After years of using hand-held mixers, I decided to ramp up my kitchen game with a stand mixer. With the right one, it makes a world of difference, and there’s no greater pleasure than letting your mixer run while you pour yourself a glass of wine or two. Or three. (Seriously, wine while cooking makes everything better.)
My first one was a discount, thirty-dollar Hamilton Beach from Wal-Mart, and you can guess the results. Yes, it mixed things, but was very limited in its functionality, and eventually it burned out when mixing some thick cookie dough. I looked at the KitchenAid models, arguably the gold standard of the stand mixer, which run about two hundred dollars, and couldn’t help but wonder if there could be something in between. Sure enough, I found it.
I wasn’t even looking at the time. I love shopping at Aldi, and went there with one thing in mind: Wine. Yes, Aldi – the discount grocer where you have to bring your own bags and pay a quarter deposit for a shopping cart, is the best kept secret for finding inexpensive wines that are far better than you could ever imagine. I have picked up countless below-ten-dollar bottles which compare favorably to name-brand vintages that cost five times as much. I’ll never admit to my dinner guests that the Malbec they’re drinking set me back all of seven dollars. They think I’m sort of a wine snob – and I probably am – but I’m also a cheapskate, and they would never guess the true price.
But I digress. After picking up a few bottles, I saw it on the shelf. Could it be? No, it’s too good to be true. I was almost ready to break down and head over to Macy’s and spend the two bills for the KitchenAid, but there it was – a bright red Ambiano stand mixer for sixty dollars. Like their wines, it was a brand I had never heard of.
It tilts back, has a four-quart mixing bowl and three attachments, and has six mixing speeds. My first test was simply the weight. One thing that makes the KitchenAid great is just that it’s heavy, and isn’t going to wobble around on your kitchen island when it’s running. The Ambiano isn’t as heavy as the KitchenAid but seemed weighty enough, and had little suction cups on the bottom for a little extra security. For sixty dollars, I couldn’t resist, and put the box in my cart. I have used it ever since. It works well, it stays put on the countertop, and is powerful enough to mix heavier ingredients without breaking down. It cleans easily, and it looks good sitting atop my kitchen island. It even withstood the fruitcake test, mixing up the thick batter for my annual boozy fruitcakes!