My kitchen necessities

The Wine Enthusiast Stemware and Pulltap Corkscrews are all on regular rotation in the Gochiso Gourmet’s kitchen. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Since the holiday season is almost upon us, it’s that time once again to consider our gift giving options. However, instead of simply giving you gift suggestions, I’ll take a 90-degree turn and give you a list of kitchen implements that I use on a regular basis and share why they play a vital role in my kitchen. Therefore, while many of these are affordable, some may give you pause … unless it’s for that really special person in your life.

Small Potato Masher
At least 15 years ago, I purchased a small potato masher, which I never use for potatoes. However, I use it to mash everything else, like bananas for banana bread, boiled eggs for egg salad and avocados for guacamole. Unlike the regular size potato masher (which I use for potatoes), my small masher is only about seven inches long, with a two-inch by three-inch mashing head. Therefore, I can use it even in my small mixing bowls. I probably purchased it via Williams-Sonoma but they don’t list any small mashers at the moment, so your best bet is searching the Internet.

Cast Iron Pan
I originally had a sole cast iron pan I purchased at Williams-Sonoma that I used for one purpose, to sear steaks. However, several years ago, I contributed to a crowdfunding platform campaign for a cast iron pan unlike others on the market. The people at Prepd mill the surface of their cast iron pans so smooth that they’re virtually non-stick. Since then, I use my pan for steak searing, baking cornbread and everyday pan frying.

A Good Paring Knife
I have more kitchen knives than most home cooks; they fill two knife blocks and four magnetic bars, and I could probably fill two more magnetic bars. So I’ve tried many different brands and styles of blades. But one blade that I always reach for is my Misen 3.5” paring knife. Though it sounds like it might be a Japanese company, Misen is short for the French “mis en place” or put in place. It’s the first knife I reach for when removing fat from pork or poultry. It’s also the first knife I use for peeling broccoli or reducing a head of cauliflower, and I also use it for peeling ginger. And at $40 regular price, it’s about half the price of comparable Zwilling, Henckels, Wüsthof or Shun blades and regularly goes on sale for just $28. I use mine so much that I purchased a second “just in case.”

Titanium at its Finest
During our last trip to Napa Valley a year ago, we stopped at the Hestan Vineyards tasting room in Yountville, Calif. Because owners Stanley and Helen Cheng also own the Meyer brand of cookware, which includes Hestan, Ruffoni, Anolon, Circulon and KitchenAid and also produce the Rachel Ray and Ayesha Curry brands of cookware, the wine tasting room also displays their Hestan cookware. And the top-of-the-line NanoBond line features a titanium coated surface that makes it virtually non-stick as well as giving it a beautiful dark hue. I now use my NanoBond Essential pan for most of my cooking. The line isn’t cheap, but at least twice a year, they offer 20 percent off the complete line of pans, and provide free shipping, including to Hawai‘i.

Double Juicer
Since I like to create cocktails, one of the most important bar tools I have is a juicer for lemons and limes. But because of the size difference of lemons and limes, I had to use separate juicers for each. Until I found a manual handheld juicer that could accommodate both lemons and limes. This double juicer has a third cup in between the outer cups that can easily juice a lime then flipped to hold the larger lemon and with a single squeeze, liberates all the juice from the fruit. Different brands come and go on Amazon, so search for “manual juicer” and you should find at least one brand.

The Double Juice Small Masher and Misen Paring Knives. photos by Ryan Tatsumoto

Sherry Wine Vinegar
I always have bottles of red wine, balsamic, rice wine and apple cider vinegar in my pantry, though most of them have specific uses — rice wine vinegar for Japanese dishes, apple cider vinegar for pork or chicken adobo, etc., but I use my bottle of Sherry wine vinegar for a host of vinaigrettes, Romesco sauce, Spanish tortilla and gazpacho. I also use it with heartier roasted vegetable salads and bread salads, as it has that special flavor not found in basic wine vinegars. Most bottles are the same price as good balsamic vinegar, but you can now get Sherry wine vinegar for $13 for a 750 ml bottle (same size as a standard wine bottle) at World Market.

Digital Infrared Thermometer
Immediately check the surface temperature of liquids or solids without having to clean anything with this device. It’s perfect for measuring the surface temperature of your frying pan when searing steaks or making sure your oil is at the correct temperature to pour on steamed fish or releasing the essential oils for your ginger and green onion sauce. It also functioned well as a human forehead thermometer during the COVID pandemic. Simply do an Internet or Amazon search for “digital infrared thermometer.”

Pulltap Corkscrew
Early in life, I purchased every new-fangled corkscrew on the market. From the heavy Vinotemp models operated from a stand to the exquisite handmade Laguiole corkscrews to the lightweight Le Creuset openers and even the Durand, which is the only corkscrew I use for dessert wines and any bottle more than 15 years old. But the corkscrew I reach for most of the time is the Pulltap folding corkscrew. It has a solid blade to remove the wine bottle foil, a double lever system to raise the cork and most models are less than $10. If you purchase the “blingier” models with rhinestones or gold plating, they’re still usually less than $50. Simply do an Internet or Amazon search for “Pulltap corkscrew.”

Wine Glass
Like my corkscrews, I have a fair collection of stemmed (and stemless) wine glasses. Georg Riedel made a specific glass for almost every grape varietal. I attended a wine tasting seminar he hosted that proved that the glass shape did make a difference. But Riedel wine glasses are fragile like most lead crystal, so I have broken a few over time. So I started purchasing the titanium crystal glasses from Schott Zwiesel. I haven’t broken any yet, but the glass is thicker than the Riedel glasses and I believe thinner glasses improves the wine tasting experience. Enter Wine Enthusiast and their Vienna break-resistant wine glasses, which I learned about from an ad on my Facebook feed. The short video shows a wine glass tossed on the counter and also lightly hit with a hammer. I purchased a pair and after washing and while wiping the glass, inadvertently lifted my arm whereby the glass solidly hit a wok hanging on my pot rack. Other than an echoing, ringing sound, there was no damage to the glass! So unless I’m opening a special bottle of wine when I’ll use the specific Riedel glass, I reach for my Wine Enthusiast Vienna glass, which is perfect for everyday wines.

So hopefully this gives you gift ideas for friends or family or that most important person in your life… YOU!

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *