The front window facade and the lighting fixtures have the look of an old-time country store, and when I walk in I somehow feel that I am at my grandmother’s house. A vintage kitchen displays merchandise, the wood floors give the place a warm, homey feeling and then, there’s the smell of a myriad of spices. Like a kid in a candy store, I want them all!
Usually, I go to my local grocery store to buy them, but today my culinary talents took a huge step forward by making a visit to a place that specializes in spices, located in downtown Santa Monica. I’ve always wanted to check out what they offer. When I was first starting out in my cooking adventures, I would follow the recipes exactly, to the smallest detail. Now, it’s so much more fun changing it up, especially with different spices.
What’s really impressive about the place is the huge selection – more than 250 salts, peppers, spices, rubs, seasonings, seeds, dried peppers and other dried fruits and vegetables from all over the world. I don’t know where to start! I am always looking for new spices for roast chicken and BBQ steak, so I start there.
Do you know how long spices are good for? I ask one of the helpful sales people. She tells me that ground spices last up to one year, and whole spices last up to two years. Storage of the spices, she said, is also key. Spices must be stored properly to maintain their original intensity and freshness. They can be stored in a glass container and be free of exposure to light, moisture, air and heat. Good to know.
So many spices, so little time! As I meander down each isle looking for the perfect spice, I discover that there are jars of each spice that you can smell before you buy. I come across a spice called Bankok Blend, mixed with sweet peppers, garlic, ginger, black pepper, galanmagal, hot peppers, lemon grass basil and cilantro. I smell it. Wow — it packs a punch!
Then I find a Bavarian-style seasoning, hand-made from crushed brown mustard, rosemary, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and sage – mmm, so earthy. Good possibility for seasoning my steaks!
What’s really cool is that they have recipes to go with the spices. Thumbing through one of their recent catalogs they offer a bevy of recipes submitted by their loyal, long-time customers. Love the old fashioned-style!
I read on and find they have an extensive selection of peppers from all over the world, rated in “heat” units. Who knew? For example, there’s the Turkish Aleppo pepper (10,000 heat units) Dundicut Peppers from Pakistan (55-65,000 heat units) and the hotty of all peppers, Mexican Chili Piquin, coming in at an impressive 70,000 heat units. They even have a “USE WITH CAUTION” warning in the catalog!
After carefully going down each isle, I find the perfect spices for me – for chicken, it’s Rocky Mountain, a blend of green bell pepper, Parmesan cheese, salt, sesame montblanc replica watches and poppy seeds, shallots, arrowroot and green peppercorns. The second one I selected for chicken is Sunny Paris, a combination of purple shallots, chives, green peppercorn basil, tarragon, bay leaf and dill. Ooh-la-la!
For steaks, I chose the savory Bavarian seasoning I first discovered and the Chicago Steak rub. It’s hand-mixed and contains salt, Tellicherry, black pepper, sugar, garlic, onion, lemon zest, citric acid and natural smoke flavor. I am from Chicago, and miss those backyard barbecues when I was a kid. I’m hoping this seasoning will take me back there.
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