We have a passion for the perfect cup of coffee and a big appetite for grilled eats, or so it seems judging by the diversity (and number) of gadgets and appliances at the recent 2011 International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.

But those aren’t the only whiz-bang electrics, gizmos and Rube Goldberg contraptions that attracted 60,000 people to the annual event. There were cleverly reworked kitchen tools, ceramic knives galore and a rainbow of silicone utensils all designed to make food prep, cooking and storage a breeze.

Here’s a look at a few interesting items from the show. Some are available right now; others will become available over the next few months.

HOT-POT BBQ: A lovely pot of herbs can grow — until you are ready for some grilling. Just remove the pot and a barbecue grill appears. The stainless steel unit with a heat-insulating ceramic coating is for charcoal grilling. It’s $124 at black-blum.com.

MASTRAD CHIPS MAKER: Turn thin potato slices (or veggies or fruit) into chips sans fat and salt in a matter of microwave minutes. Or season with a spritz of olive oil and sprinkle of herbs. It’s $20 for a 2-tray set or $20 for a tray-and-mandoline set. At mastrad.us.

BODUM BISTRO KNIFE BLOCK: A mass of plastic bristles tucked inside a plastic block (in a bright array of color choices) allows storage of any shape knife within the block. It’s $45 at bodum.com.

COLOR ALERT 60-MINUTE TIMER: This timer uses color and sound to alert cooks: It stays green while cooking, pulses yellow when there’s less than 10 minutes to go, pulses red with 1 minute or less, then sounds an alarm when done. It’s $10, battery operated and from Amco Houseworks. At chicagometallic bakeware.com

COLLAPSIBLE MINI PRODUCE KEEPER: A plastic produce keeper from Progressive International holds 2 quarts fully opened, can be partially collapsed to hold less, then completely collapsed for storage. It’s $13 at progressiveintl.com.


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