When a seed begins to sprout –

New pic disc 10109 038Two summers ago I fell in love with the city of Madison, Wisconsin,  while attending a governor’s conference for Slow Food. While Chicago hosts no shortage of fine farmer’s markets, I was blown away by the Madison farmer’s market, held in a square anchored by the glorious capitol building. One of my twin nieces is attending college there and she has a strong interest in environmental sciences. While we had lunch, I tried my best to coerce her into joining the University of Wisconsin chapter of Slow Food. We had all agreed at the conference meetings that it is extremely important to the future of the Slow Food movement that its vision is embraced by these young students, whose vibrancy and energy will lead to the dedication to continue the cause. At the time I tried to view my suggestions through her eyes, the intellectual college student listing to her aunt, most likely humoring her. I figured that my suggestion probably got lumped into one of those categories of helpful advice like ?If your room was neat and organized, you would not believe how much easier it would be to concentrate on your homework!? So I was delighted to receive an email the following year (a seed takes awhile to sprout) saying she was going to a Slow Food potluck that night.

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The Flavor Bible – Happy One Year Anniversary!

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The folks in this photo are waiting in line at the Milwaukee Public Market to have authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg autograph a copy of The Flavor Bible. This was about a  year ago when the book was first out. We were  lucky enough to have this dedicated couple do book signings for us in not just one, but THREE different Spice House locations!

Since we are a spice store, not a book store,  we are extremely selective about which books we carry. We choose only four titles a year, as the books will use up valuable shelf space that is very necessary to showcase our 400 plus spice products in our tiny shops. We  usually swap out books from year to year, yet The Flavor Bible remains on the first string roster. Simply put, this is an AMAZING book. It is a classic reference guide that is a must for any kitchen, from the uninitiated cook to the most seasoned veteran. When I need a thank-you or hostess gifts for chef friends who already possess all things culinary, this is what I bring. All the chefs I have given it to loved it, with the exception of Carrie Nahabedian. I tried to give the book to her before I read it; it ends up that she is one of the experts quoted in the book and naturally she had her own supply of the book!  EVERYONE loves this book. Why does The Flavor Bible earn such high praise and accolades, enough to keep it a hot seller even after a year on the market?

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GCM Chef Bbq, tomorrow night!

We are so excited that the big night is almost here. This event sold out about a month in advance, a sure testimonial to what a great evening it is. I look back over the years and remember when we were lucky to have a few hundred people show  up. One year I was the Chair of the event when it was sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier, and we were lucky to have around 35 chefs. We were shocked when we heard a rumor that market founder, Abby Mandel, was calling the chefs in advance and telling them what they were serving was not acceptable. We just could not believe that if a chef wanted to serve something as expensive as soft shell crabs, which we thought quite generous, this choice would be criticized. Who would look a gift horse in the mouth? Abby, if they were  serving the wrong menu! There were a few irate chefs, let me tell you. In retrospect, we all now see how far ahead of her time Abby was. Abby ALWAYS got it. All we wanted to do was throw a nice party, have some happy participants and chefs, and raise some money. It needed to go so much further than that. Now, we have evolved to what this food community is really all about. Les Dames Barbecue 049 If we want a good farmer’s market, with sustainable or organic product, we all have to support it. The farmers are doing their best for us, but they need everyone to be on board, not just home cooks but restaurant chefs, caterers, even politicians are needed to smooth the path. This group of very talented chefs understands how important their role in helping to  educate the public has become, this is their chance to show off their skills and they are happy to share their expertise with you. One of the coolest things about this event, is the opportunity to meet the actual chef in person. All the restaurants send their A team.

Here, one of my very favorite photos from an early bbq, NOT on Abby’s list! Below, some more real local dishes being served tomorrow and some snippets of menu items being served.  We will really miss Abby at the BBQ, she was with us just last year. Her work is certainly being carried on.

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ASTA Conference (American Spice Trade Association)

Asta We are currently on our way to


, for the ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) annual meeting and trade show. We are very excited to attend this conference, as it gives us the opportunity to meet some of the world?s top suppliers of spices. There are many educational seminars and current crop reports. Hopefully there is some good and spicy food! While the world of spices has a history as long as the history of the world, innovations in crop growing and harvesting are always taking place, and we need to be knowledgeable about this.

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Gale Gand hosts book signing at The Spice House

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We were delighted to host Gale Gand for a book signing and recipe tasting for her new book, Gale Gands?s Brunches, this past Thursday. Our little shops host a number of cookbook authors throughout the year, and we always feel very fortunate to be considered as an author location. We try very hard to make our signings special events.

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Green City Market Chefs' Annual Barbecue Festival 2009

Gcm chef breakfast 002 Even though the trees are just beginning to show glimpses of green, plans have long been underway for one of our favorite events of the year, the annual Green City Market Chefs’ Barbecue Picnic. This year the event will be held on July 16th, so be sure and save the date. I don’t imagine that most of the public has any idea what goes into putting an event of this magnitude together. Luckily, two of our favorite chef people, Carrie Nahabedian and Sarah Stegner, start the ball rolling by enlisting all of their high end chef colleagues. We have quite the line up already, with almost 50 super chefs on board! Next Carrie and Michael Nahabedian generously host all these chefs to a lovely brunch at NAHA. I feel so honored to be able to join this group of dynamic culinary people. What a treat.

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CHC programs leads to discovery of French Patisserie


We have spent our lives as spice merchants. I believe it is true in many small businesses, this is not just a living, it is a calling. As such, it spills over into our personal lives, and our hobbies. We are consumed by the food world, and as such, the organizations we belong to for enjoyment tend to run along parallel lines.One of my very favorite groups is the Culinary Historians of Chicago. Their programs are both educational and entertaining, and sometimes lead to a fantastic discovery of a Chicago treasure of which we were unaware, like the French Patisserie Vanille.

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Spice House owner, Patty Erd, helps introduce the new cookbook for Les Dames d'Escoffier.

Last night I had the great honor of sitting on a panel of women who contributed to a newly released cookbook titled  Cooking with Les Dames d?Escoffier – At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way We Eat and Drink. This was our Chicago launch of the book, which includes recipes from members of our international organization including Julia Child, Alice Waters, Dorie Greenspan, Marcella Hazan, Anne Willan, Lidia Bastianich, M.F.K. Fisher, Gale Gand, to name a few. I have a bit of spice advice in the book and consider it a great honor to be included among these great ladies.

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Spice House owner guest on WPR's Here on Earth

This past Friday, I was a guest on the WPR radio station, Here on Earth. We were to talk about cinnamon for the hour.  After 51 years in business, it is nice to be considered spice experts. As such we get to share our knowledge in a variety of venues  from cooking magazines, to radio (NPR) to television (Alton Brown Good Eats and Real Simple) HOWEVER, I could not imagine how we could spend an hour talking about cinnamon. I spent the entire day furiously scouring our spice manuals, and the internet for fun cinnamon facts and history that would help add up to an hour. I arrived very nervous!

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Hosting a very talented culinary couple this week!

We are very excited to have Karen and Andrew again visit the Spice House for several receptions this week.  From their website – Described a decade ago as "the brightest young author team on the culinary scene today" (NPR) and subsequently as "culinary historians," "cultural anthropologists" and even "the Jane Goodalls of the chef world" (Food & Wine Radio Network) for chronicling the contemporary food revolution and the advent of today's era of celebrity chefs, Dornenburg and Page have been characterized as "incisive, hip" (Publishers Weekly) writers whose books are "extremely popular among, and indeed essential to, professional chefs" (WOR Radio).

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