THE SCENE: The 64th international hotel/motel restaurant show in New York City early this month.
Tucked between the closed circuit pay TV equipment, computerized management system and counterfeit detecting machines was the cooking equipment. mComputer cooking programs, dehydrated food systems and automatic salad vendors were in evidence, constant representatives of the "Let 'em eat junk," school of public gastronomy. But there was also some very fine, top-quality equipment, all of which is now available to the general public.
The Waring Products Div. of Dynamics Corp. of America, the original blender folks, were exhibiting a group of commercial blenders. Ranging in capacity from five cups to one gallon, these are the finest blenders made. The single speed #700 model has a 5-cup heat-resistant glass container with a full-sized, easy grip handle.
Blades are made of high quality, stainless steel and can be clipped out for easy cleaning. There is a two-piece removable measuring cup in the lid and a solid, heavy, die-cast, enameled base with a chromed top. It has a tough commercial motor that was designed to stand up to years of abuse. This unit, unlike the majority that I have tested, has its blades set rather close to the inner base of the container. The result is that you can use it effectively with small quantities of ingredients. Half a dozen walnuts can be ground for the top of a quick bread. A single cup of mayonnaise can be whipped for a salad or a fast series of short Bloody Marys can be blended.
One thing I like about this machine is that it is not a product of what I call the Hammond Organ theory of blender design. When I am confronted with blenders that have a dozen or more little buttons, I feel that they must be some sort of contemporary instrument and not a piece of cooking equipment.
Who can tell the difference between what those buttons do: blend, beat, puree, mash, mix, whip, mug and mutilate? What is that all about?
The commercial blender I have been describing has two positions and you always know which one to select. One is marked "on" and the other "off." At $67.95, it is a serious investment but worth it.
In the same area of professional quality electrical equipment, designed for restaurant use, is the Robot Coupe II, distributed by Robot Coupe of Jackson, Miss. This food processing machine will cut, slice, chop, shred and mix ingredients to the highest professional standards. It has been part of the basic equipment of the great European chefs for many years and was the prototype of the Cuisinart. As a matter of fact, Robot Coupe manufactured the early Cuisinart models.
The Robot Coupe II has a mixing bowl with a two-quart capacity and an assortment of blades that will allow you to mix, chop, grind and blend virtually any food. There are seven different discs that go into a continuous feed attachment. All home food processors available today are designed so the slicing blades feed down in to the work bowl. Even the very largest of these must be stopped and emptied after slicing one or two heads of cabbage. The Robot Coupe, however, slices ingredients and feeds them out a tube into whatever size bowl or barrel put beneath it. Last summer, this continuous feed slicer gave me 25 pounds of cole slaw in four minutes. This feature may not be important to most people, but if you entertain fairly large groups, it can be a joy. There is a juicer attachment that will juice and hollow out any citrus fruit with remarkable speed. The heavy duty commercial motor is made to stand up to far greater stress than it will receive in normal home use. The retail price is about $499.
Finally, I actually took $17 and bought a piece of equipment at this trade show for my own kitchen. Considering that I have evaluated over 1 million culinary tools during the past 10 years, it is not an act I undertake with any frequency. What I purchased was the Tri-Angle ceramic sharpening system. This is not a thing of beauty. as a matter of fact, I think it is downright ugly, but does it work.
There are two triangular sticks about 1/2 inches in diameter and 7 inches long. They set into a plastic base holder as does a brass safety guard. The triangles are made of substance which is next to the diamond on the hardness scale. They will not wear out, and they will sharpen any metal. The corners of the triangle are used for serated and scalloped knives. The felt sides are for straight blades. It works on scissors, shears, ice picks, fish hooks, trussing needles and swiviling vegetables peelers.It even works on pinking shears. Distributed by Rocky Mountain Sales of Emporia, Kan., the Tri-Angle system comes with a five-year guarantee.