2013 gift guide: Gadgets
Nomiku Immersion Circulator
Finally, a compact sous-vide appliance for the home cook. Clip the Nomiku to the inside of any large water-filled stock pot, press the screen to turn it on, and turn the knob to adjust the temperature. It's that simple. When you're done, the hand-blender-sized immersion circulator easily stows away in a drawer. $299.95, at nomiku.com.
While new cast iron can be found at most home and cooking supply stores, antique and other collectible cast iron has a growing fan base and can make a great gift. Look for pieces from reputable dealers or sellers, finding out as much about the quality of the piece before purchasing. Prices vary. Antique and collectible pieces can be found online at auction sites and through dealers such as griswoldcookware.com and panman.com.
Essentially nothing more than a round tool fitted with a flat layer of fine mesh, this deceptively simple kitchen appliance can be used in a variety of ways, from straining to sifting, doubling as a food mill or simple sieve. The flat mesh is often easier to use than a rounded strainer or cone-shape chinois. Tamis are typically metal or wood, fitted with a variety of different types and gauges of mesh. Prices vary but usually start about $15; widely available in cooking stores and online.
KitchenAid pasta attachment
Will this be the year you finally get back into making fresh pasta? It will be if you pick up this pasta roller, which eliminates the "third-hand problem." Buy just the roller; the set with the cutters is much more expensive and not necessary. From $74.99 including shipping from everythingkitchens.com.
Vintage cocktail ware
For the avid collector, nothing makes a classic cocktail taste better than a vintage receptacle. Whether you're looking for themed glass or Bakelite shakers, vintage Tepco skull tiki mugs or a set of Senor Pico ceramic ("honi honi"-style) glasses, almost anything can be found on the Internet. Even Holt Howard winking Santa Mugs, perfect for hot chocolate or something a little stronger. Prices vary. Widely available at websites such as eBay, cocktailshakers.com, ooga-mooga.com and thehourshop.com.
Thrill a wine collector with this revolutionary wine preservation system that makes it possible to "open" a bottle of wine without removing the cork. The wine in the bottle will continue to evolve as if it had never been touched. $299, at coravin.com.
Pizza baking steel
What does it take to turn your home pizza-making around? Try 15 pounds of 1/4-inch-thick steel. Heat it well in your oven and you'll make the crispiest crusts yet. $79 with free shipping from bakingsteel.com.
Paella kit from La Española
Paella is a dish that everyone's talking about. Now you can do something about it. Harbor City Spanish foods legend La Española is offering a paella starter kit that includes a 13 1/2-inch polished steel pan and authentic arroz bomba and peppers and chorizo for garnish. It's $64.99 at La Española, 25020 Doble Ave., Harbor City, (310) 539-0455, or at laespanolameats.com.
Japanese bartending tools
Mixologist Garbriella Mlynarczik of Ink is a big fan of the Japanese bar tools at Culver City's eclectic wine and spirits purveyor Bar & Garden. They've got something for every budget. Check out the funnel and bell-shaped jiggers in different sizes, either stainless steel or, for some real bling, gold-plated ($13 to $32). And for the bartender who already has everything, glass bitters bottles ($38 to $44) might be just the ticket. 6142 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 876-0759.
Suits & Knives coffee
William Miyazaki launched downtown L.A. micro-roaster Suits & Knives in July, selling coffee wholesale and online ("order before roast day Thursday, coffee in your cups by Monday"). Miyazaki selects green beans and roasts them in what he calls the Japanese style, which is a lot slower, he explains. "It's not about punching a button on a machine." Several varieties include beans from Central and South America and Ethiopia, with an espresso blend called Dempsy that marries both, "sweet and complex." $14 to $21 from suitsandknives.com.
Tovolo King ice cube molds
These colorful and roomy ice cube molds are a must-have item for the home cocktail connoisseur. Each tray creates slow-melting, 2-inch squares that keep cocktails perfectly chilled without immediately watering them down. $8.95 from surlatable.com.
"Lust for Leaf: Vegetarian Noshes, Bashes and Everyday Great Eats"
This super-fun vegetarian cookbook by Evan George and Alex Brown, the food-blogging duo Hot Knives, has chapters detailing "Bro-tein," "BBQ Mosh Pits" and more. It will make any meat-free dinner party a blast and any aspiring vegetarian cook happy. Beer and music pairings come with each recipe. $19.99, at urbanhonking.com.
Hagino Mitsunobu vegetable peeler
For the serious cook whose vegetable peeler has gone rusty, this one was created by Japanese product designer Hagino Mitsunobu. It's stainless steel painted with heatproof matte black silicone, and its components are welded rather than riveted. These features mean food and oils won't get stuck in any joints. It's also ergonomic. $52, at rikumo.com.
"Mad Men" glasses from Bar Keeper
Every home bar geek needs a set or two of quality vintage cocktail glasses to use when company is over. Bar Keeper in Silver Lake is the go-to place to find these little beauties. Gold and silver trimmed rocks glasses with very "Mad Men" designs are kept on special "vintage" shelves in the store alongside other glassware of equal value and age. Sets range from $40 to $200, at barkeepersilverlake.com.
Charley Harper tiles
The delightful designs of Midcentury illustrator Charley Harper are now available as ceramic tile. Motawi Tileworks released the first set this year, 11 designs ranging from 4 by 4 inches to 6 by 8 inches; the second set is due out early 2014. $32 to $86, at motawi.com.
