Innovative Features · Outdoor Kitchen

2 gorgeous local outdoor kitchens

We were lucky enough to tour a pair of amazing outdoor kitchens recently with Elizabeth Ries of “Twin Cities Live” to highlight some of the newest ideas and also some things you can add to your own backyard without spending a bundle.

Carla Warner shares the importance of creating a comfortable space within whatever budget you’re working with.

>>Watch the segment

To me, that’s creating some warmth for late-night and late-season gatherings.

Here are my 2 picks:

For $999, this heater-on-wheels brings the party, playing your iPod from its own speakers while flashing LED lights to the beat.
For $149, Weber's wood-burning fireplace is specially designed for safe use around your family. Did someone say s'mores?
Appliance Design · cooking · Innovative Features · Microwave · Ovens · Things I Want

Microwave with Pizza Oven = Best Grad Gift Ever

Despite my personality, I managed to be one of the most popular girls in my dorm’s wing during my freshman year of college.

How?

A microwave. But this was no ordinary microwave, which every Megan, Katie and Laura owned. My microwave had a toaster built in.

Just another perk of being appliance retail royalty. (And my very first Warners' Stellian purchase; I've since given it away, unfortunately)

And toasters, as you may our may not know, belong in the can’t-have-in-a-dorm-room category. So you can imagine my novelty among the carb-happy set.

LG since discontinued that microwave, clearly to make room for a countertop appliance that would change college life forever.

A microwave that can support the other thing besides ramen that college students eat: pizza.

The LG LCSP1110ST includes a 1400-watt pizza oven below its microwave cavity capable of baking the frozen staple as well as other nutritious goods like frozen french fries and cookies.

And the LCSP1110 is really just a countertop microwave in its essence, so your treat-making should operate sans censure.

Can you say best graduation gift ever?

Don’t worry about trusting your grad with an oven, either. This LG microwave’s AUTO PIZZA function takes all the thinking guesswork out:

Four pizza bake functions are preset in the oven. The AUTO PIZZA feature automatically selects the best cooking method and time for various pizza types. The cooking guide shows which AUTO PIZZA function is recommended for the the pizza you are cooking.

A regular-crust frozen pizza bakes in only 15 minutes in the pizza oven. That’s faster than delivery, or even taking the stairs down to the dining hall.

Anyone who says you can’t buy friends didn’t dangle the right carrot, er, pizza. And this one’s a steal in my opinion at $200.

Cleaning · cooking · Cooktops · Energy Efficiency · Innovative Features · Ranges

Induction cooktops work like a gas cooktop, using electric power

Induction burners heat only magnetic surfaces (like cookware) and nothing else.

While visiting a home in my neighborhood on the Minneapolis – St. Paul Home Tour yesterday, a tour representative said this homeowner’s renovation included switching from an electric stove to a gas stove and how much the representative wished she had a gas stove top in her own home.

“Well, what about induction?” I asked her.

It’s no longer just a choice between gas or electric stoves; homeowners with electric hookups can enjoy all the power of gas plus more responsiveness.

What do you lose with induction? All the wasteful energy loss. Cooking with induction is 70% more efficient than gas and 20% more efficient than electric.

Clean up is easier than smooth top gas ranges because spills don’t burn onto the surface. You can stick a hundred-dollar bill between an induction burner element and a pot of boiling water without worry

Why? Induction burners only heat magnetic surfaces (so you’ll know if your pots and pans are compatible if a magnet sticks to the bottom!), which also make induction cooktops popular choices for kid- and pet-safe kitchens.

Due to its recent rise in popularity (induction has been around since the ’70s but only took off recently), brands now make induction ranges in addition to induction cooktops.

More chefs and gourmet cooks are choosing induction; we put a Thermador induction cooktop in Midtown Global Market’s Kitchen in the Market just this year. I can’t wait to see more people delight in the ability to cook like they’re using gas without the cost and hassle of switching from electric.

grilling · Innovative Features · Outdoor Kitchen

Totum outdoor patio heater plays your iPod

Remember that terrible snow we had this week? Sorry, that was my fault. I was dreaming of relaxing on my outdoor patio. So Minnesota had to punish me.

I, like most Minnesotans, love being outside. But our summer lasts just a few short months.

