HOW TO MAKE AMAZING FOOD
Ever wonder what the secret to amazing food is? It’s the quality of the ingredients you use. While that sounds like cooking 101, I can tell you that better food doesn’t have to mean more expensive food or something that is more difficult to make. The right flavors can enhance any meal or beverage. And that’s exactly what the creators at Spice House have set out to do.
Not long after we started dating, my boyfriend introduced me to Spice House. He always makes amazing food and I figured it was just some kind of magic he had, which is partially true. The other part was that nearly all of the spices and seasonings he uses comes from Spice House. I remember the first time I went to their Old Town location. I felt like Bell walking into Beast’s library for the first time. How was I a member of the hospitality industry and had never been to this place?
I started out simple. I got a few of the basics that he suggested including Fancy Garlic Salt, Vulcan’s Fire Salt, Old Town Premium Spiced Sugar and the Spanish Paprika (perfect for cooking just about any vegetable). I was quickly hooked and found myself replacing items that I had from the grocery store – even when they weren’t empty – with similar products from Spice House.
I have evolved from growing my own collection to giving them as gifts for friends and family who have all given me rave reviews.
As it turns out, that is exactly what the creators at Spice House had intended. I spoke with Patty who owns all 5 locations with her husband. Her parents started the company in 1957 and she and her husband took over 22 years ago. After 60 years, Spice House now has the best combination of every day and rare spices and ingredients anywhere in the city. They supply chefs from top restaurants along with caterers, bakeries and home cooks alike.
When talking to Patty, one of my favorite things she mentioned was how they in turn learn from the creativity of their patrons.
“We actually will get a lot of bartenders who are looking for ingredients to put in original cocktails and often it’s things I never would have thought of.”
I told her I love Fire Salt on an avocado and she told me how her father came to create this amazing ingredient.
“We visited a hot sauce factory in Louisiana and there was this vinegar salt brine that came out that had a bit of spicy flavor. So we did our best to re-create something similar. It took a lot of work but we felt we came up with something we knew people would like.”
What I love about that story is that as someone who doesn’t love things too spicy and never puts hot sauce on anything, I use the Vulcan’s Fire Salt very often. It’s a reflection of the exact kind of appeal that Spice House has. The ingredients in their spices have a wide range of approachability. They have an incredible variety of rubs, and blends to make cooking flavorful food easy.
“Our Old World Blend has 32 ingredients. Making it easy is the goal. We work really hard to create different flavors or provide quality ingredients that don’t need lots of other things.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty fantastic. If you aren’t in Chicago or can’t travel to one of their 5 locations in the Chicagoland & Milwaukee area, they sell everything online so you can get amazing flavors delivered straight to your home or place of business. They have a 52 page catalog in addition to the full listing of their 600 spices (and counting) on their website.
Talking to Patty, it’s interesting to me that someone who owns one of my favorite companies is so cool and laid back. They’re open to their clients’ creativity and love to hear how people are creating amazing and delicious things with their products. I told her I recently made crepes and love to add some vanilla extract to the batter. She then proceeded to tell me about more types of vanilla than I even knew existed. There are different components and different styles of vanilla in addition to the Madagascar extract I used, there’s Mexican Vanilla Beans, and her personal favorite, Tahiti Beans. “They are more expensive and so I usually find that professional chefs are coming to us looking for them, but they create such a great flavor.” She explained. What I find eye-opening about even a quick talk with Patty is when you break into the world of spices and ingredients, you’re not just talking about brands but origins. Much like wine, the climate and geographical regions where something is made affects the flavor. After our chat I felt excited to try some new things on my own or play with some of my favorite recipes.
While they themselves don’t host cooking classes, if you are looking to host a class, cooking experience or event they will work with you as best as possible. If you’re not a planner, or just looking to do something more casual, they do have some fun events like cook book releases.
WHAT TO GET AT SPICE HOUSE
Not sure where to begin? Get my suggested starter kit (things you won’t find at the store):
- Vulcan’s Fire Salt
- Pullman Pork Chop Seasoning
- Chicago Old Town Premium Spiced Sugar
- Lake Shore Drive Seasoning
Feel like an upgrade to what’s already in your cabinet? Try these:
- Fancy Garlic Salt
- Spanish Paprika (sweeter) or Hungarian Paprika (spicier)
- Madagascar Vanilla Extract
- Chili Powder
- Tuscan Bread Dipping Seasoning
- Tellicherry Ground Black Pepper
OR check out Spice House’s “Basics Spices Deluxe Gift Set” for additional ideas.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Visit their website: http://www.thespicehouse.com