12/13/2012 - Everybody’s got to eat, so ripping into one of these kitchen gifts from under the tree or out of the stocking is sure to spark the taste buds, inspire the inner chef or at least make things a little easier around the kitchen.
Starting with the pots and the pans, as non-sticks have become the norm, they have also become the subject of scrutiny due to their toxicity. Companies like Swiss Diamond and Green Pan, however, are bringing a new look to the concept by doing without the chemicals. Diane Beauregard of Things Are Cooking (74 N. Main St., Concord, 225-8377, thingsarecooking.com) says that the Swiss Diamond cookware is some of the best you can buy.
“It cooks and washes nicely, and you can use metal utensils on it. There are 200,000 diamond crystals embedded on the cooking surface; it’s durable. You can use in the oven up to 500 degrees with the lids too,” she said.
Things Are Cooking features 10-inch frying pans ($99.99), 8-inch frying pans ($49.99) and three-piece sets that also include a pot ($199.99).
At The Mall of New Hampshire, Le Gourmet (1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, 644-2183) is all about Green Pan ($39.99 a piece), nonstick environmentally friendly cookware.
“With this kind of nonstick, customers don’t have to worry about off-gassing, which is a concern when you have certain chemicals in some non-stick products; a lot of manufacturers are trying to move away from those things because of customers’ health needs and moving toward ceramic interiors,” said Le Gourmet’s Kelli Yeager.
They even go so far as to name their collections after environmental accords and conferences: the Lima, Kyoto and Rio models, for example. Furthermore, Yeager said the Fiesta Dinnerware company has been collaborating on colorways, making for popular turquoise, yellow and cobalt blue pans.
Back at Things are Cooking, new-age kitchen items like the Chop2Pot ($15.99) from Joseph, Joseph are among the most colorful on display.
“Greens and blues have been popular in New England in the past couple of years. Newer products are now coming in a lot of different colors, but throwback things are too,” Beauregard said.
Chop2Pot is an innovative cutting board with a handle and creased surface that folds, funneling the chopped produce, meats or otherwise into wherever it’s going.
And while you’re beating back the hassle of chasing halved mushrooms around the kitchen floor, why not go high-tech with an Escali’s Taso mixing bowl ($39.99)? Products from the digital scale company are available at Things are Cooking, but the Taso has proven itself one of Beauregard’s recent bestsellers. It can hold 11 pounds and allows you to measure by weight or volume, then mix and pour all in one bowl, which is removable and dishwasher safe.
For an inspired combination, check out the Lillypad Lid ($9.99/$12.99) by France-based Charles Viancin that Beauregard stocks. Light green and natural looking, the lid is a silicon pad with a suction action that holds fast to smooth rims. Aside from saving on plastic wrap, the Lillypad is microwave and dishwasher safe.
Recipes rock with the Recipe Rock ($9.99), a simple, magnetic stand by Architec for holding up to six pages and thus a hands-free way to follow along. It’s small, and stuffs well into stockings not unlike rolled-up macaron baking sheets do. The classic French cookies are getting a renewed appreciation, Beauregard said, and inspiring home cooks to try them out for themselves. Things are Cooking carries the sheets along with a small cookbook from Mastrad ($19.99).
If mornings in this day and age had a symbol, the single-cup coffee maker is in the running for the job. Keurig — perhaps the proprietary eponym for the burgeoning industry — now has a lot of competition, and for one of the best, go Nespresso. Beauregard recommends their line of high-quality espresso makers; The U ($199.99) is Nespresso’s sleek and versatile new machine, which features a moveable water reservoir and cup holder to fit just about anywhere on the counter.
“It’s a lot different than the Keurig, especially when it comes to their coffee. When you purchase one you join the Nespresso club, and they send you their coffee, and can put you on a delivery schedule, answer any questions and even send you a replacement machine if yours needs repairs,” Beauregard said. “It makes a great cup of coffee and their pods are 100 percent recyclable.”
Other items to splurge on include a juicer by Hurom ($359.99), which she touted for its slow macerating that makes for raw, quality juice, and more of it, whereas “most juicers are spinning fruits and vegetables at such a high RPM that they heat them up and lose some of their nutrients.”
