Buy and Conquer

Last-minute finds for your favorite kitchen whiz.

The countdown is at nine for how many shopping days you have left until Christmas (six until Hanukkah and 10 until Kwanzaa). And if you’re like me, you’ve still got some loose ends to tie up in a pretty scarlet- or gold-hued bow.

I’m usually pretty good at making suggestions for receivers of all ages and interests (in another life, I’d actually enjoy being a professional gift buyer), but as you’d expect, I’m a bit more savvy when it comes to culinary gifts—simply because whenever I walk into Williams-Sonoma, Viking or Kitchen Kapers, it takes me about five seconds to start in with “I want this. I want that.” Which is exactly what happened to me when I wandered into the Strafford outpost of Kitchen Kapers, a store I hadn’t been to once since researching an article last Christmas season!

I was pleasantly surprised by the eye candy—most specifically, the vivid and oh-so-adorable miniature Le Creuset covered cookware and mixing bowls. (I’d like to find a few of those items in my stocking …) After chatting up a very enthusiastic salesman named Wayne, I was able to compile a pretty fun list of last-minute items for the culinary guru in your house.

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I could go on and on, but my guess is that once you step inside the store (they have multiple locations), you’ll come up with plenty of must-have items on your own.
And voilà:

Fun, Nifty and Just Got to Have

• Picnics may not be on your mind today, but summer will be here soon enough—and you’ll be ready with lots of new recipes and the ultimate picnic knife. Big, sharp and curvy, the Shun U2 cuts, spreads and, to put it bluntly, looks bad a$$ in your picnic basket. $99.99

• For the lazy oenophiles, Peugeot offers the Elis Rechargeable Electric Corkscrew, which effortlessly uncorks a bottle before you can say “sommelier.” $119.99

• Any drink will taste better when chilled with Fred’s whimsical, silicone ice trays—practical for the ability to pop out one cube at a time. You’ll dig the cool shapes: guitars, kabobs, perfect squares, dentures, bones and “Gin and Titanic.” Fred products range from $6.99-$9.99. And SiliconeZone’s set of two ice trays for bottles ($11.99) is pure genius and comes in handy when trying to chill water bottles for a long day of fun in the sun during the summer.

• Also on the hot list is Shun “Ken Onion” knives, in a range of “cuts” and prices. The countertop chef’s knife features Shun’s coveted clad VG-10 blade and ergonomic handle design, and comes with a natural bamboo stand that suspends the blade in midair. Pretty tricky stuff. $199.90
• Here are two goodies: High-end toasters for bread and bagel snobs, such as the T-fal Avanté Deluxe 2 Slice Toaster in the $60 range or the tech’d out Breville Die-Cast 2 Slice Smart Toaster for $129.99 that has cool “smart toaster” settings like “Lift and Look” and “A Bite More,” which allows you to regulate your toasting more closely—great for people like me who live and die by “lightly toasted.”

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• Chop like the pros with Epicurean’s sleek, natural or slate (natural wood-fiber based) cutting surfaces that won’t dull your knives and are dishwasher safe. $11.99-$36.99
• If you’re obsessed with taking water (or a discreet toddy) everywhere, Sigg’s enameled aluminum bottles are fun and eco-friendly, and won’t taint the flavor of your precious beverage. Various sizes are available. $15-$25

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Great Stocking Stuffers

Onion Goggles (in black, pink or white). $19.99

Microplane Specialty Series’ Ultimate Citrus Tool, a combination zester, scoring blade and garnish cutter—and a must-have bar accessory. $12.95 

StirringsMargarita or Pomegranate Martini Rimmers. Colorful, festive and compact, this is a great gift for the mixologists in your life. (While you’re at it, check out Stirrings’ new line of mixers for no-fuss, no-muss cocktails.) $5.99

Squeeze It, Twist It, Chill It, or Brew It

• A classic accessory for the kitchen or the bar, the Mighty OJ juicer is a workhorse with retro flair, plus it’s simple to use and leaves you without any excuses not to get your vitamin C. $39.99
• You can serve up a frosty draft with a perfect head of foam any time of day with The BeerTender from Heineken and Krups, a home beer-tap system with a silent cooling mechanism that will constantly cool your DraughtKeg and keep it at its ideal serving temperature. AND it keeps your beer fresh for up to 30 days. $249

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• Eliminate nearly all of the extra steps it takes to get your morning caffeine fix with the Nespresso Essenza Flowstop & Aeroccino Package—a.k.a. “the bundle”—which transforms petite espresso capsules into liquid energy. My buddy Wayne gave me a sample, and let me tell you, the effect was bracing. One cup of this stuff will have you running circles around your co-workers. Best perk yet: You don’t really need to be near a tap to use it. Throw a little stand in your bedroom, and you can take care of your morning routine without ever putting on a bathrobe. $299 ($75 rebate)

Read It, Make It

Top Chef: The Cookbook. For those who just can’t get enough drama in their day, the Food Network brings you the ultimate compilation—100 recipes from the first three seasons of the show, including dishes from the Elimination Rounds and the Quick-Fire Challenges, plus (gasp!) behind-the-scenes photos, casting notes, episode stats, a fancy food dictionary, and interviews. $29.95

Art of the Slow Cooker: 80 Exciting New Recipes by Pennsylvania-based food writer Andrew Schloss. His most recent cookbooks include Homemade in a Hurry and Mastering the Grill, which is well worth your money (I own it). Package with a shiny, new slow cooker, and you’ll be getting thank you notes all year. $24.95
The Best Recipes from the 25 Best Cookbooks of the Year by Food & Wine magazine. If you’re like me and get sucked into pretty pictures, but wind up not using some of your cookbooks, this is a great buy. Consider it CliffsNotes for cookbook junkies. $29.95

Starting with Ingredients: Quintessential Recipes for the Way We Really Cook by Philly’s own Aliza Green. My copy is a proof, with no real page numbers, so I confess I haven’t used it as much as it deserves. But it really is a well-conceived and easy-to-use book, perfect for both newbies and more advanced cooks who might want to try their hands at less familiar ingredients. $39.95

Source: Kitchen Kapers,

Strafford Shopping Center, 385 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne; (610) 964-0855,

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!