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COOK'S TOYS : Small Gifts That Make a Big Difference

December 03, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Increased sales of gourmet foods have spawned an interest in newer domestic and imported culinary appliances. Competition among manufacturers is intense, with brand names galore. When a new product clicks, such as the miniature food grinder, a line of "me-toos" are on trail in no time.

This broader selection eases the task of selecting a present for a gourmet friend or relative. (Unless you're a fickle buyer, of course.) The roundup includes updated classics--such as blenders and mixers--that often pop up on a bride's wish list to a range of high-tech "cook's toys," which appear intended for those who have everything.

Despite pessimistic forecasts about the effects of the recent stock market decline on consumer spending, many retailers are already experiencing a lot of activity this season.

"One advantage we have is that our customers are less sensitive to economic changes," says John Donaldson, portable electrics buyer for Bullock's. "We're trying to be optimistic. If we feel gloomy we think customers will too. With the earthquakes and stock market fluctuations people are tired of feeling gloomy, and they want to have at least a month of celebrating."

FOR THE RECORD - 'Cook's Toys' Are Available
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 10, 1987 Home Edition Food Part 8 Page 34 Column 3 Food Desk 2 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
In last week's The Kitchen Cabinet article featuring "cook's toys" the sources for two appliances were inadvertently omitted. The Seasonart spice cabinet with measuring mechanism is available at Bullock's. The Micro-Fryer stainless steel skillet for the microwave is available at May Co.
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 10, 1987 Home Edition Food Part 8 Page 34 Column 3 Food Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
In the same issue featuring small kitchen gifts, the name of the new specialty cook's boutique at Seventh Marketplace downtown was omitted. It is called The Urban Gourmet and is owned by Sandra Elliott.

For Marty Love, Gelson's cookware buyer, progress is apparent as her gourmet department continues to expand. "Sales are higher now than they've ever been; in fact, they're at their highest this year. We're looking forward to a very good year."

Upscale products have also been moving, she said. "I'm selling more expensive items than anything else."

The industry also credits "cocooning," a term that means moving entertainment activities inside the home, for many of these buying trends. Predicted to benefit from cocooning through 1991 are sales of mixers and blenders, coffee makers, popcorn poppers and ice cream makers. Another generation of appliances that is stirring interest for their ability to whip up fast meals includes food processors, microwave ovens and pressure cookers.

Small electrics are also growing. In tune with the increase of smaller households are compact food processors, mini chopper/grinders, downsized microwaves and indoor barbecue grills. Combination microwave/convection or microwave/broiler ovens and other multipurpose equipment that saves on counter space is also starting to squeeze into the picture.

The following sampling of newer appliances will provide ideas for your Christmas offerings. The selection includes this year's innovative introductions, all uniquely styled with pleasing clean lines. The final decision, however, will depend upon your own imagination and the inclinations of the gift's recipient.

Euro-style Cafe-Therm coffee maker from Philips Home Products ($120) dispenses brewed coffee into a thermal container. Convenient for people on the go, the one-quart vacuum bottle (designed with a handle) keeps coffee hot for hours. The base unit has a detachable water reservoir with a gauge and a function indicator light.

Save valuable counter space with the Kitchen Machine from Philips ($250). This European import is an unusual appliance that performs the functions of four appliances: a mixer and dough kneader; a blender; a food processor with slicer and shredder attachments, and a grinder/mincer with sausage stuffing attachments.

Flash cooking? Pot roasts, legumes and ribs that take hours to cook can be prepared quickly and safely in the Tefal Sensor (about $70 for 6-quart model), a user-friendly pressure cooker that elicits trust. As cooking begins, any pressure build-up automatically activates the lock, making the lid impossible to open. Pressure can be safely released by turning the steam vent or by running cold tap water on top of the pressure cooker. The lid can be opened only after the steam has been totally released.

This versatile kitchen toy from Maxim is not just another downsized "me-too" chopper/grinder. Replace the jar and blade with a larger glass and disk and you can whip up a milk shake, diet shake or fluffy cream. With the blade, Maxim Chop & Shake ($28) chops onions, herbs or spices, grinds coffee or nuts, grates cheese and purees baby foods.

It may look like R2D2 of "Star Wars" but it isn't. Meet Rowenta's ES-01 espresso/cappuccino machine ($90). Designed for simple operation (which can only occur after the directions have been well read), the one-to-two-cup unit produces tasty espresso in little time. A separate control interrupts coffee flow, and a flip of the switch steams milk for cappuccino.

The final browning stage needed for that pale microwaved chicken may now be achieved by combination cooking modes in a single oven. Sunbeam's approach in its sleek, new Express Meals oven ($289) is to microwave, bake, roast, toast, top brown and broil. Styled in white with black glass, the oven has a non-stick interior coating.

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