Timers and pepper mills--today's topics. I usually like to group gadgets under a category or similar theme, but timers and pepper mills?
The best excuse I could think of is that these two tools can be easily spotted atop kitchen counters. Often within reach of the cook, they are rarely hidden in a cabinet or drawer. The second reason, which you might have already guessed, is that both need winding or cranking for manual activation, or a push of a button for electronic triggering.
Colorful and Fun Timers
The manual timers from Cronex are bright, colorful and fun. They're uncomplicated. And loud. The shapes are something to talk--or drool--about. You will find bold red tomatoes, red and green peppers, orange and lemon, all in natural colors (from $11.95).
People are replacing their old timers with these interesting designs, according to Marjorie Duncan, who represents the company's line in Southern California. The Chief's Timer ($12.95), she said, is a real conversational piece. A newcomer from Cronex, this timer is designed like the head of a bright-eyed Italian chef with rosy cheeks and mustache, wearing a chef's tall white hat and a collar.
Another innovative new unit is the Pocket Timer, which is a flat disk in red or black. A window-like slot reveals the minutes.
Another pocket-size piece is the magnetic round timer that comes in two-tone black with yellow, red or gray.
Made by Italora in Italy, the 60-minute Cronex timers operate with a twist of the upper half. To activate the alarm, turn past the five-minute mark, then select the desired length of time (similar to the motion of setting a combination lock). This will produce a brief ring. For a longer ringing of four seconds, wind a complete 360-degree turn then choose your time.
The Cronex Electronic Timer ($14.95) is a battery-operated square unit with a digital display. The 59-minute timer can be set as far ahead as 19 hours. It comes in black or white, with three red push-button controls. The timer can be clipped to your pocket, or to the refrigerator or metal stove hood by the magnetic strip on the back.
Now pepper mills. Grinding your own peppercorns, or using varied gourmet types can add zest to any cuisine. Designed by British master-craftsman Robert Welch is the Victor cast-iron pepper mill ($29), distributed by Chantry in Clearwater, Fla. The appeal of this handsome pepper mill is expressed in its classic shape and sturdiness. The hand-finished castware is available in sleek white, natural black or an attractive fire engine red, a color that is getting attention in accenting kitchens today.
Mr. Dudley from Oceanside, Calif., recently introduced the Shasta ($7.99), which has a squarish form. A trend these days is to combine salt and pepper in one shaker, with separate compartments, of course. Mr. Dudley's 5 1/2-inch Shasta is a combination pepper mill/shaker made of clear acrylic.
Also popular are small shakers that people like to fill with their own gourmet peppers to take to restaurants or picnics. The Diamond set from Mr. Dudley consists of salt and pepper shakers that stand 2 inches tall. The pair is made of clear acrylic, molded into cut-crystal designs, with chrome lids.
Another variation is the Rhinestone set ($9.99), which is 3 inches tall. Also made of crystal-like acrylic, the bottles have smooth acrylic on top and crystal cuts on the bottoms, with accents of chrome on top.
Just unveiled by Imperial Knife Co. in New York is the Ultimate Salt 'N Pepper Mill, ($17.95) another see-through, acrylic grinder. Modified to work on a spring mechanism rather than rotating gears, the pepper mill is activated by a gentle squeeze. The unit includes an 8-inch setting dial with selections from extra-coarse to very fine grind, plus a top compartment for salt. The gadget is 6 1/2 inches high and has a 5-year warranty.
Great for Arthritis Sufferers
A favorite is the Pepper Power ($30) from Chef Specialties Co. in Smethport, Pa. Made in Switzerland, the 7 1/2-inch tall, white grinder has a durable plastic body that holds about 3 ounces of peppercorns. The push-button, battery-operated mill can also be operated manually. It's a great tool for arthritis sufferers who can't use their hands easily. Anyway, Pepper Power is also something to think about for a great Father's Day gift. For holiday presents, watch for pepper grinders from the same company in wooden soldier, chef and golfer designs.
The Cronex Timers are available at Cookin' Stuff (Torrance and La Habra), Hinshaw's and Gelson's.
The Victor Castware Pepper Mill is available at Erewhon Natural Foods (Los Angeles) , Diehling (La Jolla), Faire La Cuisine (Malibu).
Mr. Dudley's salt and pepper mills are available at J.C. Penney, Cook's Corner (Glendale) and Three D Bed and Bath.
The Ultimate Salt 'N Pepper Mill is available at Fedco and K mart.
The Pepper Power is available at Montana Mercantile, Kitchen Things (Tustin), Kitchen Kitchen (Rancho Mirage), Cook's Corner (Glendale), Kitchen Emporium (Torrance) and Kitchen Aware (Diamond Bar and Montclair).