Seattle Eats

Trending: Spices

Seattleites are cooking globally at home, and buying up blends at the spice shops.

By Tiffany Ran March 30, 2011

At Seattle spice shops, it’s all about the blends.

In the trending series, Nosh Pit talks to local food providers, shop owners, chefs, servers—whoever’s appropriate, really—about the consumables Seattle can’t get enough of right now. This week: spices.

1. At Pike Place Market spice shop MarketSpice, assistant manager Angela DeWitt has noticed a global theme to what her customers are cooking. “What I’ve seen in the last two to three years are people interested in cooking exotic foods like African or Thai,” said DeWitt.

They’re particularly attracted to blends like ras el hanout, commonly used in Moroccan cuisine, and the housemade harissa blend, a dry stand-in for the Tunisian chili paste.

And the tourists? “Smoked paprika is the number one request because customers have a harder time finding it in other parts of the country,” said the spice seller.

2. It’s a pretty diverse crowd that’s wandering into the newly opened SugarPill Apothecary on Capitol Hill, where owner Karyn Schwartz takes a culinary and medicinal approach to the stock she carries.

“A lot of things that go into spice blends are good for your digestion. In every blend, you can take it apart and get the particular quality of each ingredient. That’s what I like to teach people,” said Schwartz. She’s been turning customers onto Miracle Spice, a braising blend of Mediterranean herbs, juniper, black pepper, and additional “secret ingredients that add a cinnamon-y edge”.

3. Customers at Big John’s Pacific Food Importers stock up on paprika, coriander seeds, and chipotle pepper in the bulk section. Assistant manager Dan Klempner said the store also moves large quantities of Za’atar and sumac.

Good tip: Buying bulk means you can buy as much, but also as little, as you desire. Bring your own containers or bags to fill but when you do, don’t forget to deduct the weight of your container from the overall weight, unless you want to give Big John a little something extra.

4. World Spice Merchants caters to hankerings for the hard-to-finds: bright, citrusy Indian coriander, wild-harvested Tasmanian pepper berries.

Meanwhile the Piment d’Espelette, Espelette pepper, which has its own AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) in the Espelette region in France, has Seattleites hot for chilis.

“It has been a tremendous sale for us,” said operations manager Holly Morris. She suspects that the heightened interest is part of a larger culinary trend: a new focus on varietal chilis.

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