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Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

GIFT OF THE DAY: Cheese Grotto

If someone on your gift list is very serious about cheese (such a person is a turophile, Greek for cheese lover), consider the Cheese Grotto.

Think of it as a cheese humidor, to protect precious cheeses instead of cigars.

Everything old is new again. Cheese Grotto is based on a very old design, used to keep ripe cheeses in peak condition for generations. There’s nothing like it in the modern marketplace.

Designed by a cheesemonger, Cheese Grotto creates a perfect environment for wedges and uncut wheels to thrive. It keeps cheeses at their optimal stages of ripeness.

In other words, it keeps precious (costly!) cheeses in a state of stasis, maintaining their ideal ripeness for a longer period.

We’re not talking about supermarket swiss, mind you, or cheeses that you plan to consume the same day; but of artisan cheeses that sell for $25.00 a pound and up: cheeses you want to savor, a bit a day.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH PLASTIC WRAP?

Most cheese counters wrap your cheese in plastic wrap. That’s just to transport it home.

  • Cheese needs to breath (i.e., air flow), which means plastic wrap isn’t good for them.
  • Cheese needs humidity, the biggest challenge with home cheese storage.
  •  
    After you get home, cheese experts recommend re-wrapping the cheese in special cheese wrapping paper.

    While cheese wrapping paper is an improvement over conventional kitchen wraps—and is certainly less expensive than the Cheese Grotto—it isn’t nearly as effective (which is why cheesemonger Jessica Sennett created Cheese Grotto in the first place).

    Cheese Grotto solves the air flow and humidity problems with a humidor environment fostered by a clay brick that is briefly soaked in water. It releases moisture into the confined space of the Grotto.

  • For short-term consumption, you can leave the cheese at room temperature, keeping Cheese Grotto on the counter top.
  • For longer-term storage, it fits easily into the fridge (it’s 12 inches deep, 8.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide).
  •  
    Cheese Grotto has two adjustable shelves and holds 3-6 cheeses, depending on the size of the wheels or wedges.
     
    WHERE DO YOU GET ONE?

    The Cheese Grotto, handmade to order in Virginia, is $350. That includes optional engraved initials and shipping.

    The materials are made from wood and other components that are natural and environmentally friendly.

    Order yours at CheeseGrotto.com.

     

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    Cheese Grotto

    [1] and [2] For the true cheese connoisseur, the Cheese Grotto (photos courtesy JRennet). [3] What the professionals have (a cheese cave at Murray’s Cheese).

     

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: GelPro, The Most Comfortable Kitchen Mat

    Along with tidings of comfort and joy, give real comfort and joy with a GelPro Mat.

    It’s a super-cushy and comfortable floor mat, so amazing that we not only have one front of our kitchen sink and stove; we also have one in the bathroom. We don’t know how we’d live without it.

    We almost always have aching legs, knees, feet and/or back and find that GelPro is the most cushy and comfortable mat we can stand on.

    A panacea for the aches, it’s shock-absorbing, non-skid and easy to clean. Almost everyone who has passed through THE NIBBLE kitchen has purchased one. Once you stand on one, you have to have one. At least one!

    Even people with no aches and pains get a lift from standing on them. It’s the difference between standing on hard flooring and standing on pillows. You just don’t get tired standing on these mats.

    The mats are available in a variety of sizes (from 20″ x 36″ to 9′ long!), colors and and designs, plain to fancy. They start at $99.95, depending on size and design.

    Whatever the price, trust us: We’d pay anything for the comfort our GelPro mats provide.

    They also make life more comfortable in the fitness room, garage, grill area, laundry room and workbench.

    Whomever you give one to will be thanking you for a long time.
     
    EXTRA SPECIAL COMFORT AND JOY FOR THE HOLIDAYS:
    20% OFF & FREE SHIPPING

    Head to GelPro.com.

     

    GelPro Kitchen Mat

    GelPro Kitchen Mat

    No matter how long you’ve been standing, a GelPro mat turns the floor into the cushiest pillow. Several sizes and numerous colors and designs are available (photos courtesy GelPro).

     

      

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    PRODUCT: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers

    Are you thrilled with your current food storage containers?

    Is there some improvement that you’d like?

    Take a look at the new Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage System: It has it all.
     
    WHAT YOU GET

    This new line of storage containers sets a standard in fabrication and utility. We’re so excited about the Brilliance line. Nothing has been left out!

