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.
For me, Penzey’s is almost too close, too easy. I’m a little like someone who lives near New York’s theatre district.
When I finally make the very little effort it takes to get there, I always question why I don’t come more often. And when I take in my first whiff of spices, I vow never to buy the grocery store bottles again.
So Maggy, from now on it’s your job to make sure we get there more often.
When we walked into the shop, Mags, I knew I was in trouble. And I think James knew his wallet was in trouble! I made it out with a small bag as well, and we specifically went there for only Cardamom to make my Schoolbread cupcakes. But I’ve secretly been imagining that the spice box packed up for our kitchen re-do somehow makes it into the dumpster, and I “sadly” have to replace everything. James might cringe at the initial expense, but I know that the quality of our meals thereafter would more than make up for it. When we going again?
P.S. it is vastly unfair that there is no Penzey’s in New Jersey. Surely if I offered to remake their website, they’d consider opening a store here?
The mention of their circa 1996 website had me rolling in laughter. I couldn’t agree more. Luckily their products more than make up for it.
I have never heard of Penzey’s. Apparently, my life is sadder than I already thought it was.
To add to the mounting evidence of my lameness, the image of your bare spice cabinet has made me look guiltily at this tightly packed box of Trinidadian spices that’s been waiting for weeks to be taken past the doors of my post office and into your incredibly patient hands.
Instead of buying the usual souvenirs, I instead try to stock up on local spices whenever we travel. It’s the only way I can justify the constant expansion of my spice cabinet.
Bob M says
Maggy, How did ya know that I have just gone through the spices and have to update it? Than to find out they are very close. This is going to cost (: .
I’ve been to the Penzy’s in St. Paul, MN and it is amazing! I now order all of my spices/seasonings from there. If you order online they throw freebees in your box and if you start getting their catalog there is always a coupon for something seasonal free or free shipping. The last time I got 2 free small jars of bouquet garni & free Cajun seasoning. I LOVE PENZEY’S!
Forget your husband’s arched eyebrow… Order on line, and Brown does something wonderful for you (places a package on your porch); however, if ordering the crystalized ginger, order on the phone. You get a price break if you order six (yes, I have no problem using this stuff in cookies, salads, cottage cheese and fruit lunches, oatmeal, etc.! Get the point… Ginger lowers your blood sugar and is wonderful for your heart…
Stephanie _Oh says
Next visit do try Penzey’s cinnamons. They are wonderful! The Vietnamese is esp. good. Honestly there is such a difference betw. gro. store bought and Penzeys(also like The Spice House spices.They are a somehow related but not in business with Penzeys). Also love the Italian seasoning and vanilla and crystallized ginger. So glad you discovered true spice bliss!
I didn’t realize there were multiple Penzey’s! We have one in Madison, WI. Went there for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was a revelation. I had no idea shopping for spices/herbs could be that much fun. I got some thyme, and it has made my roasted veggies so much tastier!
Michele Albert says
I love Penzey’s!! I used to order them on the internet but now we have a store in Philly! I always spend way too much time and way too much money but it is always worth it.
You need to try the cinnamon – it is amazing.
I am definitely going to get the cinnamon – everyone has said it’s the best!
I received a large Penzey’s gift box when I got married 7 years ago and I’ve loved them ever since. Make sure you sign up to receive their catalogs; they have some great recipes and usually include a coupon.
pharmacy tech says
nice post. thanks.
pharmacy tech says
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