Notes on a New Refrigerator, Plants and Animals : IN THE KITCHEN : The Year of the Big Chill

LAST YEAR THE heat was on. Peppers sizzled across the culinary scene, scorching tongues. The biggest chef in the country--New Orleans' Paul Prudhomme--sported a button that said, "Totally Hot!" Almost everything was better blackened. The truly trendy sprinkled their vocabularies with words like mesquite and hickory.

Those who could take the heat went into the kitchen, where commercial stoves became the appliances of choice. No matter how small the kitchen, these mammoth stoves boasted double ovens, giant grills and multijets.

But that's in the past. This is the year of the big chill. Look at the magazines: Last year they told you how to smoke meat; this year they're telling you how to toss salad. The Cajun craze has passed, grills are gone and everybody has abandoned baking to take up ice cream making. The Ice Age has descended.

Even the kitchen is playing it cool. A commercial stove is not the hot ticket it was last year; if you want to be on the cutting edge, you now need a commercial refrigerator. Modified, of course, for residential use.

Consider the Traulsen Ultra Model URDT 2-24. Walk into any restaurant kitchen and you find a commercial Traulsen, but the URDT 2-24 is the company's residential model. One wonderful feature: An 85% humidity level keeps fruits and vegetables fresh for weeks, not days, unlike standard household refrigerators.

This gleaming stainless-steel beauty has everything the committed cook could possibly want. Refrigerator and freezer sit side by side, with pull-out refrigerated drawers underneath. Glass doors slide silently open on magnetic gaskets. The shelves are plated in chrome--no plastic anywhere. Ice cubes are made automatically, and the temperature monitors itself.

It's an ice queen of a machine, intended for cool customers; it sells for a mere $3,600.

Available at Fator's Appliances, 436 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles (213) 273-9415.

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