Kettles and a game from Esther Perel
31 DECEMBER 2021
A Belgian in New York
About a month or six weeks ago, whilst aimlessly wandering around YouTube, I came across a Belgian psychotherapist, who lives in New York, by the name of Esther Perel. Shortly after discovering her, it turns out a friend had previously done the same, and remarked to me that Esther reminded her of Babette, and perhaps that is partly why in the intervening time I've watched a number of her videos, which I find comforting, full of sharp observations and plenty of common sense...very Babette. Indeed I was impressed enough to search out her website and whilst looking around it, came across a game she'd invented that, from her description, intrigued me. She says "The game is designed to help us connect and reconnect in a time of social atrophy". But I was then disappointed to find that, at present, she only sells it in the States.
Happily, a good number of years ago Babette and I met a couple (at one of those "ghastly street parties" which like all/most parties, I loathe) called Casey and Tessa. Even more happily Casey is American and yet even more euphoric than that, he has a mother, Mandy, who we've also become good friends with, as she often visits the UK, and specifically her son and daughter in law. So I suppose, grudgingly, I have to admit that parties do have their place....but surely to God there has to be a better way of chancing upon new friends...doesn't there?
Anyway, back to the game, finding my purchase thwarted by geography, I took a chance and I sent Mandy an email asking her if she would have room in her case to bring it over with her? She very kindly said she'd be delighted to do so, so I had it delivered to her.
Earlier last week we were round with said friends plus Mandy, (who had just turned up for her Christmas visit), a group of nine of us in all. If you're thinking that this starting to sound like a party, then let me assure you how wrong you are, this was a very civilised affair with no loud music and no idle chit chat, just a bunch of friends enjoying each others company. And at one point I opened the game which (it's about storytelling, see below*) added even more to the interesting conversations. My memeory however by this time is a little uncertain as Casey and I had finished a very nice bottle of a South African Bordeaux(!) (everyone else was drinking white or abstaining) and Casey then produced a bottle of a wine, the style of which I never usually drink.
Rioja, for me, is a wine, to be avoided at all costs, a wine that in my experince tastes more of the oak barrel its been stored in, than the grapes it's made from. And I'd always assumed that this was because the wine tasted so awful that they had to disguise it by storing it in something smelly! Well I have now to admit that I am wrong, or at least in this case, as the Rioja in question was a "1994 Bodegas Urbina Gran Reserva". Oak was there for sure and therefore Vanilla but there was a depth to the flavours that took my breath away. Having read reviews on Vivino these asurred me that tobacco was present and earthy notes as well. I'm afraid my tasting and descriptive skills are just not upto describing this any further, but superb is a rating I'd give it very happily, and that's coming from a rather fixated Bordeaux lover, who is rather inclined to dismiss Pinot Noir (overrated, I say this rather quietly as all my friends at Riedel are out and out Pinot fans, but I've just never got head around it...lack of sophistication in my palate?), Beaujolais (sweet and undrinkable) , and of course Rose (no one drinks Rose)! So maybe there's hope for me yet, if I can open my mind to Rioja, what other treats are in store...?
It goes without saying that we were drinking this out of the correct(ish) Riedel glasses, which are ones I think I gave them several years ago. And, in fact, I've found, as time has gone on, that this is a good policy with any friend with whom I anticipate some form of regular imbibing. In fact, now that I come to think of it, pretty well all the households I'm likely to visit where wine is on the menu, do now have Riedel glasses! So "my" Riedel glasses now stretch as far north as Liverpool and Birmingham as far south as deepest Sussex, and in the west, Bath and of course some of the land that lies between, including various watering holes in and around Reigate, naturally!
KitchenAid Artisan Kettle
Well enough of this and onto product. When Kitchenaid introduced their Artisan kettle, 8 or 9 years ago, we had one returned by a customer who didn't like it for some reason. I brought it home and as our lovely old Siemens kettle was on its way out, the Kitchenaid stayed. I never liked its looks, looking fat, the worst of American over the top design, a bit like a 1970's Cadillac but without the flair. Having said that, it is in fact, a very good kettle. It has a decent capacity, it boils fast, it's quiet, it has variable temperature control, so that you don't have to singe your tea leaves, and it's durable and pours well. Ours, which I'm sort of pleased to say, has developed a mind of its own and now boils water, whatever temperature I set it to, is now 8 or 9 years old but looks as "good" as the day I acquired it, the paint is unmarked and, being a cream one, it hasn't stained or changed colour!
Artisan Kettle decidedly unsexy but otherwise excellent and long lasting, in a choice of colours £149
Smeg Jug Kettle Variable Temp
So, having found a reason to say goodbye to our Artisan, we needed a new kettle.
For me the two obvious choices are from either Cuisinart or Smeg. The Cuisinart Multi Temp Kettle is a really great product, but I told you about it a month or so ago so won't repeat it here. We do however have it on offer at present at £65 reduced from £85.
But if you want something with a bit more sex appeal then the Smeg kettle is probably going to fit the bill rather better. It's beautiful to look at, when you wake it up in the morning it replies with an R2D2 series of trills, when you then set up the temperature you want and set it going it replies again. When the water boils, it gives you another electronic shout to tell you and if you are going to need more water, as a top up in the next 20 mins or so, you can ask it to keep warm and it'll do just that. It has an easy to open lid (just push a large button in the lid) and it opens nice and slowly and is easy to fill. Downsides? Well compared with the Kitchenaid it's a touch slower to boil I feel, but only a touch, and a touch more sound when boiling. Yours for a slightly eye watering £169 although at present we have it on offer at £159!
And if you don't need the keep warm function or variable temperature then there's a "Simple Model" to be had for only £139, currently £129, or less.
That's it for this week, so I'll finish by wishing you a very pleasant New Years Weekend and I hope, a very good and happy New Year, whatever that may look like for you.
Andrew Bluett-Duncan Director
* The game asks the players to tell a story about yourself, for example "I hope to be remembered for...." "I need to fight harder for..." I owe a thank you to ...." " An experience that shaped who I am...". A story that I hope my kids will tell about me... etc. The idea being that the players learn things about each other that otherwise might never see the light of day, qualities that you just never realised your friends have.