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Practical Gifts for The Kitchen!

It's that time of year again - time to spend/give/receive! If you are feeling bogged down at the idea of blind consumerism, it's a good idea to focus on practical and useful, yet also fun, gift ideas for your loved ones. As someone who loves to cook, I can attest to the fact that many of the products suggested in the following post from thekitcn.com are must haves for any cook's or baker's on your holiday gift list! I use my Wusthof knives, OXO locking tongs, OXO zester/grater, 10" cast iron skillet on a nearly daily basis! All the better if you can find a well seasoned cast iron skillet, measuring cups or vintage baking dish at a local thrift store!

15 Classic Gifts That'll Stand the Test of Time

 
Lisa Freedman
Nov 14, 2018
 

 

You don't want to see a loved one at Easter and find out that the [insert gift here] you got her for the holidays has since broken. That would be terrible, right? To keep that from happening, we've compiled this list of 15 classic gifts that will stand the test of time.

Every single of one of these items consistently rank among the best in reviews. They're also pretty essential for a well-rounded kitchen. And they're from top name brands. Buy something on this list and you can rest easy, knowing that almost nothing can go wrong with it. When the holiday season of 2045 rolls around, you'll still be hearing how great that gift from 2018 is holding up.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $150

This is as close to perfect as you can get when it comes to a good-quality chef's knife. Because it actually is perfect. It's balanced just right and the blade is well-rounded on the bottom to encourage the ideal rocking motion. The price is right in the middle of the road (not too cheap and not ridiculously expensive) and it's special enough to be a sweet gift.

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs, $12

A good pair of tongs become an extension of a home cook's hands. And these are good tongs. So good, in fact, that they'll give cooks more control than, say, a spatula or turner. They lock closed, have non-slip handles, boast sturdy scalloped grippers, and can go in the dishwasher. They also go in a stocking; get one for every stocking you need to stuff.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Peugeot 7-Inch U'Select Pepper Mill, $45

Get this for your dad who always says yes to the waitress when she asks if anyone wants freshly ground pepper. Made in France, Peugeot is one of the best names in the pepper-grinding business. This model has easy-to-adjust settings to allow for all sorts of grinds (from fine to coarse), and a two-stage grinding process (the first step cracks the peppercorns and the second one grinds them) to result in the freshest and boldest flavor possible.

 

(Image credit: Amaozn)
 

4. Microplane Zester Grater, $13

The name Microplane has become synonymous with graters of all types because it really is the brand that matters the most. And this is one of their best, most important tools. It can turn hard cheeses into snow-like mountains, garlic into a paste, nutmeg into a powder, and more. Looking for a little host gift? Pair this with a wedge of Parm and you're all set.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Dish, from $50

Also made in France (seriously, why is all the best kitchen stuff made in France?), this baker diffuses and retains heat better than most. Because it can withstand temps up to 520°F, it can go in the broiler and directly from the fridge or freezer to a hot oven.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Lodge 10.25-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $15

Okay, maybe we take that French thing back ... our all-time favorite cast iron skillet is made in the good ol' US of A. It comes pre-seasoned, which means it can be used as soon it's unwrapped, it cooks better than any other cast iron skillet out there, and it only gets better as it's used over time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

7. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $20

The most ingenious measuring cups to have ever been invented, these are read from above instead of the side (although that is an option, too). This way, bakers can see how much they're pouring out while they're standing over the cup and they don't have to hunch over awkwardly. Get this set for anyone who bakes and maybe there will be some cookies in your future.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

8. Staub Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, from $160 at Williams Sonoma

One more French thing! We've always recommended Staub Dutch Ovens, but a few months ago, we got to take a trip to the factory to see how these babies get made and now we're even more enamored of them. So much work and care goes into each pot! (It takes about a week to make each pot and more than 20 workers play a part in every one!) So while the price is a tad high, we totally understand why. Plus, Staub really does have some of the best cooking results compared to other enameled cast iron pieces.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

9. John Boos Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, $134

One of the things that separate beginner cooks from avid home cooks, we think, is their cutting board. Whereas, say, college students might be more likely to use a plastic one, serious home cooks have a substantial wooden cutting board that can sit out on the counter like a badge of honor. Get this 24- by 18-inch board for anyone who's hoping to feel more like an adult in 2019.

 

(Image credit: ThermoWorks)

10. ThermoPop, $34 at ThermoWorks

Nearly every professional chef will agree that a meat thermometer is one of the most crucial kitchen tools. And they'll almost always suggest the ThermoPop, too. Not only is it incredibly accurate, but it's also super responsive and easy to operate. Plus, it comes in nine fun colors, so you can make the gift feel a little more personal.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

11. Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $27 for two

We can not say enough good things about these sheet pans. (So we're just going to keep writing about them.) They don't warp or discolor, and veggies roast just as well as chicken breasts on them. Chances are, the home cook in your life is annoyed by her sheet pans but she's never going to break down and buy herself some new ones. So that's where you come in.

