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Cooking Gear and Where to Buy It
I have written before that I am a fan of Caire Hotel and Restaurant Supply. If I were forced to restock my kitchen entirely, I suspect I would buy most of the contents from Caire. I might pick up a high-end chef’s knife on Amazon and maybe a few other things from a discount retailer like Target or Wal-Mart, but for cookware, utensils, and just about anything else you might need, Caire is probably your best bet.
Put another way, if you’re shopping for cookware at Williams-Sonoma and haven’t been to Caire to price check what you’re buying, you should. Caire may not actually have the same brand (though they likely do) but they almost always have several different lines of whatever you’re looking for, from inexpensive to stuff you’ll pass down to your grandchildren.
When I first started cooking seriously I bought several pieces of All-Clad, and I love the stuff. But I bought it either on clearance or before it became so popular I couldn’t justify the price. Caire has stuff that compares favorably in heft and manufacture to All-Clad, and while I haven’t comparison-shopped for price, my impression is that Caire’s high-end stuff is probably still cheaper than All-Clad.
I haven’t bought a range, oven or the like in a long time either, but I believe the last time I was in the market, I found some great prices on professional-quality equipment at Caire as opposed to boutique shops. I could be wrong on that, because I never did pull the trigger on the beautiful, beautiful gas range I was eyeing, and of course if you’re renovating a kitchen you may be able to get a good deal through your contractor. My point is that if you have an interest in cooking similar to mine, Caire is like a freaking candy shop. I have to be very cautious whenever I go so that I don’t walk out with a dozen or so items I really want but don’t really need.
I guess I should point out at this stage that I get nothing from Caire. Not a farthing. No discounts or anything and the same service anyone else gets, which is basically to leave you alone to wander around unless you ask for help. If you ask, you’ll generally find they know what they’re talking about. I usually run into folks I recognize from the restaurant industry when I go, which is a good sign.
I did not start this piece with the goal of pimping Caire; rather I was going to talk about two pieces of cookware I purchased over the last month – one from Caire and the other from Amazon.
From Caire I bought a cast iron pan with small, round half-moon depressions for making Aebleskiver-style stuffed pancakes. It’s made by a company called Norpro. I believe it was on sale, because I paid less than it is currently going for on Amazon. I love the aebleskivers at Toast on Laurel Street, and I also wanted to try making other ball-shaped things stuffed with other things such as arancini, potato croquettes and a variation on a millet pancake I’ve been cooking now and again.
If you know how to season and care for cast iron, it’s a great metal for almost any cookware application. In our kitchen we regularly use a 12” cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven. I don’t anticipate using this little guy quite that often, but I’m pleased with it so far. I’ve managed to make plain aebleskivers, some stuffed with homemade fig/ginger jam, potato croquette/pancakes filled with Manchego and, less successfully, a sort of bastardized potato hashbrown with onion, bell pepper and garlic. Only the last few of those turned out well, and then only after I added flour, egg and a little milk to the potato shreds.
The pan is fairly small, meaning you can only cook seven 2-inch balls at a time, but they don’t take long to cook and the kids do at least love the pancakes. I’m working on getting my youngest to branch out from her current diet of peanut butter, peanut butter and Nutella and Nutella sandwiches, plain pasta with butter, and Campbell’s chicken and rice soup.
I had high hopes on that front the other day when I made something with the other gadget that I’ve recently added to my kitchen – an immersion circulator I bought on “Prime Day” from Amazon. I’ll write more about that in another column, but while I’ve only had it for a week or so, I’m already very happy with the results at least where skirt and strip steaks are concerned. The skirt steak in particular was so good (after I seared it in the cast iron skillet) that I really thought Georgia would go for it. She did not, but I’m going to keep trying.
To wrap up, go to Caire. I’ve been thinking about trying to put together a group visit to show people around the place, because it can be overwhelming. If anyone has an interest, leave a comment or shoot me an email. If there’s enough interest and the Caire folks are in, maybe we can put something together one Saturday in the next month or two? I hope it goes without saying that there would be no cost – all I ask is that you get a tattoo of my face on your back. If you don’t already have one, that is.