Spice Girl

Wow – this chestal thing is almost gone but it’s really jammed my tastebuds something awful!  I mean…I can taste stuff..but I can’t TASTE it, y’know? It’s confusing because my sinuses are largely clear, so you’d think I could make the connection – but it’s a weird disconnect right now, probably a soft-palate issue.   And, weirdly enough, chocolate is a bit off-kilter.  Well, alrighty then!   In an effort to figure out what does work I’ve been experimenting with some new spices and essences – and dagNABBIT!  my regular go-to Geneva Spice House has broken away from the mothership and changed their whole lineup!  It took me a minute to see that everything I was used to seeing has ..evolved.  It’s now called 360Flavor and Spice.  Same folks but new blends.

That type of change always give me hives.  But the beauty of getting older is the understanding that the Universe couldn’t care less how I feel and I need to get over myself.  So I stopped hissing, took a breath and let this incredibly impassioned, charming young man walk me through the new shop.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Part of the problem is rethinking spice blends.  I rarely use any blends other than curries (because ain’t nobody got TIME (or knowledge) for that) – but I also think the purist  snob in me always thought blends were ‘cheating’ a bit (dumb, I know) – I’ve been a serious cook for over 30 years and mostly make my own blends.     But because I opened my tiny little mind I came upon some things I would’ve never considered, like:

Moroccan Lemon – I never use preserved lemons but have been curious – this blend might be the gateway! Ingredients are Preserved Lemon salt, urfa biber pepper flakes, California Paprika, Lemon Juice Powder, Lemon Peel, China Cinnamon 

I love me some Urfa Biber, so this should be fun!

…  and don’t get me started:  Truffle, honey, orange and Herbs de Provence!??  Truffled Honey & Herb (so new it’s not even on their website yet.  I used this on some salmon and nearly fainted, it was that good!) – and see??  I would’ve NEVER come up with that combo!

Of course, The Spice House Mothership is still with us, blessed be!  I’ve been a customer since Patty Erd’s parents had the first Spice House in Wauwatosa WI, waaay before the Internet when you had to get a paper catalogue mailed to your sorry ass!  Gah, I miss those days!  In the ensuing decades Patty and her husband Tom have taken TSH to new heights, sourcing  even more obscure and intriguing spices and creating amazing spice blends (and tell me again why I snobbed the spice blends?  Their Baharat  , which I’ve used since The Flood, is DIVINE!)… and their Maharajah Curry  blend  with that great whack of saffron, omg sooo good…and just so’s ya know..they have Orris Root powder, which smells lovely just sprinkled in a little decorative dish – don’t eat it – just smell it.

This whole Spice Thing came about because I love my flavors and I wanted to give a caterer friend some of Mandy Aftel’s Chef’s Essences.   Omg.  Have any of you  tried her essences?  My first experience was at MiN New York, when Mindy Yang made some AMAZING cocktails with Mandy’s early bergamot & ylang ylang essences .  Since that early foray, she has expanded her oeuvre to include peach (THE MOST AMAZING PEACH YOU WILL EVER SMELL OR TASTE! I swear, if Howard had used her essence for his Peachy Buns he would’ve won the Great British Bake Off

you should’ve called Mandy, Howard!

) – she also has these amazing finishing salts – I’m currently using the Wild Mushroom & Butter, which is stunning – and perfect for me, since I love the taste of mushrooms but am not overfond of a lot of mushroom textures (too many soggy pizzas, I guess).   And don’t get me started on the Lime & Ginger.  I nearly fainted.  Perfect for just about everything I like to eat!

aftelier.com betcha HER taste buds are working!

Anyhoo, I’m writing about spices because I can taste them – and they taste great!  Do any of you have favorite spices/spice blends?  Have any of you tried any of Mandy’s work (I urge you to do so – they are STUNNING!)

I promised The Girl I would show off her new raincoat.  Yeah, yeah.  She haz a raincoat.  That is a full acre of dog to dry off …and..c’mon!  It’s PINK!


I am going to bite my mom SO HARD!

