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Six Picks: The Pepper Grinder

Salt and Pepper Grinders

Thought to be invented by Peugeot in 1842 (the French company was manufacturing metal tools before the cars we know today), the handheld pepper grinder has had many incarnations; from the giant thing over your shoulder at an Italian restaurant, to the battery powered device in your gourmand relative’s cupboard, it hasn’t always been pretty. These days, the pepper mill has made its way into almost every household, not only for pepper, but for salt and spices. While the classic Peugeot will always be in style, and you can’t deny the beauty of a vintage Jens Quistgaard for Dansk teak grinder, here is a selection of modernized grinders that bring smart design to the dining table (and a set of laboratory-style shakers, for good measure).

1. Norway Says for Muuto, $62; 2. Par Cork Shakers Set by Nendo for Materia, $50; 3. Tower Grinders by Tom Dixon, $85, $75; 4. Menu Grinder Set by Norm Copenhagen $62; 5. Ori by Hay, $35; 6. Graph by Jens Fager for Petite Friture, $82

Photography by Lena C. Emery

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some amazing, though often repetitious hyperrealistic art that deceives the viewer into believing they’re looking at a photograph; Lena Emery is a photographer that, to some degree, works in the opposite direction. Emery’s work spans several fields of photography; from fashion to product-shots, she has a quietly captivating style, but it is her collection of food still lifes for London’s Black Isle Bakery that is especially remarkable; the careful compositions and color choices make for a “that-can’t-be-real” effect that avoids the novelty art category.

More at: Lena C. Emery

Kitchen Tools by FD Style

No kitchen is complete without a set of matching, perfectly-designed, useful tools; this collection designed by Hagino Mitsunobu, FD Style, is just that.

The ergonomically correct, stainless steel tools are coated in rustproof fluorine resin, leaving them with a durable matte finish. The line includes graters, peelers, a sturdy and multi-tasking corkscrew, an upgrade to the oh-so-simple can opener, and perhaps the most elegantly minimal bottle opener you can get your hands on.

From $36, available online at Rikumo

Design Classic: Coffee Syphon by Hario

The Japanese company Hario, known as the King of Glass, and founded in 1921, makes one of the most striking, practical devices you can have in your kitchen. The Coffee Syphon, a double-chambered coffee maker, whereby vapor pressure and vacuum are responsible for the process, produces a smooth, clean brew, allowing you to taste the nuanced flavor profile of your favorite coffees. The build, lending itself to temperature precision, efficiency, and stability, allows for the retention of flavors often lost or bittered by incorrect temperature or timing.

Long prized by connoisseurs, the vacuum-style coffee brewer was first introduced in the 1830s, by Loeff Berlin. The Japanese, with their dedication to highest-caliber coffee making (a country that imports more than 930 million pounds of coffee each year) have mastered the workmanship and quality that set the standard for this type of device.

It may require a little work to master the technique, but the theatrical experience of liquid defying gravity, in a device that looks like it belongs in a laboratory, and the beautifully crisp brew results are the payoff.

Starting at around $100, link to purchase at Hario

Metal Salt & Pepper Shakers

Both sleek and utilitarian, these simply designed metal and wood salt and pepper shakers are handmade by Seattle-based Ladies and Gentleman Studio. The untreated copper or brass body, if left unpolished, will become patinated with time.

Available at Ladies and Gentleman, $60/pair

Balloon Shakers by Masayuki Kurokawa

Designed by Masayuki Kurokawa, and Hand-blown by Shotoku Glass, a Japanese company that originally produced lightbulbs, these very thin, yet durable glass balloon shakers are the perfect home for salt and pepper, but look especially beautiful filled with the rich pigments of exotic spices.

Available at: Merchant No. 4, $68 (Set of 2)

Salt Cellars by Culinarium

Jordan Castro, the man behind Culinarium, creates skillfully-casted, hand-burnished concrete kitchen and table accessories. The special blend he uses has taken years to perfect, and is composed of extremely small particulate, very little water, and reactive recycled pozzolans, a combination that results in very strong, smooth concrete that patinates beautifully, and actually becomes more durable with time.

Culinarium’s designs lean toward utilitarian, with simple form and straightforward-practicality, emphasizing the material used. Perhaps the most expert design is Culinarium’s salt cellar; available in multiple sizes, and fitted with an aluminum scoop, or simply lidded, this modest vessel is handsome beyond any decorative table piece.

Castro does experiment with variations in color, and sometimes he’ll employ simple, but striking decoration. His eye and hand with this often cold-in-appearance material make for strict designs that are also texturally organic, a combination that is not only stylish, but artful.

Culinarium designs are available at the Culinarium Store on Etsy.

Above: Small Salt Cellar, $34

Taza Chocolate Mexicano

Taza is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, specializing in the centuries-old Mexican technique of chocolate making. Using hand-chiseled, Oaxacan stone mills called molinos, Taza produces its Chocolate Mexicano. Whereas most chocolate is refined with advanced steel machines, this traditional technique allows for pieces of cacao and crystals of sugar to remain in the finished chocolate, lending intense flavor, and a unique, rustic texture. All of Taza’s chocolate is roasted, winnowed, ground, tempered, and packaged in-house, by hand, at their small factory.

Complex flavor combinations, from guajillo chili, to salt and pepper, bring attention to the true and bright flavors of the cacao, in dark chocolate form. Taza has also formulated a natural flavoring extract that captures the intensity of cacao and the warm spice flavor their chocolate is known for, perfect for baking, or for use in a distinctive cocktail, imparting true chocolate flavor, not cloying supermarket sweetness.

Taza only uses organic and sustainably farmed ingredients to craft their chocolate, and also maintains relationships with their growers in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Mexico, and Belize, visiting and evaluating at least once a year, as well as paying a quality premium over the Fair Trade price.

“Artisan-crafted” chocolate can be found at every corner these days, but Taza has actually followed through with this very true-to-the-source interpretation, which is certainly worth trying.

Chocolate Mexicano discs ($4.50), and Mexicano Extract ($18) are available at Taza.

Bellocq Tea Atelier

An appreciation for best-quality tea, artisan craftsmanship, and a shared aesthetic vision resulted in tea “atelier” Bellocq. Founded by Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon, and Scott Stewart, the trio shares a history of creative credentials, from product design and editorial work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, to work with fabrication firm SAAW.

In addition to the finest of pure teas, Bellocq offers their evocative, bespoke blends; from Charleston (a black tea created for and inspired by the country residence of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant), to The White Wolf (a studied mélange of white peony, cedar, juniper, and mint), their evolving collection aims to satisfy both traditionalists and the sophisticated tea explorer.

Considered design choices in regard to packaging and brand image, from handsome metal caddies, to lush photography, make it obvious that Bellocq’s dedication to quality extends beyond their tea. This approach serves as a reminder that a very simple preparation can be one of unflawed elegance.

Bellocq teas are available at the Bellocq Atelier in Brooklyn (open Fridays and Saturdays), at several stockists both domestically and internationally, as well as online at

Above: “Twelve Months of Bellocq,” $390
Photo: Anna Williams

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

1. Vosges Red Fire Milagro Heart of Love, $4; 2. Hudson Baby Bourbon, $50; 3. EXOvault Aluminum & Wood iPhone4 Case, $155; 4. Cire Trudon ‘Nazareth’ Candle, $85; 5. Smythson Passport Wallet, $140; 6. Michael George NYC Short White Tulips, starting at $100