I was actually thinking how awesome it would be to have a patio heater so I wouldn’t have to wait until summer to enjoy the outdoors.

In terms of backyard ideas for the Midwest — especially one including outdoor dining or outdoor kitchens — patio heaters are a must. Otherwise, it can just get too cold in the spring to truly enjoy being outdoors, especially at night.

But this one I’ve been drooling over the last few months really offers something different.

First of all, you won’t find anyone huddling under this heater (available in natural gas and propane). The Totum envelopes up to a 10-foot radius with 360 degrees of heat and maintains the same level of warmth starting midheight. It uses infrared technology to heat up your entire body — not just from top down — along with surroundings, using indirect heat from 35,000 BTUs.

Second, it’s fun. It flashes different colored LED lights and connects to iPods and iPhones to play music straight from its tower.

Talk about a party-ready patio heater.

Talk about buying me one.

No, seriously…

>>See all the details & specs for the THLS09 here

Appliance Design · Innovative Features · Kitchen Design · Microwave

Sharp microwave drawers

When appliances claim to “revolutionize” kitchen design, skepticism is only fair — except in the case of Sharp’s microwave drawer.

Microwave placement poses a problem (it’s an ongoing series for a favorite blogger of mine, Sarah Lloyd of Kitchen Clarity) for many concerned with the aesthetics and functionality of their kitchen.

Standard microwaves easily clutter an otherwise beautiful design, especially within kitchen islands and open-plan kitchens, when placed near eye-level.

And — I’m sorry — but who in her right mind would put a standard microwave under the counter? Retrieving hot and possibly heavy items while bent down begs for trouble.

So when Sharp introduced the first microwave drawer, it truly did offer a solution to what many consider a problem.

The newest 24″ microwave drawer and 30″ microwave drawer models expand capacity (now 1.2 cu. ft and tall enough for 20 oz. coffee cup) within their existing footprints and include new, feedback-driven functions:

  • Short cut options such as “Warm” to heat maple syrup and dessert sauces
  • Keep Warm function maintains the serving temperature for up to 30 minutes
  • Soften and Melt functions keep me from having to press my face up to the microwave glass to make sure I don’t make a buttery mess all over my microwave
  • Sensor Cook settings expanded to include popular items such as brown rice and sweet potatoes
  • Defrost options available for both boneless and bone-in poultry
  • Opens quietly and smoothly (minimizes messes!) automatically at the touch of a button

I’d personally love to have one of these. I use my microwave mostly for defrosting meats, steaming veggies and softening ingredients while cooking, so I like the idea of keeping it tucked away yet accessible.

What do you use your microwave for?

Does the idea of a microwave drawer seem like a novelty or practicality to you?

Appliance Design · Dishwashers · DIY · Innovative Features · Product Roundup · Ranges · Refrigerator · Remodel

DIY Network to feature our kitchen showroom on remodel show

Appliance specialist Joe Warner suggested this LG gas range for Carrie and Robert, who enjoy cooking and baking.

The DIY Network filmed again yesterday at our Warners’ Stellian Edina showroom, this time for “I Hate My Kitchen.”

Each episode, homeowners receive smart design help to maximize their budget to make their dream kitchens a reality.

>>See photos of the filming

It was fun to watch the crews document the shopping experience of our customers, homeowners Carrie and Robert.

Carrie and Robert are doing a “gut job” of the kitchen in their South Minneapolis home. (Carrie joked that she didn’t let Robert buy a snow blower last winter because she was so set on saving for their kitchen remodel!)

First, we learn about Carrie and Robert:

  • They enjoy cooking (lots of soups!) and baking, and are ready to move from electric to gas cooking.
  • While still a good size for a South Minneapolis kitchen (the home was built in the 1920s), they still want to maximize their space.
  • The current dishwasher is too noisy and doesn’t really offer them much versatility.
  • Carrie and Robert plan on spending a good deal of time in this current house.
  • The appliances will need to complement custom cabinetry, new floors and counter tops.

