A little more than a year ago, in my early days of everyday cooking and becoming one with my kitchen, I first discovered my favorite foodie blog Smitten Kitchen. Holidays were approaching and I was entralled by Deb's post for Spiced Applesauce Cake. In that post she waxed poetic about Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon and the Penzey's spice stand at the Grand Central Market in NYC, describing this particular cinnamon as being stronger, clearer and more flavorful than any cinnamon she'd ever used before. I made the applesauce. I made the cake. spectacular! even with everyday supermarket I-don't-know-how-long-this-has-been-in-the-pantry cinnamon. I eventually found a Vietnamese cinnamon at Rainbow, a local natural foods co-op, which I scooped out of a giant jar. It wasn't Extra Fancy though. I can't say whether or not it outshined the supermarket stuff. The applesauce I'd made with it back then was pretty darned good though. I haven't really given it much thought since. Fast forward to yesterday morning.
I had an appointment out of town in the little burb of Menlo Park, an hours train ride south of San Francisco. Early for said appointment, I was killing time on Santa Cruz Avenue, a trendy little shopping street where I've been known to browse the thrift and resale shops...but reeeeaaally? $16.99 for a silk camisole from the Goodwill?!? Madness. Back on the street, dishearted and quite steamed at such nervy prices, I look across the street and see the name Penzey's Spices lettered across a storefront. My heart practically leaps out of my chest. Extra Fancy within my grasp...yeah...talk about madness.
I dash across the street and spend a moment peering through the window like a kid at a candy store. I'm entralled by the inviting oldey timey country merchantile shop design. I enter and begin to browse around the old fashioned wooden crates stacked upon wooden barrels. Each crate features an individual spice or herb, offering 3 or 4 sizes and packaging options (jars or plastic sealed bags), and the best part are the big jars. I'm instructed to give the jar a shake, remove the top and stick my nose in and sniff away, just be careful with the peppers. After nosing around a bit, I'm drawn to a far corner where there's a 30's kitchen repro, kinda like something you'd find in the Smithsonian, displaying all of the baking spices. I've hit the motherlode and the Extra Fancy.
I remembered giggling at that Smitten Kitchen post when she described going into that shop for just one thing and ends up having to bust out the granny cart. Silly girl. I so get that now. An hour later (and now running late for my appointment) my shopping basket is full. In addition to my Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon, I've got (I don't know why) both black and yellow mustard seeds, dried sage, bay leaves, a poultry rub, black extra hot peppercorns, chervil (never used it before but upon opening the sniffing jar I'm intrigued aaaand it's French) and a chili spice mix.
First order of business is to do Gwyneth Paltrow's vegetarian chili again and applesauce and perhaps a roasted chicken...silly girl!