Blog | LaBelle Cuisine


Summer Vegetables

Tools to help you make the most of your summer bounty

La Belle Cuisine-Fine Cookware has been around since 1977. In fact, next year we will celebrate our 40th anniversary. During the course of those years, we have diligently researched the variety of kitchen tools and gadgets on the market so that we can make the most informed decisions about what to offer customers in our store. We want our customers to have the best cooking experience in their home kitchen. So, where products are sourced from, the materials used, and the quality of craftsmanship are a few of the criteria we use when choosing products. Each month in our blog we highlight a few favorites. And since we’re in the midst of gardening season, we chose tools that can help you make the most of your summer bounty.

Our Japanese Benriner-Mandolin is a seriously sharp, high performing slicer – perfect for onions, zucchini, eggplant and just about anything else that needs to be prepped. Because this lightweight slicer is one you’ll reach for often, keep it close for the times you need just a few slices of onion or a large pile of mushrooms. The benriner comes with three variable sized shredding blades that create matchstick size and larger. This slicer is fun to use, and we urge you to always use the hand guard: It is extremely sharp.

For larger quantities of vegetables, our Deluxe Mandoline Slicer/Grater may be more helpful. This slicer stands on an angle for your fruit or vegetables to slide downward as they are prepped. This larger slicer also has a thickness adjuster and includes blades that will shred, grate, and crinkle cut. A finger guard and instructions are included.

Moving from slicing and shredding to chopping, we just introduced the Zyliss Easy Pull Food Processor. This small chopper operates manually with just a pull of the handle. The sharp blade on this food processor will chop uniformly and even blend and puree your ingredients while leaving as much texture as you’d like. It’s a good tool to use for making salsa out of your fresh tomatoes. When you don’t feel like getting your heavy electric food processor out of the cabinet, this lightweight tool is a good choice. And clean-up is much easier.

One of the most versatile tools in our store is a Food Mill. It has so many uses! This is a tool that has been around for decades, and most likely used in your grandmother’s kitchen during gardening season. Some of the foods that can be prepared with a food mill include fluffy mashed potatoes, tomato sauce, pumpkin puree, and applesauce. When my children were babies, I never bought jarred baby food, opting instead to cook veggies from my garden and run them through the food mill. It was my way of knowing exactly where their food came from and what was in it. We carry two stainless steel food mills: One with a wooden handle that has three coarseness disks, and one that is all stainless steel with two coarseness disks.

Finally, what would gardening season be without herbs! We carry a few unique tools that you might find helpful for processing your herbs. The first is our Herb Snippers. Made by Zyliss, this scissor-like tool is sturdy, lightweight, and perfect for snipping and mincing. The herb snipper is designed with notches in the handle. If you find removing thyme and rosemary leaves from the stem to be as frustrating as I do, this tool works well in removing the delicate leaves, leaving them intact. This little tool is a gem and is comfortable and easy to use.

Another herb preparation tool is the Microplane Herb Mill. This herb mincer will cut – not tear – herbs easily to a uniform size. What emerges from the mill are beautiful pieces of herb without bruises or blemishes. The herb mill works best on herbs that have been cleaned and thoroughly dried.

Our best wishes for a great gardening season. Bon appétit!

Hard-to-find kitchen tools and gadgets

One of the things that La Belle Cuisine is best known for is its assortment of hard-to-find kitchen tools and gadgets. Your kitchen arsenal is what makes cooking fun and interesting, and is a great way to entice family and friends to get involved in meal preparation. Our best line of tools is made by Westmark of Germany. This is a line that I’m so proud of because of the quality built into each piece. Westmark tools are lifetime pieces that you will buy only once. They perform some remarkable – and some rather unremarkable – functions, but you’ll have lots of fun using them. Here are a few customer favorites.

The Westmark Cheese Slicer is a great tool for slicing soft- to medium-soft cheese. One of my favorite uses for this slicer is slicing fresh mozzarella for a caprese salad. (The mozzarella should be fresh within a day or so.) This salad is always best during tomato growing season when you can go outside and pick the reddest, ripest tomatoes from the vine. Slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella (with the cheese slicer) so that the pieces are similar in size to the tomato slices. On a plate layer first the tomatoes then the mozzarella. Add a fresh basil leaf to each, and drizzle with a good extra-virgin olive oil and balsamico (aged is best). Top with some freshly ground salt and pepper. This is as simple as it gets. Ingredients such as these don’t need too many enhancements to draw out their beautiful flavor. They do it on their own quite well.