Based on what he found out from Carrie and Robert, our appliance specialist (and my brother!) Joe Warner suggested the following:

LG 5-burner gas range in stainless steel (LRG3093ST)

Carrie and Robert currently has an LG ceramic top electric range. They like the brand, but want the power and responsiveness of gas cooking. The four main burners offer a range of temperatures, for a low simmer at 5,000 BTUs to a power boil at 17,000 BTUs — and the burners can all be rearranged. So, Carrie can simmer two soups on the back burners while using higher heat on the front-most burners. Also, the fifth burner offers a place to heat oblong pans or place a skillet for breakfast items. The heavy-duty grates offer a continuous surface to easily move pots and pans around.

The oven, with a gorgeous blue finish, is a big, 5.4 cu. ft. capacity, which can accommodate pretty much anything Carrie and Robert will throw at it.

Basically, I’m super jealous.

LG fully integrated steam dishwasher (LDF7932ST)

At 50 decibels, it doesn’t get much quieter than this LG dishwasher. It’s so quiet, in fact, that LED lights tell you when it’s operating and when it’s not. Adjustable racks will accommodate nearly any size pot or pan Carrie and Robert throw at it, and there are even wineglass holders (which Carrie noted will get plenty of use).

Steam bursts through hardened on messes for pots and pans, yet is gentle enough to use with those wineglasses.

Perhaps best of all, the fully integrated finish tucks away the control panel on top of the door and the stainless interior means Carrie and Robert can enjoy the looks for a long time.

How gorgeous is that? Robert and Carrie like this model because:

  • An automatic ice maker means Robert can retire that title from his own name 🙂
  • The freezer on the bottom configuration and wide, two-door refrigerator allows for plenty of eye-level fresh storage within easy reach
  • The shallow, counter top-depth maximizes the space in their 10′-12′ kitchen

I’m so excited for Carrie and Robert to get delivery on the appliances they picked out. I’ll post pictures afterward in a couple weeks, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the episode airs in September for the big reveal of their custom kitchen remodel.

Appliance Design · Best · grilling · Innovative Features · Product Roundup · vacuums · Wine storage

Christmas-Holiday gift ideas

Because most people don’t shop till now anyway, I’m not even going to call this last-minute. But here’s a roundup of unique gift ideas for the people in your life worth gifting to!

For the wine lover, a 16-bottle countertop wine cooler:

For your wino friends (or wannabe winos), this compact wine cooler ($150) stores and displays 16 bottles behind a sleek, mirrored finish door. Adjust temperatures for various wines with the soft touch controls with digital display.

For the tailgater, a mini LP grill:

How awesome would this Weber Q gas grill ($150) be for all those early morning grill outs and picnics? It’s also a very discreet option for those whose apartments or condos don’t allow grills (speaking from experience). This mini grill crams 889 sq. inches of cooking space into a 27″x16″ footprint of only 60 pounds. And you can purchase the optional Weber Q Grill rolling cart for $45.

For the new homeowner or pet owner, a HEPA vacuum cleaner:

For friends and family who’ve recently gained a furry friend, the Dyson Animal DC25 ($550) is probably the ultimate gift. This root cyclone vacuum is designed for homes with pets and is certified asthma and allergy friendly with a washable lifetime HEPA filter.

Miele vacuums, rated to last 20 years, are a great gift for someone just starting out in her home. Plus, they come in cute colors, like this Miele Polaris vacuum in light blue ($399). I’ve blogged about them before, because I love how quiet they are, how well they clean, and how long they last.

Plus, all of our vacuums ship for free nationwide. If you hurry, you could still get it by Christmas!

For the grilling enthusiast, the ultimate smoker:

There aren’t many grills that produce the a fanatic with their own name, like the Big Green Egg does. “Eggheads” rave that this ceramic smoker is the ultimate for meats, fish, vegetables and any other creation grillers cook up.

The Large Big Green Egg (shown, $750) — which is the most popular size — can cook:

  • 20-pound turkey
  • 12 burgers
  • 6 chickens vertically
  • 8 steaks
  • 7 racks of ribs vertically

For the cigar aficionado, a sophisticated stainless steel humidor:



The Liebherr humidor XS-200 is definitely one of those big, spendy holiday gifts, at $2,599. But it’s completely distinctive, with European-style stainless steel and glass displaying cigars housed with premium preservation elements (humidity, temperature and hygienic conditions).

>>See Liebherr cigar humidor blows no smoke