After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine: the Cook’s Resource, in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard now writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues. She and her husband, the Wine Maniac, have recently moved to Italy.
ONE OF the neat things about going to trade shows is the reward of finding a really good manufacturer in your field of interest who does not have the big bucks to spend on a huge flashy booth or a big-name celebrity who doesn’t really use the product but is paid to sell it. Some of these manufacturers are new, but more common are those who have been in business for ages, have a steady commercial clientele, and make available some of their tools to home consumers as well. You have to spend some time going up and down numerous aisles to detect them among the more spangly performers and glitzier booths. A small company located in Portland, Oregon, is one of those unusual finds.
Last One Standing
I believe that Best Manufacturing, the brainchild of an inventor in Portland and a salesman over 50 years ago, is the only true US manufacturer of whisks. It has a small cadre of employees who produce some 65 variations on the whisk theme—astonishing! Most of them are sold to commercial operations, including schools, restaurants, and prisons. And some of their whisks are purchased for mixing wallpaper paste or mixing clay for pottery-making.
Although kitchenware chains have carried some of their whisks, often once a clientele is established, they get switched out for a copy that is made more cheaply abroad and not necessarily with the same safeguards and design quality as the original. The items are then stamped with the retail chain’s logo. This process, which most consumers are unaware of, is euphemistically referred to as a “reverse auction,” and it is, in fact, a race to the bottom that shuts down many worthy domestic manufacturers. To quote Investopedia:
A reverse auction is a type of auction in which sellers bid for the prices at which they are willing to sell their goods and services. Sellers then place bids for the amount they are willing to be paid for the good or service, and at the end of the auction the seller with the lowest amount wins.
An Embarrassment of Whisks
I have collected a fair number of whisks, including some made in France and Germany (I have one 14-inch-circumference balloon whisk from France that makes foaming egg whites a breeze, however, the material on the handle has already degraded). But those from Best are just what their company name says. Best produces whisks with different gauges of wire. Their “French whisks” have thinner, more flexible wire, plus a narrower circumference, which makes them so efficient for making salad dressings and beurre blanc. I like both the 8- and 10-inch size. I also have a couple of heavier-duty and less-flexible “Standard” whisks with a wider circumference, which can beat any batter into submission.
The way the wires are inserted into the handles is important. Best is the only company that produces its whisks to comply with the National Sanitation Foundation specifications. In other words, they can be cleaned and sanitized in a commercial dishwasher (as well as a domestic one) and contain no toxic materials or crevices for bacteria to grow in. This is why the Best whisks (0r whips, as they are called in the industry) are used in hospitals for mixing ice baths for organ transplants.
Best Innovative Designs
Although I use the plain steel handle, Best makes some whisks with a dishwasher-proof wood handle, which some of our shop customers felt was more comfortable in the hand, and of course will stay cool when used on a hot burner. A flat, somewhat curved whisk with sturdy wires is a béchamel and Southern roux game-changer, when you are combining the melted butter with the flour and then adding the liquid. It is the whisk I use when making the sacred turkey gravy (not sauce) for Thanksgiving right in the roasting pan. Another one that was requested by several La Cuisine customers is the Swedish Coil whisk. I have never used one, but those who love it say it is their favorite for making pan gravies or scrambled eggs. Best exports many of their designs to Japan, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Canada, and there is a big market for their mashers in Mexico. I personally love the little version for mashing avocados.
If you go to the Best website, you can look at the complete list of what they manufacture (and some of their imports too), plus a list of their retail partners, as they do not sell directly to the consumer. Best does have an Amazon portal if you cannot find exactly what you want locally.
And Now for a Refresher
I have been checking the loops of heat waves across the US (daughters and friends report crazy weather in the UK, France, and Italy too). That alone should reinforce the thought that Mother Nature is not happy with Planet Earth. But while we are waiting for the adults in the room to act, I discovered in my almost bottomless library of Gourmet magazine cookbooks this absolutely delicious, cooling version of raspberries, fresh limes, sugar, and water.
This recipe resides in the 1994 Best of Gourmet compilation and also in their book of seasonal recipes inspired by farmers markets in 1999. It not only tastes refreshing but is satisfying in a way that plain lemonade or even ice tea is not.
You do not have to use your precious little green half-pint baskets of raspberries from the local farmers market, and certainly don’t bother with the Dread Driscoll, since you need two cups’ worth. This is a perfect fit for frozen raspberries. But you must use fresh limes. (You can use those forgotten wizened ones hiding at the back of the crisper.)
It was suggested by someone in this house that a shot of vodka would make a nice option and, after much scientifically backed research, we found that, actually, alcohol does nothing for this refreshing and gratifying summer thirst quencher. It will keep in the fridge for a few days. You simply need to give it a stir before serving over ice cubes. I add back some of the pulp with seeds as it gives the drink more heft and flavor. A virtuous cheers to you!
- 2 cups raspberries (frozen are perfect for this use)
- 3½ cups (828ml) water
- ¾ cup (178ml) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (237ml) fresh lime juice
- Mint, basil, or verbena leaves for garnish
- Pour all the ingredients into the container of a food processor or blender. Blend until moderately smooth.
- Place a large fine-mesh strainer over a bowl or wide-mouth pitcher. Pour the purée into the strainer and, with a wood spoon (easier than a silicone spatula), scrape the purée until the strained liquid is released into the bowl or pitcher.
- Add at least a third of the remaining pulp and seeds into the limeade. Add more if you want more texture and flavor.
- Refrigerate and then serve over ice.
- Garnish with mint, basil or verbena.
- The original recipe calls for puréeing a portion of the raspberries with the water, but I found that it made no difference in the end and made the making of this lovely drink a bit more complicated than it needed to be.
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