Celebrities and Portable Microwaves

At the International Home & Housewares Show March 11-13 in Chicago, Emeril served breaded shrimp in his new Emerilware fryer with one hand and tossed out promotional dishtowels with the other. Rachael Ray promo’d her melamine and acrylic Garbage Bowl, a countertop receptacle for kitchen scraps known among fans as a GB.

These celebuchefs, along with Giada, Mario, Alton, Paula, Ming, and even Rocco, helped lure more than 60,000 attendees to the three-day housewares event—the biggest in the United States. Some 2,000 exhibitors from 34 countries peddled their wares to 21,000 professional buyers for retailers such as Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond.

If Rachael didn’t perk you up, the caffeine should have. The aroma of coffee permeated the halls, with countless reps thrusting yet another Nespresso or new Keurig K-Cup flavor into already jittery hands.

But we were there to see the real stars of the show: the appliances, cookware, tableware, cleaners, and home organizers like bins, boxes, and shelves. Here were some of our favorites.

New Toys from the Big Boys

POP Containers
By OXO, $6.99–$16.99

The best storage containers have airtight lids, which keep your brown sugar moist and your flour dry. Often, the most secure lids are a challenge to open and close. OXO’s new containers have a lid with a button on it that sits flush in the center when sealed but pops up with a simple press. You grab the popped-up button like a handle to lift the lid off. Eleven dishwasher-safe sizes of the see-through, stackable canisters will be available in August.


Adjustable Slicer
By Microplane, $39.95

Microplane, the company that redefined zesters and graters, unveiled its first hand-held, adjustable slicer. It’s a redesign of a classic mandoline—that most feared piece of kitchen equipment, which can just as easily cut thin, uniform wafers of fruits and vegetables as of your fingers if you neglect to use the hand guard. Microplane’s is about the length of its famous zester, with a V-shaped blade. A long soft-grip handle holds it steady with the help of two rubbery nonslip feet at the other end, under the corners of the blade holder. A dial on the side adjusts to slice thick or thin. It comes with a food-holding hand guard, and all pieces are dishwasher safe. The mandoline’s sharp Microplane blades, along with its compact size and safety handle, may banish your bulky French or lightweight Japanese slicers to the retired-gadget cabinet. This slicer will be out sometime this summer.


Stand Mixers
By KitchenAid, $349.99–$899

Design fanatics, get your paint swatches ready—it’s that time of year again. KitchenAid is rolling out seven new especially great colors this year. The Artisan Series will add Persimmon and Cornflower Blue soon; Silver Metallic in April; and Bay Leaf, Boysenberry, and Plum in June. The Professional 600 Series debuts chocolaty Dark Truffle in April.


Bistro Mug Press
By Bodum, $19.95

Bodum, master of the French press, joins the single-cup coffee-maker game with a device that converts your coffee mug into a small French press. The stainless-steel press hooks onto the side of your cup with thick, grippy, black hooks. It even comes with a black plastic holder to contain any wet grinds, so you can immediately enjoy your morning café. The minipress is available this spring.


AeroGarden—Stainless Steel
By AeroGrow, $169.95

The AeroGarden grows herbs, fruits, vegetables, and flowers indoors with little seedpods that require no soil: They’re suspended in a humid chamber with built-in grow lights above a reservoir of water. A reminder system tells you when to add water and nutrient tablets. The garden currently comes in only black or white plastic but will be joined by a sleek stainless-steel model in May. Also, next week AeroGrow will release its first kit containing live seedlings. Called the Strawberry Patch, it promises to produce Red Ruby–variety strawberries in just six weeks, for a total of about five pounds over six months.


In Praise of Small

Frisper Freshkeeper Countertop Storage System
By Oliso, $99

FoodSaver vacuum sealer kits are great for sealing and storing food—and even for cooking sous-vide—but the Frisper ups the ante: It merges zip-top-bag convenience with vacuum-sealing technology in a cute, compact form. The sealer unit itself looks like a mod white plastic version of a slightly-bigger-than-palm-size river rock. The Vac-Snap bags are freezer, microwave, and simmer safe. Best of all, unlike FoodSaver’s, you don’t have to cut them open with scissors to get at the contents. They zip open, reseal, and are somewhat reusable—although not with meat, poultry, fish, or really greasy foods. They seem ideal for freezing stashes of romesco, chimichurri, and pesto: Take a few spoonfuls out, then re-vacuum the bags. The Frisper Freshkeeper system will come with the sealer and five each of 1-quart and 1-gallon bags. Anticipate its arrival in July.


WaveBox
By the Frank Group, $199

The WaveBox claims it’s the world’s first portable and smallest microwave. A construction-materials contractor designed it, after he witnessed co-workers bringing full-size microwaves on-site with really long extension cords (they preferred warming up homemade chili to stepping out for drive-through burgers). His invention plugs into a car’s power outlet—formerly known as the cigarette lighter—but doesn’t run off a battery that can be recharged; you still need extension cords, and the WaveBox comes with two. It also connects directly to car or boat batteries and plugs into standard outlets at home, work, or dorm. About the size of an Igloo cooler, the unit weighs 14 pounds, has a heavy-duty handle on top, and comes with a soft-sided, insulated bag that you can use to keep things cool until you’re ready to heat them up in the microwave. Due to high demand, the WaveBox is back-ordered until May 1.


Tajine
By Orka, $20

Orka, maker of the silicone mitts that let you pluck an egg straight out of a pot of boiling water, has added an ancient form to this modern material’s line. Its small silicone tajine looks like the classic conical cooking vessel of Morocco but is far lighter and unbreakable. Heat resistant up to 480 degrees, it can be used to braise a one-pot saffron chicken dinner in the oven. The microwave- and dishwasher-safe tajine will be available by summer.


Foreign Objects

Rice Cooker (JFK-A150)
By Tiger, 86,100¥

Tiger teasingly displayed a nearly $800 rice cooker currently only sold in Asia. A traditional-style clay pot acts as the inner cooking vessel, but it heats with Space Age–y induction, which warms the pot quickly and efficiently with magnetic waves. The pot can also be removed and used as a beautiful serving piece. A separate clay cover helps keep rice warm and steaming for more than two hours. The rice paddle and holder are carved from hinoki, the freshly fragrant Japanese cypress wood used for spa furnishings. A rich brown woven-fabric mat pads the pot on the table. Last year, Tiger sold more than 25,000 of these rice cookers in Japan alone. A rep told me that unlike the Japanese, who eat rice three times a day, Americans “aren’t ready for an $800 rice cooker.” I am.


Lunch & Go Lunchbox
By Aladdin, $10.99–$19.99

Aladdin created the most coveted swag of the show: the Lunch & Go lunchboxes for grown-ups. These are slimmed-down, plastic containers with handles and dividers, designed to slip into a messenger bag. They come with a cold pack so they’ll stay cool all day. At the show, designers with colored markers drew custom designs on the outsides for a $5 donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I scored a limited-edition black one, only available in Europe and Asia, tagged with a silver and hot pink cherry blossom branch. Some might say lunchboxes are a thing of the past and wonder why you’d need a cool pack when everybody has a fridge at the office. I say not everybody wants to stick his or her food in the gross communal petri dish. It’s nice to have some personal space.