Every time I go back to browse through a cookware shop, lo and behold, another brand-new teakettle has managed to squeeze itself into what appears to be a parade of mismatched pots. And if I'm lucky I may even get the wonderful opportunity to listen to the sounds of a whistling kettle, or enjoy a brief whiff of facial sauna from it as it happily boils away on a demo stove.
On one visit, the leader of the band was a musical teakettle "singing" the entire tune of, would you believe, "Tea for Two" (Metrokane stainless teakettle: $130). The teakettle display is often a wildly eclectic collection, ranging in design from Old English to country to ultra-modern.
There's probably a teakettle to suit every taste and personality. In fact, even when it sits on top of the stove, this hot item is a reflection of its owner. Not just from the chosen style but whether the kettle has been kept shiny and bright, or greasy and dull. So watch out, you may soon be judged according to your teakettle.
Why are we suddenly being besieged by teakettles, or to be more exact, boiling water kettles? Noted L.A. designer Gary McNatton of Motto company explained, "Basically there were ugly teakettles, starting with the dull reds and avocados. . . . They did not justify the new kitchens that were being built or remodeled, not the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on these. Like cookware, teakettles have become a status symbol. Alessi must have started it all with its Michael Graves kettle, which I have and still like. The category became something the world jumped on."
McNatton, who has a definite eye and likes to see things simplified and given classic longevity, was asked to put his creative efforts into a new teakettle for Calphalon. And so was born the Arrondi Teakettle ($110). The architectural influence and very defined profile of this charcoal gray kettle puts it in place with the sleek granite countertops and modern cooktops in sophisticated kitchens, McNatton said.
Oval in shape and featuring a dramatic upward slant along with its heat-resistant handle, the two-quart Arrondi kettle is made of heavy-gauge hard anodized aluminum. "It's virtually impossible for a man to scrape off this treated aluminum," McNatton said after being asked about aluminum contamination, "but the big advantage is that it conducts heat evenly and water boils rapidly in it."
One of the most important features in teakettles is cleanability, McNatton said. He designed the Arrondi with a wide lid and opening so that the hand can dig through the interior when cleaning. Another design factor is lid retention, that is, the lid should stay in place when pouring. The Calphalon cover stays in place at a pour angle of 180 degrees.
Stainless Steel Kettles
Next to glass, stainless steel is preferred by many for teakettles because it hardly absorbs any flavor, so long as it's kept clean, of course. One of the most difficult manufacturing processes involved is to give stainless steel a highly polished finish. In order to achieve this, Bodum, a Swiss-based company hand-makes its sparkling new Inox 18/10 stainless steel teakettle called Ottoni ($150). Now going full steam ahead since its introduction, the handsomely designed, Italian-made 2-quart kettle is favored for its long-lasting and fast-heating copper bottom and its mahogany wood handle. The lid has a ball of crystalline blue acrylic sitting atop a pyramid handle that doesn't come off when pouring.
The Ottoni was designed by Carsten Jorgensen of Bodum, who also designed the Bodum Teabowl Teapot ($150) in 1984. Chosen for the International Yearbook of 1987/1988, the conversational stainless Teabowl pot is handmade near Milan. This pot has a spherical bowl and cone-shaped lid and accommodates a large tea strainer for whole leaf or whole bunch of tea leaves.
Form following function is reflected in Rosti's Bubble Pot (from $45). Designed by the late Ben Seibel in Switzerland, the Bubble Pot has a spherical or "bubble" shape for maximum energy conservation on either gas or electric heating elements. The 2 1/2-quart Rosti vessel is available in mirror polished stainless steel ($50) and in colored finish of either enamel on steel or brushed stainless steel ($45). The colors are slate blue, red, white and black.
Black Phenolic Handle
Conveniently lightweight, particularly for the elderly, the Bubble Pot features an easy-to-grasp black phenolic handle that assures balance and safety and stays cool to the touch. The lid attaches to the handle and can be easily held in place when pouring or pulled back when filling. Also, the opening is wide enough for cleaning accessibility.
Soon to join the teakettle parade is the half-size counterpart of traditional copper teakettles. Coppersource Halves Inc. is bringing out a trio of two-cup solid copper teakettle for individual servings ($40). Available in Austrian, Scandinavian and German styles, the charming teapots have stay-cool brass handles. What's unique about these products is that they double as potpourri kettles, each consisting of a solid copper warming stand with candle. Perfect for warming aromatics to get rid of unpleasant scents in the kitchen.
The Arrondi Kettle from Calphalon is available at Crown Hardware (Orange County), Bullock's and Montana Mercantile.
The Bodum Ottoni kettle is available at Crate and Barrel.
The Rosti Bubble Pots are available at Robinson's and Bed, Bath and Beyond. The Coppersource Potpourri Kettles will be available in the coming months at Bullock's, Robinson's and Cookin Stuff (La Habra and Palos Verdes).