The Westmark Mushroom-Egg Slicer is a tool that I sell to a number of restaurants that want beautiful, uniformly even slices of fruits and vegetables. One of my favorite uses for this tool is slicing mushrooms for a really simple and delicious marinated mushroom dish. Here’s how it goes: With the mushroom-egg slicer, slice a bunch of white button mushrooms. Add them to cold water in a pan. Bring to a boil and cook for about three minutes. Drain the water and let mushrooms dry. Finely mince a bit of fresh garlic and onion and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil and a little apple cider vinegar. To assemble, put dry mushrooms, garlic and onion together in a bowl. Pour dressing over mushroom mix, and sprinkle a little chopped fresh parsley, dried oregano, and freshly ground salt and pepper. Let set overnight or for about eight hours. Serve either cold or at room temp. I listed here only the ingredients – not proportions – because it is a recipe that is very much open to individual interpretation. For instance, I tend to use much more garlic than the average person. So, please put these ingredients together according to your own preferences.

The Westmark Duplex Egg Slicer is a tool that’s been around since forever. While the egg slicer doesn’t do anything remarkable, it does slice eggs remarkably well. The design of the Westmark egg slicer is special, because it allows you to slice hard-boiled eggs in two different directions so that the egg emerges not in slices but almost chopped. If you are making egg salad, for instance, you’ll get a chopped egg that will nicely hold its texture and not turn into a mushy egg salad. To get the “chopped” effect, put the hard-boiled egg onto the slicer and slice the egg. Carefully pick up the sliced egg – keeping it together – and place it on the egg rest in the opposite direction. Slice it again so that the egg is “chopped”. For a delicious egg salad, put chopped eggs in a bowl with some mayo, a tablespoon or so of grainy mustard, and freshly ground salt and pepper. The egg slicer also does a beautiful job slicing eggs for antipasto platters.

Finally, since cherry season is almost here, I have to mention the Westmark Cherry Stoner. For harvesting large quantities of cherries, this (remarkable!) device will remove the pits from 30 lbs. of cherries in an hour. And it’s a tool that everyone will enjoy using. To get an idea of its design and how it works, pay a visit to the web page If you enjoy cherries on a much smaller scale, the Westmark Hand-Held Cherry Pitter might be more your style. This tool easily pops the pit out of cherries without tearing them apart. It works well on olives too!

For more than 50 years, Westmark has been making unique kitchen tools that stand the test of time. If quality matters to you, choose Westmark for your kitchen. I hope you enjoy reading about the Westmark tools we offer in our web store. Bon appétit!

Its all about the bean

It's All About the Bean

We at La Belle Cuisine are serious about coffee. Our customers know our coffee, and come to us for their coffee beans. These are customers with discerning taste who have searched for, and found with us, a bean or blend that meets their criteria of superb flavor, body, and aroma. The richness of the coffee they brew is the result of the beans we choose. Arabica beans, from all over the world, are delivered to us weekly. These are not the same beans found in pre-measured pods, filter bags, or portion packaged pre-ground coffee. Convenience is a trend that has infiltrated our entire culture – even our coffee culture. In the world of coffee, convenience suggests the use of lesser quality beans – Robustas – that are widely used in commercial blends, and that lack the flavor, richness and aroma of the Arabicas. While convenience is not without its merits, coffee should be exempt from the marketing of convenience. We believe our customers deserve better.

We offer a wide variety of coffee beans, and some are so wonderful that they need further elaboration. I’ll spare you too much detail here, and let you explore our selection yourself. But for now, one of my best sellers is the Sumatra Dark Roast. Some of the finest coffee beans hail from Indonesia. All have a deep, heavy body with fine acidity, which gives brightness and clarity to the flavor. Grown in a region where volcanic ash adds to superior soil conditions, the crops are relatively small. The richness of the Sumatra Dark Roast bean cannot be overstated.

