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Where Do You Buy Your Spices - Nowadays?


weinoo
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After a little back and forth over in the dinner thread regarding my use of Wild Mountain Cumin, via Burlap & Barrel via @rancho_gordo...here's a new thread.

 

I've been trying to up my game a bit, in all aspects of cooking, and one of those areas which might use an upgrade is the spice drawer. After all, we've read the horror stories about our mother's spice racks, sitting over the stove, and tasting/smelling of nothing but dust and must. To whit:

 

"Oh mom, where's the cinnamon? I want to make some oatmeal this morning."

 

"it's over the stove...I bought it when you were born." (I was 25 at the time...and visiting). (My mother always had fresh Werther's).

 

In any event, here in NYC we're pretty lucky, between Kalustyan's, Dual, et al. And of course there's Liev at La Boîte, a true game-changer.

 

But plenty of others have arrived on scene. 

 

https://www.foodandwine.com/seasonings/spices/game-changers-superior-spices

 

Go ahead, have at it. Make fun. It's Friday.

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I order from Burlap & Barrel and Diaspora, both mentioned in that article.  I also order often from Spice Station, a small LA business that seems to know their spices. Local to me are small Persian and Indian restaurants that have grocery sections and seem to have decent turnover so I'll pop over there if I need a couple of things in a hurry.  The fancy foods store where I get the Bordier butter also has some excellent spices.  Good smoked paprika (both hot and sweet) and piment d'espelette.  The brand of black/Omani limes they carry are nicer than the Persian market. Mala Market for Sichuan peppercorns.  I ordered black peppercorns from Sir Spice but can't seem to access their website now. I used to order more from Penzey's and Spice House but since I've been using these other options, I haven't had the larger orders that earn free shipping from them.  

 

1 hour ago, KennethT said:

Wild mountain cumin???  Do you find it very different from normal cumin?

I have some of the B&B Wild Mountain cumin and also some cumin from Diaspora.  Both are fresh and fragrant.  My understanding is the B&B cumin is botanically distinct from regular cumin.  The seeds are smaller and darker in color.  

B&B Wild Mountain on the left and Diaspora on the right:

208354392_IMG_4226(1).thumb.jpeg.fd78d81d1ad1fe20734c906b694dbfe9.jpeg

The aroma and flavor are similar to regular cumin but I find it more complex and regular cumin tastes a little one-note in comparison.  I try to use it where the flavor can stand out rather than as a base for a batch of my friend's masala spice mix that contains 20 other spices. Sometimes that standard cumin flavor is exactly what's needed. 

Sorry my explanation isn't very good.  For whatever reason, the olfactory and taste centers of by brain are not well connected to the language area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

My understanding is the B&B cumin is botanically distinct from regular cumin.  The seeds are smaller and darker in color.  

I seem to recall when I used to make a lot of Indian dishes that a very few of them would call for black cumin. I’m guessing this would be the Wild mountain variety. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

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4 minutes ago, Anna N said:

I seem to recall when I used to make a lot of Indian dishes that a very few of them would call for black cumin. I’m guessing this would be the Wild mountain variety. 

Ding ding ding!  From the Burlap & Barrel website:

Quote

 

  • Origin: Badakhshan, Afghanistan
  • Aliases: Black cumin, Persian cumin, kala jeera, Elwendia persica
  • Process: Sun-dried
  • Ingredients: 100% whole wild cumin (Bunium persicum)
  • Tasting notes: Grilled Onion • Dried Apricots • Mountain Air

 

 

Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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1 minute ago, blue_dolphin said:

Ding ding ding!

Thank you! Every once in a while I manage to redeem myself. 🙂

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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1 hour ago, blue_dolphin said:

I order from Burlap & Barrel and Diaspora, both mentioned in that article.  I also order often from Spice Station, a small LA business that seems to know their spices. Local to me are small Persian and Indian restaurants that have grocery sections and seem to have decent turnover so I'll pop over there if I need a couple of things in a hurry.  The fancy foods store where I get the Bordier butter also has some excellent spices.  Good smoked paprika (both hot and sweet) and piment d'espelette.  The brand of black/Omani limes they carry are nicer than the Persian market. Mala Market for Sichuan peppercorns.  I ordered black peppercorns from Sir Spice but can't seem to access their website now. I used to order more from Penzey's and Spice House but since I've been using these other options, I haven't had the larger orders that earn free shipping from them.  

 

I have some of the B&B Wild Mountain cumin and also some cumin from Diaspora.  Both are fresh and fragrant.  My understanding is the B&B cumin is botanically distinct from regular cumin.  The seeds are smaller and darker in color.  

B&B Wild Mountain on the left and Diaspora on the right:

208354392_IMG_4226(1).thumb.jpeg.fd78d81d1ad1fe20734c906b694dbfe9.jpeg

The aroma and flavor are similar to regular cumin but I find it more complex and regular cumin tastes a little one-note in comparison.  I try to use it where the flavor can stand out rather than as a base for a batch of my friend's masala spice mix that contains 20 other spices. Sometimes that standard cumin flavor is exactly what's needed. 

Sorry my explanation isn't very good.  For whatever reason, the olfactory and taste centers of by brain are not well connected to the language area!

 

I think this is a great post, and thank you for chiming in. I can never be so, well, nice.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Penzey's in Arlington MA for most of goods. We get in that area every few months, it's a quick stop. Amazon for Tellicherry (how the hell do we go through so much of the stuff?), I've found a brand that I like. Emergency buys we have a boutique middle eastern food shop in town, they do spices by the ounce.

 

On another note, we were in Boston area a few days ago, coming home early we decided to stop at Russo's in Watertown. Best produce, deli, bakery, floral, etc in Massachusetts. Found out a day later they're closing up in September / October? What? Why?

 

https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/watertown-tab/2021/08/19/russos-property-watertown-sold-36-5-million/8201286002/

 

https://russos.com

 

Can't imagine what this is doing to the employees. Never had a bad experience there. Always there for the customer.

 

So sad.  

 

 

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Kalustyan's has a magnet draw whenever I am in the neighborhood. That was the game changer for me. The gateway to making my own spice blends a dozen years ago.

A BBQ dry rub, then a lemon pepper Mediterranean for chicken and seafood. A umami bomb dry rub for burger, steak and meatballs. 

Then a visit to my parents in late June, once we were all vaccinated, after two years not seeing them...(early 90's age). EasternShore Chesapeake Bay. I dreaded using the 'salt lick' OldBay, so I cruised a dozen on-line recipes and kept tweaking. We rented a beach-front cottage not to disrupt their elderly habits. Excellent choice as we had our mornings with the pups on the beach...prepped and cooked for them all week as I always do and filled their freezer with easy heat-n-serve meals. 

Mom's spices, above the stove, are years old. Small tin of good olive oil I gifted a dozen yrs ago was rancid. etc. I packed a few kitchen crates as always. A few knives, a small enameled dutch oven, an 8inch cast iron...a dozen spices....darn rental did not have a cutting board. (used a cardboard box)....then borrowed one from mom. 

I do write down all my blends but I'm horrid as a recipe writer. Mostly for my reference and friends and family. 

I use MountainRoseHerb and ButcherPacker. Then some various searches via Amazon. Two new ones to me just a couple months ago....CacoaChiliPowder and MesquiteRub. 

I use spice house blends for ideas, then tweak and use what I have. 

 

Screen Shot 2021-08-28 at 12.59.19 PM.png

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I also frequent Kalustyan's.  For so long I was spoiled living on a few blocks away - close enough that I never kept an eye on my spices since if I ever ran out, I could just hop down the street and be back in 20 minutes.

 

Now I live a bit further away so I've got to be more careful, but it's still not all that far.

