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The Kitchen Cabinet

A New Look for the Trusty Old Toaster

March 21, 1985|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Pity the old toaster . . . stuck in a corner, abused, smeared with finger marks all over . . . crumbs here and there. Remember when you first bought it and proudly displayed it in its shining glory? There's hardly any time for cleaning up when one is gulping down a quick breakfast and rushing for the day's chores. Aren't there times when you want to hide the bulk in the closet? But what will we do without this convenient appliance . . . not when breads, wheat toasts, bagels, croissants are so good. Of course, everyone likes them hot.

Toasters--pop-up ones or toaster ovens--have established a strong foothold on kitchen counters since they've replaced stove broilers for heating breads when speed and economy are considered. What's new? The French-made electronic toaster and the European toaster from Vivalp U.S.A.--so clean and sleek-looking that you may want to leave them out on the counter forever. Moving away from the shiny look of chrome, the company has introduced a trendy styling of white enamel with red trim in these lightweight toasters.

A Toaster That Also Cooks

When you look at the Vivalp electronic toaster with its canopy-like overhead, sans a glass door and with a barely visible heating element, you wonder whether the breads will ever brown, much less get warm. However, not only will this horizontal toaster toast but it will also cook, reheat and defrost to a limited degree. The heating element, which is in the back, sends heat throughout the inner reflective walls. Aside from this, evenness of heating is also achieved by electronic temperature control. The energy usage is minimal, accounted for by the single heating rod as opposed to four in some toasting units.

One big advantage of having the heating element in the back instead of underneath the rack, is in cleanup. Now you have access to the black crusts that form from spills from grilled cheese sandwiches or pizzas. This type of element also avoids the smoky fumes caused by greasy leaks touching a red-hot rod. The rack in Vivalp's toaster lifts up so that one can easily wipe the bottom clean. (A damp sponge, with mild dishwashing detergent if necessary, is recommended.)

Comes With Recipe and Booklet

Time controls (dial one to six) range from 20 seconds to three minutes, and intensity controls are for warming and toasting. The unit comes with a small recipe and instruction booklet, including suggestions for timing various food items.

As with other gadgets, there are limitations to Vivalp's electronic toaster as we found out in our Test Kitchen. Since the rack is small and the overhead low, forget about enormous croissants, mega muffins and other tall breads because overbrowning will occur. Also, we miss the beep that tells you when heating is finished. According to Craig Adams, president of Vivalp U.S.A. in San Francisco, these two factors are being taken into consideration for future units.

For those who prefer on pop-up toasters, the Vivalp European toaster, also styled in white enamel with red trim, comes with a temperature setting to control the degree of brownness as well as a self-adjusting opening that allows breads with thicknesses up to 1 3/8 inches. The flexible wide opening is great for bagels, thick English muffins, French bread slices and smaller croissants and muffins.

The Vivalp electronic toaster has a suggested retail price of $59 and the European toaster, $45. The electronic toaster is available at Robinson's and Bullock's department stores, and the European toaster will be available within the coming months in both stores.

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