You live on the west side. Where are you registering? BB&B? SLT? W-S? Macy's? Surfas? If you ever get to Monterey Park you may want to look at Action Supply on Atlantic. It's got better prices than Star (on Sepulveda in the SF Valley) and much, much better prices than Surfas. Plus, lots of great places to eat in Monterey Park. You could try Elite -- one of the three best places for Dim Sum in SoCal.
I disagree with KY, and think being price conscious is a way of being sensitive to your friends and family. On the selfish side, if you keep your requests reasonable you stand a better chance of having them granted.
A Vita-Mix is a great appliance no doubt, especially if you want to make your own flour in the blender or plan on opening a smoothie business. If you just want something that will make great frozen Margaritas and Daiquiris (instead of the melted slush you get from regular home blenders), puree your gazpacho and other mundane blender tasks you might try something like a Waring BB180. Under $100, and it will do everything you want.
How about a stand mixer, like a Kitchen Aid? Too much machine? Don't need it yet? Well, at least register for a Cuisinar or KitchenAid electric hand mixer. Or both. Immersion ("stick") blenders are nice, but not a necessity. How are you doing for storage space in your kitchen.
Food Processor? KA or Cuisinart. 6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other.
French Fries has a pretty good list. Very good, actually. Except no one needs 5 paring knives unless they're planning on a couple of shifts of garde manger during the honeymoon. Reconcile yourselves to the thought that you'll still have to buy stuff as you go.
Speaking of knives... As a casual cook, you probably aren't thinking about the sorts of knives that serious cooks convince themselves (ourselves) they (we) need. On the other hand, cheap dreck isn't going to do you any good nor will expensive knives you can't don't and won't sharpen. A puzzlement.
We can figure out your knives (and sharpening stuff) in a separate thread. In the meantime, don't buy Cutco, Chicago Cutlery, Kitchen Aid, or Henckels International. Promise me.
Perhaps a knife, weird pan (for all that carbon steel, not to mention the so-far unmentioned paella pan) and appliance fund? That makes it easier for you to choose your own purchases online or buy from places like Action where your family members probably never go.
All Clad tends to be very expensive compared to the competition's equal or better quality. It also runs heavy. In stainless, I like Vollrath's commercial tri-ply line -- the name of which I forget. But the name brand multi-ply stuff you see at BB&B and the major department stores -- Cuisinart, Calphalon, Tramontina, etc., is also very good. That's stainless, mind you. Stay away from the non-stick, especially if you're going to buy a few pieces of carbon steel.
A lot of the "famous name" cookware like Paula Deen and Emeril is actually pretty good. You tend to see that more at Target than Williams Sonoma -- it depends where you're registering.
If you like omelettes, do get a 10" carbon pan and reserve it for the purpose. Well worth it. Otherwise, even though I love the way it works, I have to wonder if carbon will suit your style. It needs slightly different care, can't be used for long simmered tomato and wine sauces, gets ugly in a hurry, can't go in a dishwasher, but does the whole non-stick thing much better than non-stick. Still want it?
If you're buying open stock pots and pans, you want to keep an eye on the lid situation. Or -- and it's not exactly a big onus -- you'll be schlepping to a store to get a few extras.
Open stock is great. But, if there's someone eager to go big-ticket on your pots and pans, there's no harm in getting a set. You can always add to it willy nilly as you go.
Copper? Nice if you're buying it for its beauty. You don't get enough additonal performance from it compared to multi-ply for it to be worth the extra money for performance alone. As one of the layers in a multi-ply -- really just a marketing gimmick compared to a slightly thicker layer of far less costly aluminum. For all but a few cooks, copper's performance advantages are academic. That is, it might do some things a little faster or a little more evenly, but YOU will never see it in YOUR cooking. So don't register for it, and don't stress if you don't get any. You're not missing anything.
What you save in copper, invest in coffee. They have a lot of the same letters, and you know how important that is. Seriously, $200 for a Technivorm is a lot of dough re mi for a "pour over" coffee maker, but it's worth it if you like your jamoke. You'll want a decent burr grinder to go with it. Another $100.
Really good espresso machines start at around a K. Yep. You don't have the chutzpah to even ask. BTW if you do, don't buy the new Livetta or the Livia 90 from Pasquini (on Olympic), whom I otherwise adore. There are better for the money, than either. You may or may not find that the little $300 machines make a drinkable brew. You'll need advice from someone else about those.
You'll want a "spaghetti set." That's a medium sized stock pot (about 8qt) with two strainers and a lid. A disk bottom is okay. Tri or multi-ply is great for skillet and saute pans, nice on smaller sauce pans, but overkill on big pots. Tramontina is very good.
A Lodge cast-iron griddle on one side/grill on t'other. You want one mos' def'.
Do you need a wok? Keep the task away from your relatives unless one of them can be trusted. They'll buy something too good to work well. You want inexpensive carbon steel. Again, the SGV beckons.
A real kitchen supply house like Action, Star and Surfas is your best bet for the small tools like whisks and stuff. Smart and Final has some good stuff but you have to be careful. You might actually be able to register at Surfas, but certainly not the others. Maybe put a few friends together along with a couple of hundred bucks from the fund and go to Stars or Action on a weekend morning not too long after the wedding. If you go Stars you can go to Hogly Wogly's after. If you go to Action, that sounds like Dumplings 10053 (in El Monte) beckoning.
Good equipment won't make you a good cook; but at least you won't have to fight it.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/23/10 at 1:25pm