Tell me about spices in your life.  I’ll have her pull a winner for some perfume samples because HELL NAW YOU ARE NOT GETTING MY SPICES.  Getcherown!  Oh!  and here’s a photo of my own spice  area including my herb/pepper drying area ( that’s bronze fennel in the shopping bag – I am SUCH a nerd) – everything in there gets used alladetime!  Big B is scared to death to go into this space (btw that’s his big jar of generic ‘cinnamon’ there (don’t ask – it’s not like he bakes or anything).  I have no idea why he bought that.  He’s mystified by the nuances of ‘real’ cinnamon and the idea of GRATING YOUR OWN?  L-o-effin’ L!  As long as I leave salt, pepper and garlic powder out for him, he’s happy as a clam at high tide.  oooh!  claaaams.  Wonder if I could taste those?

I takes mah spices SERIOUSlike!




    • I think you’d like them (Penzey’s is Patty’s brother’s place – I think he got to keep the family biz when their parents died – but they both know their spices!


  1. I’ve used Morrocan preserved lemons in cooking and they were yummy.
    Spices are fun.

    • you’d think I would’ve (by this time) and it is odd because I use lemons in any number of things – but I am looking forward to exploring them now.


  2. Wow Anita! That is a serious spice closet! I am so jealous. I also use spices every day, they make me smile 🙂 At breakfast, I use Turmeric and Chipotle in my plain Fage yogurt. Spicy yogurt is the bomb and a great way to start the day!

  3. I have three of your spice cabinets full of perfume! LOL. They are my spice. I also like hot. So I put sriracha and hot sauce on everything savory.

    • that sounds like a great option!!! and I love the HELLZ outta some hot! Half that cabinet is comprised of some form or another of hot, often harvested from my own garden!


  4. We love, love, love Za’atar. We first had it at a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant in Seattle called Mamnoon and having been buying it for cooking at World Spice Market (amazing place). Za’atar would make a shoe taste wonderful 😉 I have to watch my salt, so spices and spice mixes can be a wonderful approach to cooking! No need to enter me in the drawing this time.

  5. Yeah, I’m one of those blend-my-own spice combo types. But you have caught my attention. I must investigate some of these. Glad you are recovering, hopefully perfumes will be next.

    • Thanks! but I suspect it’ll be awhile, still. I can barely smell (wait for it) Chanel No 5! So you know my sh*t’s messed UP!

      Check out Mandy’s stuff – it’s specTACular!!!


  6. We have a Penzey’s pretty close to us, and I love going there for individual spices — I’ve tried their Za’atar blend and like it, but don’t tend to get a lot of blends. There’s a spice place in North Carolina that makes their own “Coastal Carolina” blend that’s a very fresh, amped-up version of Old Bay Seasoning that I LUHV for making low country boils. The Aftelier essences sounds amazeballs — I had no idea she’d expanded into those! How out of the loop am I?!?

    • Well now you know!!! 😉 – and what’s in a low country boil? I have a feeling I would like it very much….


  7. I’m not much of a cook, just a baker, so my savoury spice repertoire is limited. We use Montreal steak spice mix, cayenne pepper and sriracha mostly. Very pedestrian. But I do love fresh ground cinnamon and nutmeg, and fresh ginger.

  8. Anita, have you been to Love that Spice in Highland Park? Occasionally buy their anti-inflammation tea, which–were I industrious–would make myself, but am lazy. Will have to look around more carefully the next time I’m there.

  9. Well, I may be the odd “man” out here but I’m more like Big B, except I am not interested in any spices, not even salt. Never was. Drives my daughter nuts. She’s more like you. 🙂

    • Wait. You eat with NO spice? WOW! (not judging, really). Big B loves a lot of flavor in food, he’s just not going to go out of his way to put it in there himself! 😉 It’s a constant ‘something’s wrong with this _____ I made. It doesn’t taste like yours’ – then I find out he put a shake of salt and half a shake of pepper in whatever it is. 😉 xoxoxo

  10. Mmmm, your spice closet is really huuuuge! Lucky you to have so much space. I don’t have nearly as many spices but I use them a lot. I mainly use various Mediterranean herbs (basil, rosemary, sage, thyme…) and during the warmer season I grow them in smaller pots and keep them in my kitchen window. Then I keep them in the refrigerator for a while and when all is gone, I buy dried leaves. The other set of spices is for Indian dishes – turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, curry mixture, black salt, mustard… And then there are sweet spices for baking, cereals and yoghurt shakes – cinnamon, vanilla, anise…

