A bite of a Tate’s Bake Shop gluten-free chocolate chip cookie brought a woman to tears at the International Fancy Food Show in July, said Kathleen King of Water Mill, the company’s founder and owner. “Oh my God, I never thought I would be able to eat a good cookie again,” the woman told her.
That same day, the cookie was announced as the 2012 Editor’s Pick in the gluten-free cookie category and won a silver medal. Ms. King, no stranger to awards, has expanded her gluten-free options to include cupcakes, brownies, blondies, peanut butter squares, muffins with blueberries, chocolate chips, and pumpkin, and even a Tateswich cookie sandwich with gluten-free vanilla ice cream.
She said that she does not follow any specific diet herself, but tries to keep up with what’s going on with people and what they need. “I should have a chocolate chip cookie for everybody,” she said. “Nobody should go without.”
Her newest creations are gluten-free, double chocolate chip cookies and crystallized ginger cookies that will be available in retail stores in another month or so. Ms. King said she is also crushing the gluten-free ginger and chocolate chip cookies and covering them in dark chocolate to create a Tate’s cookie bark with unique toppings including pumpkin seeds.
Next up is the building of a 5,000-square-foot gluten-free kitchen in East Moriches, where her cookie production plant is located. There are a lot of guidelines to follow with gluten-free baking, she said. The products must be baked on separate days from other goods and are always sent right out for testing to ensure the absence of gluten.
The cookies are not just for those with intolerances, allergies, or specific diets, according to Hilary Woodward of Southampton, who sat outside the shop on Thursday afternoon. She said she visits Tate’s almost every day, and buys the gluten-free products purely for their taste.
“Sometimes it takes 10 to 12 times more to get it right,” experimenting with the texture and flavor of rice and almond flour, for example, Ms. King said. But she was “really lucky” to get it right on the first try with the gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. Or maybe it is because she has been baking cookies since she was 11, when she began to sell them from a card table at North Sea Farm, owned by her parents.
She opened her first shop in 1980 when she was 21, and her baked goods are now seen in conventional and natural markets across the country, and are also distributed in the Caribbean, Hong Kong, and Canada. She is also the author of two cookbooks, “Baking for Friends,” published this year, and “The Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook,” published in 2006.
While some of her gluten-free products, such as the chocolate chip cookies and brownies, are offered on her Web site, Ms. King said the largest selection is at her shop on North Sea Road, where she also offers products that are not her own, such as crackers and pancake mix, that she thinks are really good.
She also purchases products from locals whenever possible, like Aldo’s organic coffee beans from Greenport for her espresso drinks and brewed coffee, apples from the Milk Pail in Water Mill for her pies, jam from the North Fork, and some bread from the Blue Duck Bakery around the corner.
“Growing up on the farm made me everything that I am today,” she said. When she began to work at a young age, she said she learned about integrity, a good work ethic, and quality of ingredients. She named the company after her father, Tate, who still lives on the farm in North Sea.