  • Freezer To Microwave: Maximum flexibility.
  • Fridge to Table: Salads and other refrigerated foods don’t need to be moved to serving bowls.
  • Stain Resistant: No staining from red sauces and oils. The containers stay brilliantly clear, like glass.
  • BPA-Free: They’re made from state-of-the-art Tritan® plastic with a sleek modern look. Made in the U.S.A.
  • Splatter-Resistant Microwaving Vents: The easy click-on lids are a dream.
  • Unique Lid Design The air is sucked out of the container when you click the closures.
  • Dishwasher Safe: Also, highly scratch- and ding-resistant and durable.
  • Space-Efficient Design: The modular units stack perfectly.
  • Leak-Proof Guaranteed: Carry soup and other liquids with no concerns.
  • Odorproof: Store garlic and onions with no aroma leakage. The containers will be odor-free after washing.
  •  
    FIVE SIZES

    There’s everything from mini, to to store cut garlic and onions, to large, which holds the contents of an entire pot of stew.

  • Mini: .5 cup
  • Small: 1.3 cups
  • Medium: 3.2 cups
  • Medium Deep: 4.7 cups
  • Large: 9.6 cups
  •  
    VERSATILITY

    Here’s what Brilliance lets you do better:

  • Organize: You easily see all contents.
  • Efficiency: Stackability optimizes space in the fridge, freezer, pantry and on the countertop.
  • Transporting: Carry your lunch, baby food, etc. Bonus: The containers are very lightweight!
  • Pantry Storage: They’re airtight and stackable. Store nuts, dried fruit, flour, etc.
  • Marinating: They’re 100% leak-proof and airtight.
  • Entertaining: They look great on a buffet or at the table.
  • Gifting: Fill with cookies or foods, and a great container remains when the nibbles are gone.
  • Earth-Friendly: No need to use disposable plastic wrap, storage bags, foil or other landfill.
  •  
    WHERE TO FIND BRILLIANCE

    The containers available at major retailers nationwide, including:

  • Amazon
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond
  • Target
  • Walmart
  •  

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    Rubbermaid Brilliance

    [1] Store anything, beautifully. [2] The 100% leak-proof design lets you transport soups, dressed salads, anything. [3] An airtight solution for marinating. [4] The containers are a permanent gift, after the cookies are gone (all photos courtesy Rubbermaid).

     
    Prices range from $4.99 for an individual unit. The largest set, 22-pieces* (11 bases, 11 lids) is $64.14 at Amazon, which carries three different sets plus open stock (individual pieces).

  • A starter set, 1 medium and 2 small containers, is $14.99.
  • An 8-piece set (1 large, 1 medium, 2 small containers) is $38.86.
  •  
    If your goal is to better organize in the new year, treat yourself. The result: Brilliance!

    Discover more at Rubbermaid.com.
     
    ________________
    *Confusion alert: Manufacturers and retailers often call what consumers would think of as an 11-unit set as as 22 pieces, counting the bases and lids separately.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pour-Over Coffee At Home

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    Chemex Coffee Maker

    New Chemex Brewer

    [1] The 1941 Chemex design, represented at the Museum of Modern Art and other museums (this photo is from the Brooklyn Museum Of Art). It’s $49.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond. [2] A freshly-dripped carafe of coffee (photo courtesy ZeteDesign.Wordpress.com). [3] The latest Chemex design, which adds a handle for easier pouring, was actually one of the original designs before the streamlined design was chosen. It’s $43.50 at Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Waiting at a coffee bar recently, we overheard a customer watching her pour-over dripping into the cup. She said to the barista: “I wish I could do this at home!”

    You can, it’s easy, and a lot less expensive than the pour-over, which took four passes from the barista.

    In fact, in our youth…
    …there were no specialty coffee bars (your take-out choice was Dunkin Donuts or a deli or diner),
    …coffee at home was limited to a percolator or instant coffee, and
    …people chose either Folgers or Maxwell House, but
    …coffee aficionados made their coffee in a Chemex carafe with their favorite ground beans, usually from the supermarket although the real connoisseurs got mail-order beans from specialty shops.

    If they were lucky, they lived in a town with a specialty coffee and tea shop, with loose beans and packaged coffee from around the world.

    We were lucky: We lived in New York City, which had McNulty’s Tea & Coffee, established in 1895 and still located at 109 Christopher Street in the West Village (and still not open on Sundays).

    A visit to McNulty’s was a trip back to another age. Today, the journey is accented with modern coffee makers and gadgets that didn’t exist at the time.

