After years of prof-chef indoctrination that tongs are the one essential kitchen tool, I've decided I hate them. They're clumsier than I am, and tear into chicken skin and pretty much anything I grab with them in the oven or a saute pan. I use many Oxo products, whose fat rubber handles are particularly good for klutzes like me--I go through at least a vegetable parer a year, some years two--but won't bother with this one.
The rotating potato/apple peeler, Rotato: I spent much of a late Yom Kippur afternoon hearing its virtues extolled by a longtime family friend who was preparing something with apples for the break fast--why is it that discussions of the break fast pick up special steam as the afternoon wears on and double digits of hours fasted climb? In any case he started with the standard apology that they sound like something hawked on late-night public-access cable TV but really liked them, so I made a new year's resolution to try one.
The Bodum tea press Megan links to is fine, and the wide, inset filter is one of my two favorite ways to make a big pot of leaf tea, something I do every morning. But I prefer old-fashioned, cuppa-style ceramic teapots with metal-filter insets; you can lift out the filter easily after four or (no more than) five minutes, and metal or nylon mesh is finer and I think better than the largish holes of the Bodum plastic inset. Also nylon/metal mesh and ceramic pots are easier to clean thoroughly. But my morning method is in a big glass press pot of the kind Jerry Baldwin and many others favor for coffee. Press down the metal filter after four minutes.
Rabbit corkscrews, as Megan generically calls what came into wide foodie use as the Screwpull, their first widely known manufacturer, are indeed the easiest and best. But in the past year I've broken my third one, progressing to ever-cheaper models: I pull the top lever back too far and it sticks in open-jaw position, and the wine shops I schlep the disabled, silly-looking spread-out openers to for a quick fix have no fix at all to offer. I guess I really am a klutz. Any ideas? In the meantime, my advice is to follow Megan to Costco, or the very cheapest one you can find.
Hand mixers: fine for egg whites and a quick souffle or something when you don't want to haul out the Kitchen Aid, but otherwise why bother with anything but a standing Kitchen Aid, as Megan wisely advocates. And I truly admire that she travels with a hand mixer, which I hope will become a leitmotif of her every dispatch from wherever she goes.
I agree on the utility of Calphalon, though they're not the handsomest pots in the world they're certainly indestructible and reliable. Their high prices may be what equips the stunning Calphalon cooking school I saw on a huge factory floor in a hip Soho-like Toronto neighborhood called, in fact, Soho. The hip and attractive young people working there told me it was the only such center in North America outside Chicago, which is much smaller, and that it offers hands-on cooking classes every day. Just the layout and equipment of the cooking stations and demonstration kitchen alone are a must stop on any Toronto tour, and of course there's a full range of products in the cellar, though the emphasis, remarkably, is on the school rather than the merchandise.