The category of food and drink can be binary. On one end of the spectrum, you have brands committed to the classics — the cast-iron skillet, lump charcoal, water — and making these things the best versions of themselves. On the other, you’ll find companies pushing boundaries with designs that test users’ modern-day habits or simply factor them in more consciously. Here’s a snapshot of the year’s best products on both ends.
— Contributions by Jack Seemer and Emily Singer
Instant Pot Ultra
The Instant Pot was arguably this year’s hottest Christmas item. Its newest model is the brand’s most powerful yet. It takes a cue from old-school cooking by putting more control in the user’s hands. The six-quart Instant Pot ULTRA features an updated dial-operated interface and 10 presets, including a new “ULTRA” manual setting, which allows users to customize pressurization, temperature and cooking time.
Breville Precision Brewer
Breville’s first 60-ounce drip coffee maker, the Precision Brewer was awarded SCA certification for its ability to precisely control temperature, flow rate and contact time. Its patent-pending Steep & Release valve automatically holds water in contact with coffee without the carafe in place, a feature that conveniently allows users to make cold brew.
Third Wave Water
Of all the variables that go into the average cup of joe, water, which makes up more than 98 percent of coffee, is the most overlooked. Third Wave Water wants to address that. Founded by Taylor Minor, of Ohio’s Telemetry Roasters, and Charles Nick, of The Wright Cup, Third Wave Water was developed as an alternative to expensive filtration systems, and a solution to regional differences in tap and bottled water. Third Wave Water’s capsules dissolve to re-mineralize purified water with a balanced blend of calcium, magnesium and sodium. When steeped in coffee beans, the resultant cup boasts a brighter, more consistent flavor.
Electrolux Grand Cuisine
The Electrolux Grand Cuisine is, without exaggeration, superlative in every way. Its reflective glass surfaces dissolve into the surrounding cabinetry and countertops, rendering the machines nearly invisible. The precision technology that each piece promises is outwardly intimidating, yet their interfaces are comically simple. Grand Cuisine so easily lends itself to hyperbole because it is so far ahead of everything else on the market today. It plants a flag and heralds the kitchen of the future — making complex appliances destined for ubiquity in a decade’s time available in the present day.
The Field Skillet
To market this year after a successful Kickstarter in 2016, The Field Skillet is 25 to 50 percent lighter than traditional skillets. But what really separates it from your standard big-box variety is the exceptionally smooth cooking surface; look closely and you’ll find that most $20 cast-iron skillets feature a rough, pebbly finish, which translates into an uneven cooking surface. Available in two sizes, one an inch larger to accommodate additional servings.
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Kalamazoo Quebracho Charcoal
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, known for making some of the finest grills on the planet, now makes what may be the best lump charcoal, too. Its Quebracho Charcoal is made from dense Quebracho Blanco wood harvested in the Chaco region of South America. The company claims that it burns hotter and is denser than most hardwood lump charcoal while generating very little ash.
IKEA PS 2017 Dinnerware
Ikea launched several notable products this year, including, for example, the $75 Odger chair. But it’s most fun would be this dinnerware collection. Designed by Maja Ganszyniec, it features a plate ($3) and bowl ($2) geared toward contemporary urban lifestyles — specifically, eating while lounging on a couch, and balancing dinner in one hand while scrolling on a computer with the other.
The most interesting spirit of the year isn’t really a spirit at all. Seedlip is a London-based distillery that works not with alcohol but with herbal copper pot distillations. Having made waves in the U.K., Seedlip came stateside this year and it can be found on some of the most respected bar menus in the country, including those of Michelin-starred restaurants The French Laundry, Atelier Crenn and Eleven Madison Park.
Ben Milam Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
The Ben Milam Distillery only opened its doors this March, but its spirits are already earning major accolades. At this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Ben Milam Bourbon was awarded an ultra-rare Double Gold medal, bestowed only upon spirits that are unanimously given Gold medal distinction during the competition’s blind tasting panel. The single-barrel bourbon is marked by brown sugar and caramel on the nose, with notes of vanilla and cinnamon. Distribution is currently limited, with the award-winning whiskey available only at the label’s distillery in Blanco, Texas and select liquor stores in the Lone Star State.
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