Bread in, toast out. If only the breakfast ritual were this easy. Today's toaster combines the latest technology (no, "five shades of browning" is not a volume by the romantic poet) with looks that are both futuristic and retro. Here's a salute to the most basic of appliances.
1,Traditionalists will dig this manual machine from Toastess (model TT 200, $39.99 at Tap Phong , 360 Spadina, 416-977-6364 ), a semi-automatic that flips the bread when its cool quilted stainless steel doors are opened.
2, Famous for its food processors, Cuisinart also produces a line of dependable toasters like this traditionally styled number in brushed chrome (model CPT-70BCC, $79.95 at High Tech , 106 Front East, 416-861-1069).
3, KitchenAid has been making quality appliances since 1919. This stylish, sturdy standby (model 4KTT340, shown in empire red, $79.95 at Embros , 1170 Yonge, 416-923-1808) is also available in cobalt blue, onyx black and plain old white.
4, Despite its flimsy pink plastic construction, this Hello Kitty toaster (model SK-TK2, $79.95 at Smart Maple , 16 Sims Crescent, Richmond Hill , 905-707-9989) manages to burn the iconic cat's image into each slice. A perfect gift for the nine-year-old girl or sad middle-aged man on your gift list.
5, With its nostalgic 50s styling, this Toastess two-slicer (model TT 2610, $69.99 at Tap Phong) features an electronic six-position browning control and self-adjusting guides that make the days of burnt toast, well, toast. Defrosts frozen bread and includes an on-top warming rack for danishes and croissants, too.
6, Official toaster to the royal family, this deluxe Dualit (model 2SLCA, $320 at Word of Mouth , 1134 Yonge, 416-929-6885, and others) can turn out hundreds of slices per hour, just like Queen Brenda does every morning for the corgis. Advertised as being "tough as old boots" - much like the monarch herself - these 1,200-watt brutes come in several designer shades like this technicolour turquoise.
7, Also available as a two-slice machine, this T-Fal Avante Deluxe four-slicer (model 53280, $69.95 at Canadian Tire , 839 Yonge, 416-925-9592, and others, or online at www. canadiantire.com ) might have a bigger footprint than most but makes a fashionable addition to any kitchen counter. Makes toast, too!
8, Designed by architect Michael Graves of American style-on-a-budget chain Target ("Tar-jay" to the cognoscenti), this white-on-white Persona toaster is only sold in Canada ($44.99 at Canadian Tire ). Besides its very cool looks, it also features deep and wide slots for bagel-browning and a pop-up warming rack.