Related: These Are Our Editors' Favorite Baking Sheets

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

12. Duralex Picardie Glasses, $20 for six

Maybe we should have retitled this gift guide All the Kitchen Things to Buy Your Francophile friends! These made-in-France glasses make the perfect juice, water, or wine glasses. Bonus: The price is right and they'll look great in any kind of kitchen.

 

(Image credit: Williams Sonoma)

13. Goldtouch Nonstick 4-Piece Bakeware Set, $80 at Williams Sonoma

For the baker in your life, this Williams Sonoma set includes four of the most key pieces. The pieces are made of commercial-grade aluminized steel, which distributes heat quickly and evenly, and have a ceramic-based coating to ensure easy release every single time.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

14. GIR 11-Inch Spatula, $13

It's hard to love a spatula (or any other inanimate object) more than we love this one. Unlike other spatulas, which have a scraper attached to a handle, the GIR is just one piece of silicone so there's no place for gunk to hide. It's perfectly bendy (read: not too bendy!) to scrape a bowl of every last bit of batter. And it comes in 13 bright colors. Gift it on its own or pair it with a cookbook or anything else on this list for a more substantial present.

 

(Image credit: Amazon)

15. Cuisinart 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $118

This small appliance consistently tops editors' lists of best slow cookers. (A few of us at Kitchn also have it and swear by it.) The Instant Pot may be super trendy, but this slow cooker has been a top seller for a while now. Translation: Your loved one will still want to use this even once America's moved on to the next new gadget.

 

Northampton Touted in Yankee Magazine!

It's so much fun to happen upon articles in well known publications, touting the many highlights of our fair city of Northampton. Last week, my mother sent me a link to this article in Yankee Magazine, which muses about whether one *could* live here. We say yes! Read on to remind yourselves of the many reasons why you live here, and love it!

Northampton, Massachusetts | Could You Live Here?

When temperatures dip into the single digits, the college town of Northampton, Massachusetts, turns up the heat.

Annie Graves • January 2, 2018 • Read Comments (3) 

    

A young visitor lets off some steam in the Palm House--aka A young visitor lets off some steam in the Palm House—aka “the Jungle Room”—at Smith College’s Lyman Plant House and Conservatory.

Mark Fleming

On the coldest day of the winter, which is soon to lead into the coldest night, we head south from New Hampshire in search of personal climate change. Seventy miles later, we check into the Hotel Northampton, climb the hill that rises toward Smith College, and spiral up an icy-cold staircase to heaven. Or, more specifically, East Heaven. As in, Hot Tubs.

Up here in the clouds (actually, the rooftop), steam billows from a bubbling wooden cauldron that sits high over Northampton. Vapor curls into the dark, frigid air. Snow is falling, the temps hovering around 8 degrees. A pale, misty moon is barely visible above the private enclosure that surrounds our percolating pool. My hair stiffens and freezes, and I couldn’t be happier … or warmer. The air feels sharp enough to shatter—and I don’t care. Which is probably what any number of East Heaven customers have felt since 1981, when Ken Shapiro and Scott Nickerson opened this Japanese-style bathhouse. “I took more hot tubs than showers growing up,” quips Shapiro’s son, Logan, who now helps run the business: four indoor tubs and four outdoor ones, plus a spa.

One of the eight hot tubs at East Heaven.

One of the eight hot tubs at East Heaven.

Mark Fleming

Oddly, the thermostat seems to be rising all over town—cranking up even to, one might say, a tropical intensity. Blocks away from East Heaven’s 104-degree tubs, in the heart of the Smith College campus, a Victorian confection sits amid the swirling snow: It’s the 19th-century Lyman Plant House and Conservatory, shaking off winter with a humid canopy of cacao, banana, and rubber trees in its kid-magnet Palm House, nicknamed “the Jungle Room.” Close by, the transcendent Hungry Ghost Bread, effectively a bakery sauna, emits clouds of yeasty moisture whenever a customer steps inside. Cozy bookstores meld heat, escapism, and—in the case of Raven Used Books—classical music to conjure a mini vacation from the chill. And we’re just warming up.

clockwise from top left: Comfy digs in the Hotel Northampton's newer Gothic Garden building; one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures at custom furniture shop Sticks & Bricks; the atrium at the Hotel Northampton, whose guests have included David Bowie and the Dalai Lama; an artful latte alongside Kahl�a fallen chocolate souffl� at the Roost.

Clockwise from top left: Comfy digs in the Hotel Northampton’s newer Gothic Garden building; one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures at custom furniture shop Sticks & Bricks; the atrium at the Hotel Northampton, whose guests have included David Bowie and the Dalai Lama; an artful latte alongside Kahlúa fallen chocolate soufflé at the Roost.

