re: Tom Hall
my favorite cookware is, in order of preference:
all clad professional
enamel coated cast iron
and i've bought it anywhere from the 2nd hand shop and garage sales to macy's basement to bed and bath.
i think the secret is it has to be heavy and well seasoned and then well taken care of.
For most frying I use an old Wagner cast iron skillet that was lovingly seasoned by my grandfather in his restaurant (which he lost in a poker game, I believe, leaving his descendants with only the skillet and some cool ice cream dishes), and some newer Lodge cast iron (ie, ridged skillets for steaks, broiler, etc). Buying new cast iron gives you the joy of seasoning it yourself. I also love making stews and sauces in enameled cast iron (Le Creuset). For run of the mill non-stick or aluminum stuff, I usually buy commercial pots and pans (Wearever is a good brand) at restaurant supply stores (there are a few open to the public around town). They are solid, decent quality, and cheap enough that you don't have to care if something terrible happens to them (but they ain't pretty or shiny)...
I'll also put in a plug for my favorite cheap fully forged knives (yes, I am a cheapskate when it comes to this stuff, but I do like quality) -- Due Buoi (two oxen) from Italy. I buy them direct from the manufacturer at http://www.twoxen.it/