Butter that balances creamy, crunchy & salty
We love what sea salt brings to this creamy butter: not just saltiness, but a pleasant crunch. The butter itself is smooth and rich, with a subtle tanginess. You can use it any way you’d use regular salted butter, but we like it the most straightforward way, spread on a piece of crusty French bread.
Vermont Butter & Cheese Butter with Sea Salt, $6.99 for 6 oz. at Whole Foods markets and Igourmet.com.
Finally, a basting brush that will last
These brushes are made with silicone bristles, so they’re heat resistant and ideal for basting meat or brushing on melted butter. Not only do the brushes withstand heat beautifully, but they’re really easy to clean, and the bristles don’t shed like natural ones do.
Sili Gourmet basting brush ($15) and pastry brush ($20), both from William Bounds.
You might think all black pepper is alike, but we’ve just tried two intriguing peppers that taste more than just, well, peppery. Australian mountain pepper has a distinctive fruitiness with a hint of citrus, while Balinese long peppers have a decidedly complex taste that reminds us of a pine forest. Try crushing these peppers in a mortar and pestle and adding them to spice rubs for steak, pork chops, or grilled tuna.
Australian Mountain Pepper, $13 for 45 grams, and Balinese Long Peppers, $13 for 4-1/2 oz., at Zingermans.com.
A single malt to savor
I’ve always loved the aroma, the craft, and the very idea of single-malt Scotch whiskey, but the wine drinker in me has always found it way too potent. I may become a convert, however, after tasting Ardbeg, a ten-year-old Islay single malt. It’s delicate and leathery, and makes for wonderful after-dinner sipping, just like a fine brandy. Available at good spirits shops nationwide; about $40 a bottle (the stuff keeps for a long time, and a wee dram is all you’ll need).
—Amy Albert, senior editor
A magnetic trivet
When carrying a hot pot to the table, we sometimes feel like we need three hands—two for the pot and one for a trivet. But that third hand isn’t needed with this Kuhn Rikon trivet—it has magnetic feet that adhere to Dutch ovens and steel pots, so they carry the trivet along for you.
Kuhn Rikon Magnetic Trivet, $24 at Williamssonoma.com.
A new flavor for sea salt
If you like olives, you’ll love this sea salt from Majorca. Infused with roasted black olives, this salt blew us away with its heady aroma. But how should you use it? We think it’s great sprinkled over bruschetta with fresh tomatoes or on broiled fish, or just tossed into a simple pasta with garlic and oil.
Miguel & Valentino olive flor de sal, $14.49 for 150 grams at Cybercucina.
Find a great olive oil—in your grocery store
Good news: One of the most flavorful and well-balanced olive oils we’ve tasted lately isn’t a mailorder item and it doesn’t have a ghastly price tag. Monini Originale olive oil, made from 100-percent Italian olives, is distinctly fruity, with none of the off flavors that other oils in its price range sometimes have. It’s a perfect everyday oil to keep on the counter for vinaigrettes and sautés.
About $11.39 for 1 liter (33.8 oz.) at grocery stores nationwide.
Books for cooks
Alfred Portale Simple Pleasures: Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill’s Acclaimed Chef (William Morrow, $34.95). In their third collaboration, Alfred Portale and co-author Andrew Friedman successfully translate restaurant-kitchen magic into 125 do-able, delicious recipes—proving it’s possible to create wow-worthy flavors from ordinary supermarket ingredients (and without dirtying every pot and pan you own in the process). Simple tricks, like stirring garlicky toasted breadcrumbs into spaghetti right before serving, adding cubes of caramelized pumpkin to French onion soup, soaking turkey breast in an easy-to-make juniper-infused brine before roasting, are all it takes to make any meal—whether a weeknight supper or a holiday dinner—extraordinary.
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Completely Revised and Updated (Scribner, $35) by Harold McGee. Twenty years after its original publication, McGee’s fascinating and indispensable masterpiece is back, and it’s better and bigger than ever—quite a feat for a book that was a perfectly delightful 680-page romp the first time round. McGee has almost completely rewritten the text and expanded it by two-thirds. This new-and-improved classic is a must-have for anyone who loves to cook or eat.
—Kimberly Y. Masibay, associate editor