    • I do the reverse, Neva! I usually take cuttings, come September, and grow my herbs over Winter (my kitchen is south-facing) and then take the pots outside, come mid-June. I dry a lot of my stuff (my rosemary & oregano are from my plants) for Winter use (plus dried oregano is more pungent than fresh, imo). Your spice cabinet sounds very appealing! xoxoox

  11. I make most of my own blends because many commercial blends (even artisan) include sugar. But I love shopping in spice stores! We have a Penzeys here but it’s not that convenient for me so I don’t go as often as I would like. My biggest problem is using them quickly enough.

    • I’m with you – I get ‘spice happy’ sometimes – then I have to really hustle to get them used up! Exceptions are curry blends, hot pepper & garlics – those I have to constantly replenish. xoxo

  12. Your spice cabinet is amazing! My go-to for single spices is Penzey’s. Excellent quality, reasonable prices and they’re very generous with samples and specials. I don’t use lots of blends but I’m addicted to Angelo Garro’s Omnivore finishing salts, both the regular and limone. Lev Lior Secarz at La Boîte Epices in NYC is a genius at blending spices and charges accordingly. I’d buy more of his blends if I had an unlimited budget, which I don’t, but just browsing his website can be inspirational. (No need to enter me in the draw since I’m a recent winner.)

    • Iirc, when Patty’s parents died the son got the Penzey’s name – but both of them were brought up in the spice world, so I don’t doubt his are lovely as well!
      And. I HATES YER GUUUUTS! for reminding me of La Boite Epices! I’d managed to block that place from my memory because OMG!!!

  13. Salt,pepper and garlic salt are always out at my house. I tend to eat rather plainly so…not well versed in the spice world though that Wild Mushroom & Butter one sounds delicious!
    Lol at the girl and her raincoat!

    • People (myself included) always laugh at huge dogs in raincoats but when you think of it, it’s giant dogs who are a pain to try to dry off!
      and definitely check out Mandy’s line of essences and finishing salts – they will make a HUGE difference, even if you like to eat plainly! xoxoxo

  14. Aw, I was hoping to be able to click on that pic for a close up of your spice cabinet – almost as exciting as nosing around someone’s perfume stash! Living on my own (but loving cooking) I have bought a spice grinder and resolved never to buy powdered spices again as it’s the only way for me to keep things fresh. Throwing away dusty old spices got too sad (though not as sad as cooking something with them, pfffhhh)

    • That cabinet is awash in fresh goodness, Earl 😉 I am one of those nerds who think it’s a swell idea to go through cabinets and throw out old stuff (though I do admit to having held onto some file powder that is older than my granddaughter – do NOT ask me why! lol!)

      I have 2 grinders which are great for whole spices – I’m with you on cooking with dusty old spices. The big jar in front is chile flakes – but do not despair – those flakes are from my own fruits! And they get used up pretty quickly!


  15. Wild mushroom & butter! I need this in my life!!!! I mostly order spices from Penzey’s, and purchase from Sprouts grocery store while shopping. I’ll check out the links to 360Flavor and The Spice House; I love spices! I add flavor to everything I cook, even just heating up frozen veggies and scrambling eggs. My husband loves grilling on his Traeger and uses BBQ spice blends on proteins.
    I adore the cute pink rain coat on The Girl xoxoxoxo

    • check Mandy’s stuff out – it’s AMAZING. and The Girl sez ‘thank you’ xoxoxoxoA

  16. Hmmm. For brands I guess I stick to the organic, non-irradiated brands at the supermarkets. But for actual spices and flavors, my favorite is cardamom. LOOve cardamom. Also love tarragon, and cilantro, and sage. Looking forward to time in the future, when I’m not getting a degree, that I can cook more!

  17. Thank you for reminding me of the M.Aftel finishing salts.I reallly should try them and guess they can be sent internationally without any hiccups (since not liquid and not vitamins!). I love using cardamom in wheat buns and it makes a difference using the mortar for it rather than buying ground cardamom.

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