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Variety Is The Life Of Spice at Penzey’s:

Dining at home saves money, but cooking a gourmet feast requires interesting ingredients. Penzey’s Spices on 4th Street in Santa Monica is the place to go to find some of those ingredients, namely seasonings.

The Milwaukee-based Penzey’s opened here this past March, one of only three branches in Southern California, and features spices, herbs, and hand-mixed seasonings, using fresh, natural sources from all over the world.

Manager Jennifer Wyche says that Santa Monicans have been buying all kinds of seasonings, but “a lot of customers have been asking for salt-free products.” Mindful of customers’ concern with lowering salt intake, Penzey’s is adding more salt-free or low-salt content products to its line.

One such seasoning is “Mural of Flavor.” Useful on virtually all foods, this mixture contains more spices than the label has room for, so Wyche lists them for the Mirror’s readers: thyme, basil, rosemary, dill, coriander, black and green peppercorns, shallots, onion, garlic, lemon peel, citric acid, and orange peel.

Also salt-free, “Tuscan Sunset” is a blend of sweet basil, Turkish oregano, garlic, thyme, red bell pepper, anise seed, fennel, and black pepper-all the flavors of Italy for zesting up Italian recipes or anything else. (Wyche recommends it for tuna salad).

Penzey’s is a culinary tour of the world when it comes to seasonings. You like Indian curries? They’ve got curry powders of all strengths from mild “Sweet Curry Powder” to hot hot “Vindaloo” and saffron-infused “Maharajah.” There are seasonings for Polish-style food, Persian sumac (a smoky dark red powder, also mixed with sesame seeds and thyme for a seasoning known as zatar), “Tsardust Memories,” a mix for Russian-style cooking, and an assortment of seasonings based on the ethnicities of Milwaukee, including an Italian cheese mix called “Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle.”

“Northwoods Seasoning” is another very popular blend, good with chicken and fish. It’s not salt-free, but uses coarse salt flakes, paprika, and both black pepper and chipotle chile for a fairly hot, savory spike to hearty dishes.

Chiles are available in almost all varieties, from mild juicy anchos to tiny but ultra-hot Mexican pequin peppers. Penzey’s chili powders are all salt-free and range from traditional regular and medium hot chili powder to the more complex blends Chili 3000 and 9000, featuring additional spices and in the case of Chili 9000, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, and a few other surprises.

Wyche says that Penzey’s has been attracting customers who pass by the store and drop in out of curiosity. The store’s employees are always ready to explain the products and the packaging provides smaller sized jars that people can buy in order to sample the taste of seasonings. “The freshness and quality of our products keeps them coming back,” says Wyche. The gift boxes are also a draw, featuring seasonings grouped according to ethnic usage or personal preference. And around the store, as well as in the colorful Penzey’s catalogues, are numerous recipes using Penzey’s spices, many submitted by happy customers.Penzey’s is located at 1347 4th Street, 310.917.5577.

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