TOP 12 OF 2005
Our favorite products of the year can decorate your holiday shopping list
By Renee Enna
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 14, 2005
Every week, Good Eating's Off the Shelf column
features products that we think readers will want to learn more about.
But for every product that we feature, there are dozens that we have
tried--and eliminated. We taste and/or test everything prior to
We look for food that tastes good, gadgets that work--and we also want
items to be a step above the competition, or offer something new that
home cooks might find worth adding to their arsenal. Value for cost is
factored in, and we love it when products are sold in area stores as
well as by mail-order.
Here's a look at 12 of the products we
were most impressed with, and which might come in handy during the busy
holiday season--in the kitchen or as a gift.
1. WUSTHOF KNIFE-LIFE SHARPENER
Two pre-set sharpening angles keep knives sharp and ready to use in
this compact-sized gadget. There's also a scissors sharpener that
adjusts to varying sizes. It stores flat too. It's $20 at Sur La Table
in Chicago and Naperville; by mail, surlatable.com or 800-243-0852.
2. AMERICAN SPOON FOODS VANILLA AND PASSION FRUIT CURDS
Creamy and versatile fruit curds can dress up holiday treats, from
scones to thumbprint cookies. An 8-ounce jar costs $6.80-$8 at Fox
& Obel Food Market and by mail (americanspoon.com or 888-735-6700).
3. ROBERT ROTHSCHILD FARM HOT PEPPER RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE SAUCE
The sweetness of fruit tempers the chilies for an unusual and
extraordinary effect in this sauce. Use it for grilled meats, as a dip,
over cream cheese or (judiciously) on sandwiches. A 12.5-ounce bottle
costs $5.70-$8 at Sunset Foods, The Chalet Wine and Cheese and The
Goddess and Grocer in Chicago. To order by mail: 866-565-6790 or
4. GOOD COOK'S 4-IN-1 OPENER
handy gadget not only opens cans, but it also leaves a smooth--and
safe--edge. A can-tab lifter (saving manicured nails), a grip-twist
wrench and a pop-top opener add to its versatility. It's $13 at
Dominick's; by mail, visit kitchenkapers.com or call 800-455-5567.
5. B.T. MCELRATH CHOCOLATIER TRUFFLES
High-quality chocolate and fresh ingredients made these confections
from the Minneapolis-based chocolatier big winners. Flavors change
seasonally; we tried the Lemon Blossoms (dark-chocolate truffles filled
with a creamy lemon buttercream) in the spring. For now, you won't be
disappointed with the orange-and-caramel filled butterflies or
passion-fruit truffles. Each 1.75- to 2.1-ounce package (four
butterflies and five truffles) costs $9-$11 at Fox & Obel Food
Market and The Chalet Wine and Cheese in Chicago; for mail-order,
612-331-8800 or btmcelrath.com.
6. PAPA LENA'S SWEET RED PEPPER CHIPS AND BEET CHIPS
Chicagoans Danny and Marie Lena make these unusual snacks from a family
recipe. The roasted red-pepper chips are slightly soft, piquant but not
hot; the crispier beet chips have a toned down beet flavor. A 2-ounce
package is $5 at Papa Lena Healthy Gourmet store, 1438 W. Chicago Ave.,
312-455-8100; for mail order (three packages for $15), visit
7. MUKKA EXPRESS
cappuccino-maker from Italy-based Bialetti won over skeptical coffee
lovers. It works like a traditional stovetop espresso maker but has two
levels (water on the bottom, milk in the top, with coffee in the
filter) to create two servings of cappuccino or caffe latte. The
cast-aluminum pot is not dish-washer-safe and comes in plain as well as
a black-and-white cow pattern. It's $90 at Sur La Table and Crate &
Barrel (plain only) stores; by mail, visit the Web site of either store
or go to amazon.com.
8. EPICUREAN BUTTERS
infused with a creative array of sweet and savory ingredients. Tomato
chipotle, cinnamon raisin, orange coconut and honey pecan were
particular favorites, but we liked all flavors. A 6-ounce package is $7
in the dairy case at Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats in Hinsdale and
9. ZIPLOC TWIST 'N LOC
Designed for liquids
(think marinades and soups), these plastic storage containers with
twist-on lids offer extra security. They're safe in the freezer,
microwave and dishwasher. Three 2-cup or two 4-cup containers cost
about $3 in supermarkets, drugstores and department stores. We also
liked Hefty's Serve 'n Store, interlocking plates and bowls.
10. ZYLISS SOFT SKIN PEELER
A nifty pair of serrated blades on this peeler efficiently removes the
delicate/tricky skins of tomatoes, ginger root and pears--but also the
tough hides of carrots and potatoes. Another great feature is the
price: $7 at Whole Foods Markets and online at amazon.com.
11. BONJOUR LA FROMAGERIE FARM ANIMAL CHEESE MARKERS
These porcelain party animals in cow, sheep and goat shapes identify
the appropriate cheeses. A washable-ink marker is included. Each
six-piece set (two of each critter) is $15-$17 at Nonpareil, 2300 N.
Clark St., 773-477-2933, or online at amazon.com; Sur La Table stores
in Chicago and Naperville sell the markers in a larger serving set
($50) that also includes three cheese knives and a platter.
12. BOYAJIAN WASABI OIL
Searing heat from wasabi, tempered with canola oil, gives a sensational
lift to marinades and dressings. Alone, it's a dipping sauce for pot
stickers and the like; added to cooked vegetables, noodles or seafood,
it delivers a heat-filled flavor boost. An 8-ounce bottle costs $5-$6
at Cost Plus World Market or by mail-order: Call 800-965-0665 or visit
online at boyajianinc.com.
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune