Friday, March 25, 2005

Penzey's Spices Field Trip

I am in Phoenix for baseball spring training. Luckily for me, Penzey's Spices has a brand spanking new store in Scottsdale.

What an incredible, lovely, wonderful (let me see if I can get any more effusive) opportunity. They have spices, herbs and blends categorized and organized from A to Z. Each product has a sample jar you can smell before you buy. This enabled me to do side-by-side comparisons and realize that some of the products I had been told were "best" weren't to my liking.

For instance, I had always heard that Tellicherry peppercorns were the best. But I liked the Malabar better, so that was what I bought. And you'd think that the French pepper blend would be delightful, but it smelled like a barnyard to me.

I ended up buying several kinds of cinnamon. The Vietnamese extra-fancy cassia cinnamon was complex and deep. I didn't like the smell or the Korintje, but was intrigued by the Ceylon Cinnamon - it is more citrusy and doesn't have the deep bottom notes. They recommend it for fruit dishes, so I bought a small jar.

Their prices are really good. Most 1/4 ounce jars were under $3. Vanilla beans had come down in price to $6 for 3 or $23 for 15.

They sell herbs, spices, mixes and salt - and that is pretty much it. Empty jars. But no accoutrements, cooking tools, books, art, or anything else to get in the way of the full spice experience.

I only spent $37, but my friend Tony was so inspired that he decided to replace all his herbs and spices and add some to his collection. He ended up with $370 worth - 4 boxes - and had to buy a new piece of luggage to get it all home.

3 comments:

Jennifer said...

I envy you! I envy you!

We don't even have a remotely close Penzey's here in the northwest. I'm eagerly awaiting the rumored Portland store. For now, mail order will have to do.

T said...

oooh im jealous too! it sounds like a cook's paradise. i wasnt even aware that there were more than two different kinds of cinnamon! alas, no penzey's in california!

Suebob said...

You can order Penzey's by mail. Check out their website (www.penzeys.com). It isn't quite the same, though, not being able to sniff everything.