Tuesday, January 18, 2011

With help from Pryde's, 10 handy kitchen gadgets you never knew existed

Posted by on Tue, Jan 18, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Pryde's Old Westport is the unofficial kitchen gadget headquarters.
  • Pryde's Old Westport is the unofficial kitchen gadget headquarters.

When John and Connie Perucca started Pryde's Old Westport in 1968, they carried more patio furniture than kitchen products. That has certainly changed over the last four decades. Sometime in the 1980s, kitchen gadgets became among the hottest sellers at the Westport shop. And while the Peruccas sold the business to their daughter, Louise Meyers, a decade ago, the gadgets have remained.

Today, says Meyers, the store carries at least 30,000 kitchen gadgets. Here are 10 of the most random.

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10. Add garlic, roll
One of the most popular kitchen gadgets at Pryde's is the Chef'n Garlic Zoom XL, a clear-plastic bubble with stainless-steel blades and wheels. Yes, it looks like a toy. A dangerous toy. Raw garlic cloves go into the bubble, the device is rolled on a counter or table, and with no smell or fuss, it chops the garlic. It can go directly into the dishwasher and retails for $16.50.

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9. No to tears, yes to style
RSVP's plastic onion goggles don't just make chopping onions a tear-free experience. Many of Pryde's patrons use them when washing kitchen floors or bathrooms with a bleach solution or using the lawnmower outside during allergy season. "They come in six colors," Meyers says, "including tortoise -- for sophisticated cooks." The retail price? $19.95.

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8. Shear and shear alike
Orka's multi-blade herb shears are for cooks who can't waste time snipping fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. These $9.50 shears "cut, chop and mince herbs five times faster."

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7. Take the plunge
Swissmar's stainless-steel olive stuffer makes a fabulous gift, Meyers says, for men and women who take cocktail hour very seriously. The $11 gadget, which operates on the same principle as a hypodermic needle, has a slot for cheese (blue cheese, pimento and sharp cheddar are popular choices). Once fed, the device is plunged into a pitted olive. Voila, house-made cocktail olives, perfect for a dry martini!

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6. Looks are everything
Why use dishtowels or cheap Dollar Store scrubbers when more elegant gadgets will do, like the environmentally friendly, 100-percent biodegradable Skoy cloths? "One Skoy cloth saves 15 rolls of paper towels," says the label on the $6.99 four-pack.

Boston Warehouse makes the bright-green $8.50 "Happy Kitchen Brush" that's not so environmentally conscious but certainly looks perky near the sink. Even more festive, the two $4 sparkly and glittery sponges. Like most things in life, they get raunchy quickly -- after a few dirty pots and pans.

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5. A timesaver? Really?
Nordic Ware's $11 Microwave Egg Boiler was a popular stocking stuffer over the holidays, but one might question whether it really creates soft-boiled eggs any faster than just putting eggs into a pan and boiling them on the stove. This device has cups inside the egg-shaped plastic container for as many as four eggs. There's a place for hot water, then the device is put into a microwave oven for 5 to 7 minutes. And it only boils eggs. If you want a poached egg, you have to buy a different product.

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4. But wait, there's more
The new hot infomercial product pitched on various late-night cable channels is a variation on Japanese-based Kyocera's ceramic knife-and-peeler combo. Pryde's sells the pricier Kyocera set for $34.95. The ceramic blade stays sharp longer than steel, but it shatters if you knock it off the counter and it hits the floor.

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3. No muss, no fuss
One of the cheapest -- and most popular -- gadgets on Pryde's shelves is the $2.50 Microwave Splatter Screen, manufactured by St. Louis-based Maverick Ventures. It not only prevents food from splattering in the microwave but also can be used as a strainer. And has a "lifetime guarantee."

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2. Totally retro
"You can't believe how many of these we sold to mothers who had college-age sons moving into their first apartments," says Meyers, holding up the $12.95 Flipper, created by Gama-Go. Doesn't every young man-about-town want a guitar-shaped flipper -- perfect for those woozy post-beer bust hangover breakfasts? Made of 100-percent food-grade silicone, it can't be used as a weapon.

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1. All baste, no waste
Progressive's $7.50 flexible silicone Baster Brash Topper fits right on top of a bottle of Kansas City's signature condiment: barbecue sauce. When the bottle is empty, the brush topper can go right into the dishwasher until the next time the outdoor grill is fired up.

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