Not enough room in today's Food pages to feature every product at the Housewares Show that prompted me to jot down a few notes. The trade-only show closed Tuesday at McCormick Place.
So, from the notebook:
The elves at Bodum and OXO elves are the James Pattersons of the kitchen industry. Bodum debuted an astounding 28 products, including a snazzy travel French press with a screw-top lid. I loved the look of the handheld blender and hand mixer, both part of the new small electrics line introduced at last year's show (the hand mixer, however, was way too bulky and heavy for my hand).
At OXO, well, I lost count, but there are something like 63 new products (not all for the kitchen), including a pretty fabulous and yet non-intimidating stainless steel mandoline. I was nearly sold on the OXO pepper mill, which has a clever drop-down opening for refilling. To its detriment, it's white plastic. I like the look and feel of my classic wood grinder too much.
Messermeister's take-apart kitchen shears have consistently been a top seller for years now, and now they come in the same bright red, orange and green colors that every other company seemed to be featuring. I'm of the mind that shears are indispensable in the kitchen; the Messermeister version has a built-in bottle opener, ice pick and screwdriver, and comes apart with the turn of a notch, so you can easily clean the blades AND keep them sharpened.
I'd wanted to write about Fred and Friends' M-Cups -- nesting measuring cups in the same spirit as those little Russian tchotchkes -- for our holiday gift guide in December, but they were sold out. Same story now, a representative at their booth said Sunday, but at least I got to see them up close (p.s. I still covet them). Fred and Friends does a fine job with quirky kitchenware that you don't need but your friends might. Anyone who wants to gift my toddlers with a set of these Lego-inspired Snack & Stack utensils, step right up!
And finally, the faux vs. real cast iron catfight... or something like that. I was intrigued by the phrase "lightweight cast iron," so I headed over to the Starfrit booth. The company says its pans are made from forget metal molds as opposed to sand molds of traditional cast iron, which means nothing to me.
At the booth, I was told the pans have a "forged iron base with a ceramic coating" which makes them nonstick -- and made me all the more skeptical, even as the chef demonstrating the pans cooked me a sunny-side up egg. What's the point of adding a nonstick coating when properly seasoned cast iron is itself nonstick, I wondered? "It's so easy to pick up and clean. You can run this through the dishwasher," the chef enthused. More red flags.
So I wandered over to the Lodge booth. The Tennessee company has been making cast iron - the heavy stuff most of us are familiar with -- for more than a century. I described what I'd just seen at the Starfrit booth to a company rep. He already knew; Lodge has tested the Starfrit cookware. "We tried cooking a piece of bacon... it cooked in the middle, but not the edges," he said.
He told me Lodge has looked at "every possible way of lightening cast iron." No dice. "When you grind iron like that, it inhibits the seasoning," he said. "Putting nonstick on it -- it's not cast iron anymore."
A 12-inch Starfrit pan costs $49.99; a 12-inch Lodge pan costs $34. Starfrit pans carry a five-year warranty. Traditional cast iron will last literally a lifetime.