Since this is gift-buying season and the Black Friday sales are around the corner, we thought we would share a list of some of our favourite things. We’ve been shopping for ourselves, for relatives, for friends. None of these manufacturers have bribed us in cash or kind to endorse their products. We just happen to have purchased most of them and have positive feedback to offer.
NOTE: To find the best deals, go to thefind.com and do a search for that particular item. It will show up the online merchants and the best rate on offer along with coupons and special deals.
Also, before ordering, search online for a coupon code. e.g. “chefsresource.com coupon”. You may be surprised at what you find, and it may work out cheaper buying directly from the vendor than from Amazon.
BLENDER BOTTLE from Sundesa
There are many brands out there, but this one’s the best. Great for protein shakes, beating eggs for omelettes, pancake batter and for salad dressings.
BPA-free bottle with a little steel whisk ball inside. If you make your own protein smoothies, put liquid first in the blender bottle, then the powder, close lid tight, shake shake shake for a few seconds, and you’re done. No lumps, no leaks, and if the protein settles to the bottom after an hour or two, just shake again and drink.
To clean the bottle, put water, soap, shake shake shake, or put it in the top rack of the dishwasher. Get the 28 oz one and get more than one. (It actually holds only about 20 oz to the rim)
Best deal – go to iherb.com and place your order. It’s $8.99 per bottle plus $2 shipping. Put in coupon code HAV137 (that’s the code we used yesterday) and get $5.00 off your first order. So your total price, shipped will be $11 minus 5, that’s $6. (Free shipping over $40)
Armband and silicone screen protector for your iPod. Available at Amazon. You can also throw in a shoe pouch. Search online for a “Grantwood Technology coupon” code. They have one sometimes, and it is then cheaper if you buy it directly from their store.
Fully adjustable, breathable, and the silicone cover protects your iPod from sweat.
Sony MDR-Q68LW Clip-on Style Headphone with Retractable Cord
Good for those who hate the earbud-type headphones that go inside the ear. Great for workouts and not noise-cancelling. You want to be able to hear some surrounding noise when you run on the road for safety reasons. Available at most retailers or on Amazon.
Also check out Nike Vapor headphone, which comes with a cord extension for taller people.
KLEAN KANTEEN wide mouth stainless steel water bottle
Ranges 12 oz to 64 oz. at REI or online ($15 to $30).
We prefer the wide mouth because the narrow mouth design has a lip that bends outwards and creates a gap with the bottle side, where gunk and bacteria can collect. The wide mouth has a flat edge and no such problem. Unlike other bottles that have an enamel lining inside, Klean Kanteen is stainless through and through.
Don’t get the coloured ones ‘cos the paint will peel. Stick with the stainless look. And stick with the screw cap that comes with it. The sports cap supposedly leaks. Our 18oz bottles fit in the car cup holder and their lids can be interchanged with the sports lids from our Camelbak bottles.
Some say “Can handle temps upto 540 F”, others say “480F”. We love it because it gives a much better grip than padded fabric mitts. As long as you don’t dunk your hand into hot liquids that can soak through, it works great. Available in most regular stores for around $15. (A pair on Amazon is about $28)
Kuhn Rikon SAFETY LID CAN OPENER
$10 to $15 depending on the model.
A Swiss can opener that opens cans from the top rather than the side without cut edges. This one also comes with “jaws” to lift the lid once you’ve opened the can. See VIDEO DEMO.
Keep your knives, blades and woodworking tools sharp and honed with a leather strop. We use it each time we use our German and Japanese kitchen knives to keep them super sharp. Works out much better than the metal honing steel (the honing steel is not recommended for knives and tools made in Japan, which have harder steel).
We made our own, but the best deal online is at Lee Valley, where the double-side strop goes for $25. Or check out Woodcraft or similar woodworking stores in your area. We occasionally rub the strop with vegetable oil to prevent it from drying out. (Some people use a polishing compound on it, we don’t.)
Video demo: HOW TO STROP A KNIFE
12″ CAST IRON SKILLET
Jai adores this skillet. Great for searing/browning veggies (esp. mushrooms) and adding a little iron to your diet. There’s the one from Lodge which is easily available off the shelf at most stores for under $20.
And there’s the sexier one from Bobby Flay for $25 at kohls.com
CAST IRON AEBLESKIVER PAN
This particular one from Norpro is a steal for $9.99 at Amazon.
10.5″ CAST IRON GRILL PAN
From Bobby Flay for $25 at kohls.com
It’s heavier and takes up more shelf space than the single burner reversible one from Lodge, but that one costs about $40.
BOOKS and DVDs
Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel
UltraMetabolism by Mark Hyman
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Why We Run: A History by Bernd Heinrich
ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer
Classical Pilates Technique – The Complete Mat Workout Series
Power Yoga by Rodney Yee
BORNER V-PRO MANDOLINE
$50 at Amazon. Even if you can afford a $200 mandoline with all the bells and whistles, this is the one you’ll use most often, ‘cos it’s so easy to pull out, use, rinse and put away, plus it has a bunch of safety features to make sure you won’t hurt yourself. We use it all the time.
See VIDEO DEMO.
A cut resistant glove is highly recommended for changing and washing blades or for slicing long objects like cucumbers.
Also called Rapala Filet Glove, Butcher Glove.
Sources: Restaurant Supply stores, Hunting and Fishing Stores, cabelas.com. An absolute must if you’re using a mandoline.
