Tool time


When I’m asked: “Which kitchen tools are absolutely essential?” I’ve always answered in my sage Jedi voice: “A sharp chef’s knife and your hands.”

While that is good, if glib, advice, why do I have drawers, boxes and flower vases crammed with single-purpose culinary implements from crab crackers and pasta tongs to Parmesan chippers and caviar spoons? During two moves in a decade, I have divested myself of a great many things, including hundreds of cookbooks, but not these tools.

I have a hard time recalling when certain implements came into my life. Some were inherited, such as the nut cracker and picker from my family, and I found others at estate sales. Some were acquired from the great wall of kitchen doodads at McGuckin’s. The ones with logos on them migrated to me in my role as a food writer for 35 years. There are some whose purpose is unknown. I don’t remember the last time I needed a potato masher, musubi maker or my collection of pie weights, pie bird, crimp protector, pie lifters and my favorite, a pie gate. Some I only use during the holidays.

Will most of these culinary helpers fall out of use and end up in a Museum of Antiquated Gourmet Implements?

I think of it like a garage tool chest. You don’t sell your tools. You never know when you need a lime zester. I’m likely to carry the weight of these implements with me a long time.

Rediscovery of the popper
I don’t have a lot of one-job cooking devices hanging around besides a coffee maker, my rice steamer and one prime example of perfect technology: The popcorn popper is an almost steampunk-like stove-top contraption that allows you to turn a crank and stir the popcorn as it pops so it doesn’t burn. The result is popcorn far tastier than any from a microwaved bag and a throwback to my childhood fave, the magical Jiffy Pop. Using the stove-top popper produces popcorn at cents for a giant bowl, and gives me control over the type and amount of oil, salt and organic popcorn. It leaves out the obscene packaging involved, and I’m not exposed to “popcorn lung.” Plus: The device will still work in post-zombie apocalypse Boulder.

John Lehndorff

Local food news
Ian Clark has opened his artisan cool treat parlor, Heifer and the Hen, at 5290 Arapahoe Ave. next door to the chef’s BRU handbuilt ales & eats. The menu includes organic ice cream, sorbet, sodas and floats and ice cream sandwiches, including a Belgian waffle with maple bacon ice cream. … I was just saying that what Boulder really needs is another place to drink beer, and I got the news that World of Beer opens in June in the former Bacaro restaurant space at 921 Pearl St. west of the Downtown Mall. … In July, chef Daniel Asher will open River and Woods in the longtime John’s Restaurant space on Pearl Street in Boulder. Asher has opened several notable eateries, including Root Down (in Denver and at DIA), Linger and Ophelia’s. … Lunada Eatery & Cantina, Lafayette’s neat Southwestern eatery, will close June 30 on South Boulder Road and reopen in July at Arapahoe Avenue and 95th Street.

Culinary calendar
How easy is it to do good? On April 28, all you have to do to support a wonderful organization delivering meals to seriously ill local residents is go out to eat. Dine at restaurants participating in Dining Out For Life and 25 percent of your bill will be donated to Project Angel Heart. The eatery roster ranges from Avery Brewing, Beau Jo’s Pizza, Blackbelly, Mountain Sun and Oskar Blues to Denver spots including Osaka Ramen and Vesta Dipping Grill. Details: … A Taste of Spring, Colorado’s only statewide winery barrel tasting event, is May 7- 8. One ticket allows you to visit any of the more than 30 participating wineries, including local favorites Augustina’s Winery, BookCliff Vineyards, Boulder Creek Winery, Redstone Meadery, Settembre Cellars, Turquoise Mesa Winery, View Point Wines, and What We Love, The Winery. Tickets for the two-day tasting are $25, … Plan ahead: Telluride Wine Festival, June 23-26:; Crested Butte Wine & Food Festival, July 28–31:; Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, Aug. 6:; Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival, Sept. 23–25:; Colorado Mountain Winefest, Sept. 15–18:

Mom and cooking
I’m collecting memories for my Mother’s Day Nibbles column and Radio Nibbles show. What was the single best thing you learned about cooking from your mother/adult in the kitchen? Please keep them short and e-mail:

Taste of the week
As someone who encountered eggplant Parmesan at an impressionable age and has loved that odd vegetable ever since, I appreciate a well-made eggplant dish regardless of cuisine. I was impressed recently with the tender, barely sweet and salty Yakiniku eggplant served at Boulder’s Motomaki. I had it on a bowl of rice (versus in a giant handroll) with grilled asparagus, spicy sprouts, crispy onions, tempura crunch and jalapeño dressing. Tasty combo.

Words to chew on
“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… it is all one.” – MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating.

John Lehndorff is the former food editor of the Daily Camera and dining critic of the Rocky Mountain News. Please like John’s food-based Facebook page at Listen to archived Radio Nibbles shows at: E-mail: