It was a lazy Saturday morning. Well, it was probably (technically) a Saturday afternoon, but I hadn’t been awake for long. I didn’t have any plans for baking or an elaborate dinner, like I often do on the weekends. I didn’t really have any plans at all, and I was getting bored. Already. I’d bounced from my laptop to my kindle to the TV to back to bed to my kindle, all in approximately half an hour. I couldn’t even count on the Cubs to entertain me (they were scheduled for a night game).
Then, David perked* things up. He told me to get dressed, that we were going out. And wouldn’t tell me where.
“Should I eat something?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, refusing to elaborate.
So we got ready, and we walked to the El. We changed trains, ended up on the Brown line, which I almost never take. As we walked down the street, I slowly recognized the neighborhood, from the charity events we’ve attended at Second City. We turned and walked through the wrought-iron gates labeling the neighborhood Old Town.
As we walked, I asked David for hints, pretended to believe that we were going to get a puppy (so not happening right now!) and just badgered him in general. He wouldn’t crack. Finally, we arrived at our destination: The Spice House.
The Spice House is, well, what it sounds like mostly. It’s a store that sells spices and spice blends of all kinds. You might be thinking, “But my grocery store has spices, why do I care?” The cool thing about The Spice House is you can buy what you want in just about any quantity, AND the store is set up like a Bath and Body Works, with samples and testers everywhere.
When we walked in, there was a long set of shelves to the right of the door that showcased individual spice blends for each historical neighborhood in Chicago. Like the “Greektown ‘Billygoat’ Seasoning,” a blend of salt, garlic, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, Greek fancy oregano and powdered lemon peel. Or the “Bridgeport Seasoning,” a blend of red peppers, romano cheese, salt, toasted onion, thyme, rosemary, cayenne, basil, white onion, and Tellicherry pepper. I really enjoyed tasting each of the spice blends they had available.
We ended up buying five things:
1. “Little Italy Herbs,” an updated version of classic Italian seasoning. I picked this one because we were out of dried Italian seasoning (I use it quite a bit), and even though David thought I should get something a little more out of the ordinary, I am very happy with it. Much tastier than the basic grocery store Italian seasoning we were using. I think it’s the lemon peel.
2. Adobo Seasoning. This is a Mexican spice blend made from salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, ground cumin, and powdered Mexican oregano. It’s along the lines of a taco seasoning, but without the chemicals and added sodium. Also, without the spice. This adds lots of flavor, but no heat, so you can control the flavor and the spiciness separately. I used it to make Mexican Risotto last night.
3. Toasted White Sesame Seeds. I use sesame seeds in a lot of different recipes. I sprinkle them on rolls, over Chicken Baseballs or Pot Pies. I also include them in any kind of asian or stir fry recipe, even if it’s only my portion. I really like sesame seeds. When I’m making Baked Brown Rice to go along with Pepper Steak or Stir Fry, I’ll add sesame seeds to the dry rice before I add the water. It lets the seeds add flavor to the rice. I was almost out of Sesame Seeds, which is why I chose this one, but they are very tasty. Perfectly toasted, and much more reasonably priced than the last sesame seeds I purchased.
4. Herbs de Provence. This is a classic blend of herbs used in French cooking. I’ve been meaning to buy one of these blends–it pops up often enough in the ingredients list of The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook, which I love. I haven’t used this yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it soon. This blend is made from rosemary, French thyme, tarragon, basil, savory, cracked fennel, lavender and marjoram.
5. Italian Salad Seasoning. This spice blend is the basis for Italian dressing. Mixed with oil and vinegar, it makes a tasty dressing. So far, I’ve used it to make pasta salad (one very reminiscent of my favorite Suddenly Salad brand), but I’m really looking forward to mixing up a creamy Italian dressing, which is hard, if not impossible to find outside of certain restaurants. I also think it will make a good dip for veggies.
Bonus item: Chinese Five Spice Powder. David picked this up for me at The Spice House shop up in Evanston a few weeks back. I add it to Pepper Steak and Stir Fry dishes pretty regularly now.
Verdict: I love The Spice House. I’m excited to go back and bring home a few more things. Like the hickory smoked salt, the “true” cinnamons, that Bridgeport potato seasoning, Cocoa nibs, buttermilk dressing blend, crystallized ginger, and…well, whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I had a hard time choosing this time, though I am happy with my choice. I loved the selection at The Spice House, I loved being able to taste and sample my way through the spice racks, and I thought the prices were very reasonable, especially considering the quality is much better than the more expensive spice blends that are sold at the grocery store. I also like the option to buy in zip top bags or glass jars–if you don’t need a jar, the price is lower.
*It took all my willpower not to write “David spiced things up.” Pun obviously intended.