Under $20 a pair.
GretagMacbeth COLOR CHECKER CHART
Between $55 and $70. A photographer’s aide for calibrating various systems.
M-ROCK Olympic Camera Bag
About $52 plus shipping on Amazon.
Very clever design. Perfect for a hike with one camera, two big lenses or one big and two small ones. Plenty of tiny pockets and the sling bag is much more convenient that the backpack style. We like it more than our slightly bigger LowePro bag.
The small size is perfect ‘cos if you get a bigger bag, you’ll pack more stuff in and it gets really heavy.
DAKINE APEX BIKING BACKPACK
$80 to $90.
If you own just one backpack for hiking, biking or just going to the gym, this is the one. See DEMO VIDEO. We have the smaller Dakine Drafter, but the Apex is really the perfect size. 1600 cu in capacity with a 100 oz Nalgene reservoir. So there’s no need to cary a water bottle. If you just want to bike with it and want a super compact bag that carries your biking gear and water, get the Drafter, which is 700 cu in.
SYPDERCO TRIANGLE SHARPMAKER
Keep your knives sharp with this easy to use kit with ceramic sharpening stones in two grits – medium and fine. DEMO VIDEO.
Does a great job with knives made in Europe (Wusthof, Henckel, Sabatier, Messermeister, Forschner, etc.) For knives made in Japan, use the fine grit, but not the coarser ones, ‘cos the steel is harder and more brittle. It also can sharpen serrated knives, scissors and an assortment of tools. After sharpening them with the Spyderco, keep them sharp with a leather strop. If you do this regularly and maybe sharpen your good knives professionally once a year, you’re set.
VIBRAM FIVE FINGER SHOES
Between $80 and $100
The craziest-looking most comfortable thing resembling a shoe. If you have shin or calf pain, cramps, or general discomfort in your leg, this is what you need. Even if your leg’s fine, this is just the most comfortable thing you could walk around in. Get used to people stopping you everywhere to ask “Where did you get that?”
A JAPANESE KNIFE
$70 to $200
By “Japanese” we mean made in Japan, not “Japanese-style” like santoku or nakiri. So if a Western-style chef’s knife is made in Japan, we call it a Japanese knife. It’s harder steel and holds a better edge than a European knife. You get 100% stainless steel or those with a carbon steel edge (that the connoisseurs prefer, but will rust if you don’t dry it right after use). Unlike European-style knives that have a 50-50 bevel on both sides, some of the Japanese knives have a bevel on just one side, some have it on both sides and the angle may vary.
Use a strop and a Japanese waterstone, or use a strop and get them professionally sharpened once a year.
Once you use one of these, there’s no going back.
Ones we like –
1. Misono UX10 210mm chef’s knife (Gyuto) . If you own just one kitchen knife, this is the one. About 160$ at japanesechefsknife.com plus $7 shipping per order, straight from Japan, shipped worldwide.
about $225 with dimples
2. A nakiri knife – which is a rectangular Japanese vegetable knife. Great for chopping with a super thin sharp edge. We like Hattori HD because of the wonderful blade and gorgeous Damascus pattern. It comes in a beautiful box and makes a great wedding gift. It’s engraved with the maker’s name in kanji. ($135 plus $7 shipping at japanesechefsknife.com)
3. Gekko Santoku with Mahogany wood handle – $98 plus $7 shipping
4. Gekko Nakiri with Mahogany wood handle – $98 plus $7 shipping
5. MAC Nakiri – restaurant chefs love it. (about $70 plus shipping at epicedge.com).
THE KNIFE SNOB’S KIT
If you’re a knife snob with a nice collection and want to sharpen all your gear at home, you need
1. a 1000/6000 combination grit waterstone/whetstone (best price $31 at japanwoodworker.com). We use this for all our knives twice a year. (How to use a waterstone)
2. Mundial Diamond Sharpening Steel (This has a very coarse grit and takes off a lot of metal. Good for very blunt tools and for smoothing out chips on blades. Not for regular use) . We got ours for $18 at the local restaurant supply store.
3. A superfine grit stone. You can order a set of extrafine ceramic stones to add to your Spyderco kit ($40 for a pair) or the 8000 grit DMT extra extra fine Diasharp stone ($70 here). Unlike ceramic, metal won’t break, plus it can be used to flatten the Japanese waterstones.
4. Leather strop. Make your own or use an old leather belt, or buy it from the link listed above.
The Spyderco Sharpmaker (about $60) is not necessary if you have the waterstone, but it’s more convenient for tools, serrated knives and such.
BREVILLE SMART OVEN
Between $235 and $250, cheaper if you use a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond.
After we bought this countertop convection oven, we stopped using our big oven and donated our toaster and tabletop grill. Can make a 12-inch pizza, or two (if you get an extra rack) and heats up to 450F in about four minutes. Cooks everything more evenly and faster and is the most used appliance in our kitchen. It has some “smart features” that are programmed in and makes the best toast you’ve ever eaten – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Best of all, it can accommodate a quarter baking sheet and most of our ceramic containers. DETAILS AND DEMO.
Do call the company directly and order an extra rack for $15. You can make double of everything.
Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet
About $350 for Medium, $450 for large.
If you prefer writing to typing, or like to create graphic art, this is for you. We don’t own this yet, but plan to. See DEMO VIDEO.
What are some of your your favourite things? Share some gift ideas with us.
Bee and Jai