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.
Shrimp are often treated as the frozen boneless chicken breast of the sea. The natural sweet flavor of these tasty crustaceans are often masked in complex sauces and over seasoned breading, or worse to be lost completely as an overcooked and flavorless seafood in a poorly made fried rice. When grilling with friends in the summer, I all to often see the sad offering of over seasoned grilled shrimp skewers, it is a sad fate for the lowly shrimp to be reserved as an appetizer. “Bland” needn’t be the last word on our lovely decapod friends, a simple marinade of Harissa and Preserved Lemons can change shrimp from the surf and turf sideline to an addicting grilled main coarse. Continue reading
There is a tasty tradition at the Spice House (at least in our Old Town store), which we typically celebrate with the return of a manager or another from vacation or travel. Many of us spend a good amount of time taking food very seriously, and our connections as spice retailers often bring about opportunities to sample a lot of seriously high quality food and treats from kitchens around the city. So, from time to time it is refreshing, as a change of pace, to lower our standards a bit and indulge in something that is not overtly culinary, but still very delicious: snack chips.
For as long as I can remember, which isn’t long, the focus of American cuisine has trended in two decipherable and opposite directions: (1) cooking and eating more healthily, and (2) extreme flavor indulgence at, sometimes, the expense of good health. It could be the lack of necessity (I haven’t yet eclipsed the quarter-century mark), or maybe it is the way I was raised (my dad served many a bacon-wrapped bratwurst for brunch), but I’ve found over the years that food trends rooted wholly in maximizing flavor and deliciousness have held my attention far better than the ones that purport to keep my cholesterol down.
Food has been the subject of many films, easily becoming a genre onto itself. From grand documentaries to humble narratives, the subject of food has been explored with infinite detail at the cinema. I know from personal experience that a film can make me laugh, cry, or even leave a theatre feeling the desperate craving for a piece of egg sushi. Food films can do more than just awaken our appetites though, as food is as complex a subject as humanity itself. Filmakers take to food as a subject so often because the craft and intricacy of food is something people take to as a defining passion. This past Memorial day, which also happened to be my birthday, I was treated to the screening of a documentary about a tenacious perfectionist and the food he toils over. David Gelb’s new documentary film, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, adresses the maxim that the food that we eat and the care we put into making it, makes us who we are. Continue reading
Please allow me to introduce Tom Erd, Spice Boss. My husband and I have owned The Spice House for 20 years. For many years prior to that we both worked there, for my parents, who founded our business in 1957. It is a long, long time to be doing the same thing, but hopefully we have gotten pretty good at it over all the years. We sometimes find we need to challenge ourselves with things a little outside of our everyday spice box, in order to keep our creativity flowing. Interesting propositions come our way all the time, mostly because we are a very approachable small Mom and Pop business. We have not figured out the rhyme or reason behind why on some days these just get shot down, and other days the ideas take on a life of their own. My scientific guess would be it just depends on which side of the bed we got up. When Tom started mulling over the idea of doing You Tube videos as Spice Man, I thought it was a passing fancy. Continue reading
Throughout our 55 year existence as a company, The Spice House has been offered a role in a variety of ventures. An upscale gourmet shop is looking for a spice vendor, for example. For the most part, we are not really all that interested in putting our products in other people’s shops, as we are sticklers for making sure the products we offer are of the highest quality and freshness. We know how many customers we have shopping with us in our stores, and how fast a product moves in and out. Products that don’t have enough of a market to keep them revolving from our grinding/blending room into you home cooking quickly enough get discontinued from our product line. However, when people discuss their projects with us, the line something to the tune of “we want only the highest quality spice vendor, and you are it” seems to hook us every time! This is how we ended up as a vendor at Artizone.The concept is actually pretty cool, and if you live in the Chicago area you should check it out. Continue reading
Featured in the May 2012 issue of Saveur is a neat piece on artisanal breads and the surging popularity of bread-making in America lately. William Alexander’s “American Bread” is a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the craft of baking delicious bread or the business of selling it. The 18-page spread is pretty far-reaching, as it not only introduces some of today’s premier artisan bread bakers and shop owners from coast to coast, but also includes a variety of recipes, tutorials, and enticing photography. All of this is a great source of the necessary know-how, and maybe even some of the motivation, to get you in the kitchen to try your own hand at artisan-style bread baking.
Reading online recently, I’ve noticed a lot of culinary blogs listing common kitchen mistakes, mishaps, and misunderstandings. One of my favorites is this growing list of over 40 of the most common kitchen errors at Cooking Light. It got me thinking about a number of the seasoning peccadillos that we hear from customers who come through the Spice House, and without a doubt are guilty of some ourselves from time to time. So what are some of these common seasoning snafus, and how can we avoid them?
I recently attended a culinary conference in New York which was titled The Fashion of Food. There were some extremely interesting feature sessions, many about food and fashion being subjects of trends, fads or cycles. It is sometimes hard to discern what is the real deal and what is a flash in the pan trend that will not stand the duration of time. It occurred to me, as I listened to a wide variety of speakers discuss a diverse selection of food topics, that words fall into the same category. They go through trends, sometimes going mainstream, as when a word once newly created had enough use to get added to the Webster Dictionary. Sometimes they are overused and abused to the point that they become outed, or even banned by editors. The website , Serious Eats recently put out its secret list of banned words. Continue reading