I agree with previous posts. Buy only what you need or want and not a set. If you get a set you will be buying the things you really need later on.
For the money, nothing, IMHO, beats Vollrath (stainless or aluminum). No, it's not pretty but it gets the job done (and well I might add) and you can outfit your wife with restaurant quality cookware for a lot less than the (quote) name brand stuff. Try $40 bucks for a 10" skillet versus $120 for All-Clad, even more for Mauviel, E. DeHillerin, Matfer, etc.
I buy my Vollrath at a local restaurant supply house. No showroom, no frills, no thrills and generally if you pay cash they discount the purchase quite a bit. And I virtually guarantee you'll walk out with a lot more than a few pots. You just won't be able to resist the urge to buy other stuff to, like restaurant tongs, Forschner chef's knife, mixing bowls, heavy duty cooking sheets. I mean it's a candy shop for cooks!! Look in the yellow pages for "restaurant supply".
This is not Dean and Deluca, Bed Bath & Beyond, Williams and Sonoma, etc. These places are a wholesalers that sell commercial equipment to restaurants. They are generally located in an industrial park.
I cooked with Vollrath for 20+ years before I bought myself a nice pot (Mauviel stainless - and it is VERY nice). I also cook with old cast iron and you can't go wrong there either. For pure stove-top cooking, it's hard to beat good quality cast iron...and the good stuff is very old (i.e.1930's or earlier - Griswold, Wagner, etc). Yes, purchase it used.
I recently purchased a new 10" and 12" de Buyer Mineral B iron pans and I must say I am very impressed so far. Much more modern looking yet very functional. I think it's basically forged iron ware not cast.
I don't buy for looks. I buy for utility and how well the cookware performs. Folks that come over to our house to eat comment that I have cookware that they've never seen before. That's because nobody goes back into the kitchen of a good restaurant to check out what they actually use. I use what they use.
Edited by DrLogik - 2/4/14 at 7:05pm