For a couple years I blogged as “The Conflicted Minimalist” about my efforts to pare down my life and get rid of the things that no longer made me happy. Although I’m not a full-fledged Marie Kondo wannabe, I subscribe to the philosophy that you should surround yourself only with the things that you really love. That said, I have never met a kitchen gadget I didn’t like. My kitchen is equipped with an immersion blender and a regular blender, all the cookers — pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker — and one of those all-in-ones that does everything but set the table.
Of course, I’m always looking out for the next best thing. If you’re like me, here are some fancy and not-so-fancy appliances and doodads that should be on your radar.
1. Your Own Indoor Farm
In this era of farm-to-table everything, I think it’s safe to assume all of us have harbored illusions of growing our own whatever — herbs, vegetables, fig trees. The extent of my own endeavors is this: A few years back, I grew soybeans on my kitchen window ledge. My entire crop consisted of five tiny pods, which I then lovingly picked and then boiled and served to friends as the first course of a meal.
If you don’t have a lot of space, but love the idea of growing your own greens, you need to know about Urban Cultivator. The first-of-its-kind indoor micro-farming appliance, which looks a little bit like a wine refrigerator and has similar dimensions, allows you to grow microgreens, herbs, and spices year-round. A computer controls watering and light cycles and activates built-in fans for both humidity control and air circulation. It’s as easy to operate as a dishwasher, with one exception — you have to add fertilizer once a week. The only drawback: It’s scary expensive; the residential model will set you back $2,499.
2. The Ultimate Countertop Status Symbol
Ever since I got a countertop convection oven last year, I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination. The advantage of the countertop version is simple: It does nearly everything your stand-alone oven will do — from baking a batch of fresh buttermilk biscuits to broiling a perfect piece of salmon — without heating or smelling up the entire kitchen.
Although I am already a proud owner, I have my eye on the new model from Wolf. This baby heats up fast and keeps food at consistently even temperatures. Plus, if Louboutin shoes have their iconic red soles, Wolf products have their equally recognizable red knobs that scream small appliance status symbol!
3. A Personal Portable Photo Lab
You didn’t see that one coming, did you? With our kitchens becoming ever smarter, it seems like a natural progression to include a next-gen printer for your kitchen. This one from Epson has a tiny footprint (it’s only slightly bigger than a stack of iPads), is incredibly easy to set up, and allows you to print directly from an SD card or your computer. Use it to print out photos of those gorgeous dishes you whip up in your kitchen or to create a recipe card to share or add to your files. If you’re hosting a group of fussy eaters, you can snap a shot of each dish and then print it out along with a list of ingredients, so that you don’t have to keep telling everyone what’s vegan, gluten-free, or kosher.
4. The Magic Opener
If you’ve ever struggled with opening a can, bottle, or twisty top, the Magic Opener is for you (and at less than $25, this nifty tool really is a bargain). I’ll admit that the design — which resembles a small yellow bottle of soda — is a little goofy and not technically an appliance, but who cares when you can finally stop running jar lids under hot water, wrapping rubber bands around them, or otherwise contorting yourself just to open up a jar of mustard? It’s also magnetized, so you can stick it on the fridge to keep it handy.
5. The Bluetooth-Enabled Vacuum
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a posh hotel suite in NYC to meet with some strangers eager to share some top-secret information with me. I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and promise I wouldn’t share details of what I’d seen on that fateful day — until now! If you’ve ever coveted a Roomba vacuum cleaner, you’re about to fall head over heels for the new robot on the block. The Braava floor-mopping robot works with its own Swiffer-like wet, damp, or completely dry microfiber cloths to clean hardwood, linoleum, or tiled floors. You can set up invisible boundaries if you don’t want it to escape into another room or scare your pets. For me, the most exciting innovation was the fact that it fully operates via Bluetooth and an app, so that you can set it to clean your mom’s condo in Florida from the comfort of your couch. Just for example.