Travel Loot

10 Fresh Home Basics for Hosts with the Most

by Kristina Wasserman
linen Photo courtesy of Food52.

Recipe and shopping site Food52 is our favorite place to peruse kitchen and home accessories because we know they work hard to source the very best products from around the globe. That's why we asked the site's buyer and merchandising manager, Kristina Wasserman, to call out some of her favorite (mostly) American makers and goods.

NEW YORK CITY – I feel very lucky to say that two of my biggest passions in life — design and travel — are both part of my work. As a buyer for Food52, a one-stop shop for all things kitchen and home, I am constantly scouting the world's best designers and makers.

A major perk of my job is traveling to trade shows, factories, and design studios to work on product launches. When visiting with a designer or seeing how something is made, I love learning the "why" behind the work we sell. It's easy to forget there are people behind the things we purchase — people of all different walks of life, backgrounds, education levels, and ages. They are craftspeople, designers, CEOs, factory workers (some whose families have been at the same company for generations), salespeople, secretaries, publicists, and so on and so forth. Their brand may be their life, their life's savings, or something they simply do from nine to five to support their families. These people take pride in their work and the products they create, no matter the task. I love seeing their faces light up, showing me what they do — it's one of the most rewarding and fascinating things to witness.

Many of the companies I work with, both large and small, reside in beautiful pockets of the world that make visiting all the more worthwhile. From upstate New York and Vermont to northwest Germany and Seattle, each maker and their product is tied to a destination.

1. Hawkins New York

Headquartered in the gorgeous Hudson Valley, the company's founders are a husband-husband team and the sweetest (and most talented) duo you could ever hope to meet. Everything they do is thoughtful, beautiful, simple, and made from ethically sourced, quality materials. They have a gem of a shop in the West Village, but their locale on quaint and beautiful Warren Street in Hudson, New York, is absolutely worth a visit.

Stonewashed Linen Bedding. Hawkins New York.
Photo by Mark Weinberg.

Hawkins New York Stonewashed Linen Bedding
I was given a set of these soft linens as a gift, and I could literally cry tears of joy thinking about how much I love them. (From $78)

Simple Mohair Throw. Hawkins New York.
Photo by Ty Mecham.

Hawkins New York Simple Mohair Throw
These mohair throws are texturally stunning, and the soft hues almost make them look like clouds in a watercolor painting. The perfect wedding gift — this is the sort of blanket you can have for the rest of your life. ($195)

Photo courtesy of Food52.

Hawkins New York Simple Soft Cotton Waffle Towels
These waffle towels have the ideal weight — they feel light, but still absorb and dry beautifully. The colors are prettier than most towels on the market and match the company's amazing textile palette. (Can you tell I'm a fan?) In general, I love textured towels because they exfoliate your skin and add visual interest to your linens. (From $35)

2. Simon Pearce

I have always admired Simon Pearce, the master glassblower based in Vermont. It wasn't until I started working with his team last summer that I got a true sense of the people, though, and the man behind the household name. (Check out our interview with him here.) Through this partnership, I discovered the flagship store and restaurant in Quechee, Vermont, and now it's one of my favorite places on earth. In one afternoon, you can watch glass blowers at work, peruse their beautiful wares, and dine upstairs, all while looking out at a stunning waterfall. Plus, the cheddar soup is to die for.

Apprentice Glassware. Food 52 x Simon Pearce New York.
Photo by Bobbi Lin.

Food52 x Simon Pearce Apprentice Glassware
Our glassware collaboration with the Simon Pearce team was produced entirely by their apprentice program, a group of young glassblowers working their way up to becoming masters. The glasses are imperfect, but modern in shape. It's a collection comprised of three essential sizes made with barium, which gives them an incredibly smooth feel and crystal-like white glow. (From $40)

3. Farmhouse Pottery

We've worked with this Vermont maker for many years and I've been lucky enough to visit the stunning workshop and store in Woodstock (and even throw a few pots of my own). You can watch the ceramics being made by hand right in front of your eyes. They even offer classes. During my last visit, I saw a couple on a date for their anniversary, throwing pots while sipping wine and snacking on cheese. It was adorable and looked like a memorable way to spend an evening.

Hand Crafted Wood Bowls. Farmhouse Pottery New York.
Photo by Rocky Luten.

Farmhouse Pottery Handcrafted Wood Bowls
The gorgeous, classic wooden bowls come in a gray shade that I'm especially fond of (I've never seen it before). They are heavyweight and have every size you could ever want — from small to ginormous. (From $65)

Farmhouse Pottery Laurel Crock and Fatwood Fire Starter.
Photo by Rocky Luten.

Farmhouse Pottery Laurel Crock and Fatwood Fire Starter
I don't have a fireplace, but I can't get over how cute this set is for a hostess gift. It is both useful and nice to look at. ($165)

4. Zwilling

This German company has been hand-making knives in Solingen since 1731. Yes, before the country even existed, they were making knives. They are true, old-school German knife makers, but are also innovators in the field. The technology they use is truly mind-blowing. You can check it out for yourself in this video our team created, which walks through the tour they gave us on the factory floor. What I loved most was that many of the factory employees have been working there for years. It was cool to see their craft in action. The factory is old and beautiful from the outside with a big store that is open to the public. You can buy all of the Zwilling family goods there (Staub, Demeyere, Ballarini) and find things that aren't available anywhere else. It's a chef's dream.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Holm Oak Pro Knives
By Rocky Luten.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Holm Oak Pro Knives
Since I got to see every detail of the Holm Oak Knives being made, down to the hand-hammered rivets, they are a personal favorite. The color of the oak handles makes me swoon. In terms of blade shape, I love the Rocking Santoku. It's a perfect blend of Eastern and Western style — the hollow-bodied edge mixed with the curved blade shape. It's an everything knife — great for chef knife duties as well as smaller tasks like mincing garlic or chopping herbs. (From $64)

5. Especially Puglia

Especially Puglia sources olive oil directly from family-owned organic farms in Italy. You really cannot find better or more pure olive oil. We try a lot of great olive oil at Food52, and this is one of our absolute favorites.

Especially Puglia Olive Oil.
Photo by Rocky Luten.

Especially Puglia Adopt an Olive Tree Gift Box and Subscription
One of my favorite products in the shop. You can adopt an olive tree in Puglia and receive quarterly shipments of fresh, peppery olive oil straight from the family-owned orchards. It's heaven in a tin. The best part is that you can do a farm stay on the actual orchard where your olive oil is from and partake in the yearly harvest. Being able to trace and experience your food, and learn about its history and producers in such a personal way, is amazing. (From $160)

6. Join Design

A collective of curated designer-makers based in the Pacific Northwest that I follow at the national tradeshows, like NYNOW. We work with one of the founders, Sallyann, of Fruitsuper Design. Not only is she a lovely person, but also a badass in the design world for her promotion of emerging designers. If you're in Seattle and want to discover what's cool, you should stop by.

Fruitsuper Design Brass Lift Coasters
Photo by James Ransom.

Fruitsuper Design Brass Lift Coasters
These coasters are pure design at its best — simple and visually impactful and constructed from brass, a material that will last for years and age beautifully in the process. ($68)

Fruitsuper Design Cocktail Sticks.
Photo by Rocky Luten.

Fruitsuper Design Cocktail Sticks
The perfect party picks — amazing for apps as well as cocktails. The loop design is playful, but has a minimalist vibe that will up your entertaining level tenfold. ($48)

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