This post originally appeared on February 12, 2019, in “Add to Cart” — the weekly newsletter for people who love shopping (almost) as much as they love eating. Subscribe now.
“I could make that” is a sentence I frequently hear while dining out (usually uttered by my fiance, whose confidence in his own culinary abilities is inspiring, if occasionally overstated). “I mean, the ingredients are all right here!”
Yes, most restaurant menus list out several ingredients for a dish, making it clear to diners that their mackerel is coated in lime and peppercorns or that the risotto includes smoked eel and mushrooms. But actually making one of those dishes involves a lot more than raw ingredients; it includes technique, precision, intuition, and sometimes — unfortunately for the ambitious home cook — expensive tools.
Case in point is the piece we published today on making falafel. Mashing together spices and chickpeas isn’t itself super challenging; but when it comes to equipment, Einat Admony of NYC favorite Taim uses a pricey professional Hobart meat grinder, while Caitlin McMillan of Goldie (aka purveyor of arguably the best falafel in Philadelphia) uses a big falafel machine that will set you back $3,200. Which, realistically, you will never own! And that’s okay! There’s magic that happens at restaurants, an alchemy of professional skill, creativity, and yes, professional-grade tools, that make it oh so worth it to dine out.
That doesn’t mean I don’t plan on attempting my own falafel (especially since there are cheaper tools out there). But there’s also something nice about taking a bite, sitting back, and being able to say, “I couldn’t make that.”
Things to buy
- Even with the rise of cheese plate influencers (!), most cheese knife sets still consist of three squat, not-so-sharp blades that are poor matches for a cheese plate favorite: brie. And if this week’s episode of How to Make It taught me anything, it’s that soft cheese requires a long, thin, super-sharp Brie knife. Boska Holland’s Brie knife is a favorite, with a steel or chic wooden handle; buy it on its own or, miraculously, as part of this set.
- Despite all the chatter about viral recipes, I still have not made #TheCookies. But I have discovered a local store-bought cookie that manages to compare on a few fronts: Whiskey and Rye Chocolate Chip cookies by Jane Bakes are dense and buttery, boast big chocolate chunks and salt flakes, and have squared-off edges to boot. Nothing can match the homemade thing, but my lazy self prefers to buy than bake.
- A less-lazy purchase is the KeepCup, the reusable coffee cup profiled on Eater last week. The petite glass is more attractive than any “travel mug” I’ve ever owned, meaning there’s a chance I’ll actually remember to take it with me and use it on a regular basis.
Things to know
- There’s nothing better than great restaurant merch, whether it’s a cheap screen-printed tee from a local diner or a piece of bona fide streetwear. For inspiration slash envy, the account @FoodShirtFriday (which, full disclosure, is co-run by Eater’s Patty Diez and former Vox Media staffer David Yee) curates excellent food shirts — you guessed it — every Friday.
- If you’ve been in the market for a new water bottle, this very extensive Twitter thread is a great place to start. Relatedly: To stay on top of products and trends, follow lifestyle reporters directly on Twitter. Before they write, they usually tweet.
- A growing fixation of mine and of the cookware world: Teflon. The synthetic black material that’s synonymous with nonstick is falling out of vogue, as cookware upstarts cite it as harmful to the environment and human health. It doesn’t help that it’s not super pretty. Great Jones and GreenPan (which has a Goop collab, FYI) both use ceramic coatings on their nonstick (and very attractive) frying pans, and now I’m itching to ditch all of my black-bottomed cookware...