When I was young, my family would have a fish fry every few weeks. Whenever my mother would bring home a few pounds of fresh cod and buttermilk from the grocery store, I immediately knew I was in for a treat. I used to love the process of it all, dipping the fish in the flour, then the buttermilk, and then the flour again. I loved listening to the oil pop and sputter, being to short to watch my father place the battered fish into the pot. There is such theatre to a fish fry, the purposeful steps forming a dance of comestible intent. The flurry of these dancers’ movement is scored by the scents and sounds of sizzling spiced batter and hot snapping oil. No one person takes a passive role in this dance, while the surrounding viewers may only first stand and watch in anticipation, they later become eager participants in the eating. Food is about more than just the things that we digest, it is also about the process, the participants, and the community that create it. These food traditions become an act of modern story telling, a form of ritual that groups use unconsciously to pass on the customs and teachings that make up a heritage. Continue reading
Some time back we hosted at our Old Town store a book signing with New York Times Food Columnist, Melissa Clark, who had been making rounds to promote her then-new cookbook, “Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.” We entertained a small crowd as attendees had the opportunity to meet the author, get her autograph, and pick her brain as she fielded questions about cooking and beyond. The book’s release, and subsequently the event, landed in mid-Fall, so it was no surprise that many of the questions and much of the advice she doled out, centered on, among other seasonal topics, brining, stuffing, or otherwise preparing turkey. Melissa Clark, I realized then, is uniquely talented. Besides being a good cook, she has a way of making some perennially nightmarish kitchen projects sound and look surprisingly manageable. Case in point: I’d been trying for a good while with limited success to concoct my own flavor-infused mayonnaise when I stumbled upon some classic Melissa Clark wisdom in the form of a recent column, “Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg, and a Drop of Magic.”
We at the Spice House would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to newlyweds Dimitri and Naomi Moore. Dimi and Naomi tied the knot on August 25th at Pilsen’s Living Room Lounge, following a seven-month engagement. It is always special to play a part in a story with a happy ending, and we were honored to learn that the Moores remember our store fondly as the place they began their romantic journey together.
Make way for Wells Street’s newest culinary juggernaut. Some new neighbors moved in on our block, and we couldn’t be happier about it. La Fournette, Chicago’s newest French bakery, is a welcome addition to our already food-centric Old Town neighborhood. The bakery is owned by Pierre Zimmerman, master pastry chef and two-time World Baking Cup champion of the French team in 1996 and 2008, and his family. They are fourth generation bakers, and our friends Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sebastien Canonne, of the French Pastry School, are serving as advisers in this delicious project. La Fournette opened its doors last Monday, following a weekend-long, pre-opening event that saw a lot of the shop’s signature goodies exchanged for some last-minute feedback on their many offerings. And, believe me, they are many.
Last week, a kind gentleman representing the fine spiced liqueur, Bénédictine, stopped by the shop. He was looking to procure a wide variety of herbs and spices, each representing prime flavor notes in Bénédictine's closely guarded secret recipe. Using these, he would create an aroma kit, like those used by wine tasters, to demonstrate his liqueur's depth to costumers. With the aid of Bridget, Old Town's manager, the gentleman was so pleased with the Spice House that he offered a bottle for us to enjoy. So the question was posed, “how best to honor such a fine gift?” With a custom cocktail, that's how! This is how the “Spice House Sling” was born. Continue reading
We are so lucky to have wonderful customers. In addition to our mainstream of home cooks, we also number a huge amount of chefs, caterers, bakeries and other food related companies among our clientele. It is a really good feeling when we see chefs in their checked pants browsing the shop, they often just really like to hang around, absorb and smell and taste. This tells us we are doing something right. Yesterday Paula Haney, owner of Hoosier Mama Pie Shop even brought us a pie! A very delicious Dutch apple pie. Continue reading
a href=”http://blog.thespicehouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/4.6.12-797.jpg”>Many wonderful things have happened to us over the years we have been in business, but very few have touched us as much as this event. On March 9th, we were particularly moved when a very special wedding took place. Elizabeth Theis married Landon Hall. What made this so heart warming to us, was that they met while working at The Spice House. Elizabeth had worked for us for a few years, we love her, she is a delight to her coworkers and our customers, and no one will take better care of you in the shop. Continue reading
It is with an extremely heavy heart that I share the news of the death of the founder of The Spice House, my father. Our loss is magnified in that we have also lost a much loved parent, but also our mentor, the man who taught my husband Tom and I our craft. His teaching was an evolving process, and sadly one that we did not see coming to an end so soon. My Dad never stopped reaching out to us, pushing us to go further, look harder, re-examine our dedication to quality, to our customers, to our staff. He constantly challenged us to explore other vendors, new countries of origin, different connections, a twist in flavors, novel combinations. Yet his teachings were not just contained to the spice world, he also had some strong feelings and connections to, the inner spiritual world, and his tendencies toward philosophical teachings were perhaps the place where we struggled the hardest as his students. He believed that the spices had music in them, if you just knew how to listen. Our thoughts are that his spice work continues on through our stores, this gives us great comfort, and something to strive for.
Ocassionally we end up on a really nice roll of fun PR. In the current Greek Issue of Saveur magazine, we are recommended in their section called The Pantry, as a resource for our Aleppo pepper. They use it in this really great sounding recipe, roasted lamb with rosemary. (Saveur's photo at left) We also had a nice mention in Food and Wine magazine this month, we are included in their list of five obsessed spice importers. This is one obsession we are okay with! NBC Chicago did a piece on our cinnamon last week, running with a trace back the ingredients concept. While tasting one of Bill Kim's fantastic desserts, a Vietnamese Cinnamon caramel ice cream, at Urban Belly, they wanted to source his ingredients. He very generously led them to our Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon. We can not wait to go and try this, by the way. Interesting how reporters sometimes know more about where are spices are ending up than we do! Last, but not least, we have made some wonderful connections via email correspondance with some really interesting food blog posters. I really want to thank Alice and Jared Zhao, who blog under eataduckimust, for their sensational blog post about The Spice House, calling us a Chicago Landmark. Your photography is awesome, by the way. So, who does handle the PR? Continue reading
A story in yesterday's Chicago Tribune listed some bests of the Taste of Chicago. “Best vegetable: O'Brien's Celtic corn on the cob. Whatever spices are hiding in O'Brien's “Celtic Seasoning” shaker sure do bring out the flavor of those juicy corn kernals.” Guess who makes that blend for our neighbors in Old Town? I have wished on more than one occaison that we had a patented system for each blend we seek to create, but each seasoning seems to come with it own formulation of trial and error. We might want to create a new blend because it is the hot trend of the year, or people are doing more ethnic cooking from this country, this year, there are a whole variety of reasons we might choose from for making new blends. Rarely is it to honor the request of our landlord! “So, you guys are masters of spice, why don't you come up with a Celtic blend that we can shake on O'Brien's Irish corn that we grill during all of our summer festivals. We will buy it, the lable will have your name on it, and it will be a great way to drum up business.” We have a very savy landlord in Peter O'brien and he has always been good to us about giving us business. So off we went to create our Celtic seasoning. I did my diligent research, knowing already that spices do not actually grown in Ireland, the climate needs to be very tropical. Continue reading