Apartment living has made Breville smart ovens ($249.99) fly off Beauregard’s shelves too. These counter-top convection models are larger than toaster ovens, though there is also a toaster-oven sized version ($179.99), and feature independent heating elements for precise cooking and nine menu functions with suggested ideal temps and time for baking cookies, making pizzas and roasting meats, which the oven automatically adjusts for the next use.
More classically, the store also features KitchenAid artisan series mixers ($349.99) in tangerine, green apple and candy apple colors; they also come with a glossy finish and sharp-looking glass bowls ($399.99) and with tons of different attachments such as pasta makers, meat grinders, ice cream makers and shredders.
To save some money on the mixers, Le Gourmet features refurbished KitchenAid Pro-600 stand mixers ($279.97). Broken and unwanted mixers are dismantled at their Greenville, Ohio, plant and overhauled, making for fully functional sharp looking products that are half the cost of a new one.
For the wine lover, Vino Aromas (997 Elm St., Manchester, 626-8466) has got wine and wine boxes. Wood and leather gift boxes come empty ($25) or with two bottles of choice wine ($50) and have been selling like crazy, said owner Dan Villafranca. They are available in the store and online.
Over at WineNot (170 Main St., Nashua, 204-5569), owner Svetlana Yanushkevich stocks specialty imported items around the holidays, including an aged Cavedoni balsamic vinegar ($27 to $55), black French truffles ($8.50 for a dozen), Icelandic black caviar ($14.50 for a 2-ounce tin) and more. Also, for an inspired gift idea, check out the six-week Be Your Own Sommelier course ($210), which includes classes over six Fridays beginning Jan. 18 and covers dozens of different flavors, tasting techniques, food pairings and wine history.
Entertaining supplies are also available LaBelle Winery (345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898) for all sorts of vino swag. Owner Amy LaBelle is sourcing from local artists for some of her stoppers, corkscrews and cozy bags, giving the products a unique look. The winery also features 8- by 12-inch Brooklyn Slate Co. cheese slates ($25).
“They’re made of natural slate so it makes for nice presentation and a lovely way to entertain, especially if you’re going to be serving wonderful wine,” said LaBelle.
At LaBelle, that wine is made from New England grapes, making for unique styles and tasting notes. Tasting gift certificates ($8) with the tasting note sheet are a good introduction, as the events are very casual.
LaBelle’s cooking wines bring a little something different to all sorts of dishes. Jalapeno pepper wine, made using peppers from Lull Farm in Hollis, earthy Sweet Onion and summery Heirloom Tomato varieties can be used in salsas, marinades and even as a substitutes in mixed drinks. These and other winemaker kitchen products like jams, coffee, honey and vanilla extract can be put in elegant, creative gift baskets during their hours Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays and holiday Mondays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Warm the winter with award-winning clam chowder ($28.95/six cans) from The Old Salt Restaurant at Lamie’s Inn (926-0330). Order online at www.oldsaltnh.com to have it shipped anywhere in the continental U.S. to add to gift baskets or stuff stockings. Winter weekend packages are also available for Christmas shopping excursions; shop in New Hampshire and then return to Lamies Inn for a relaxing evening and fine food.
Give the gift of organic networking to green-thumbing friends or family with a Northeast Organic Farmers Association membership. Individuals can join the organization for a $20 entry fee which includes quarterly newsletters, discounts on informational conferences and workshops and is a great way to learn about marketing, bulk orders, networking and other things the organization has to offer. Visit nofanh.org/membership to apply.
And what would a gift guide be without cookbooks? Gibson’s Bookstore (27 So. Main St., Concord, 224-0562) owner Michael Herrmann recommends Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery ($50), named after Keller’s restaurant. He and his pastry chef provide a written tour of some of the simple, ingenious baked goods served there; it’s a dessert companion to his French Laundry.
Gibson’s also recommends The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman ($35), a home cook and blogger from Manhattan who focuses on simple, pleasurable recipes with a you-can-do-it attitude; and the erotic spoof 50 Shades of Chicken ($19.99 retail; $15.99 at Gibson’s), written by F.L. Fowler, about the adventures of Miss Chicken and a dominating chef.
“It’s a nice novelty gift that’s perfect for people who have read 50 Shades of Grey or like to cook. It’s actually got some pretty good chicken recipes in it. It’s a staff pick at our store,” Herrmann said.
Or, of course, you could rediscover Julia Child (2012 would’ve been her 100th birthday) with Bob Spitz’s Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child or her own Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which remains in print and a culinary classic.