Monday, March 21, 2011

In Which I am Spicy - Again!

This time it's not about the hot blogging trends, but about actual spices.

On the recommendation of a friend, and armed with Stephen's relatively new interest in eating Paleo combined with his old interest in cooking, we headed out to Penzeys Spices on Saturday. What is Penzeys Spices?  Near us, it's an entire store devoted to spices! You're actually encouraged to go and sniff the spices.

Our haul from Saturday.
Fair Warning: if you value your olfactory cilia, please remember that the chili powder mixes are, in fact, powder, and therefore should be allowed to settle a few seconds after opening the lid prior to you sticking your nose in there for a good stiff sniff. Take it from one who knows, but needed to be reminded as she winced in pain, and walked around the tiny store with watery eyes unable to smell anything else for a few minutes (that was me).

My momentary stupidity aside, I loved that little spice store. In addition to almost all herbs and spices you can think of, there were excellent combinations of spices, fabulous gift sets for people who love to cook, bake, or need basic spice shelf stock. What excited me most was that it had food-grade lavender which I had previously been unable to find in any specialty stores I shop.

An interesting little tidbit: I could not find the lavender out on the shelves, so I asked the very courteous and bright-eyed cashier about it.  He told me that indeed, they had it, but it was in the back room. When I asked why, he said that it was food-grade and people were using it for decorations.


I was curious as to why they cared how it was being used so long as it was being paid for, and when he asked me -- friendly comment, not grilling -- what I was using it for, I wish I had thought to say decorations. Would he not have sold it to me?

My answer, however, was honest, and surprisingly seemed to satisfy the spice snob - cocktails! I am going to make my own lavender bitters so I can concoct my favorite lavender martini--enjoyed on two different occasions at the Liberty Hotel--at home!

My favorite take at the spice store: Cocktail spices. High fat
cocoa to rim the chocolate martini glass, lavender for bitters, or tea. 
Cucumber water, lavender bitters, gin, and a springtime of experimentation.

There's nothing can stop me now.


C. August said...

Ahh, Penzey's. Some distant relatives got us a big box of spices for our wedding gift. I know spices go bad eventually, but after 10 years we still have some of them. Good stuff.

Re: lavender, can you grow your own food-grade? Regular lavender is easy to grow, and I must admit that I didn't know there was such a thing as food-grade.

Oh, and I can't believe I almost let this slip by... but Stephen's gone paleo? Awesome! He really needed to lose a few pounds.

Lynne said...

That last part made me laugh out loud! Obviously, it's not about losing weight for him, but since he's been working out he's gone from eating like a bird to eating like a beast! He WILL NOT give up dairy and insists that a little bread - every once in a while - won't kill you. For him, I'd agree. We're going to do a 60 day paleo challenge with our gym.

Regarding growing lavender - sure - lots of people could grow it themselves. As for me, I can grow mold, impatient, and bitter quite easily, but I've yet to be able to grow anything edible.

C. August said...

Well, I agree with him. I have not given up dairy, I cook with potatoes (though not with every meal -- a few times a week), and I've been known to eat something bready once a month or so. And then there are the cocktails...

Gary Taubes recently wrote a blog post in which he discussed how for some people, it's likely true that they can eat carbs and be fine, that their bodies immediately use them for energy and don't store them as fat. It's just that is the rarity, and for most people, limiting them is important for good overall health (not just weight loss). Also see the last bit of the post where he quotes someone discussing the idea of the "Benefits vs. Corrections" idea of looking at paleo. Namely that:

A restricted-carbohydrate diet doesn’t make you lose weight; it corrects your weight.

A restricted-carbohydrate diet doesn’t make you lose water weight; it corrects your water weight.

A restricted-carbohydrate diet doesn’t improve serum lipids; it corrects serum lipids.

A restricted-carbohydrate diet doesn’t improve health; it corrects unhealthiness.

I thought that was a great way of looking at it.

Re: lavender, you grew chickens, right? Do you happen to have any shrubs or flowers out in your yard, perhaps ones that require next to no maintenance? Well, lavender is like that. Buy it at the store, plant it, water it occasionally, and it just keeps growing, year after year.

Here's a site I just found about culinary lavender. It says the English and Provence species are the most popular for cooking, and the Hidcote species "is noted for its vibrant color and is a good choice when making infusions used to make syrups, jellies and vinegars."

Lynne said...

"water it occasionally"

Ay, there's the rub.

Actually, I grew the chickens when they were in the house. Stephen has grown them in the coop.

The outside has bugs. Need I say more?

Christina said...

"The outside has bugs. Need I say more?"

You and E. Every spring I think it will get better. . . and it doesn't. It's already begun, cold weather notwithstanding.

Lynne said...

Don't think I haven't noticed that it's already begun!