One of our biggest passions at Oly Eats is traveling. Travel gives us the opportunity to taste new flavors and combinations that I would have never considered before. Recipes carefully curated over generations that speak to the heart of a culture are one of the greatest gifts of travel. While most don’t have the ability to sit down to dinner at a rural Italian home, or even travel to see a foreign country, the internet has given us the opportunity to try these dishes in the comfort of our own home. But sometimes, finding all those special ingredients makes this dive into new flavors a tricky task. Local specialty shops can help make finding exotic ingredients a little easier and cheaper.
Flavors Past and Present
Growing up, my mom would tell me stories about how the only seasonings you could find at the grocery store were the small rectangular tins of McCormick spices. Most stores only carried less than 5 or 10 generic spices that covered both savory and sweet dishes. That was a time when adding garlic to a recipe or a dish was extreme cooking!
Today, we have so many more spices and seasonings to choose from. The more we are able to travel, the more food choices we are exposed to trying. McCormick has grown up too and even has a Flavor Maker app to help combine spices to come up with a new flavor that matches your tastes.
Check them out at instagram.com/thespicehouse!
Specialty Spice Shops
But if you’re trying to recreate a new, exotic recipe that requires more than your grocery store’s spice aisle can accommodate, sometimes you have to go to the experts. Even though I’ve loved cooking for years, it wasn’t until recently that I finally came to appreciate and fall in love with specialty spice shops. On a trip to Chicago, I took a food tour with Chicago Food Planet and visited The Spice House. This second-generation spice emporium features hand-crafted spice mixes, freshly ground herbs, seeds, and spices in jars that line the walls. The staff were quick to offer their own personal favorites and offered suggestions and recipes based on my own preferences. And even more importantly, the spices weren’t ridiculously expensive! This was what kept me from visiting these specialty shops in the past. With a tight budget, I figured these kinds of artisan shops were well out of my budget. But you’re not just purchasing the high quality, fresh spices and seasonings when you support these businesses, you’re getting cooking recommendations and flavor suggestions from experts whose job is to help.
In downtown Olympia, WA, we have an amazing selection of locally owned specialty shops: spices, teas, olive oils, vinegars, and chocolate stores galore! These shops are such a great way to expand flavor profiles in your cooking. I feel lucky that downtown Olympia can offer these quality ingredients right here in our own small community. Not only can you purchase the amount you need, but the owners and shopkeepers can suggest other seasonings, oils or chocolates that you may like. Today there is no reason to buy an entire container at the grocery store when you are unsure if you really like that flavor. Shop where it makes sense: with the experts!
If you’d like a private tour of some of downtown Olympia’s best specialty shops, check out our website for more information!