Monday, April 19, 2010

Penzey's Spices

I have long been a fan of Penzey's Spices, a growing retail and online spice purveyor based in my hometown of Milwaukee. Until now, I've been relegated to ordering online occasionally, or returning from a visit "home" with a bunch of spices packed into my suitcase. Imagine my surprise a month or so ago when I learned that they were going to open a store in Winter Park, Florida--about 15 miles from me. I was absolutely ecstatic! I was overjoyed last Saturday when my friend Creighton called and told me he heard they had opened. I could not believe it. So, I did the normal thing and checked their web site--sure enough, the Winter Park location was marked as open.

The very next day, I took a road trip to Winter Park to "tour" this new Penzey's location. I was not at all disappointed. The locations I've been in before all have somewhat the same logical layout. We entered and immediately perused the seasonings section. What makes this such and outstanding place for spice and seasoning shopping are the "sniff jars" (my term). On each shelf of spices, there is a large jar with a lid and you can simply unscrew it to sniff or smell that particular offereing. Brilliant! It really give you, the shopper, a great chance to know exactly what it is you're buying, at least by the smell (and the whole place smells just wonderful, as you can imagine.

Penzey's does not just contain the few run-of-the-mill seasonings and spices you'd find at your local grocery or the local mega-mart, they have a lot more, and all are very fresh. Where else can you find maybe four different varieties of cinnamon? Or find whole, powdered, and coarse-ground mustard seeds--in several varieties such as yellow, brown, and black?

Besides just plain spices and seasonings, Penzey's also comes up with their own concoctions. Each is plainly labeled with the ingredients as well as their suggestion of what it's really for. One of my favorites is Brady Street Sprinkle, containing cheese, onion, garlic salt, parsley, and a few other things--I love to sprinkle it on peas, among other things. On my recent visit, I bought some Chicago steak seasoning and I tried it out that night on some steak--it was awesome!  Many of their house blends are named after various neighborhoods in Milwaukee, too. And in their gift box area, you can buy give boxes of various combinations of spices, seasonings, and house mixes. I believe you can also make up your own.

Of course baking spices are a really popular section, and probably the best smelling area of the store. Cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and a wide variety of other spices are all availalble here. I know I'll be going here before the holidays to stock up on my favorites.

Their spices and seasonings all come in several sized, from small and medium (grocery store size) jars to bulk packages--there's a size for everyone and every need. Each type is clearly marked with the prices. If you have some old spice jars at home and some friends, consider pooling your resources and get a bulk size, you can save a bundle! But no matter how you cut it, this is THE place to go for fresh spices and seasonings at a resonable price and with a fantastice selection. I know I'll be a frequent visitor here. If you like to cook like I do, do yourself a favor and stop in at Penzey's and try using some really fresh spices and seasonings--not those things from the mega-mart that have dust on the tops and have been sitting there for years. Trust me, you'll be glad you went "fresh!"

1 comment:

  1. I personally like The Spice and Tea Exchange the original spice shop on Park Ave. They make their own blends on site. The staff is great, and everything is really fresh, also if you dont like an ingrediant they will make the blend without whatever you dont like. Check them out.