Monday, November 26, 2007

Williams-Sonoma, This Place Will Make You Go Broke

I was at the Prudential Center yesterday, which is one of our malls in Boston. We have a Williams-Sonoma in the mall and as always I had to stop in to take a look at some of the stuff they have. Often they have all the same items they usually have, but I still love to look at them again and again for some reason. I tend to walk over to the knives and see what fun new stuff they might be featuring, and for once they actually had something new which surprised me.

Kai now has a line of knives that were supposedly designed by Michel Bras. For the uninitiated, Michel Bras is one of the premier chefs in France. The surprising part was that the knives are Japanese and Bras is quintessential French. They are probably one of the highest quality knives produced, but honestly much of the knife price goes into the name and the name of Chef Bras being on the blade. The blades are ridiculously numbered in their line of "limited" production as well, which just makes me think of "Emerilware" from All-Clad. I can't argue the price at $350.00 for the chef knife as my chef knife was about the same price. My knife seems a bit more useful than this "show piece" however.

I talked to the woman at the store for awhile though about the knives and she showed me some other things and let me try out the various blades. I'll say the Michel Bras knives were cool and felt nice, but in the end they really weren't all that "special." I found the Shun Kaji hammered steel knives to be more appealing. The pairing knife had a nice large sized handle that I enjoyed immensely as I have large hands. At $135.00 for a pairing knife though, I will be waiting for a bit to buy it.

I then wandered over to the pots and pans. I have for years glared at the Mauviel copper ware. These pans are not only beautiful, but they are highly functional when working with high quality preparations. Copper is not only highly conductive, which means it heats up very quickly and evenly as the pans are heavy gauge as well, but it also looses the heat quickly when taken off the heat. So if you are preparing a stirred custard or sensitive sauce in the saucepan, when you take it off the heat it stops cooking almost immediately. This is great as well for sauteeing meats.

Let's say you are pan-searing a piece of fish and you want it to keep warm, but don't want it to continue cooking, all you have to do is remove the fry pan from the heat and your fish will remain warm, but will stop cooking as the heat will dissipate quickly. Again, as with the aforementioned knives, these pans carry a hefty price tag that keeps me at bay until I have some expendable income. I know before I go for my further certifications, I want to be able to know I can easily use these utensils. I also want to have them just because I know they will help me to make my cuisine that much better.

I will certainly be buying the Mauviel copper mixing bowl sometime soon that I saw there. This one I can see putting out the $99.00 for as it is an essential tool for whipping egg whites to a proper foam. When whipping eggs in a copper bowl, they require much less time for whipping and the copper also creates a chemical reaction with the egg whites that keeps them from "weeping" which means having the water separate from over whipping. It is pretty much impossible to over whip egg whites in a copper bowl, they also hold their peaks with much more tenacity than those whipped in a regular stainless steel bowl.

I've always said if I was going to buy a slow-cooker it had to be the All-Clad deluxe slow cooker. No big shock here again, it is not cheap at a $249.00 price tag. However, the unit has a large capacity for putting in those huge pot roasts I love to make. In addition, it has a timmer in it that will lower the temperature after it is done cooking to a proper holding temperature. So let's say you put something in earlier in the day and you know it will be done cooking an hour before you come home. Well in a regular cooker it will continue to cook and get mushy. In the All-Clad unit, it will turn the heat down and keep the food warm without over cooking. The temperature can be raised high enough to brown the meats or other items from the beginning and then lowered to proper slow cooking temperatures so that you don't have to use multiple pans. The insert can also be used in the oven or on the stove top, so as Alton Brown would say, "it is a multi-tasker."

I've lived most of my adult life in tiny apartments so far. As such, fresh herbs are a grocery store item and not something grown in my backyard. Being on the 7th floor of a high-rise in Boston makes a backyard a difficulty. I saw this neat little thing though in the store yesterday that would allow me to grow fresh herbs in my apartment year long. An AeroGarden indoor garden that would let me grow my thyme, parsley and rosemary right in my apartment. So unlike when I go to the grocery store and have to buy a full bunch of herbs, half of which end up getting tossed as they dry out, I can just pick a few sprigs as I need them. They even have a stainless steel model which I found is only available online.

One final thing I have always wanted is an ice cream maker with a built in compressor. Williams-Sonoma sells a Cuisinart makes a model that fits the bill precisely. Another one of those high ticket items at $300.00, but to me would be well worth the price tag. It is fully automatic, all you have to do is add the ingredients in and flip the switch. The unit chills itself with the internal condenser and then does its business, and within an hour you have perfect ice cream.

1 comment:

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