    But the aroma is still the same: an exotic mingling of the many aromas of coffees and teas from around the world, kept in large glass canisters. There were burlap sacks of beans and chests of tea with stenciled markings from far away lands. The brass scale was also from the 19th century.

    Amid the tea and coffee was one ultra-modern brewing apparatus: the Chemex drip coffee maker.

    THE HISTORY OF POUR-OVER (DRIP) COFFEE

    Pour over, also called manual drip brewing or the drip method, is a fashionable new term for an old, low-tech method of coffee brewing.

    Ground coffee is added to a ceramic or plastic cone that sits in a paper filter atop a glass carafe, ceramic pot, coffee cup or other receptacle. The Chemex system eliminates the need for a cone by creating a carafe with a narrow neck that holds the filter.
     
    Melitta, The First Pour-Over

    The pour-over technique was invented by a German housewife, Melitta Benz, in 1908. Displeased with the grittiness and murkiness of coffee as it was then prepared, she devised a paper filter from a sheet of her son’s notebook paper, and set the filter into a brass cup into which she punched holes for the coffee to drip through.

    The commercial version was made in ceramic (today available in ceramic or plastic). As anyone who has used a Melitta drip brewer knows, it became a great success for its superior brew.

    Fast-forward a few decades, to inventor Peter Schlumbohm, a Ph.D chemist who had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. He developed and sold his patents focused on heating and cooling systems, the thermos bottle and dry ice manufacturing among them.

    In 1941, he released the Chemex drip coffee system with the coffee filter placed in a glass carafe.

    Like the Melitta, the filter was filled with ground coffee and hot water, which drip-drip-dripped into the carafe.

     
    Like the Melitta, it wasn’t the fastest cup of coffee around, but people with palates applauded the superior flavor. If you liked good black coffee, drip coffee was the way to go.

    Its Bauhaus style design, elegant in thermal glass from Corning, received a big endorsement from the design community and was featured on the cover of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Useful Objects in Wartime” bulletin, making it “the official poster-child of [the] new emphasis on undecorated, functional simplicity [source]. It is included in the design collection of the Museum.

     

    The Next Revolution In Home Coffee Brewing

    In 1971, the first electric drip coffee maker to hit the consumer market, Mr. Coffee, revolutionized how many Americans brewed their coffee. Adios, percolator; bienvenidos, Mr. Coffee.

    Mr. Coffee engendered shelves full of electric drip brands, which remained paramount until the Keurig single-serve beverage brewing system and the proliferation of K-Cup options too hold. In 2002, some 10,000 units were sold to offices, replacing the Bunn system and the need to clean the coffee pots and drink coffee that had been sitting on the burner for too long.

    Consumers loved the Keurig system, and by 2006, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters had acquired a stake, signed up leading coffee brands for the K-Cups

    Gosh, has it only been ten years?
     
    THE RETURN OF POUR-OVER

    While the Melitta, Chemex and other pour-over apparatuses remained a niche product, our first experience with the modern pour-over took place in 2006 in San Francisco, where the line of customers stretched around the block to get a cup from Blue Bottle Coffee.

    As our job is to know what’s new and wonderful in the world of food and drink, we waited for some 25 minutes. Sure, it was a good cup of coffer, but we didn’t do it again.

    And we didn’t have to: The trend proliferated, and soon there was enough drip coffee in our own neighborhood to eliminate the line wait.

    Which brings us to the present: pour-overs at home.

    You can still buy a Melitta, and an improvement on it, the Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank Good Grips.

    The water stays hot in the mini-tank instead of in an open filter. All you need is add ground coffee and hot water—no paper filter.

    The set (photo at right) is just $15.99 at Oxo.com
     
    Drip Tips

    Drip coffee requires a particular technique to ensure that your brew is as good as Blue Bottle’s.

    Here are Blue Bottle’s drip coffee-making tips.

     

    Pour Over Coffee Oxo

    Melitta Ceramic Coffee Maker

    [4] It’s easy to make pour-over coffee at home with this $15.99 system from Oxo. [5] The modern Melitta system is $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can also buy a $3.99 plastic cone to brew a cup atop your own cup or mug.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Uses For A Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    English Trifle Bowl

    Peanut Butter Trifle

    Homemade Edible Arrangement

    [1] A classic English trifle (photo courtesy JoyCooks.Blogspot.com). [1] This modern trifle combines peanut butter pudding and pretzels. [3] A good-for-you substitute. Move over, Edible Arrangements (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Pampered Chef).

