I needed a particular spice for a recipe, and thought of two new Raleigh shops: Penzey’s and the Savory Spice Shop. I chose Savory Spice — even though I’d never heard of it like I have Penzey’s — because, well, they’re in my neck of the woods, good ol’ North Raleigh. Convenience wins out. (The store is in Lafayette Village — yes, the same location as Antonio’s Gourmet Market. Read the post about my visit to Antonio’s.)
I went to get brown mustard seeds. And what did I return home with? The mustard seeds, of course, plus: Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt, Thai Green Curry, Mayan Cocoa, French Fleur de Sel and Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt. I won’t tell you how much I spent.
My oh my. The Savory Spice Shop is a dangerous place for people like me!
It’s a cozy space, with nice light and warm wooden shelving. One of the first things that hits you when you walk in is the aroma. Most of the hundreds of large spice jars have smaller tester bottles alongside. As co-owner Bob (wife Cindy is his partner) invited, open the tester lids to smell and/or shake a bit into your hand. Taste, and if you can’t finish what you poured, spill it onto the floor. Thus the shop’s lovely aromas.
The store has a veritable plethora of products. They’re arranged on shelving in groups like Chiles, Seeds, Herbs, Extracts, Baking, BBQ, etc. Many seeds and spices are available whole and ground. Everything’s very fresh, and the spices are ground weekly. You can purchase quantities as small as a half ounce up to the 10 ounces (and beyond) of the mustard seeds I sought.
In addition to straightforward single spices, blends are also available. For instance, my Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt contains coarse sea salt, French thyme, savory, fennel, black pepper, rosemary, marjoram, basil, lavender and tarragon. The BBQ section is primarily blends — rubs and seasonings for all types of grillables.
Excellent descriptions and suggestions are on the jar’s labels, and are reprinted on a smaller version if you buy a small plastic bag of spice. Here’s an example — my Italian Black Truffle Sea Salt label reads: “This aromatic salt is a perfect mixture of pure fine sea salt and highly prized black truffles imported from Italy. Sprinkle over eggs, meats, pasta, potatoes, salads and other root vegetables. Flavor a compound butter or make exquisite tasting popcorn.”
I have to admit I paid a steep price for that truffled salt — but as soon as I took a whiff I knew I had to have some. (I’m a salt nut. Not just any salt, or salty foods, but good salt.) The scent is so heady I can’t imagine what the taste will be like. I intend to sprinkle some on eggs for breakfast this weekend. And I’m consoling myself about the price with the fact that truffled salt seems like a very efficient way to imbue dishes with the prized fungus. (Actually I’m not the least bit sorry about the price — I know it’ll be worth it!)
The shop is peppered with original recipes featuring some of the spice blends, and the owners are partnering with local chefs to offer cooking classes. They’re wide open to all kinds of partnerships to build community, promote good spices and food and get the word out about their business.
I’ll leave you with a random, small smattering of some of Savory Spice’s (love that alliteration!) offerings to whet your appetite:
- 14 types of salt
- a wide variety of peppercorns — blends and singles, ground, cracked, whole
- cracked galangal root
- dried kaffir lime leaves
- grains of paradise (?!)
- lavender vanilla bean sugar
- 4 types of vanilla bean
- ginger and pistachio extracts
Off to try some of my cocoa in my nightly hot chocolate. (Cocoa, chile peppers, cinnamon and vanilla powder. Ummmmm…)