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COOKSTUFF

Kitchen Kitcsh

November 02, 1995

Each year it gets harder and harder to find vintage tablecloths; great old potholders, oven mitts and appliance covers are even more difficult to acquire. That's why we were thrilled to find Kitsch 'n' Couture, an East Coast company that manufactures new versions of kitchen textiles from the '40s and '50s. There are terrific fruit and vegetable patterns, one based on a '50s cook's shopping list and one series inspired by the goofy maps on tablecloths once sold in souvenir shops across the country. The table linens and kitchen accessories are available by mail. For a catalogue, send $1 to Kitsch 'n' Couture, 21 Silver Spring Road, West Orange, NJ 07052. (201) 731-0041.

Don't Cry For Me

The problem with most modern kitchen gadgets is that they act as a barrier between the cook and the food--we don't touch our food enough anymore. Of course, in the case of onions, many would say they've touched more than their share. Even hands-on purists might not object, then, to this Swiss-made plastic chopper from Zyliss that encases the bulb in plastic and does the deed without leaving that telltale smell of onion on a cook's hands. And no tears. Available at Cookin' Stuff in Torrance and Bristol Kitchens in South Pasadena.

Holiday Bowling

We can always use a good set of mixing bowls; there are never enough when you cook for a crowd. With the holiday cooking season quickly approaching, it makes sense to invest in bowls that are functional and good-looking enough for the table. These elegant stoneware bowls from England's Mason Cash & Co. are available at Cookin' Stuff in Torrance and Bristol Kitchens in South Pasadena.

FINDS

Age Before Beauty

For all our gourmet pizzas, our trend-setting restaurants and our insistence on fresh produce, Southern Californians have been remarkably cheese-ignorant. Only a few shops carry more than the usual bland assortment of plastic-encased cheddars, jacks and Brie. One problem: No one in the stores knows how to take care of the fragile product. It's all uniformly chilled and wrapped, with no regard for the variety being sold. Rarely do we get to taste well-aged cheeses that require special handling.

But as more small cheese makers emerge in this country, there's a growing demand for more enlightened cheese sellers.

The situation was nearly the same in London 15 years ago. Stepping in to fill the vacuum there were Randolph Hodgson and Jane Scotter, who opened the Covent Garden shop Neal's Yard, originally to sell their own fresh yogurt and goat cheese. Hodgson quickly became obsessed, however, with finding artisanal cheese makers throughout Britain, then aging the product right at the shop, the way it's done in France. Over the years, Neal's Yard became known as one of the world's best cheese shops.

We've yet to acquire a Neal's Yard-caliber shop here in Southern California. But now that they've mastered bread, the people at La Brea Bakery are tackling cheese, and one of their prime sources is Neal's Yard.

A new shipment arrived in the shop last week. Among the finds are Ticklemore, a nutty-flavored, hard-pressed goat cheese made by Robin Congden near Totnes in Devon, where the goats diet on heather and wild grasses, supplemented by Provencal herbs; summer Caerphilly (firmer and drier than the cheese made in winter) from the Duckett family in Somerset, and Gubbin, a smooth, lightly oak-smoked cheese from Tom and Giana Ferguson who blend the milk of three different cows, including the Kerry, a little black Irish cow.

Now if only La Brea Bakery would build its own cave . . .

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