In this day and age of finding a zillion kitchen tools, appliances or accessories sitting on market shelves, is there anything really new? Almost nothing. What's happening is that basic products are being rediscovered, revised, disguised or given face lifts for new consumer appeal.
Some newer products work well, yet companies continue to improve them. For manufacturers additional investment on the same product may prove worthwhile.
In the fall of 1986, Cuisinart introduced the Mini-Mate Chopper/Grinder, which became a hit product, particularly around the holidays. With its high or low speed, this little electric machine can chop, mince, mix, puree and grate a long list of ingredients that become lost in the standard- or larger-sized food processor and, therefore, don't get processed as efficiently as they should. Mini-Mate will chop or mince garlic, onion, ginger, shallots, herbs, nuts, citrus peel and horseradish. It's great for grinding coffee beans, seeds and spices. Try grating chocolate and hard cheeses in it. It'll also puree sauces and baby food ingredients as well as blend dressings, crumb toppings and butters.
Now here comes the Mini-Mate Plus ($40). Same look, same size, same function. For the same suggested retail price, you're given the benefit of these new features: a convenient push-button control, a cool running air-bearing system in the bowl to reduce heat build-up, and a tight fit between the cover and the bowl. Mini-Mate Plus is covered by a two-year limited warranty.
Remember the steam brush from Rowenta of West Germany, the hand-held garment steamer that works beautifully for garment touch-up while on the road, at home or at work? This convenient appliance offers high-pressured steam and 650-watt power. It'll freshen suits, sweaters, jackets and even upholstery and curtains by eliminating wrinkles and odors.
What's new? Color. The latest Rowenta Steam Brush will be arriving in black (around October), the strong color being gambled on in appliances today, which we'll see more of in the forthcoming holiday season.
When you want that professional-looking crease, try the new Rowenta Creaser ($10), the crease attachment for the Rowenta Steam Brush ($40 separately or $50 for a complete set). Yes, at the press of a button, this little attachment will steam in razor-sharp creases into the fabric, no matter what type of material. That is, in addition to steaming away wrinkles in seconds.
When the side switch is released, the creaser lifts away from the front of the steam brush, allowing just enough space for the fabric to slip in. Using a trigger action, the creaser is drawn back to the brush to hold the fabric firmly in place while the thumb presses the button that releases the steam.
A breakthrough in cutlery technology occurred a few years ago when an innovative electric knife sharpener was invented. Instantly applauded and recommended by professionals after its unveiling in January, 1986 was the Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Sharpener (Model 100, $79) from Edgecraft Corp. Orbiting diamonds in three sets of grooves designed with magnetic guides (to eliminate guesswork) honed knife blades to incredible sharpness.
Model 300, the new Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Sharpener ($59), is a more compact model, designed for another class of customer. Instead of three stages, this affordable smaller model offers a simpler two-stage process. The first stage sharpens the blade at a 45-degree angle, re-angling the old knife edge and placing a first bevel along the edge. The second stage hones at an angle of 50 degrees along the facet edge, polishing it for razor sharpness.
"We are not sacrificing sharpness in any way," says Alan Senior, vice president of Edgecraft. "The product is just about as sturdy as the first model. If you use the model 100 for an hour of sharpening once a week, it'll last up to 398 years, whereas model 300 will last up to 250 years."
Chef's Choice will not detemper knives and is safe for quality household carbon, stainless or alloy non-serrated knives. It does not require either maintenance or lubrication.
The Cuisinart Mini-Mate Plus is available at Williams-Sonoma and major department stores.
The Rowenta Steam Brush and Creaser is available at Robinson's.
The Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Sharpener Model 300 is available at May Co. and the Broadway. Model 100 is available at the Broadway and Robinson's.