Friday, September 2, 2011

Spice World: Part 1

The dessert pepper

The Chef Tools salt and spices department fascinates me. I’m always finding new and interesting seasonings hidden in there. I’m so fascinated that I think I’ll make it a regular feature of this blog to highlight the salts, spices, seasonings, chilies and more in the department. The Spice Girls reference is just serendipitous … .

Today: new additions to the spice department.

The lovely people over at India Tree have imported a couple of new and exotic items for our consumption. They were added to on Tuesday. Here’s a rundown and some facts about each spice and seasoning we added:

Green Peppercorns: These furious little balls of pungent spice are actually just unripe black peppercorns. Their youth gives them a vigorous flavor, slightly sour; a round flavor, as opposed to the square kick of black pepper.  Perfect for soups, stocks and pasta sauce.

Pink Peppercorns: The dessert pepper. That’s right, these mild peppers have a slightly (slightly) sweet flavor that complements sugary desserts, especially ones made with sweet and sour fruits like strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries. Plus they’re beautiful and sourced from a tiny island in the East Indies.

Turmeric: one of those miracle spices. Not only is it delicious and essential in curries and American yellow mustard, but it’s also renowned in holistic circles as a digestive aid. Turmeric is a great natural food coloring (yellow, of course) and is pungent and mixes well with salt (I always add turmeric to my home fries).

Mexican oregano: Like Italian oregano, except that it’s different. Mexican oregano is citrusy, as opposed to the Italian variety’s straight-up sweetness. In spicy foods, it holds its own better than its Mediterranean cousin (they’re actually biologically unrelated). Good in chili and salsa.

Cinnamon quills: What’s better than a stick of Ceylon cinnamon in a holiday drink? Delicious in apple cider on Halloween night or after Thanksgiving dinner; or in hot brandy or whiskey on Christmas Eve. Also, grind these sticks on toast, on desserts or in Mexican preparations.

Chilies: This is actually an offshoot of our spice department, and it’s entirely new. We’ve added chipotle, ancho, Thai (bird’s eye) and chilie de arbor chilies. For heat, shred the Thai or de arbors in any Asian or Mexican (or South American or Central American) dish. The chipotles and anchos are for depth and for condiments like salsa.

Mushrooms: Another new spice-related department. We now offer dry shiitakes, porcinis, morels and a mixed bag of mushrooms. Bring these dry ‘shrooms back to delicious life with a little hot water. My favorite among these fun-guys is the shiitake; a piping hot sweet and sour soup with just shiitakes and frozen tofu swimming around is excellent, and the perfect fall/winter dish.

Popcorn: actually, corn kernels.  This is a great fall snack. Just looking at the package reminds me of raked leaves, the smell of a billowing chimney and … scarecrows. This is a bag of several varieties of corn. Each has a slightly different flavor and produces a bowl of popcorn that has enough flavor without salt, sugar or butter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Mystery of Davy Crack'it

Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree, cracked him a nut when he was only three.

So, we’ve been selling these metallic woodland creatures like toasted acorns over the past few days, especially today, and we have no idea why. Sure, they’re cute, they’re useful and rather funny – but how do people know that they exist and that has them?

Usually when we see many sales for one item it’s because it was on The Today Show, or received a favorable review in Cook’s Illustrated or The New York Times. But we can’t find any mention of this little guy anywhere. And our fancy computers tell us that no one is really searching Google, Bing or Yahoo for it. So what is it? Why is Davy so popular all of a sudden?

I’d like to think that this is a zombie- like curse, but instead of craving brains, a bunch of people woke up one morning with a very specific thirst for cute, squirrel-shaped nutcrackers made by Norpro. 

So help us out readers. Do you have any clues as to why Mr. Crack’it is this year’s Tickle-Me-Elmo?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Calphalon Update ...

… As promised, we’re adding more great Calphalon products to Since yesterday, we have added the following fry pans and sauté pans and saucepans:

  • 8-inch Commercial Omelette Pan
  • 12-inch Commercial Omelette Pan
  • 1-1/2 quart Commercial Saucepan with lid
  • 2-1/2 quart Commercial Saucepan with lid
  • 3 quart Commercial Saute Pan with lid

Calphalon Commercial 3 quart saute pan
You can find all the pans here. For re-emphasis: we’re carrying pans from Calphalon’s Unison and Commercial lines. The Commercial pans are made to stand up to a beating and keep on cooking. The Unison series features coatings of SLIDE or SEAR nonstick, a revolutionary nonstick coating that lasts longer and allows you to cook with less fat.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Calphalon arrives

Calphalon Hard Anodized Omelette Pan

Calphalon is here, and we’re very excited about it. 

Literally just a few minutes ago, launched its first Calphalon department. We’re rolling it out with only a few select products, likely to add more in the future.

Calphalon is both a leading cookware brand, and a leader in cookware technology. We wanted to offer products that highlight those strengths – and we’ve priced these pots and pans very competitively. 

We’re offering four Calphalon Unison pans equipped with either SLIDE or SEAR nonstick technology. These coatings last longer and offer superior protection from sticking even at extremely high temperatures. An added benefit is that you don’t have to use a lot – or any – fat or oil, thus a lower overall fat content in your meal. Want to sear a pork roast? Throw it on the preheated 12-inch Omelette pan and sear away without adding any fat to the pan. Sautéing asparagus? Sprinkle lightly with olive oil for taste and then throw the stalks in a pan for a couple of minutes.  
Calphalon Unison 4 quart soup pot

We also have two excellent pans from the Hard Anodized line. These pans are super tough, like cooking with a hollowed out tank. Calphalon produced the Hard Anodized line so home chefs could enjoy the durability, reliability and performance of pans used in commercial kitchens. These pans can go from the stovetop, to the oven to the broiler all in the same cooking session – and they can do it over and over and over. Like with the aforementioned pork roast, you could sear it on the stovetop and then toss it in the oven in the same pan to finish cooking.

Altogether we’re offering five Calphalon pans – all at reduced prices, some nearly 50% off – plus a pan set and replacement lids. Enjoy the pans, and we hope you share in our excitement!