Mark Fleming

The Setting 

This vibrant Western Massachusetts town is planted in the fertile Pioneer Valley, bordered by farmland, traversed by the Connecticut River, and surrounded by a constellation of top-notch schools—specifically, the famed Five College Consortium (Smith, Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire, and UMass Amherst). Anchoring and overlooking Northampton is Smith College, founded in 1871, its pretty campus well within walking distance of a downtown brimming with shops and cafés, many decades old. Smith alums who wandered these streets include Gloria Steinem, Sylvia Plath, and Julia Child. Calvin Coolidge was mayor here, from 1910 to 1911, before becoming our 30th president in 1923. One local writer observes: “We’re in the country, but it’s cultured. We’ve got fantastic libraries and a great book culture, but you can also have a yard and be near a forest.”

 

A view of the c.�1895 conservatory, which houses 3,000-plus species of plants from around the world.

A view of Smith College’s c. 1895 conservatory, which houses 3,000-plus species of plants from around the world.

Mark Fleming

The Social Scene 

The café life is exactly what you’d imagine in an energized college town, with a robust mix of students and professor types taking their MacBooks out for a spin and cozying up to lattes. But art lovers can also find inspiration: The Smith College Museum of Art’s impressive collection includes Monet, Picasso, Rodin, Degas, and Cézanne, and a year’s membership brings unlimited admission to high-quality escapism. Locals can volunteer to lead tours at the Lyman Plant House after intensive training in basic botany and the history of the garden, according to a volunteer. Moms and dads troop through the greenhouses with children eager to visit their favorite rooms. “This is mine,” says Langston, a lively 3½-year-old who’s engulfed by giant foliage in the Palm House (although he’s partial to the cacti in the Succulent House, too). “We come here once a month, and he runs through the rain forest,” says his mother, Sally. “I know other people like to come here and be contemplative….”

 

Opened on Market Street in 2011, the Roost caters to a variety of appetites with everything from breakfast sandwiches to milkshakes to wine and beer.

 

Opened on Market Street in 2011, the Roost caters to a variety of appetites with everything from breakfast sandwiches to milkshakes to wine and beer.

Mark Fleming

Eating Out 

Snow is still pelting down as we slip into the Roost, where steamy windows and wood-plank rusticity meet “Rooster Rolls” stuffed with egg, bacon, avocado, or possibly whipped gorgonzola (making the Food Network very happy and earning its props for “best breakfast between bread”). At Haymarket Café, midway up Main Street, contented vegetarians are still squeezing around the postage stamp–size tables (as they have since 1991), surrounded by eccentric wall art, the air alive with the hiss of espresso in the making. Casual ethnic eateries abound—including Amanouz Café, serving bursts of Moroccan flavor. A sprint through town reveals further options of Indian, Greek, French, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Vietnamese cuisines. But if fresh bread is your holy grail, Hungry Ghost Bread is the destination. “Artisanal” and “wood-fired” are weak words for conveying the crack of this crust, the moist cushion within, and the otherworldliness of a cranberry-maple turnover that somehow fell into our bag.

Head baker J. Stevens loading the first batch of the day at Hungry Ghost Bread.

Head baker J. Stevens loading the first batch of the day at Hungry Ghost Bread.

Mark Fleming

Shopping 

We found plenty of excuses to duck indoors, such as Sticks & Bricks, with its artwork, jewelry, and sleek furniture made from reclaimed materials, and Pinch, offering unusual wall art, ceramics, curated clothing, and airy home decor. Thornes Marketplace packs dozens of stores and eateries under one roof, including Paul and Elizabeth’s, a vegetarian mainstay since 1978. Scattered around Northampton is enough reading material to get anyone through winter—Broadside Bookshop, for instance, lines its walls with quality reads plus smart political stickers—but for hours of browsing, nothing beats descending into the cozy den of Raven Used Books. Abundance spills out of the shelves and onto the floor; “Middle English Texts” sits next to “Arrrrgh!” (pirates). It’s an oasis of calm, and an exploration set to the soundtrack of Handel’s Water Music.

Owner Betsy Frederick at Raven Used Books, a haven for local academics and bibliophiles.

Owner Betsy Frederick at Raven Used Books, a haven for local academics and bibliophiles.

Mark Fleming

Real Estate 

At the time of our visit, a stylish two-bedroom townhouse-style condo in a c. 1900 building once known as the Union Street Jailhouse, offering exposed brick walls and a short walk to downtown, listed at $246,888. A breezy four-bedroom renovated 1950s colonial, with granite kitchen counters and proximity to Childs Park, was selling for $399,000. And a two-bedroom eco-friendly contemporary condo with a rooftop deck, less than a mile from the Smith campus, also listed at $399,000.

