Spice hunting

In this day that you can buy bulk spices at conventional grocery stores, and find a good variety of spices and blends that only recently were exotic and only available at ethnic markets, I decided to visit the two spice meccas here in Portland with a list of 26 Indian, SE Asian, and Mexican seasonings to find.

While each store has its strengths and weaknesses, I only found about a quarter of my list at either of these stores. So if you're looking for ethnic spices, it still pays to go to an ethnic grocer. And neither carries the illusive, newly legal Szechuan peppercorns.

4707 SE 39th Ave
(503) 774-8008

Limbo is a combination green-grocer, coffee shop, and spice market. They are well known for their Wall of Spices, both culinary and non-culinary, as well as a huge collection of loose teas. They offer small quantities of pre-packaged, more common spices at the cash register. Otherwise, off to the bulk jars with you. In most cases you can find both whole and ground spices, and they have a nice collection of blends. They also have dried fruits, and dried mushrooms bulk (yum!). The entire collection seems smaller than I remembered it, but it was the last stop in a shopping death march, so that might not actually be the case.

11322 SE 82nd (south of Johnson Creek, in the Winco shopping center)
(503) 653-7779

Penzeys is a well-known midwestern mail-order spice source, and they now have a store in suburban Portland. While the strip mall houses a Winco and a Hometown Buffet, walk inside the Penzeys to feel the glory and the love of culinary spices. There's a hushed, reverent tone inside, as folks compare different types of cinnamon, vanilla, and pepper, sniff from open spice jars, and begin to act like cats around catnip. It appears that they carry everything from the catalog, in a variety of sizes. There are very nice collections of blends, chili peppers, and gift boxes, and everything has a information about where it came from and how it's used.

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October 31, 2005 | Permalink



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