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Kalustyan's did renovate recently?. Maybe ten tears... or am I remembering an earlier time. It was so packed that only one skinny body could navigate the isles. Always such a fun 'bucket list' for those that would appreciated such a thing when visiting. Like taking my BIL to GrandCentral for a pan roast at the OysterBar counter. A good soup dumpling in Chinatown. So many good ones but we all have our favorites. 

When I moved to NYC the automat was still in operation and my bank was Bowery. Only two locations. Such a treat to deposit a check and have a pan roast and a dozen oysters as a destination treat. Bank of pay phones GrandCentral main floor, one vacant, but had gum stuck in the coin slot. (shudder, germ disgust). I never cared back then. 

 

 

 

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On 8/28/2021 at 3:50 PM, KennethT said:

Now I live a bit further away so I've got to be more careful, but it's still not all that far.

You might even live closer (now) to Dual?? Certainly according to google maps.

 

https://www.villagepreservation.org/2018/05/17/business-of-the-month-dual-specialty-store-91-1st-avenue/

 

Years and years ago I was told by a fairly well-known Indian chef, that he preferred the store next to Kalustyan's for many spices, as he felt they were fresher. Splitting hairs.

 

 

Edited by weinoo (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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4 hours ago, Annie_H said:

Kalustyan's did renovate recently?. Maybe ten tears... or am I remembering an earlier time. It was so packed that only one skinny body could navigate the isles. Always such a fun 'bucket list' for those that would appreciated such a thing when visiting. Like taking my BIL to GrandCentral for a pan roast at the OysterBar counter. A good soup dumpling in Chinatown. So many good ones but we all have our favorites. 

When I moved to NYC the automat was still in operation and my bank was Bowery. Only two locations. Such a treat to deposit a check and have a pan roast and a dozen oysters as a destination treat. Bank of pay phones GrandCentral main floor, one vacant, but had gum stuck in the coin slot. (shudder, germ disgust). I never cared back then. 

 

 

 

Yes, Kalustyan's did renovate - they expanded into the space next door - it's positively spacious now.

 

@weinooI've walked past those other spice places an uncountable number of times, and every time I thought that I would go in there to check it out but never have since I was always pressed for time.  I wouldn't be surprised if their spices were fresher, but Kalustyan's does have a ton of turnover for a lot of its main products (other stuff probably sits there forever but they have it for the sake of completeness).  I'd also imagine that the places next door have better prices - there's always the Kalustyan's Premium.

 

I've never been to (nor have I even heard of) Dual.. I'll have to check it out.

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I take it season-by-season. Baby steps looking at herbs and spices to add to the spice cabinet. 

5-6 yrs ago, January, I decided to explore hot pots, noodle bowls, brothy veg heavy soups and light chowders after the holidays. (not pea soup 🤪). HMart varieties of ramen, different noodles. Fresh greens, bok-choy, etc. Previously I mucked up winter meals with heavy stews and braises, curries. Going off-script in the months that heavy foods are expected, became lighter warm meals with fresh crisp sides. Now Jan-March are light. Extended. 

I braised some short ribs a couple weeks ago. About two pounds. Enough for a couple meals and a lunch. Ragu was excellent. Having spices available makes it interesting.

So off-script having a braise in early August. 

17 hours ago, liuzhou said:

I almost never buy ground or powdered spices. And many of the dried herbs are worthless.

Whole spices can be toasted, then ground. I'm stuck with some dried herbs I should toss. Basils, cilantro, tarragon, to name a few. Hay/dried straw zero flavor maybe a hint of mint, a hint of skunk. Musty. Barn-yard over-tones are one thing...(kinda nice)...moldy straw with minty tooth-paste?...nah. 

Dried sage, rosemary, chives, summer/winter savory, thyme, dill...do fair really well off-season. Many have both fresh and dried culinary uses. My cilantro was freeze dried with the stems. I had some hope. Nada. 

