Friday, October 14, 2011

Adding some spiciness

I'm kinda in love with The Spice House, that local beacon that offers a huge variety of fresh, high-quality spices and seasonings. They are much better than McCormick's on grocery store shelves (because Spice House grinds their spices in-house, every week)... Oh, and they are reasonably priced!

Walking in their shop (they have 3 in Illinois: in Evanston, Chicago and Geneva) is a delight for the senses. The spices are arrayed in clear glass jars - tester bottles invite sniffing - and the sights and smells are tantalizing. Their Hungarian Sweet Paprika, for instance, is the most vibrant shade of red and it was named by Cook's Illustrated Magazine (2008) as the best paprika in America. No less than Alton Brown is a fan; he has featured the shop on his show several times.

My all-time favorite is their Fajita Seasoning blend, which I use liberally ... on scrambled eggs, carmelized onions and (of course) fajitas. I went to the Evanston outpost last night, drawn by a rare 15% off everything sale - and stocked up. I even indulged in a nutmeg grinder and some nutmegs. The whole ones can remain fresh for decades, apparently. Oh, that's another point: the staff here is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions about the products and what dishes they can be used in.

You'll find everything from the basics (oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme....) to the obscure, hard-to-find items. Ghost peppers (the hottest chile pepper known to man), Grains of Paradise, charnushka, epazote, harissa, etc. No matter what type of cooking you do, The Spice House can enhance the final product.

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