In the crowded field of Bluetooth speakers, the Pillar from Stellé Audio Couture cuts through all the noise with an elegant design and quality sound. The lithium ion rechargeable battery boasts a 15-hour battery life, so you can place that sleek cylindrical body on the credenza or by the pool. $349, at stelleaudio.com.
For the gardener or cook in your life, Rhode Island School of Design grad Jennifer Kindell creates abstractions of a foodie's harvest using an unconventional printing technique. The result: small batches of Albion strawberry, purple artichoke, treviso and other artworks that reflect what the California artist is seeing at farmers markets. $25 to $200, at jenniferkindell.com.
Amazingly tiny, low-cost cameras can be used as security devices (make sure the kids got home from school) or mere novelties (watch the dogs from your cubicle). Among the buzziest models are the Dropcam and Dropcam Pro, which stream video to the cloud, and then from the cloud to your desktop, tablet or phone. The Pro delivers better low-light vision, wider field of view and more powerful zoom. $149 to $199 for a live-streaming camera. $99 to $299 for an optional recording package to replay past footage, at dropcam.com.
Coolest warm blanket ever? We spotted London designer Eleanor Pritchard's handmade wool blankets at a New York trade show, and we can vouch that they are as wonderful to hold as they are to see. Her reversible 405 Line and 625 Line patterns take their cues from early television; the names are references to technical specifications for analog TV transmission. $399, at lekkerhome.com or eleanorpritchard.com.
A zippered place for keys or money or chapstick while running that doesn't bounce and doesn't feel like a heavy fanny pack is a true gift. The Spibelt comes in lots of colors, weighs almost nothing and is adjustable, and the expandable zippered compartment is just big enough. $19.99, at running stores or at spibelt.com.
The Seattle company Amphipod makes all kinds of smart athletic gadgets and accessories, including the Trans4m gloves that work in all kinds of winters, for running, watching football or doing any other outdoor activity. They convert from fingerless gloves to mittens to wristbands and have a tiny zippered pocket and reflective strips. $40, at amphipod.com.
We love this beach blanket. It's made of microfiber that makes it thin and super compact. It comes in six great colors, and it's got pockets at the four corners to fill with sand so it stays put. Big enough for two adults. Yogarat in Santa Monica also makes towels, used by L.A. County lifeguards, and yoga gear. $39.99, at yogarat.com.
Chris Birchby's Coola line of sunscreens and other products with organic ingredients and impressive SPF smell and feel great. Suddenly, sunscreen is less of a chore. Inspired by his childhood in the sun, Birchby started the company with winnings from a brief career as a poker player. $12 to $42, at coolasuncare.com.
Garmin's new Forerunner 620 gives runners the usual time, distance, pace and heart rate. But this touch-screen model estimates how much they need to rest, stores training plans and suggests how fast they should run that next half marathon. $399.99 ($459.99 including a heart-rate monitor), at garmin.com.
The popularity of yoga on standup paddle boards spawned an indoor version, the Indo Yoga Board, an unstable board that requires your tree pose to be more rooted and your warrior better weighted. For a greater challenge, there are cushions that make the board tilt even more. Many sizes and colors available. $184.95 for the original package with colored board, cushions and DVD, at indoboard.com.
Athlete with attitude
Designed and manufactured in Los Angeles, the new stylish activewear line Vimmia — from the Latin for "life force" — made its debut with a 30-piece collection with colorful lace accents, graphic patterns, ruffles, pleating and color blocking. The signature high-tech Movvu fabrics have features such as moisture wicking, 50-plus sun protection and four-way stretch. From $70, at Equinox club shops in Santa Monica, Pasadena and San Mateo; vimmia.com.
Fill ’er up
A collapsible 10-liter bucket that folds into a little zippered pouch that's just right for backpacking (only 2.8 ounces) or a hike that involves a cookout. Opens to be free-standing when filled. Sea to Summit Folding Bucket $29.95, at rei.com.
Silicon Valley inventors thinking outside the computer came up with a recyclable honeycomb material for wheelchair cushions and other medical uses. Now the honeycomb is moving to the spa. The Stimulate Body Exfoliator is meant to exfoliate and stimulate blood flow and can be used wet or dry. $35, at supracor.com.
Now that we are trying to get in those 10,000 steps every day, we can use something to ease those sore toes. Dr. Cohen's Acuball-Mini is a spikey solo massager that can be heated in a pot of water before rolling along the soles of the feet to ease pain and just feel pampered. Larger sizes available for shoulders and back. $19.99, in sports stores and at acuball.com.
This has to be the cutest backpacking lantern going. The Mini Hozuki from Snow Peak, in electric green or pumpkin, is a globe-shaped LED light with a silicon shade that can latch on to a tree branch or tent rope. And aside from low, medium and high settings, it's got a strobe setting to mimic candlelight. Runs on three AAA batteries. $39.95, at snowpeak.com.
Maybe not the most romantic of gifts, but this little nudge to sit up straight may pay off in the end. The PostureMedic stretchy brace gently pulls the shoulders back from that hunched posture so common at the computer or behind the wheel. Also to be used as an exercise band for strength and stretching. $39.95, at posturemedic.com.