Friday, May 20, 2011

Penzey's spices comes to Raleigh

Penzey's Spices has come to Raleigh! You didn't know? Shame on you. Okay, their Raleigh shop opened in November and I just heard about it from my Mom, who lives in New York, so you're forgiven. Penzey's Spices, well, sells spices. From Adobo and Ajwain to Chinese cinnamon and pure vanilla extract, the Penzey catalog and Web site are an inspiring and sometimes bewildering source for spices and spice mixes from all over the world. But what's very cool about Penzey's is their laid back, home-cook approach to food and their special blends. Mom came down to visit recently and we took a trip over to Cameron Village to check out the new store.

The store is located near the Accipiter and the Flying Biscuit Cafe, facing Clark Street. The layout is simple and easy to navigate with a 1950s faux kitchen in the back that displays the baking spices and ingredients. Most of the spices can be purchased in 1 oz. and 2 oz. glass jars (1/4 and 1/2 cup) or 4 oz bags. Sample jars were available for sniffing (sorry, no taste tests that I saw). The best bang for your buck seems to be the 4 oz bags. For instance, a 4 oz. bag of the Italian Vinaigrette dressing blend, which comes with instructions on how to add the dry spice mix to oil, water and vinegar for your own homemade dressing, cost $4.59. There's a similar product at the grocery store called Good Seasons Italian Dressing that will cost you $1.85 for a single .07 oz. packet. So in that way, the spices can really save you money. Of course, items like real double-proof vanilla are going to cost you more than the imitation stuff. I particularly loved the high quality baking spices and the herb blends, which I plan to use on all the veggies we're eating this summer.
The fun of the Penzey's store, though, is in sniffing all the tester jars and talking to the ladies that work there about food. My Mom and I talked with Dawn and Jenn that afternoon and found that not only do they know about spices, they love to cook. We waxed poetic for a while about food and cooking and family and got advice and information about the different products.
Bill Penzey, owner of Penzey's Spices has a wholistic, down-to-earth approach to food and cooking and his attitude is evident in the store and with the people who work there. This is not a gourmande's, hoity-toity store, despite its Cameron Village location. These are spices for people who like homemade hot cocoa from high-fat natural cocoa powder and a great BBQ spice rub for grilled meats. I walked away with a French vinaigrette dressing mix and Green Goddess creamy dressing mix, a bag of the high-fat natural cocoa powder, the Sunny Paris vegetable seasoning and several sets of Mother's Day gifts. Lots of yummy possibilities.When we checked out with our finds, the cashier slipped bumper stickers into the bag that read, "Love people. Cook them tasty food." Hey, I couldn't have said it better.

If you're in the area and have the kids in tow, think about stopping by real quick at Penzey's anyway, depending on the age of your kids. I left my two-year-old at home,but the staff encouraged me to bring him next time. They do have a cute pirate ship area where the kids can color picture. However, imagine crate after crate of glass jars and bags of spices all at toddler eye level. Yikes. I think I'll keep my Penzey's trips all to myself for now.

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