For several years now I have been using Kartio glasses from Iittala as my everyday drinkware, and I can’t recommend them enough. The design is simple but very solid, and they come in a variety of colors. I have the light blue one pictured to the right.
The glasses were initially designed by the Finnish designer Kaj Franck in 1958, but they have a timeless simplicity and were brought back into production. I think the size and geometry of the 40 cl/13 oz tumblers are perfect for a drinking glass, and it feels great in the hand.
Outside of solid, clean design the only variations in the Kartio tumbler series are with size and color. The light-hued ones are my favorite as they add just enough color while still keeping it simple. Franck believed that good color was decoration enough, and this series proves it. You can see all the colors on offer at Iittala’s site, and they also come in a 20 cl/7 oz size.
Kartio glassware can be purchased at Amazon for $20 for a set of two.
This ‘Patrician’ champagne goblet from Lobmeyr is quite possibly one of the most elegant glasses I have ever seen. It was designed in 1917 by Josef Hoffmann for Lobmeyr and has an elegance that makes it stand out. This glass is often used in cooking magazines to display drinks, just as Food & Wine did in the February 2010 issue. See the picture to the right by David Lauridsen.
Lobmeyr is a historical fine glass maker from Austria and their glass does not come cheap. A set of six of these goblets will run you close to $800 and per stem they will cost $148. They are mouth blown in a wooden mold and made from fine muslin glass.
Shot glasses can often be cheesy with logos slapped on them or just plain bland, but this set of four sold at Haus Interior are a departure from the common shot glass.
I like the four different etching patterns on each glass. Not only do the varying designs make the glass set more interesting, but you can tell which glass is yours.
You can purchase the set of four from Haus Interior for $75. I know it is kind of expensive when you consider that every gas station and truck stop has shot glasses for just a few bucks, but you must admit that they look great.
The Italian company, Guzzini, has a long tradition of making quality, design-oriented kitchen goods. You can browse their site to see a lot of interesting products, but unfortunately it is very hard to find their kitchen and home goods here in the US.
You can try to search on eBay to find selected items, but for the most part you are going to have to search high and low to find a place to do your shopping. I especially liked the Dolce Vita glasses (to the right), their gelato cups, and the salad spinner.
The November issue of Saveur featured an article on the tableware store out of North Carolina called Replacements. This store started out as a flea market passion of owner Bob Page, who enjoyed finding hard-to-find missing dishes and flatware pieces for sets, and it now serves as a clearing house for replacement dishes of every variety and brand. So if you are looking to find a broken glass or plate from your Grandmother’s heirloom china or crystal set, then this is the place to go. I just did a search on a set I have at home and found replacement pieces available at very reasonable prices. At least now I know where to go if something breaks.
The store has over 300,000 patterns available, but even if what you are looking for isn’t in stock, you can request that they find it and you will receive a notification when it comes in. The website is basic and functional but not that great for browsing. I did go through the ’specials’ section and found the ‘Unique Tableware Sets to Go‘ to be useful to browse. You can essentially buy entire 40+ piece settings of fine tableware from $200 to $2400. A good number of the sets are already sold, but I am sure there are some good deals to be found.
The downside of the website is that it can be rather overwhelming. The sheer number of brands, styles, and patterns — while impressive — is daunting to say the least. I would love for them to have different search capabilities for retro, solid colors, modern, floral and other style preferences. Another good search option would be to only search dinnerware that is in stock. There are no doubt thousands of hidden gems in their inventory, but it is like finding a needle in a haystack with the current website design.
With that said, if you are looking to create an eclectic, out-of-the-ordinary table setting or want to find some retro dinnerware, then with a bit of effort you will be able to achieve this through Replacements. And when you need something specific or hard to find, this should be the first place to look. I also decided to test out the e-mail request service and put in some orders to find Lobmeyr crystal wine and water glasses. These items cost around $140 a piece, so it will be interesting to see if they find them and at what price they will be marked. None were currently in stock, so I’ll let you know what comes of it.
I know fresh brewing is always better when it comes to coffee, but I was intrigued that at Chowhound there was a forum discussion about the best brand of instant coffee. Sometimes a person just doesn’t have time to brew a batch or maybe you just ran out and instant is the only option.
One of the recommendations on Chowhound was that Nescafe Clasico Instant Coffee is one of the best, and if you can’t find that in stores Taster’s Choice is best. Both are owned by Nestle, but the Nescafe brand apparently adjusts their products for tastes in different countries, and some suggest looking at hispanic grocery stores to find the instant coffee aimed at the Latino population.
