Fun Discoveries at the 2011 International Home + Housewares Show

by Kelly on March 9, 2011

If you’ve been reading my blog for any stretch of time you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I have an unhealthy love for kitchen gadgets, even overcoming storage limitations and braving rainstorms to bring novel, new toys into my life.  It’s pretty much a given that if I spend even five minutes in a cooking store that any willpower will unravel.

Because of that, I couldn’t think of a better way of spending last Sunday then at the International Home +Housewares Show.  Considered by some to be the world’s premier trade show for home products, it’s a great place to be to check out new kitchen gadgets and appliances, learn about trends in design and color, and even catch demos from a few celebrity chefs.

Of course, I was most interested in combing the show for interesting products that could someday have a home in my kitchen.  Here are some of the products at the show that piqued my curiosity:

iSi Twist ‘n SparkleiSi twist and sparkle

I actually first heard about this product when I was reading Food + Wine back in December.  Much like the popular SodaStream, the Twist ‘n Sparkle is an at-home drink carbonation machine.  I’d initially been intrigued by the SodaStream after seeing it demoed at a cookware shop and hearing a friend, who is not a kitchen gadget-a-holic, rave about how much she uses and loves it.  But I didn’t love that if you wanted a flavored beverage you seemed to only have two choices:  Either you could use their flavored syrups and essences or you could simply use the machine to make plain seltzer water and mix in juice or other flavors afterward.  To me this defeated the purpose, which was to make my own homemade sodas and cocktails with real ingredients not mixes.  What intrigued me about the Twist ‘n Sparkle is that you can carbonate a wider range of liquids including pulp free juices and whole cocktails.  Granted, you still need to add your garnishes after, but already this seemed like a wider range of uses.  The results were also delicious.  I tried a kombucha-based drink at the show and it was deliciously fizzy and crisp.  The homemade Ginger Lemongrass Soda that was fatured in Food + Wine back in December also sounds fantastic and I’ve also been thinking that plain tap water with a bit of my Chamomile-Infused Simple Syrup, would also taste wonderful when carbonated by this machine.  Essentially, I’ve been thinking that all yummy sparkling cocktails and all-natural homemade sodas I could make using this machine would make it the perfect dinner party toy.  Priced at $50 for the machine (which includes a reusable bottle, sparkling wand and 3 chargers) it’s also priced less than the SodaStream models.

T-Fal ActiFry

Acti-Fry

 The second gadget that caught my attention was the T-Fal ActiFry.  The premise of this product is that it helps you to make typically decadent food more delicious – with the big example they gave being french fries.  According to all of their marketing material you can make 2 pounds of fries using only on tablespoon of oil.   Essentially it cooks the food using hot air, much like an oven, but is different than an oven in that it has a built in paddle that keeps the food moving so what little oil you do use gets well distributed.

I will admit to being a bit of a glutton for fried food so the idea of being able to make these foods more suitable to my everyday diet sounds wonderful.  Of course, this is one of those products where the proof is in the pudding.  If the results don’t taste good enough, I’m unlikely to want to use it.  Unfortunately when I stopped by the T-Fal people were not doing any sampling so I wasn’t able to see for myself.  After the show I read a few reviews online and it seems like consumers were mixed over whether this actually does a better job than an oven.   The technology seems interesting though and I like the concept, if it could be better than an oven for things like fries, granola, etc.  Given it’s $250 price point I’m certainly not excited enough about this to try it yet, but I’ll be curious as it’s been in the market longer to hear what people think of it.

ID Cook Solar Barbecue

Solar Grill

 I will admit that as much as I try I often fail at being a good green consumer.  Sure, I shop locally.  I tote my reusable shopping bags.  I try to buy sustainable when I can and I recycle, but I know these efforts are pretty puny when it comes to all the bad things I do for the environment.  Still, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this solar BBQ.  Maybe it was the guilt over all the other things I do wrong or the fact that there were a couple of cute Frenchmen hawking it (though I don’t necessarily associate the French with BBQ they are the makers of this grill), but for whatever reason I found this concept pretty interesting.  Because we were indoors there was no demo, but we were told that it can reach temperatures of around 400 degrees.   It’s definitely a cool concept, especially as people look for ways to make their cooking habits more environmentally friendly.  The one drawback for me (besides its $500 price tag) is that without the charcoal it would lose, for me, its quintessential BBQ flavor, but I’m definitely captivated by the concept and looking forward to see whatelse emerges in the future in solar powered grills.

All in all there were a lot of fun things at the show, more than I could ever recap in a single post.  It definitely makes me excited to keep an eye out to see what pops up in the future and especially to attend the show next year in search of even more innovation.

What about you?  Have you noticed any new kitchen gadgets lately that excited you?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sues March 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I’m so jealous you got to go to this! Basically my dream come true and I’d totally be swooning over everything :) The Twist ‘n’ Sparkle looks awesome!

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Kelly March 10, 2011 at 11:10 am

Sues – It was definitely a lot of fun. There were so many amazing gadgets to see. Unfortunately it will probably prove to not be the greatest thing for my wallet as I now have so many things on my want list.

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Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. March 10, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I love shopping for kitchen stuff! But I find that I moslty use the basic ones – a big knife, a small knife, a peeler.
However, most of all, I have a weakness for the Crate and Barrel catalog! It’s a good thing I don’t work there… It’s like a kitchen museum/heaven :)

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Kelly March 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Nurit – It’s funny because although I too use the basics most often, they were often the most overlooked for me for a long time. I’d stock up on all kinds of crazy one-use gadgets, but those important things like a good, big knife were crappy and rarely replaced. I finally bought the bullet and started investing in good, strong knives. Definitely not the most fun purchase, but now I appreciate them so much. I think that a good all-wood butcher block cutting board may be next.

I have a similar feeling about Williams-Sonoma. Anytime I go in I find something which is shocking since by all intents and purposes I already HAVE everything.

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Shannon March 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

that sounds like an awesome way to spend an afternoon :) i totally want a soda stream… or the twist n sparkle!

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sophia March 11, 2011 at 12:03 am

I desperately want a sodastream…buying soda is expensive!!

I’m glad you got to go to this…it sounds fun. I definitely love kitchen gadgets too, but rarely buy unnecessary ones because I jsut can’t afford that kind of luxury right now. I would really love the iPad though..that is kind of a kitchen accessory, right? I heard it’s fabulous for recipes!

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Kelly March 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Shannon – I agree. I think I’m definitely getting a beverage carbonator soon.

Sophia – I agree with you, buying soda can be so expensive, especially if you get more of the sparkling juices/teas. I agree with you, these gadgets are definitely luxuries. For awhile I got by with just the basics and my food was still good. Of course you don’t need all kinds of crazy stuff to be a good cook, but they are definitely fun!

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RebeccaC March 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I’m normally so NOT a gadget person but that fuzzy drink thingy has me at hello. I used to work the Housewares Show and it could really get a person in trouble!

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Kelly March 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Rebecca – I agree!! The ‘fuzzy drink thing’ is definitely in my future. I don’t know if I could be trusted to work that show. Too many fun things!

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Esi March 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I’m not big on buying kitchen gadgets, but I like looking at them. That show sounds like fun.

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