Archive | Gadgets RSS feed for this section

Vintage Kitchen Tools

12 Aug

My friend Corinna recently came into possession of a few rather incredible kitchen tools, most of which she placed in a giant box and saved for me to look through (Corinna does this not only because she is a super nice person who unfailingly thinks of the joys and interests of others on a daily basis, but also because she is a fellow fan of vintage items of all sorts). A bit of pawing through the box revealed some delightful treasures.

These tiny cake pans are absolutely delightful. They are made of lightweight aluminum, and seem to be in perfect condition. While looking up some information about them (mainly concerning what I should call them: cake molds or cake pans, since I am nothing if not thorough [I also used to work as a professional editor and proofreader, so my penchant for minutiae knows no bounds]), I discovered that these little pans were initially marketed as Jell-O molds.

These particular pans do not seem to have been manufactured by Jell-O itself, but I found many other tiny pans that were. I have to admit, I find Jell-O to be unbearable in nearly every imaginable way, but I am utterly charmed by the idea of mid-century kitchens amassing a collection of tiny little molds made specifically for the presentation of Jell-O.

We’ve all seen these around, but have you ever seen one in such impeccable condition? And check out those gorgeous turquoise details on the handles. It’s like the very essence of the entire 1950s distilled into one single item.

I love this citrus squeezer. I have actually owned a modern citrus squeezer of a different sort, and the darn thing broke after fewer than 12 months of use. This fellow, however, seems to be in it for the long haul. The pinching/squeezing action is as smooth as can be, and I don’t detect even a hint of corrosion or wear.

Included in the loot was a stack of pie pans, and I love them all. Sure, I already own pie pans, and I use them with great aplomb, but what is one to do when delivering pies to friends and family, as I often do? Thus far, I have always just bought a disposable pie pan and gotten on with it, but I like the idea of doling out these sturdier pie pans instead. Store-bought disposable pie pans are, understandably, thin and weak (they are, after all, meant to be disposed), and I have always been consumed with worry over their ability to keep from bending or collapsing when tasked when holding a rather robust pie.

These pie tins, made by Plush Pippin Restaurants. Inc., remind me a great deal of the pie tins that came with a pie purchased from the restaurant and bakery where I worked as a teenager, i.e. the place that made the delicious and suspicious drain-clogging fresh fruit pies. At my old place of employment, you paid a .25 cent deposit for each pie tin, and then, when you were done with your pie, you could return the tin and get your deposit back. Sometimes people would hoard their tins for years, and then come in one day, stack of tins in hand, and receive enough money from their deposit to actually buy another pie ($5.95 for a freshly made apple pie back in those days! Unbelievable!). As you can see on this tin, however, Plush Pippin was not interested in getting involved in the pie tin deposit game.

Plush Pippin, as I have read, was a small chain of Portland-area restaurants known for their wonderful pies. After expanding into a the Northwest and Minnesota, the company was sold a few times over and eventually transformed into a wholesale bakery that focused on pies. As far as I can tell, the only place one can buy a Plush Pippin pie these days is at Walmart (40-ounce pie! That’s 2.5 pounds of pie!), currently the exclusive distributor of Plush Pippin pies.

There is a bit of a debate over what the intended purpose of these tongs might be.

Ice tongs? Or perhaps grabber of olives, tiny gherkins, and other cocktail approved foods? Maybe it is all three. The tongs have developed a few worn spots, but they still work as smoothly as the day they were made (I assume, since I was obviously not around on the day there were made).

And here we have my favorite kitchen gadget of the bunch: the Bar Boy multitool.

This handsome little fellow can perform four separate functions. On one end it has a measuring cup for pouring precise shots (the inside of the cup also contains measuring lines, so one can measure and pour while looking from above). The measuring cup, the heaviest part of the tool, also serves as an ice crusher.

Moving on down the handle you’ll find a bottle opener, and then a corkscrew. Though I make very few cocktails these days, I can’t help but adore this tool. Look at the scalloped handle on that guy, made to accommodate a firm grip. The tidiness of the design is just a treat to behold.

I have to admit, I don’t know how many of these tools I will actually use. Mainly, I love them for their history and design, though, you never know, I might get the urge to whip up some tiny cakes, topped with citrus cream, fortified with a jigger of booze, then garnished with a cocktail cherry and served in a pie pan. It could happen.

Kitchen Tools for Kids

1 May

My son and I have been doing a fair bit of cooking lately (this is a feat more notable for him than me, obviously), and we have been greatly enjoying these incredibly charming cooking tools made by Fiesta Products.  The line of tools is called Head Chefs, for obvious reasons, and they are the perfect tools for getting your kid comfortable in the kitchen.  We were gifted a number of these wonderful kitchen tools, and we could not be happier with them.  The sifter shown above, along with the whisk shown below, are two of my son’s favorites.

