A few weeks ago, my friend and I took a fieldtrip (husbands begrudgingly in tow) to Penzey’s Spices in Norwalk, Connecticut. I shared our plans with our Twitter friends and at least five people responded: Either they couldn’t believe I had never been to Penzey’s, hands down best place to get spices; or they proclaimed that the experience would forever change my spice life. How right they were.
Penzey’s is essentially a candy shop for grown-ups. In place of the colorful candy are simple, yet attractive spice bottles lining the shelves. There are test jars in front of each spice so that you can open it and smell the spices and see and feel their texture. I opened a bottle of sage and immediately I knew these were not herbs as I knew them. The scent was strong and potent, a far cry from grocery-store brands of the relatively wan and lackluster variety. “Now this,” I thought, “will give a kick to my cooking.” There were beautiful boxes of tantalizing spices laid out, often making bedmates of spices I wouldn’t think of combining. And there were gift-boxes by the dozen: Asian-inspired, Cajun-inspired, the curry lover’s dream and a BBQ enthusiast’s box so well-stocked it made want to fire up the barbecue in the dead of winter and get my grill on! Suddenly even my salt didn’t seem good enough. I needed their infinitely superior Kosher Style Flake Salt.
Having just moved from abroad, my spice cupboard is empty. But somehow (I suppose my husband’s arched eyebrow had something to do with it), I made it out with just one bag containing six start up spices that I find essential: Sage, Rosemary, Herbes de Provence, Bay Leaves, Chinese 5 Spice Powder, Tandoori Seasonings and then one for fun, Buttermilk Dressing and Dip spice. I coveted far more, but I’ll be back, Andy’s arched eyebrow or not. Some girls want clothes, some want handbags. This girl just wants a shopping spree at Penzey’s.
You can buy Penzey’s Spices from their circa 1996 website http://www.penzeys.com/ but of course for the total experience I highly recommend a visit to a Penzey’s near you.