The annual show at McCormick Place is the centerpiece of the International Housewares Association’s efforts to promote the housewares industry, attracting the world’s largest audience of home goods and housewares professionals, more than 60,000 every year. Both the exhibitors and the attendees reflect the global reach of the association. As Marion and I walked around the dine + design section of the show, we were on the lookout for interesting new tools, gadgets and ideas for home cooks. We weren’t disappointed.
1. Garlic Twist, NexTrend Products
I’ve never been a big fan of garlic presses. Too messy and too much garlic left behind in the press for me. So when it comes to chopping or mincing a clove or two of garlic, I’m all about doing it by hand. But when you need a lot of garlic? Or for that matter, any amount of minced or chopped ginger? Now you’re talking serious work.
Enter the Garlic Twist. Throw in a couple/few cloves of peeled garlic, twist it back and forth until they’re chopped to the desired consistency—from chopped to finely minced. That’s all impressive enough, but when we saw the inventor of the Garlic Twist demonstrating it at the show, I wanted to see it work on fresh ginger. We love cooking with fresh ginger, but chopping or mincing this fibrous root is time consuming. Not a problem. He threw a few chunks of ginger, complete with peel, into it, twisted it a handful of times and it was beautifully minced.
Clean up is easy too. Just throw it in the top shelf of the dishwasher. Finding the Garlic Twist is a little tougher. It’s available on a handful of websites, including Amazon.com, and at all Williams-Sonoma stores. Check the Garlic Twist website for details.
2. Scoop & Sift Flour Sifter, Cuisipro
We’re big fans of the smart design of Cuisipro kitchen tools—their silicone locking tongs have become indispensible in our kitchen, for instance. So we weren’t surprised that they had a number of intriguing new things in their booth at the Housewares Show. Including this Scoop and Sift Flour Sifter.
The Cuisipro Scoop & Sift Flour Sifter is easier to use and clean than old metal sifters. With its squared shape and ergonomic handle, it easily scoops flour directly from the bag. The angled mesh opening releases flour—or sugar or cocoa—neatly into a bowl or onto desserts, rather than spraying it in a big circle. And clean up is a breeze—just pop the Scoop & Sift into the top shelf of the dishwasher. It’s available at various bricks-and-mortar and online retailers, including Amazon.com.
I said Cuisipro had a number of cool new kitchen tools in their booth. One is a complete reimagining of the lowly kitchen workhorse, the citrus juicer. It’s not available yet—we’ll let you know when it is.
3. Automatic Teapot, The Tea Spot
The Tea Spot is on a mission. The woman-owned cafe and retailer in Boulder, Colorado, wants to make loose leaf teas an easy choice as the beverage of choice. To do so, they offer an impressive array of handcrafted, gourmet signature blends and single-estate loose leaf teas.
They also offer a number of steepware choices for brewing loose leaf tea: Cups, mugs, steepers to use with your own cups and teapots… And the world’s first Automatic Teapot. You fill the stainless steel infuser with loose tea or tea bags, add hot water and set the timer on top [for green, black or herbal teas—three to seven minutes]. When the tea is done steeping, the infuser is automatically lifted from the water; your tea is brewed to your liking every time.
As cool as their products are, we’re even more impressed with how they run their business. They’re committed to sustainability and organic and fair trade practices. And a portion of the proceeds from all Tea Spot sales goes to support cancer research and wellness programs through The Tea Spot Cares fund. You’ll find the Automatic Teapot and their entire line of teas and steepware at The Tea Spot website.
4. Herb Savor, Prepara
There were big companies and start-ups at the Housewares Show—and some start-ups created by big company veterans. Dean Chapman, president of Prepara, had been an award-winning product designer at OXO before striking out on his own with this extended-family business. As he showed us the company’s innovative line of kitchen tools, his enthusiasm for cooking and cool design came through.
We were especially taken by the Herb Savor. A number of companies were showing similar products, but this one seemed particularly well designed. It can extend the life of fresh herbs for up to three weeks, keeping the bases of the stems in a refillable water well while offering ventilation for freshness. The stainless steel herb basket accommodates plenty of fresh herbs, but the Herb Savor doesn’t take up a lot of space—it will fit in the door of most fridges. Prepara also makes smaller Herb Savor Pods and sells them individually or in three-packs. You can find Herb Savor and Herb Savor Pods at numerous bricks-and-mortar and online retailers, including Amazon.com and the Prepara website.
5. Renzo Oven Mitt, BUILT
After literally burning through more than our share of quilted cloth oven mitts—or watching them become increasingly stained, singed and otherwise disreputable—we were more than ready for non-cloth alternatives. Unfortunately, many of the silicone mitts have been either clumsy or next to impossible to find in anything other than red [when was it decided that red should rule all kitchen stuff?].
So imagine our delight at discovering these colorful, agile beauties from BUILT. Made of textured neoprene [yes, the stuff used to make divers' wet suits], they’re heat resistant up to 500ºF and fit either hand. Renzo Oven Mitts come in two patterns and two solid colors. They’re also stain resistant [hooray!] and part of the Food & Drink line of products from the Soho-based company [they make some very cool wine totes and reusable lunch bags too]. BUILT also makes the longer sleeved Arlo Oven Mitts, perfect for grilling. These oven mitts are so new, they’re only available through Amazon.com and the BUILT website. [When we got home from the Housewares Show, we immediately ordered a pair of them.] The company is currently working on bricks-and-mortar distribution deals.
6. CANTEEN Double Wall Porcelain Cups, Bodum USA
These stylish cups are so new, they’re not even available yet. But seeing a wall of them is what drew us into the Bodum booth. The double-walled construction keeps beverages hot or cold longer. And the silicone non-slip grips don’t just add functionality—they add a splash of color in a dazzling array of choices: purple, pink, red, green, brown, grey, black and white. These same colors are being used across the entire Bodum 2009 collection, so you can match your cups to your Bodum French press.
Based on Bodum’s revolutionary Double Wall Thermo Glass design, these porcelain cups come in three sizes: 3.4 ounces, 6.8 ounces and 11.8 ounces [I'm suspecting something metric going on here] and are dishwasher safe. Available later this spring, they offer a colorful, contemporary alternative to traditional coffee mugs. Look for them soon at the Bodum USA website.
So, what’s coming?
We saw a couple of cool things that are either still in development or seeking US distribution. Good Cook, part of Bradshaw International, was gauging interest in disposable bakeware made of sustainable sugar cane. They were showing bundt pans that resembled heavy-duty paper plates. Founder Douglas Bradshaw said that a chef testing them said he got three or four uses from them before they started to break down. I’m not sure about the reusability—how would you clean them between uses—but they seemed perfect for baking something to take to a party. They biodegrade quite easily, actually enriching soil instead of adding to landfill; a Good Cooks rep said you could even fill it with soil, start seeds in it, then put the whole thing in the ground. We hope they got the interest they needed—we were ready to buy them right then.
And we were totally ready to buy a number of things in the Charles Viancin Paris booth. The France-based housewares designer produces nature-inspired serving and storage pieces that are beautiful, whimsical and utterly practical. The piece that first caught our attention was a green, translucent silicone storage lid. Shaped like a lily pad, its smooth underside adheres to any non-porous surface. The rep laid it on top of a heavy ceramic bowl, then invited us to lift it by the “stem.” It lifted the entire bowl from the counter and held. To remove it, you simply lift from one edge. No snapping, no sealing, no “burping.” Alas, none of their cool stuff is available in the US yet. They’re trying to line up distributors. When they do, we’ll let you know.