I have five boys, and there are two things that would make my family’s life easier—a refrigerator with a separate door that makes it convenient for my kids to get drinks and snacks. And a huge washing machine.
The Kenmore Elite 7206 Grab-N-Go refrigerator features a door-in-door. It did well in our tests and offers the convenience of easy access to frequently used items such as juice, milk, cheese, and snack items without needing to open the refrigerator’s French doors—a waste of energy. And at 31 cubic feet, it’s family sized.
The huge LG WM8000H[V]A front-loading washing machine looks like it could stand up to a lot of punishment. It’s top rated and the largest capacity washer in our tests. It also offers excellent energy efficiency, which will save me money.
(See also: Five large appliance features that are worth it)
I’ve coveted the Vitamix 5200 blender ever since I watched a Vitamix rep demonstrate its prowess at a trade show. As a journalist, I’m trained to be skeptical of what goes on at press events, but later in the Consumer Reports labs, the Vitamix 5200 lived up to the hype by beating out more than 50 blenders to become our top-rated model.
Granted, $450 is a princely sum for a blender, especially when several recommended models in our Ratings cost between $60 and $100. But I know our home will get enough use out of the machine to justify the cost. For one thing, I like to start each weekday morning with a smoothie. Our current blender does a decent job, but it’s a pain to clean and store. For another, my wife and I recently had our second child, so we’d save a lot of money on homemade baby food, thanks to the Vitamix’s superb puréeing.
Beyond making smoothies and purées, I’m sure there are many unexpected uses I’d discover for my Vitamix. It’s one of those products with a fervent fan base, so there’s no shortage of online recipe sharing. I recently discovered one for almond milk (a key ingredient in my morning smoothie) on Vitamix’s Facebook page. Hopefully I’ll be liking both—the almond milk and the Facebook page—before too long.
When I was asked which product I’d put on my wish list this year, my mind went directly to products I could use when I cook. I love to cook. I could do it all day long if I had to. In fact, I did, back when I owned a restaurant.
I'm lucky to be the one here at Consumer Reports who goes out and finds all the latest and greatest cooking products for our testers. Once the products are in the lab, I'll usually spend some time with them. The one product line that stands out when you see our range lab, which is usually packed with upward of 20 ranges at various stages of testing, is the pro-style ranges.
Clad in shiny stainless steel, topped with full-width thick cast-iron grates, big beefy knobs, and ovens with high-powered infrared burners, these things make a Top Chef wannabe drool. Since this is a dream wish list, I'd forgo the smallish 30-inch size and go straight for the 48-inch (a size we don’t test). The high-powered burners would prompt me to go out and add a full-sized wok to my array of cookware so that I could take full advantage of the range top.
KitchenAid is at the top of our Ratings, but the brand lacks the commercial-kitchen street cred I’m looking for. Besides, KitchenAid makes dual-fuel ranges, and my kitchen is set up for gas.
So, at the top of my wish list? Wolf, which harkens back to the range I had in my restaurant. Specifically the Wolf R484DG, which has two ovens, four burners, and a huge dual griddle that’s 22 by 18½ inches, or 407 square inches. The range is similar to the Wolf R304 in our ratings, sharing the same cooktop burners and 30-inch range, but that’s where the similarities end. The price: a hefty $10,000.
My wish list item is The DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Circolo. It’s on my list for a number of reasons.
First, it's a single-serve coffee, cappuccino, espresso, and beverage maker that ensures a hot cup of coffee at all times. I find it fun and easy to operate, and with it I can prepare a variety of coffeehouse-quality drinks. The fact that there is no measuring makes it all the more convenient.
I like the thermoblock technology that heats the water fresh every time, the custom control lever that allows you to customize beverage strength, and the removable water tank and capsule container that makes it easy to clean. There is also a blue LED light that illuminates each cup of coffee.
This single-serve coffeemaker is great for entertaining because you can make your guests any beverage they want. And beyond that, I like the ultra-modern look, and the trendy red color works well with my other small appliances. Plus, at $150, it's affordable.
One drawback is that the capsules are a bit expensive, but for the ease and convenience the Circolo offers, it's still on my list.
Ever since I bought my house, I’ve been blue about the pink kitchen counters and tile floor. I hate pink and most other pastels. Still, it didn’t seem prudent to replace the counters, since they were almost new when I moved in. So, of course, I’m tickled pink that I can at least wish for a room with another color.
The countertops I crave are made of recycled glass. In our tests, it came in behind the top-rated quartz and granite, and one brand developed a hairline crack. But the shards of glass encased in a penetrating sealer were brilliantly colored, and I especially like the large pieces of cobalt blue in white. These counters scored excellent in our cutting, heat, and abrasion tests.
As long as I’m ripping out the counter, I might as well replace the sink, too. Kohler has just come out with a line of brightly colored sinks made of enameled cast iron. There’s a blue that would match my cobalt counters perfectly. In our tests, this material fared better than enameled steel under heavy dropped objects resembling a kitchen pot.
Last, I can’t wait to get rid of my impossible-to-clean pink tile floor. I’ve shattered many a plate on that floor and would love something that provides a softer landing. Since the rest of the floors in my house are oak, I’d like the Mullican St. Andrews Solid Oak Strip 10930. It resisted scratches and stains and held up better under foot traffic than most solid-wood floors.
But I won’t be getting any of those things this year. What I’m really getting is new gutters. In white.
Erin Gudeux, Project Leader, Sensory
50 pieces of chocolate bliss in a beautiful box
I would love a box of really, I mean really, good chocolates. And not just any chocolates. I’m talking wickedly good little bonbons—you close your eyes so that you can savor the smooth, rich, melting lusciousness. The kind that are almost better than . . . well, you know.
I grew up thinking that the standard yellow box from the drugstore that my father treated us to every Christmas was the epitome of what the cacao plant could produce. I’ve since refined my chocolate palate, sampling succulent morsels from the finest, and some not so fine, purveyors. I’ve become so saturated by these sinful little treats that I very rarely find them tempting any more. Except for one—from Jacques Torres.
These very unusual chocolates may not appeal to everyone, but they tickle my jaded palate every time. Smooth milk chocolate with a liquid golden heart of pure butter and rum caramel. A delightful riff on a treasured childhood favorite of mine—deeply roasted peanut butter sandwiched between chocolate “crusts.” Tangy passion fruit encased in a chocolate heart, combining sweet and sour in a perfect balance with a chocolate rich in complexity. Or my secret passion, a perfect blend of dark chocolate and smoky chilis, with just enough heat to bring color to your cheeks and a tingle to your tongue. Just like the best kiss.
So if I had my wish? Since I can’t have Hugh Jackman under my tree, I’d like a box of Jacques.