     

    Trifles are one of the easiest desserts you can make—and impressive to present. Most of the ingredients are purchased ready-to-use, with only custard or other pudding requiring a few minutes of preparation.
     
    WHAT’S A TRIFLE?

    A trifle is a layered British dessert of fruit, sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked, custard, and a topping of whipped cream. Other ingredients can be added (gelatin/Jell-O, cookie crumbs) and the cake can be soaked in alcohol.
     
    TRIFLE HISTORY

    Trifle is an evolution of a fruit fool, a dessert that probably originated in 15th -century Britain. Puréed stewed fruit was swirled with sweet custard.

    The classic was (and is) gooseberry fool, but seasonal fruits—apples, berries, rhubarb—were also used.

    Other countries have their own versions that followed the British concept. In Italy, for example, zuppa inglese, a layering of liqueur-soaked sponge and custard, appeared in the late 19th century.

    The first known reference to a trifle appears in 1585 in a cookbook, The Good Huswifes Jewell. It was flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater (a recipe for the well-do-do, as sugar and spices were costly).

    The trifle evolved to include a layer of crumbled biscuits (cookies) and alcohol-soaked sponge cake or sponge fingers (ladyfingers) as the bottom layer. Brandy, madeira, port and sherry were used to soak the sponge.

    When powdered gelatin* became available in 1845, a layer of fruit “jelly” was added to recipes.

    As was so common among the fashionable in Renaissance Britain, France, and other European countries, new foods engendered new styles of dishes and flatware. For trifles, a straight-sided pedestal glass bowl showed off the beauty of the layers.

    Today, many people prefer bowls without the pedestal (easier to store), and modern ingredient layers that range from layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter pudding, pretzels and Oreos.

    Glass bowls with or without a pedestal are used for other desserts and can also be repurposed. Anyone who owns a straight-sided glass bowl has already figured out how to use it for layered dips, layered salads (fruit, green, pasta) and as a fruit bowl.

    It can serve as anything from a bread basket (nice with muffins at brunch) to a chip bowl.

    Here are more ways to use a trifle bowl. Thanks to Pampered Chef for some of these ideas and photos.

     

    OTHER USES FOR A TRIFLE BOWL

  • Candle Holder. A trifle bowl can make a candle holder with lots of flair. Just place a flame-proof base inside the bowl, place a pedestal candle on top, then fill around the base with any festive decoration: pretty stones, marbles, nuts, wine corks, wood chips. TIP: For the dinner table, use an unscented candle.
  • Centerpiece. For fall, fill the bowl with apples, chestnuts, dried wheat, gourds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins or a combination (photo #4). For the holidays, use candy canes, ornaments, pine cones, or mini evergreen trees (photo #5). For summer: sand and seashells, topped by a starfish. With any season, you can also place that pedastel candle in the center.
  • Desserts. Nouvelle trifle: Think of how to expand beyond the classic. Butterscotch pudding and pretzel layers? Banana pudding and ‘Nilla Wafers? Oreos and whipped cream? Baked Alaska? It’s so much easier to layer the cake and ice cream. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Or create a stunning fruit salad, either in colored layers or like the one in photo #3.
  • Drinks. Serve party punch or even ice cold shrimp cocktail. It makes a great visual impact that doesn’t require any additional decoration. Beautifully presented food speaks for itself!
  • Flatware. For buffets, wrap the flatware in napkins and present them in the bowl.
  • Flower Vase. Grab a bouquet or two of your favorite blooms and arrange them in the bowl. To hide the stems, try filling the vessel with rocks, fruit, or even crushed ice. Not much of a florist? No worries: Decorating your table with a few vases that have the same flower in the same color creates a pretty, modern look.
  • Ice Bucket. Make it the centerpiece of your drink station. Mini bottles of wine or champagne look just plain adorable displayed in the bowl.
  • Parties. Fill them with anything, from candy to party favors.
  • Punch Bowl. A smaller punch bowl can contain a mocktail version for those who don’t want alcohol (photo #6).
  • Snacks. Chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, etc.
  •  
    What else?

    We look forward to your suggestions!
     
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    *Gelatin was first extracted by boiling animal bones, in 1682. But this laborious process was only undertaken in large kitchens with staff to prepare it. While gelatin is pure protein, it is colorless, flavorless and odorless, so it also needed to be enhanced for serving.

     

    Fall Centerpiece

    Christmas Centerpiece

    Trifle Bowl For Punch

    [4] Fall centerpiece. [5] Christmas centerpiece. [6] Punch bowl (all photos courtesy Pampered Chef).

     

      

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