Uniquely Northampton

Apart from being able to luxuriate at East Heaven (and take a free half-hour tub on your birthday), we barely scratched the surface of Northampton’s local perks. Every type of music and performance venue is represented here, from intimate institutions like the Iron Horse Music Hall to the venerable Academy of Music, the oldest municipally owned theater in the country (c. 1891), which showcases talent ranging from Irish songbird Mary Black to the witty David Sedaris. As for the visual arts scene, it explodes at the twice-yearly Paradise City Arts Festival, an extravaganza of 200-plus top-notch craftspeople and fine artists that’s been dazzling shoppers since 1995. 

Getting Your Bearings 

Just off Main Street, in the center of town, the elegant Hotel Northampton—a member of Historic Hotels of America—is ideally situated for sampling every tropical diversion. And for depths of coziness on a winter’s night, descend into Wiggins Tavern, the hotel’s 1786 tavern (moved from its original site in Hopkinton, New Hampshire), for an incomparably warming Indian pudding. 

 

River Valley Coop Finds Space for Second Location!

It has been an exciting journey to watch the River Valley Market  grow and change since it's doors opened in 2008. Ih has become my go-to local supermarket. They have fresh, local produce, responsibly sourced dairy, eggs, meat, fish and poultry. There is a large bulk section, with convenient containers available to purchase for liquid bulk items. There is a well-culled wine and beer section, frozen foods, snacks, cleaning and pet supplies and even skin care, supplements and make up. As a member/owner, I feel thankful for this wonderful cooperative market and local organization. The River Valley Market is on my list of 100 reasons why I love living in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley! I'm happy to share the following article from MassLive.com - The River Valley Market is opening a second location in Easthampton!!

River Valley Co-op chooses Easthampton car dealer site for 2nd store

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-Op has plans to build a second grocery store at the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile site at 228 Northampton St. in Northampton. ( Republican File)(Bob Stern)

By Jim Kinney

jkinney@repub.com

EASTHAMPTON -- River Valley Co-op has identified the former Fedor Pontiac Oldsmobile property on Route 10 as the best spot for its second location.

The grocery cooperative announced Monday that it has an option agreement to purchase the property at 228 Northampton St. from the Fedor family. The price was not disclosed.

The dealership is vacant, having closed in 2010 when General Motors downsized its dealer network and ended the Pontiac brand during the automaker's post-recession bankruptcy. Oldsmobile went out of production in 2004.

Easthampton mayor, buying bar with her brother, also to rent out three apartments

The State Ethics Commission said Mayor Nicole LaChapelle may not use her position to benefit her business in any way. 

River Valley Co-Op opened its 17,000-square-foot store at 330 North King St. in Northampton in 2008. But with more than 9,500 member-owners and many more regular customers, that facility is getting too busy and congested, said Andrea Stanley, River Valley Co-op board president.

"The growth of our store has been faster than people expected," Stanley said. "We didn't imagine the store would be as busy as it is. There is no way to expand at that location. Where do you go next?"

General Manager Rochelle Prunty said the co-op already has hundreds of members in Easthampton.

"We were looking for a spot that would be close enough to our current store to kind of help support our current community. But far enough away to get a little closer to some of our co-op owners and shoppers who are further away," she said.

The co-op looked at a number of possible locations. 

"We have people who come from all over," Prunty said. "Maybe ultimately we'll have a store closer to everybody."

Easthampton already has the independently owned Big E's Supermarket downtown and there is a Big Y in Southampton. Puza's Pure Food Market is also in Southampton.

Neither Stanley, Prunty nor a news release from the co-op said how much the Fedor property will sell for. But Stanely said the co-op hopes to raise $2.5 million in member loans for the project.

Those new loans would be added to an equal number of expiring member loans that are coming due and that the co-op hopes members renew for a grand total goal of about $5 million. The interest rate the co-op would pay on those loans is not set yet, Stanley said.

Prunty said the co-op has not determined all the project costs yet. Startup and construction costs for 330 North King St. totaled $10 million in 2008. The co-op spent another $1.5 million on a renovation in 2014 and 2015.

Stanley said she expects fact finding to planning to last all of this year, with groundbreaking in 2019. She hopes the new store could open that year.

River Valley plans to build new at the site, creating a store that would be about the same size as the current Northampton store. That is 11,000 square feet of sales space with additional prep areas and an office mezzanine. It would have 150 customer parking spaces compared with 92 at the Northampton location. 

The co-op expects the Easthampton store will employ 100 people. The 150 or so Northampton store employees are over 95 percent full-time with benefits and are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459.

Becoming a River Valley Co-op member-owner costs a $150 minimum equity investment. That investment is not an annual fee. Member-owners get discounts, coupons and can share in a patronage rebate if the co-op makes a profit. 

River Valley Co-op plans to work with Wright Builders, Thomas Douglas Architects, Berkshire Design, NCG Development Co-op and the city.