Another very popular bean is our Yemen Mocha, long established as one of the world’s most delicious coffees. Before describing the characteristics of this bean, here’s a bit of trivia. Grown in Yemen, the “Mocha” part of this bean’s name actually designates the origin designation for a type of coffee. This is true of a lot of coffee: part of the name refers to a geographic origin. Prior to the mid-1800s, Mocha was a small port on the Red Sea from which coffee was exported. Today, this small crop is shipped through the ports of Aden and Hodeida, but the name Mocha stuck as a geographical marker. Yemen Mocha is a very pleasant coffee, wonderfully complex and with a somewhat heavy body. It is both smooth and piquant. While the name suggests the flavor of coffee and chocolate in combination (I get asked about this often!), be assured that coffee does not taste like chocolate unless chocolate is added.

Our Costa Rica Peaberry is a smallish bean that has the appearance of a berry. Grown at high altitudes assures a high quality bean. (In fact, the higher the altitude, the harder the bean…and the harder the bean, the finer the coffee.) The Costa Rica Peaberry bean is known for its high acidity, fine body, and good aroma.

I hope you take an opportunity to browse through our coffee selection, either in-store or on our website. As a coffee consumer – or as a consumer of anything – it’s important for you to get to know and understand the products you purchase. The best coffees are those cultivated with attention to growing conditions, including temperature, soil, moisture, and sun/shade ratio. All of these factors affect the quality of the bean and the flavor and aroma it will offer. Yes, it is all about the bean!

February is all about Love

February is all about Love

Yes, February is gray and cold, but Valentine’s Day gives us a reason to shake off winter’s grip and redirect our attention, creativity, and love toward the special one in our life. The purpose of my blog is to inform and get you familiar with some of the neat culinary gadgets that are out there – tools that make cooking fun, easy, and interesting. With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s time to start thinking about a really special dessert to make, and the tools you might need.

I’ll begin with something simple that needs no preparation. Maybe your Valentine is a wine lover. For oenophiles (yes, that’s a word!), perhaps it’s a favorite bottle of wine, or buying the best wine corkscrew in the world. That distinction, hands down, belongs to Monopol. Yes, they’re pricey, but they’re worth it. The best-known Monopol bar tools are the Bacchus and the Barolo. Each is a study in the beauty of design and magnificent engineering. I invite you to take a look. Two things need to be said about these corkscrews. First, Monopol corkscrews are serious barware for the serious wine lover…someone who instantly recognizes the name “Monopol”, or someone who loves their home bar as much as they love their life. Second, I need to insert a word of caution: If you are price shopping in Internetland, and find the price of Monopol on a site that seems too good to be true, it’s usually because it is. Quality item like these German-made wine tools have been copied and are not authentic. Enough said.

Back to Valentine’s Day. Since we’re a website for foodies, I want to focus on food: this month, desserts. Since it’s the Month of Love, getting you comfortable enough to tackle a dessert or two that you might have thought was a challenge…a dessert that might evoke a response from your Valentine, like – YOU DID THAT FOR ME?! – is what I want to accomplish. Planning a special Valentine treat is a great time to advance your culinary skills to a whole new level.

A Valentine’s Day favorite that is a must-try is a creamy, dreamy, heart-shaped dessert called Coeur a la Crème. There are no serious challenges here…it’s so easy and pretty inexpensive. What you will need is a heart-shaped mold, cheesecloth, and a few very simple ingredients. The recipe can be found on the web page for the Coeur a la Crème mold. This dessert is delicious, beautiful, and very special! You’ll see that there is a large mold – perfect for a small group – and individual molds. What makes this dessert so scrumptious is serving it topped with fresh fruit and a fruit sauce so that every bite has something creamy and fruity. The contrasting flavors are divine.

Moving on to another Valentine’s dessert heart throb, there isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love crème brulee. There are hundreds of recipes for this crowd pleaser that all share the same basic ingredients of cream, eggs, and sugar. Variations in flavor can include infusing just a bit of lemon zest, Amaretto, or lavender flowers into the custard, being careful not to overdo it. Recipes for every variety of crème brulee can be found in books or online, and are so simple to make.

Part of the allure of crème brulee is the crunchy carmelized sugar topping, so delicate that it will shatter at the touch of your spoon. By the time you’re ready to think about carmelizing the top of your crème brulee, your custard should be set. To carmelize sugar you’ll need a culinary torch. Do some research on the number of uses for a culinary torch. There are quite a few, from melting cheeses to putting finishing touches on meringues.

