Where the spice road led me

While I might have set limits on my most excellent readers, I did not set limits on myself as I set about to place a Penzey’s order. Pick my top three spices and stop there? Nevah!

I did give serious consideration to Roshani’s suggestion that I hit the San Francisco Herb Company, and I took a look at the bulk spices at Berkeley Bowl when I swung by there Saturday morning to pick up a few necessities for a party I’d be attending later. But at the end of the day, I decided to go with Penzey’s.

It means the spices will be shipped to me, yes, but it also means I’ll know I’m getting incredibly high quality product, and it also means I can get my hands on an infusion of their Bicentennial Rub. I used that stuff to make my first official Thanksgiving turkey a year and a half ago, and then started using it pretty regularly as a rub for steak. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s good on anything that needs to be grilled up. I’m considering trying it on tofu just to see what happens.

So are you ready for the list? Because it’s a doozy. There’s the aforementioned rub, of course, but I also needed to get some peppercorns (I’m already running low), and I happen to love Penzey’s four-peppercorn blend. Done.

In the blended-for-me-oh-thank-you-for-doing-the-work category, I picked up some zatar, garam masala, bold taco seasoning, Tandoori seasoning, Herbes de Provence (I do listen to you, Heather!), and Salt-Free Mural of Flavor (it’s a random bunch o’ stuff, but it’s so good on eggs, people…).

In the just-one-at-a-time-kthx category, I picked up Korintje Cassia Cinnamon, ground cumin, dill weed, whole nutmeg, turmeric, and two kinds of oregano: Turkish and Mexican, because one’s supposed to be good for Meditteranean cooking and one for Central American cooking (I’ll let you take the wild guess as to which is better for which), and I do both, and it’s my order and so if I want to be obsessive about my oregano, I will be. Also, to tell you the truth, I’m curious. Is there that much of a difference? I’ll have to report back once I have the order in hand.

Notably absent from the list include saffron and coriander—unless I missed it entirely, Penzey’s seemed not to have ground coriander, which is really what I was looking for. I like the pods, but didn’t really want to deal with them. I do love saffron, but prefer to buy it right when I’m going to use it for a particular recipe. I’m sure I can find some in San Francisco…this place has a school for people who want to learn more about cheese, so there must be a saffron purveyor across whom I can stumble later.

So that’s the scoop. Thank you again to all of you who provided thoughts on the matter – they were much appreciated.

Of course, this is just the spice part of the equation—there is more herby goodness to be had in the fresh-and-recently-live format—but I’m very excited to be awaiting my box of delights. Clearly, it doesn’t take much to keep me happy.

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14 Responses to “Where the spice road led me”


  1. 1 Jason June 9, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Penzey’s sells good high quality spices and I usually order from them myself too, especially their 4 pepper blend.

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Jason, glad to hear the endorsement of the four-pepper blend. I agree — everything I’ve ever gotten from them was super-high quality. When I was living in Iowa, I was a big fan of the bulk spices at the Co-op in Iowa City, but honestly, the Penzey’s product was fresher. The nice thing about buying in bulk is that you can just buy as much as you need.

  3. 3 Jeanne June 9, 2008 at 10:48 am

    You just made me hungry! When’s dinner?

  4. 4 Zannie June 9, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Oregano grows here quite well. It’s hard for me to imagine using dried oregano anymore. (Snooty, I know, but it really makes a difference.)

  5. 5 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) June 9, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Penzeys does have ground cardamom, and when you go back to order, try some of their ground black pepper. No kidding; I get not the super-coarse grind (which is great for steak au poivre), but the next to most coarse grind. It is so fresh and has a great bite, and I go through tons of it so it never has time to go stale in my kitchen. And then there’s the Greek seasoning, which is wonderful on lamb and roasted veggies…. well, you can see that I’d get in lots of trouble if I were starting to fill a new kitchen!

  6. 6 trueepicure June 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    We love Penzey’s! A store opened up about 20 minutes from our house, and we went crazy in there. Two words for you – smoked paprika.

  7. 7 Heather's Garden June 9, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Luckily we’re having grilled chicken (with herbes de Provence) over salad for dinner tomorrow night now that you’ve got me all craving it! Although the idea of eating tomorrow when it’s supposed to be 97 at my office — yes, that’s 97 — is disgusting. And by the shore where I live — 90. And you know it’s bad when they’re closing the non-air conditioned schools early. Anyway, glad you listened to me!

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Jeanne, I’m about to start cooking…you’re welcome to come over — just hop on JetBlue!

    Lydia, I know I’ll be making another order…there’s no question about it. That’s great to know about the ground pepper — I usually don’t get it and just go with the freshly ground kind, but it sounds like I’m missing out!

    Treepicure, I’ve never lived close to a Penzey’s store, but I’m kind of scared of the damage I’d do if I walked into one…

    Heather, enjoy that chicken salad — and wow, those are some temps!

  9. 9 ourfriendben June 10, 2008 at 4:34 am

    Great choices, Genie! And now (sigh) I guess I’ll have to go check out Penzey’s online for myself. Danger! Danger!!!

  10. 10 chigiy June 10, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    I’ve been out of the loop lately.
    How long have you been in CA and how long are you staying?

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener June 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Ourfriendben, there are worse things that you could buy than a bunch of spices…look on the bright side!

    Chigiy, I’ve been here for two weeks and two days, and judging by how very much fun those two weeks and two days have been, I might just stay forever. In other words, I have no immediate plans for departure.

  12. 12 debroby June 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Last winter, as part of a major kitchen clean and re-organization I cleaned my spice drawer, then sat down with the Penzey’s catalog and spent a couple hours determining what I need. Yes, I could have checked out some of the aforementioned places in the bay area. But not at night in my jammies!

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener June 24, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Deb, there is something quite fabulous about being able to shop in one’s jammies. Awesome stuff!


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