Image: Gaggia Baby Espresso Maker
Whole Latte Love
The Gaggia Baby Espresso Maker ($449) is considered high-stylin' coffee making, with a three-way solenoid valve.
Image: Tima Chansanchai
By
msnbc.com
updated 4/8/2008 12:55:33 PM ET 2008-04-08T16:55:33

By now, you probably get that I like gadgets. I find a way to incorporate technology into almost every area of my life. The kitchen is no exception.

The joke among my friends is that I’m never home long enough to use my kitchen appliances, much less the basics of pots and pans.

When I lived in Baltimore, my poor Zojirushi rice cooker — the one I bought specifically because it can be programmed, so that I could actually smell that awesome aroma of jasmine rice when I came home from work — had a layer of dust on it from lack of use.

But now, I do try to make time to cook, so I wanted to see what kinds of devices were out there.

Let’s start with coffee, specifically espresso, or pressure-brewed coffee.

I asked Todd Salzman, spokesman for Whole Latte Love, a New York-based company, his recommendation for the best every day unit.

He is enthusiastic about Gaggia products from Italy, specifically the Gaggia Evolution (Silver, $349), for the bare minimum, and for the real connoisseur, he recommended the Gaggia Baby (Black, $449) because it has a three-way solenoid valve.

I had no idea what this meant, so I asked him to explain. He said a three-way solenoid valve allows the coffee to come out tasting more dry (which is good), because after brewing it releases the water pressure off the coffee.

The top-of-the-line Gaggia products (http://www.gaggia.com) are automatic, meaning one push does it all, no amateur barista experience needed. But some of those products are also more than $1,299.

I like my espresso, but not that much.

Then there’s Handpresso Wild ($149), a handheld gadget that pops out a cup of espresso on the go for the true addict who must have it everywhere (http://www.handpresso.com).

Image: Handpresso handheld espresso maker
Handpresso
The Handpresso Wild ($149) lets you make espresso on the go, and is a handy tool for traveling.

Salzman said it was all the rage at a recent trade show in Germany because it’s so simple. Pour boiling water into the container, pump and push a button to release high-pressure air into the water.

Out comes a perfect cup of espresso. It’s not out in the United States — yet — but Whole Latte Love will distribute when it is, he said.

Grow it in the kitchen
If you’re an urban gardener who wants to grow your own veggies, there are also high-tech options.

I turned to the AeroGarden ($150) as a solution to my very tiny lawn outside and my inability to keep up with that (so tending a tiny outdoor garden didn’t seem feasible).

You’ve probably seen the infomercial for it, but if you haven’t, it’s basically a self-contained, dirt-less mini-garden you can maintain right on your countertop.

Image: AeroGarden vegetable garden
AeroGrow
The AeroGarden ($150) by AeroGrow is geared to urbanites who want to have some home-grown veggies on a small scale.

“It’s pretty fool-proof, plant and grow,” said AeroGrow spokesman Mike Goldscheitter (http://www.officialaerogarden.com).

“Because of the compact fluorescent bulbs, the growth rate is twice what you’d see in an outdoor garden. A lot of people do both, but this is really for people who live in cities, like New York, who don’t have the space to garden. Herbs, tomatoes, vegetables — this is the freshest you’re going to get. No bugs, no weeds, no pesticides.”

I don’t have what you’d call a green thumb – my parents did – so contraptions like this really appeal to me.

Super-fast pizza oven
Finally, we get to the main course, the entrée, and for that, I spotted something at Hammacher Schlemmer (http://www.hammacher.com) that appealed to me and my dinner party inclinations: the compact 90-Second Dual Pizza Oven ($250).

It’s like a super-heated (almost 800 degrees Fahrenheit) pizza oven that allows you to make two fresh pizzas in less than 2 minutes. Yowza. That’s some fast, crispy-but-tender crust pie eating right there.

There’s also the wonder of the slow cooker for those living the fast-paced lifestyle.

Think about it: before going to work, you throw in all the ingredients for a tasty stew or paella into a crockpot or something like the All-Clad Slow Cooker ($150, available at stores such as Macy’s and Williams-Sonoma), and by the time you come home, it’s done. How blissful is that? There are tons of recipes online to make months’ worth of meals this way, if you so choose.

All this has motivated me to do one thing, at least: dust off my Zojirushi and start using it more, taking full advantage of its timer program and ability to make congee (rice porridge) so that I come home and make a meal to eat with it!

Restaurants will be sad for the loss of my business, but my bank account is going to sit much prettier this way.

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