Slip on a pair of chef's clogs (yes, home cooks are wearing them too) and check out the latest innovations
AS A KITCHEN DESIGNER AND A COOK, I'M ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT for what's new and what's hot in kitchens. Lately quite a number of trends and products have been catching my eye:
A World of Pots
The new pots for braising and for making soups show the influence of global thinking, and they're all pretty enough to go from stovetop to table. Le Creuset has designed its bright red earthenware and cast-iron Moroccan tagine for naturally low-fat Moroccan stews. (A recipe booklet comes with the pot.) Calphalon's stainless steel-clad aluminum Everyday Pan is a space-age version of the traditional Spanish paella pan for slow-cooking seafood stews. Williams-Sonoma calls its bulbous Italian-made soup pot Ruffoni; it's made of hand-hammered, highly conductive copper. All-Clad's round Petite Braiser, lined with stainless steel, and Cuisinart's reliable anodized soup pot are designed for slow-heat cooking too.
On a Slow Simmer
Speaking of slow cooking, low-heat burners and simmer plates have replaced incinerator-strength burners as the newest trend in cooktops; they make every low-heat task from melting chocolate to slow simmering nearly foolproof. Dynasty Range has come out with a simmer burner, Dacor has a simmer plate and several French stove manufacturers, including Lacanche and La Cornue, offer solid cast-iron center hobs for low-heat cooking.
Restaurants Go Home
Wall-mounted pot-filler faucets are now appearing over home ranges, thanks to Chicago Faucet, Franke and other manufacturers. Restaurant equipment is showing up throughout home kitchens. Stainless steel wall shelves, steel work tables on wheels, old-fashioned wooden butcher blocks on legs and easy-to-clean galvanized steel or stainless steel tabletops on wooden legs (a nod to zinc bars in French cafés) are now available to home cooks from restaurant suppliers in most cities and from Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Gardeners Eden and other catalog houses. And as kitchens become more professional looking, so do home cooks: sales of restaurant wear (chef's jackets, drawstring checked pants, leather chef's clogs) are soaring. Good sources include Chefwear, Gourmet Gear and, for the clogs, Harry's Shoes.
Kitchen equipment is coming out of the drawers and going up on the walls for easy access. Plenty of manufacturers now make tool rack systems as well as tools with hardware for hanging them between upper cabinets and countertops. Rosle's gleaming stainless steel version offers a wide choice of components. Frieling's stainless-steel Cucina system is less expensive and beautiful too. Alessi has a gorgeous version with a typically quirky design; Hafele, Ikea and Chantal offer good systems as well. Farberware, Calphalon and other manufacturers make individual tools (including nylon implements for nonstick pans) with loop handles, so that cooks have the choice of hanging them from a peg or storing them in a drawer.
Equipment for making hot drinks has taken off. For tea lovers, Cuisinart manufactures two alternatives: a classic English-made plug-in teakettle for boiling water and an electric Perfect Tea steeper that does the whole job. Bodum also offers a fine plug-in kettle. Those who still prefer to brew by hand can use Bodum's glass Assam Tea Press, modeled on plunger-type coffee pots. But the big news is the arrival of Mr. Coffee's Cocomotion, a device with a mixing paddle and a see-through chamber that heats, blends and aerates four mugs worth of hot chocolate (or any other milk-based hot drink) in under 10 minutes.
Small Is Beautiful
Good news for people who do their cooking in small kitchens: Aga and La Cornue have both introduced apartment-size luxury ranges. GE offers Lil' Mike, a 21-pound mini-microwave small enough to fit inside a cabinet but big enough to defrost meat, heat a mug of tea or pop popcorn. Black & Decker has just introduced a small espresso pot, Expresso Mio, designed for use inside a microwave; it works the same way traditional stovetop machines do (via steam rising from bottom to top) and takes two minutes to produce espresso. The more elaborate Microwave Expresso Mio Beverage Kit includes a pump frother for making cappuccino or caffè latte.
KWC Faucets has introduced KWC Tronic, a home version of the no-touch faucets in public bathrooms. An infrared scanner turns the water on when objects move under the spigot. Moen has come out with the PureTouch faucet, which features an integral water filter developed by Culligan and has a convenient pull-out spout. Franke's Little Butler and Triflow faucets have built-in filtration systems too. For some time, Sub-Zero has had a refrigerator filtration system that purifies the water entering ice-cube makers. Now GE, Maytag and Kenmore have added filtration systems to some refrigerators with through-the-door ice and water dispensers. Replacing filters costs only $30 to $40 annually, but the companion ice makers do increase energy use.
DEBORAH KRASNER is a Vermont-based kitchen consultant.