Remember that carmelizing the sugar on the top of the crème brulee happens right before serving. The custard should be set before sprinkling the sugar on top. Don’t be too sparing with the sugar. It takes more than just a pinch in order to carmelize. If you see that you haven’t added enough, don’t be shy — add more and torch. Be patient as you use your culinary torch. It will take the sugar a few moments to carmelize, but keep a close eye on it, because it will go quickly.

Both the Coeur a la Crème and Crème Brulee desserts will make you want to rush through dinner. I hope you don’t do that. Enjoy your meal with a nice glass of wine, knowing that good things (great things!) are worth waiting for. Bon appétit!

Year of the Gadget

2016 - The Year of the Gadget

If you were to take a stroll through our store – or even through the website – you’ll find things you’ve never seen (or heard of) before. These are the hard-to-find kitchen tools and gadgets that make working in your kitchen fun, interesting, and, in some cases, a whole lot easier. Each month this year I’ll select a food theme and a related unusual kitchen tool to talk about. I’ll share information like the tool’s history (if available), material composition, and purpose. Some, but not all, of the items I’ll discuss are on my website, in which case I’ll provide a link so you get an image. I hope you’ll find this information informative and useful.

Since this is the ‘season of citrus’ I thought we’d begin the year with some of the best tools to access the pulp and juice from the fruit. The first is the somewhat ordinary Citrus Reamer. It wasn’t until I started getting lemons from my two cedro lemon trees that I had a new-found respect for the citrus reamer. Cedro lemons are huge and hard to handle (some are larger than baseballs!). The peel is quite thick, and the pulp is very tight. The citrus reamer is the only tool I’ve found to be effective in getting the pulp to release the juice in these monsters. Each section of the fruit has to be reamed, one at a time. The job is much easier after about the third section, and almost every drop is extracted.

Another great juice extraction tool is the Westmark Citrus Juicer. This juice press is for regular-sized citrus, not something as unwieldy as the Cedro lemon, and is designed to release every drop of juice from the fruit. With the halved fruit in place, close the press and apply pressure. To get all the juice, I often press down with upper body weight. The extraction process begins in the center of the fruit. Adjust the fruit in the press and apply pressure again to release the juice from the vitamin-rich layers toward the outside of the fruit (just underneath the peel). The Westmark Fruit Press works well for oranges, lemons, and limes – not so much for grapefruit.

One of the most overlooked parts of citrus is the rind, which in itself has nutritional benefits. Most often, citrus rind is used to amp up the flavor intensity of anything from salad dressings to cheesecakes. Rind needs to be “zested” carefully so that just the outer peel is removed and not the bitter white pith, which will detract from the flavor of the zest. Any kitchen tool that has a very fine grating surface – that is, a surface that is fine enough to grate garlic, hard cheese, or a whole nutmeg – is also good for zesting citrus. There’s no need to buy a second tool exclusively for citrus. A good grating tool for all of these items is the stainless steel grater from Ilsa.

Remember to wash your citrus with soap and water and rinse well before use. Otherwise, pesticides can enter the fruit when it’s sliced with a knife. Washing the fruit before zesting the peel is also a good ideal.

Finally, since we’re talking about all things citrus, I need to mention a beautiful, mildly citrusy confection we recently started carrying: our Limoncello Bites. If a marzipan-white chocolate pairing coated with lemon juice and coarse sea salt combination appeals to you, this may be your new favorite candy. Good eats, friends!

September is National Wine Month

September is National Wine Month!

Happy Wine Month to all! Did you know that there are people who spend their lives and livelihoods waiting for September when the grape harvest is in full swing? I went on a wine tour recently and learned a great deal about the growing process. Just like coffee growers, grape growers need to pay particular attention to growing conditions for their crop. For grapes, rocky soils that provide an abundance of important minerals and complex nutrients create unique, great tasting wines. And sun, lot of sun. On our tour, our host provided delicious pairings with each wine sample. We often think about a particular wine being paired with a particular dish. Rather than a meal, per se, our host emphasized pairing with a simple dish that highlighted certain herbs. A dry Riesling paired with thyme or tarragon or mint; a chardonnay with cilantro or dill; a pinot noir with rosemary or sage. It was sensational! I hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit your local winery and check out the varieties they showcase in this season of the grape. In the meantime, we thought September might be a good time to put our wine accessories on sale – maybe for some early Christmas shopping for the wine lover on your list!

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