The Wüsthof Knife Selection
I know what you're thinking. The best gift to give a cruise devotee would be a boarding pass for a two-week cruise on a six-star ship. Okay, that was a moment. Now, back to reality. In case that concept isn't in this year's budget, here is the next-best way to please friends and family who live to eat and love to cruise. Take it from me, one who does both. I wouldn't live without the following in my landlocked kitchen. They ensure that my food-and-beverage is luxury-level cruise ship, even when on land.
NESPRESSO CITIZ & MILK
One of the biggest treats when cruising is nonstop access to frothy cappuccinos. On most luxury lines like Seabourn, they are complimentary any time of day. (Often, servers fashion a cinnamon "S" to float on the foam.) Crystal Cruises serves terrific complimentary cappuccino in their two ships' Bistro - where I first got addicted to a perfect cup in the first place.
Nespresso Citiz and Milk is the best home substitute. Unlike most such machines on the market, the espresso capsules are made from stellar coffee and not laced with artificial ingredients.
Making cappuccino is a no-brainer. Drop a capsule of choice into the machine, push a button and out comes bracing espresso with perfect crema (the sign of great espresso, a thin layer of foam formed on top). Pour nonfat milk into the accompanying Aeroccino, push a button and warm rich froth is whipped in seconds. Buy top-notch Vietnamese cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Close your eyes and you'll swear you're onboard a dream ship. Especially if you shape the cinnamon into an 'S.' (nespresso-us.com)
These machines are like blenders on steroids. They have the torque of an M series BMW. They're what many cruise ship chefs use to chop, blend, cream, puree and more. Smoothies, soups and frozen desserts are just some cooking tasks that become a snap with a Vitamix. Nut butters, spreads, dressings, batters, grinding flours - this machine does it all. Plus, Vitamix is one sturdy critter; buy one once and it should outlast you. And here's one for the home team; they're made in the USA with at least 70-percent American components.
The company makes four different models; Classic, Professional, TurboBlend and Creations. TurboBlend is a great gift for those following raw, vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and is the lowest-priced. I have had the Classic Series for years, which has held up well. The Vitamix comes with a cookbook filled with easy recipes to get maximum use of your purchase. For Vitamix, and other holiday gift suggestions in this article, shop around. Check discount warehouses and online stores for the best prices. (vitamix.com)
All-Clad is the Bentley of cookware. Each piece is handcrafted with a proprietary recipe of metals to provide ultimate performance. The company, which has its own mill in Pennsylvania, uses American craftsmen and American-made metals to produce their superior cookware. Okay, that's not Bentley, but you get the idea. Highest quality standards. Superb equipment. This company is so good, it partners with swanky hotel and restaurant collection Relais & Chateaux - which also has a relationship with Silversea Cruises.
For those who care about giving green gifts, All-Clad is manufactured to the most stringent environmental standards. Nearly every ounce of unused material is recycled, even the metal dust generated during the sanding process.
What makes cooking with All-Clad so great? Each piece is made with a pure core of aluminum, stainless or copper - not just on the bottom, but all the way up the sides - which distributes heat evenly and provides professional-level results.
The 18/10 stainless steel interior-cooking surface will not react with food, and cleans easily. Long stick handles stay cool to the touch and are ergonomically designed for comfort.
If you are buying just one piece, check out a large sauté or saucepan. There are several different models, such as stainless, copper core and d5 brushed. The latter is the newest version. It has a patented inner core of premium stainless, guaranteeing 20% more even heating, virtually eliminating any hotspots. It's also optimized for induction cooking and was years in development. I own both stainless and copper core and love both. Stainless is the original, has lifetime durability and is All-Clad's most popular cookware. (all-clad.com)
STAUB MINI COCOTTES
These round little guys - just a few inches high -- are so cute. Made in France of enameled cast-iron, they are often used on cruise ships for serving sides of fancy vegetables or potatoes in specialty restaurants. Mini cocottes are also great for baking individual crisps and cobblers; going straight from oven to table. They come in different colors like red, sapphire blue and basil and are sometimes sold in sets of four. Oprah and I must think alike; they made her "Favorite Things" list in December 2011. Hey Oprah, guess what? They're still fabulous a year later. (staubusa.com)
You can't be a great cook without proper pots and pans. But pots and pans without great knives are like peanut butter without jelly. You have to slice correctly to cook well. That's where Wüsthof comes in. In my book, this German company makes the best knives. The company began in 1814 and is now in its seventh generation of family ownership. Some 300 workers in two state-of-the-art facilities follow strict production rules for forging.
Each knife series has a different ergonomic handle design and is forged from one piece of specially tempered high-carbon steel to ensure outstanding endurance. The extraordinary sharpness (which actually makes knives safer; dull knives are the dangerous ones) is easy to maintain. Of particular note; the Ikon knife has an African blackwood handle that is most attractive. The two newest are the Epicure collection, sold only at Sur La Table, and Precision, jointly created with Williams-Sonoma. (wusthof.com)