Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Cook's Mecca

A couple weeks ago B and I went to lunch with a good friend who also enjoys cooking. After lunch we all went to Penzey's (okay, B went mostly because we all drove together and therefore he didn't have a choice!), a trip E had been insisting I make for some time.  This was my very first trip to Penzey's, although I had perused their website before, and I was both overwhelmed and instantly enamored.  The following is what I brought home, which, mind you, is not even a fraction of what they carry.

My Penzey's Booty
Here it is all together. 

Dried whole peppers (a mild variety), bay leaves, and two types of sausage seasoning.  Sausage seasoning?! you say. Why yes, the seasonings themselves are all veg and so I thought they would be great for my vegetarian sausage experiments. 

Spearmint, peppermint, sumac (hidden), herbes de provence, french thyme, and minced lemon peel.  The mints are whole leaves, I think they'll make great tea.  The sumac is a revelation.  I could not find it in any of my local stores when I first looked for it so I ordered some online (not from Penzey's).  That stuff can't hold a candle to Penzey's - seriously amazing.  The herbes de provence is beautiful and doesn't hold back on the lavender.  Minced lemon peel is basically dehydrated zest. Great for when you don't have any fresh lemons on hand.

Poultry seasoning, horseradish powder, whole coriander seeds, buttermilk ranch dressing base, and minced orange peel.  The poultry seasoning is great, you can really see the sage, the texture is not nearly so fine as what you typically find.  I was so excited to find horseradish powder (I had no idea such a product was available!). Many prepared horseradishes on the market contain dairy, most aren't strong enough for me, and almost all of them have weird preservatives.  I can't wait to play with this.  Our friend E said I had to get the buttermilk ranch mix.  There is no dairy in the mix itself and I love ranch in principle but tend to hate it in most of the versions I've tried (plus there is dairy that's in most prepared ranches).  I haven't had a chance to use this yet, but I'll let you know what I think when I do.

Mint hot chocolate, Tuscan sunset seasoning mix, and pure orange extract.  We love hot chocolate, and this mix is dairy free so you can mix it with whatever kind of milk you prefer.  E insisted I get the Tuscan sunset seasoning and who am I to argue with the man who is greeted by name when he enters the store.  Oh my gosh - the orange extract is like an orange in a bottle, no harshness on the nose, just pure, sweet orange - amazing, you must get it.

Mace, fleur de sel, hot chocolate, kosher salt, pure almond extract, pure lemon extract.  I've just started trying gourmet salts, so I decided to try their fleur de sel (no joke - that stuff is not cheap - I got the smallest jar).  The hot chocolate has a touch of cinnamon, but E said it's not like Mexican hot chocolate in which it's a prominent flavor, but rather amplifies the chocolate itself.  I've only ever had Morton's kosher salt, so I was interested to try a different kind. Also, Diamond Crystal has no additives, and according to Robert L. Wolke in What Einstein Told His Cook, Morton's does contain an anti-caking agent (ewww).  As with the orange extract, the lemon and almond extracts smell pure and sweet with no trace of bitterness or weird additives.

And finally, Madagascar vanilla beans. Swoon. Three to a container, for $7.25, which if you've shopped for vanilla beans recently you know is a freaking bargain. If you buy 15 beans they are $28.65, which means you are almost getting one whole container free. They also have Mexican vanilla beans, if you prefer, for the same prices.

As I said, I barely scratched the surface of what they carry.  They offer most all their spices and mixes in small bottles (like the one my mace is in), larger bottles, and in bags in a couple different weights like most of what I purchased (I have empty spice bottles at home since I usually buy my spices from the bulk section).  Check them out, their prices are much better than your supermarket and the quality far beyond anything you'll find there.  If they have a store anywhere near you, or somewhere you'll be visiting, go to one and smell.  They offer tester bottles of everything so you can sniff to your heart's content (or until your nose calls uncle). I bet you'll fall in love as fast as I.

1 comment:

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Wow, that's a lot of spices! I bet you can guess to which purchase I'm partial (hint, it's the one with chocolate!).