Mr. Coffee and VillaWare: Simple and Sexy In The Kitchen

Mother's Day is past, but Father's Day is fast approaching. Not to mention that it's wedding season, and there are probably a few new graduates out there in need of a gift or two. Once you've gotten or given silverware and dishware, the obligatory blender and microwave, you still need a few more things to outfit your kitchen properly. We've got a twist on the everyday essential coffeemaker, but also an item that shouldn't be overlooked. After all, who doesn't love a good waffle?

For caffeine addicts, one important quality in a coffee maker is convenience. We've talked many times about various pod systems- especially our favorites, the K-Cup system from Keurig that features roasters and brands like Diedrich, Emeril, Caribou, and Green Mountain. One nice thing about these machines is that you can grind your own, perhaps using an excellent grinder like the Baratza on our shelf, and use any coffee in a cleanable filter basket. A downside, though, was that some of the machines are fairly large, meant for commercial or office use. For an individual at home, these machines can be overkill- which is why Mr. Coffee offers their own Single Serve Brewing System.

It's fairly similar to the unit available directly from Keurig. Ours was silver and black, but we hear that red and white options are coming soon. The unit looks good next to most small appliances, but isn't shiny enough to pick up fingerprints. The handle system is a bit different from other K-cup brewers, but allows the unit to fit into a smaller space. It heats up (and re-heats) slower than other Keurig brewers, but aside from that, offers the same quality brew. Of course, the water reservoir is much smaller, and it requires a bit of finesse at first, as you need to pour into the back of the unit and it is not removable. On the upside, it's quiet. But the biggest downside is that you are restricted to a single size of cup to be dispensed. The default happened to be our normal cup size, but the various options we know well from other machines were especially handy for some lighter brews as well as teas. If that doesn't bother you, and you are looking for a Keurig coffee machine, this is the cheapest available at under $60- a bargain for what continues to be the best single-serve system on the market.

One of the best things about nicer hotel breakfasts are their waffle makers. You know- the ones where you drop in some pre-made batter, close the lid, flip the entire tray over, and a timer counts down to a perfect waffle? We've always wanted one, since the advantages were obvious. VillaWare actually managed to improve on the idea, and their Belgian Flip Waffle Maker is the best one we've used. It manages to beat out units costing much more, and looks nicer than many. In fact, when asked the likely pricetag of our latest appliance, other writers guessed more than double the actual cost.

For starters, it looks and feels pretty classy. The shiny chrome and black is accented by a large power button light, which glows nicely. The only cheap-seeming part is the drip tray, but the rest of the unit is sturdy, hefty, and solid. Opening the griddle surface feels smooth, as does rotating it. Though the power cord is a bit short, the temperature settings offered plenty of room for adjustment depending on which type of waffle you want. We tried a couple of batter recipes, and made a couple of dozen, and are now deeply in love. From first to last, each was consistent, perfectly made and the nonstick surface released them pretty easily. Clean-up was simple, and the unit nicely beeps not only to indicate a waffle is done, but also to let you know when it is heated up and ready for the next one, as well as during initial heat-up. Rarely do we find a new device that we want to use every day, but this is one of them. And at $80 or so, it's a bargain.

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