Where Serious Cooks Shop for Pots

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Bummer!

Your Salad Shooter just went bust - right in the middle of power-slicing a cucumber into a bowl of iceberg lettuce. Guests are coming for dinner, and you need a replacement, pronto.

So you grab a taxi and hustle off to Bridge Kitchenware here on East 52nd Street in Manhattan.

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After listening patiently to your plight, Carolynn Bridge knows exactly where to point you - out the door.

Before she does that, Mrs. Bridge will surely suggest you trash that silly Salad Shooter and buy a proper chef's knife.

No plug-in cucumber slicers on these shelves, no electric knives, or battery-operated pepper mills. "We sell only professional kitchenware," says Bridge.

Her clientele includes the top chefs in the country, culinary school students, and a number of savvy home cooks who consider quality pots and pans something of heirloom value.

When asked about a particular brand of pricey cookware I've been collecting over the years, Bridge is straightforward: "[That brand] is a dirty word around here," she responds, "It's a lot of glitz but it's not professional equipment. The rivets go through to the inside of the pots, so you can't clean it properly, the handles are too narrow and wobbly, and they get too hot.

"We're opinionated around here," says Bridge, "but we're honest." She points out some cookware from France and Italy. "This is professional equipment."

You will find quality here from the best vegetable peeler (for a few bucks) to a brass French duck press, "about $1,200."

"Actually, we're out of duck presses," says a co-worker. "We should be getting them in next week."

I guess my guests will have to wait for my Canton Rouennais la Presse.

Who does buy $1,200 duck presses?

"A lot of lodges out West buy them for display," says Bridge.

Bridge Kitchenware has been scoffing at Ginsu knives, and the like, since Fred Bridge, Carolynn's late husband, opened the store back in1946.

But if you're looking for a yanagi-ba-bocho (a sword-like sushi knife) or a four-foot fish saw - "It's used to cut the head off fresh tuna," Bridge informs - you've come to the right store.

There's also a dazzling forest of polished French copperware dangling from the 22-foot ceiling. "And how do you clean all this?"

"I'll show you," Bridge says. "With this. Simichrome Polish from Germany. It's the best. We even have motorcyclists buy it to polish the chrome on their tail pipes."

The Bridge catalog lists a "sampling" of more than 275 tin-plated cookie cutters, with the added note, "If you don't see what you are looking for, please call." Here is a short list of basic, quality items recommended by Bridge Kitchenware:

* 1-1/2 and 3-quart stainless steel Sitram saucepans, with covers

* Pasta pot with colander

* Cuisinart food processor

* A large Paderno roasting pan

* Peugeot pepper mill

* Two 9x9x2-inch cake pans

* Two heavy cookie sheets

* 8-inch chefs, and 3-1/2-inch paring knives

* Stainless steel stock pot (the larger the better)

* Large stainless steel whisk

* For more information visit their Web site: www.bridgekitchenware.com

KUNG PAO SHRIMP

(Spicy Stir-Fried Shrimp)

Michael Tong, proprietor:

Shun Lee Palace

14 to16 large shrimp (approximately 1-1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped.

2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, white part only

1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

1/4 cup rice-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

5 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon Szechwan hot bean paste

Pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (optional)

3 cups peanut oil

2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Shell, devein, rinse and pat dry the shrimp; lightly dust with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, then set aside.

Combine the garlic, scallions, and ginger in a small bowl, toss to mix, and set aside.

Combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, hot bean paste, salt, and if desired, the monosodium glutamate in another bowl, stir to mix and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok set over high heat, then add the shrimp and cook about 1 1/2 minutes; stir constantly. Transfer to a sieve-lined bowl; drain and discard all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of cooking oil.

Return the reserved oil to the wok and, when hot, add the garlic mixture and cook 10 seconds; stir constantly. Add the vinegar sauce and bring to the boil, then add cornstarch paste and cook until thickened; stir constantly. Return the shrimp to the wok to both heat through and coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

- From The Well Tooled Kitchen, by Fred Bridge and Jean F. Tibbetts, (Morrow, 1991)

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