I was suckered into a dehydrated tray of squash blossoms a few days ago by a blogger. Sandwiched between two trays. Gorgeous if I wanted to impress. But my crowd laughs at decoration. (even edible decoration). Edible for sure but a culinary dud. No taste at all but a Michelin food star serving a perfect scallop on top....🤪

If you and your lovely wife have a meal that is obsessive like my #12 in Corona Queens,Vietnamese, not easily visited now, obsess at home to make it easily even a weeknight. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is very interesting information in this topic replied by pro users. I've found here with google when trying to find ways that users buy spice online.

I'm curious about the behavior of professional cookers like members here when want to buy spices.

Can you please describe what parameters do you consider when you want to buy spice or herbs, These are the parameters:

 

- Quality (being high grade, fresh etc.)

- Comfort Price (have a good price against other parameters)

- Whole or powdered (many pro cookers do not prefer powdered spice/herbs)

- Fast Delivery (if you buy online)

- Online or offline shopping (you prefer buy from amazon or buy from local store?)

- Payment type for online shopping (eg. support PayPal etc.)

 

How much each parameter is important to you? I would be grateful if you could describe importance of each item in few words...

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/21/2021 at 3:25 PM, CentralMA said:

Penzey's in Arlington MA for most of goods. We get in that area every few months, it's a quick stop. Amazon for Tellicherry (how the hell do we go through so much of the stuff?), I've found a brand that I like. Emergency buys we have a boutique middle eastern food shop in town, they do spices by the ounce.

 

On another note, we were in Boston area a few days ago, coming home early we decided to stop at Russo's in Watertown. Best produce, deli, bakery, floral, etc in Massachusetts. Found out a day later they're closing up in September / October? What? Why?

 

https://www.wickedlocal.com/story/watertown-tab/2021/08/19/russos-property-watertown-sold-36-5-million/8201286002/

 

https://russos.com

 

Can't imagine what this is doing to the employees. Never had a bad experience there. Always there for the customer.

 

So sad.  

 

If you're headed to Penzeys in Arlington, it may be worth making another quick stop at Curio Spice — they're on Mass Ave in North Cambridge. They're one of the companies mentioned in that article.

 

On 8/21/2021 at 3:25 PM, CentralMA said:

On another note, we were in Boston area a few days ago, coming home early we decided to stop at Russo's in Watertown. Best produce, deli, bakery, floral, etc in Massachusetts. Found out a day later they're closing up in September / October? What? Why?

 

Can't imagine what this is doing to the employees. Never had a bad experience there. Always there for the customer.

 

So sad.  

 

Super sad about Russo's closing — I didn't go to say goodbye because I honestly found the store crowds a little overwhelming pre-COVID.

 

If they did anything special for their ex-employees, I haven't heard anything about it (and a commenter in the Globe article suggested they didn't). You'd think they could spare a little of the $36M...

Edited by dtremit (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/28/2021 at 7:12 PM, weinoo said:

You might even live closer (now) to Dual?? Certainly according to google maps.

 

https://www.villagepreservation.org/2018/05/17/business-of-the-month-dual-specialty-store-91-1st-avenue/

 

Years and years ago I was told by a fairly well-known Indian chef, that he preferred the store next to Kalustyan's for many spices, as he felt they were fresher. Splitting hairs.

 

 

I had the opportunity to visit Dual today.  I was out of turmeric (the horror!) and didn't feel like walking all the way up to Kalustyan's...  while I was there, I had a good look around.  All in all, it's a pleasant place to shop - between the music and the scent (were they burning incense?) I felt like I was in a yoga studio.  Their prices are definitely better than Kalustyan's - but they don't have nearly the variety.  Where they had a few different kinds of chilies, Kalustyan's has like 30. Where they had "black peppercorns", Kalustyan's has at least 10 different varieties - and yes, I've tried a bunch of them and they're each distinctive.  But if I'm out of cumin or something or don't need something super specific like either my beloved Vietnamese peppercorns or the Sarawak peppercorns, I'd definitely go back.

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