The vintage instant coffer jar above was purchased at H & B Gallery in Minneapolis for $39. It has a sterling silver cover and base with etched glass.
Gourmet has a very interesting cocktail history called ‘Favorite Cocktails 1941-2009‘. Unfortunately, Gourmet is closing down operations, but their website will remain active for a ‘transitional’ period. What that means, I am not sure, but I will be mining the site in coming months in anticipation of its closure.
Not only is the cocktail summary of each decade informational (and short), but the descriptions of each drink are also worthy of reading as they contain interesting drink history. But what I love most about this web production is threefold: (1) the photography is beautiful (2) the glassware is stunning and (3) it makes browsing cocktails fun. Lists of cocktail recipes in books and magazines are fine but can be rather overwhelming; however, the design of this site alleviates that problem and invites one to enter and explore.
There is one problem though, the last decade (the 2000s) will probably never be finished. It says on the site that it will be up on 13 October and still has not surfaced, but with the closure of the magazine, I somehow doubt it will be completed. Too bad.
Now back to the glassware. The glasses they have on display are amazing. Yes, a lot of what they show is very pricey crystal, but some items are affordable. Just take a look at the Alessi glass above. The ‘Mami’ Martini Glass is simple and elegant. It sells for $126 for a set of six. Not cheap — I know — but not that expensive either. The measured mixing glass is from Mister Mojito and costs $45. You can find dozens of example of great barware and stemware at this site.
After going through some Gourmet, Food & Wine, and Bon Appetit magazines, I started to notice in photos a lot of glassware from a Japanese company called Takashimaya. The Japanese department store has retailers in Singapore, Paris, Japan, New York, and Taipei, and most of the websites are in Japanese, but you can order online and in English from the New York site.
I thought this old fashioned bottle and glass set was beautiful. And though it will cost you $182 for the entire set shown above, it is certainly an elegant set of glassware.
There are other stylish items on the site too, but beware — they will cost you. This place setting has really nice flatware and glasses, but when the glass company, Lobmeyr, out of Austria makes a glass it will be expensive. Each wine glass costs $135. This company is known for crafting chandaliers and lighting for palaces and opera houses, and the company also made the chandalier for the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
I am going to start posting great design items that deserve admiration but probably don’t deserve a purchase due to the high price. If you have the money go ahead, but for most of us we can just look.
From Theresienthal, Germany and an historic glass producer comes this Torino Pitcher (lemon). You can buy it from mossonline.com. The price is $315.
More and more classic paper cups are coming back in all sorts of designs and materials. A while back I purchased a to-go cup (to the right) made of porcelain that is fashioned to look like a regular paper coffee cup. The name is appropriately ‘I Am Not a Paper Cup’ and it is sold at the MoMa Store. The cup is designed by James Burgess and made out of hefty double-walled porcelain with a silicon rubber cover.
Admittedly, it is a great design, but if you are wanting to keep things hot for a long time and hold a lot of coffee, it would be better to find another product. It is functional, but it is more design than function. The coffee will stay hotter longer than a non-capped cup, but not that much longer. The cup volume is also pretty minimal and really only holds about a regular cup’s amount of coffee. Also, the silicon caps will get coffee stained around the mouth, so if you think you will use it a lot and won’t want a brownish-white cap, then I would suggest getting the extra black cover to use instead.
But I must admit that I like to use my cup, and the fact coffee actually cools in it and doesn’t stay undrinkably hot for 30+ minutes is fine with me. Also, it is much better than using paper cups and throwing them away after each use, so it’s better for the environment.
Sagaform out of Sweden has an almost identical item but with a black top and a bit more design to it. It just came out in their Christmas catalog, so it might not be available in online stores yet. Amazon usually carries a lot of Sagaform items so you can probably check back in a month or so and find it there.
But the cups keep coming. At MoMa and the ConranShop you can also can get porcelain crumpled versions of the water cooler cup. Again, they look interesting and will no doubt get some comments at a party. The site suggests using them for coffee, condiments, and desserts. They are dishwasher safe, so hopefully the crumpled surface won’t be too hard to clean.
Then there is a stemware option for cups too. The Conran Shop has two Seletti glass beaker glasses. One is on a stem and the other is without. So there is a water cooler wine glass now too if you want to use it for that. Part of me thinks this just looks a bit weird though, and I wouldn’t be using it for a wine tasting.