwise)
1 medium white onion, quartered
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into one inch segments
4 garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
fresh parsley stems, fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 T whole black peppercorns
1 T Kosher salt
3 quarts water
1 quart chicken stock or bone broth
Preheat oven to 450˚ F. Lightly oil a sheet tray and roast trotters, onion, parsnips and garlic until deeply browned, about 30-45 minutes. In a large stock pot, combine roasted ingredients with all remaining ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid volume is reduced by half, about 3 hours. Cool to room temperature and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Refrigerate or freeze. When the stock is needed, remove the solid layer of fat from the top of the stock and discard before use.
Photos: Courtesy of Rob Bland
Photo of Bland: Julianne Tripp for Richmond Magazine