Although, this spatula is another favorite.

And this spreading knife.

Okay, so we love all the tools.  How can we help ourselves?  The limbs are bendable, the feet have tiny little suction cups beneath, and each body is equipped with a pert little set of buns.  Not buns as in dinner rolls, but buns.  On their bottoms.

And, while I am at it, I could not help but share this great set of salt and pepper shakers.

Product Details

We don’t own those dinosaur goodies, but we do own this lovely set of bunny rabbit salt and pepper grinders, also a gift from a clever family member.

Product Details

I could go on like this forever, so it’s probably best that I just stop while I still have at least a small bit of composure.  I would hope that this is obvious, but I am in no way being compensated by these companies for mentioning their products. I am sharing these because I think they are fine additions to any kitchen, particularly those populated by children who have a blooming interest in cooking.

The Best Wine Opener

12 Sep

For years, when tasked with opening a bottle of wine, I used that bad boy on the left.  It’s compact, it’s fairly straightforward to use in terms of technique, and it’s highly durable.  The only problem I have ever had with it has arisen when encountering a bottle of wine with a particularly stubborn cork.  On more than one occasion, I have managed to break a cork in half, which, though certainly not the end of the world, is at the very least a mild annoyance.

The corkscrew on the right is what I believe people refer to as a locking top wine opener.  It is the best wine opener I have ever used in my life, hands down.

But, wait.  Let me back up a bit.

During all the years I was using my $5 corkscrew pictured above on the left, I was constantly being given bigger, fancier corkscrews by people who thought that I was perhaps clinging to my simple corkscrew out of a sense of duty or frugality (it wasn’t broken, so why replace it?).  Every corkscrew I received, I then tried, and many of them I actually liked.  The problem was, every single one of them—and I really to mean every single one—broke within a few months, or perhaps even a full year, of use.  The one with the wings on the side that leveraged the cork out of the bottle?  Broke.  The ultra-fancy one that had two different handles, a lever, and came with its own display case?  Broke.  The one that came with a special foil cutter and had the unfortunate look of a tool one would find in a dentist’s office?  Both items broke.  So, it was back to me and my simple corkscrew that sometimes broke stuff and made my wine a little more textured than I desired.

And then one Christmas a few years ago, my husband and I were given this wine opener (perhaps by a relative?  I am guessing an uncle?  I don’t know.  My husband has a big family, and there are a lot of uncles floating around in there).

At first, not recognizing it as any wine opener I had ever used before, I resisted it.  It required too much fiddling and fussing, I complained, and it bore a strange resemblance to the vise in my dad’s workshop that used to pinch my fingers all the time when I was a kid (which was entirely my fault because I could never stop fiddling around with the lever on the vise, but whatever).  No, I declared, I will not be needing that, thank you.  But then time wore on, we moved, and I momentarily lost my old corkscrew.  With a bottle of wine waiting to be opened, the time had come.  I could not avoid it any longer.  I had to use the vise-looking corkscrew.

Here is how it is done.

You place the base of the opener over the cork:

If the tab on top of the opener is positioned with the hole facing up,

you flip the tab about 90 degrees so the opening is facing the side and the solid portion is on top:

With one hand you hold the base of the opener on top of the bottle, and with the other hand you turn the handle of the opener in a clockwise direction.  This will force the corkscrew into the cork:

When the corkscrew has been driven all the way into the cork, the tab on top flips back over so the hole is now facing up:

Then you just keep turning the handle clockwise and behold!

The opposite end of the corkscrew comes up through the hole in the tab,

freeing your cork from the bottle in the process:

To free the cork, flip the tab to the side once more, then turn the handle counterclockwise, unscrewing the cork:

This corkscrew works like magic every single time.  After the first time I used it, chastened, I swore my allegiance to it almost immediately.  I still keep the other corkscrew around (you know, for additional wine-opening emergencies), but for my general wine-opening duties, this corkscrew can’t be beat.

Now, here comes the sad part.  I have no idea where it came from.  I’d love to tell you where you can find your own magical wine opener, but when I tried to research places one could buy this type of wine opener, all I could find were collector guides to antique locking top wine openers from Europe.  (This, incidentally, evolved into a rather fascinating afternoon for me, as I came across page after page of great examples of vintage wine openers.  I highly recommend checking those out.)

So, if you are reading this, Uncles of My Husband, perhaps you might enlighten us as to where you procured such a fantastic wine opener?  Just in case I might someday feel the need to get a backup wine opener for my backup wine opener.  Because I am like that.

%d bloggers like this: