Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Someone's in the Kitchen

Covered Woks (Under $50 at NEW KAM MAN).
By Anita Sarko

A funny thing happened on my way back to Manhattan
after attending a Christmas party in Brooklyn. While checking her Blackberry, the female half of the couple who transported me announced that she had received FOUR messages from Williams-Sonoma announcing a huge sale the following day. I wasn’t surprised.

Contrary to what the stores want you to believe, the best times to restock your kitchen equipment and supplies are AFTER big holiday shop-a-thons; that’s when shops return their prices to what they SHOULD be.

Williams Sonoma's "Secret" Wall of Mixes.
Even high-end chains like Williams-Sonoma have the guts to raise their already inflated prices to take advantage of holiday gifting and cooking manias. Happily, THEY are the ones feeling desperate when they see all of the stock still lying around after a reasonable amount of time.

I decided to do a roundup of great kitchen suppliers the next day. I stayed away from the usual suspects, like Sur La Table and Bed, Bath and Beyond, and went more off-trail. I decided to make an exception with WILLAMS-SONOMA (110 7th Ave., 212.633.2203): I wanted to see if they were REALLY offering any bargains.

Hahaha! Just as I thought: You could find nearly everything they had (KitchenAid stand mixers, Le Creuset items) on various websites at much better prices. However, there WERE great deals on seasonal cookie cutters and bakeware molds. Unfortunately, their luscious mixes, spices and specialty foods featured nary a markdown.

And, just as I was snapping away with my camera, a VERY terse man snapped at me, “Ma’am! Could you PLEASE stop taking pictures! We do not allow pictures taken in the store!” Hilarious. Since when are Williams-Sonoma’s goods so mysterious or their prices competitive? And what about those FOUR messages in just ONE night?
Baking Decorations (N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.).
Nevertheless ...

I, the ciminal, fled to N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST. (56 W. 22nd St., 212.675.CAKE). This is not a place for deals, but it’s amazing. I asked if I could take photos and was pointed to an old man.

“No!” He answered angrily. He was French.


“I have no reason, but definitely NOT!”

Therefore, I (the criminal) took the photos when he went to the rear of the shop.
Sprinkles (N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.)
This place is ground zero for all of your baking needs. The overwhelming variety of cookie cutters ranged in price from 99¢ to $19.99 (for a complete set of Hebrew letters entitled “The Kosher Cook Large and Small”). Wilton and Pyrex items abound. If you ever desire to decorate ANYTHING, you will DIE over their selection of edible glitter ($3.99), luster, petal, sparkle and shimmer dust ($3-$4), metallic dragees ($5.99-$12), and tiny snowman, eyeball, heart, ghost and star sprinkles ($2.99).

There’s pop culture, comic and sports-related cake figures and candles for the young and not-so (Light Beers for $3.99). And who wouldn’t want great cake-topping figures of a bride dragging or chasing a reluctant groom ($21.99)? (But, what about runaway BRIDES?)
Cake Toppers (Approx. $3.99 at N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.). Sugar Flowers (N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.).
Clockwise from top left: Wilton Novelty and Character Cake Pans (Approx. $12 at N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.); Cookie Cutters (N.Y. CAKE and BAKING DIST.); Five King Bowl Set ($200 at MR. PINK).
For more kitch in your kitchen, peruse the subterranean MR. PINK (223 W. 15th St., 646.486.4147). With over 10,000 vintage items stuffed into this tiny shop, there’s colorful old-school Pyrex (under $30), as well as coffee/tea/ flour/ sugar sets and glassware representing every state and pop-cultural phenomenom.

This is a gift-givers’ paradise. There are ice buckets (remember THOSE?), matching pitcher and glasses or martini sets (remember THOSE?), bar sets to celebrate such pursuits as bowling and boating (Hey Sailor!), and tumblers where the bodacious gals’ clothing disappear as your drink does. And don’t get me started on the Christmas decorations!
Anchor Bar Set ($45 at MR. PINK). Cookie Jar ($50) and Baking Molds (Approximately $30 at MR. PINK).
Vinyl Toilet Ice Bucket ($36 at MR. PINK). Pyrex Casserole Dishes (Under $40 at MR. PINK).
Next stop: Chinatown. I already knew from my previous foray there for NYSD NOT to ask if I could take any photos ... so I remained in outlaw mode and surreptitiously snapped away.

My favorite is NEW KAM MAN (200 Canal St., near Mott, 212.571.0330). There are two floors of ladles, tongs, spoons, drainers ($1-3), teapots ($6.50-11.50), steamers (up to $49.50 for a four piece), and woks (under $50). They have every food you’d ever dream of, plus seeds (99¢-$1.10) to grow everything from Winter Melon to “Edible Rape” (no comment).

For future Iron Chefs, there are vegetable and fruit slicers, shapers and shredders to generate the “Wow!” factor or impressively garnish, as well as induction cooktops with digital displays for stir fries, roasts and porridge ($99.50). And WHO doesn’t need a $65.50 hot plate/steamboat (“Made to match our customers’ tastes!”) or metal screens to surround burners? I have no idea what these are for (the directions were in Chinese), but I assume they’re to prevent spatter and/or keep in heat.
Covered Casserole Pots ($17.80-$39.50 at NEW KAM MAN). Multi-Steamers ($38.50-$49.50 at NEW KAM MAN).
NEVER underestimate your OWN neighborhood’s hardware stores for cooking and baking supplies because you’d be surprised at the variety and prices (especially for Pyrex and silicone). Murray Hill has a winner with HOMEFRONT (202 E. 29th St., 212.545.1447). Open 24/7, HomeFront’s entire second floor is filled with huge collections of cast iron (Lodge, Le Creuset), Nordic Ware, silicone and every tool or machine imaginable. Silicone pancake/egg teddybear, heart and flower molds ($4.99) will thrill even the pickiest eaters. Definitely check out the Typhoon Vintage Oven Dishes in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colors (teal, pumpkin, pistacio, light blue, yellow, brown ...). Gorgeous!
Nordic Ware Train Cake Pan ($27.99 at HOMEFRONT).
And, even if your neighborhood ISN’T Chelsea, don’t miss the wonder of Bowery Kitchen in Chelsea Market (home of the Food Network). I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again, mainly because they’re always getting in new items.

Recent additions included an outrageously intricate Nordic Ware Carousel Mold ($35) and chic matt black metal springform ($6.50-$8), cake ($4.75) and tarte ($4.50) pans. Satiate your inner Sweeney Todd with the giant meatgrinder ($525), show you care with a giant juicer ($900), and put your local panini maker to shame with the double-grill sandwich press ($465). Make your kitchen pop with Emanuel foodmills in fushia and royal blue ($29-$35) or titillate your favorite German with the wonderfully named “Spätzle-Ass” machine ($20, No comment).

Gotta go: I have a giant pot of homemade soup on my stove to attend to. Just remember: NO PHOTOS!!!!!!
Frog and Ladybug Toasters ($45 at HOMEFRONT). Typhoon Vintage Oven Dishes (Under $20 at HOMEFRONT).