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Unusual Tools for Thanksgiving Feasts

Thanksgiving is a time of culinary transformation. Weeks are spent gathering details for the gluttony ripening in our kitchens. While you're scratching your head and waiting for Aunt Betty and cousin Johnny to reply to their tardy e-vite, three stores will help boost your culinary ego. Cookin' Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances, Economy Restaurant Fixtures, and Kamei Restaurant Supply will elevate you from doughboy to professional chef.

Holiday meals are clever disguises for home chefs to replenish their kitchen. But this year, stray from cookie cutter kitchen emporiums. Forget Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table, or Home Chef. If memories of grandmother's baking tools warm your heart, you'll enjoy the recycled cookware at Cookin'. Perhaps you belong to an extended family of fifty? Economy Restaurant Supply makes it easy to feed an army with their industrial sized cookware. Or, for those seeking a slightly less "traditional" Thanksgiving, Kamei offers Asian-influenced tableware and cooking gear at reasonable prices.

Cookin' Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances is located off Divisadero and Page in the Western Addition. As its name implies, this store has a motherlode of specialized kitchen gadgets from all cultures and ages. Darkly lit, your pupils take a minute to adjust from Divisidero's hustle and bustle. Scanning across the store- two thoughts come to mind. Judith Kaminsky, the store owner, was surely a top performing Tetris gamer during the late eighties. Secondly, you hope the store has full coverage for earthquake catastrophe insurance. Stockpiles upon stockpiles of gourmet kitchen supplies are stacked everywhere with amazing precision. Whether on the floor, shelves, tables, or dangling from above, you will be amazed at Judith's stacking proficiency. Like a thrift store or vinyl junkie, she combs out estate sales, garage sales and trade shows. Over time her store has amassed recycled gourmet tools that culinary eccentrics would lust after.

You might enter Cookin' trying to find that missing piece in your table setting. Don't be surprised if you walk out with a forty-pound hexagon-shaped donut roller, circa 1940. For cooks, chefs and seekers of the unconventional, Cookin' inhibits consumer restraint. The store runs the gamut from a full Le Creuset pantry, vintage salt and pepper shakers, iron meat grinders, butter dishes, egg poachers and garlic presses of all shapes and sizes, clay baking pots, stemware, barware, knives and graters. Impulse items might include a teddy bear baking pan, fondue sets, fruit presses, madeleine molding pans, ravioli rolling pins, 70's Hawaiian cookbooks, Ovaltine shakers, pineapple corers and chocolate molds.

Cookin' also has a substantial selection of cookie cutters that puts grandma's collection to shame. Ranging from $2 to $10 and spanning a 40-year history, your holiday guests will be sinking their sweet tooths into sugar cookies in the shapes of race cars, bells, birds, hats or any other objects that come to mind. Another treasure was Cookin's towering collection of cake domes and stands, made from plastic, glass, and crystal (ranging from $50 - $80).

Economy Restaurant Fixtures, located South of Market on Seventh Street, is a behemoth mart that resembles the size of Costco. Economy provides "national distribution equipment and supplies at everyday low prices." They sell everything from bakery equipment, dinnerware and cutlery to janitorial and bussing supplies. Be sure to keep your kids on a tight leash or you may find them playing hide-and-go-seek in the 100-quart stock pots and six-foot woks. Never will you step into a cooking store where kitchen supplies look so menacing. Armed with a three-foot potato masher ($36.85) or a four foot French wire whip ($74.65), Iron Chef could take on Bruce Lee in his prime.

Economy offers industrial-sized everything: 500-pound dough pressers, fast food deep fryers, double Belgian waffle irons and Broil-O-Dog cradles and bun warmers. But don't let size intimidate you. There is plenty of cookware and chef tools that will fit your culinary needs. A sturdy v-shaped 15" x 11" non-stick roast rack ($19.95) will hold the heaviest of Butter Ball turkeys. Push your shopping cart down one more aisle to find an 18" x 20" x 3" roast pan ($33.75) that'll collect enough turkey drippings for a sufficient gravy. To make sure your temperamental turkey remains juicy and evenly cooked, pick up a 1" dial pocket thermometer ($7.97). There's no better place to find an assortment of fry pans. Non-stick fry pans range from 7" - 14" ($16.75 - $43.99) and when heated properly will make au jus stick to the ribs.

For a non-traditional approach to Thanksgiving, Kamei Restaurant Supply, located in the Inner Richmond district, is your connection to Asian household goods and kitchen amenities. From the outside, Kamei looks like any ordinary store on Clement Street; sale racks line the entryways and tease street goers to make quick purchases. But step inside and take a look at their Asian restaurant know-how. In need of a rice cooker to make a sticky rice stuffing? Kamei has over 40 rice cookers: from an individual 4 cup serving size ($36.50) to a 26 cup serving size ($150). Japanese tea -pots (ranging from $8.99 - $60) or sake sets ($12.99 and up) will accompany any occasion. Perhaps a turkey stir fry with cashews, broccoli, and shitake mushrooms might spice up your leftovers? Look no further for the right wok. For the price of two Peet's lattes you can buy a 14" wok ($5.99).

You'll enjoy how these stores stretch your imagination to the scope, size and variety of cooking equipment and kitchenware. After visiting you'll walk out knowing you've found unique and proper tools that lend to a masterful Thanksgiving meal.