Sugar and spice and everything nice
August 2, 2005 10:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some premium, gourmet, fancy-pants spices (e.g., saffron, really good vanilla beans, etc.) as a gift for a food-savvy friend. I'm clueless about where to look, and Google turns up all kinds of shady e-commerce sites. Where do I go for the really nice, high-quality stuff?
posted by oissubke to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wholeheartedly recommend the completely awesome World Spice based right here in Seattle.
posted by Skot at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Penzey's Spices has all kinds of gourmet spices and is reasonably priced. They have gift baskets, and also empty baskets that you can fill with spices you choose.
posted by copperbleu at 10:40 AM on August 2, 2005

I second Penzey's.
posted by garbo at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2005

I second (on preview: third) Penzey's. Kalustyan's is also great for spices and other products.
posted by trip and a half at 10:49 AM on August 2, 2005

kalustyan's rocks. That's where I go for the best cumin and paprika in the city.
posted by spicynuts at 10:59 AM on August 2, 2005

I have given various Dean & Deluca spice sets as gifts -- and the recipients have really liked them.
posted by ericb at 11:07 AM on August 2, 2005

Mmmmmmm....Spice House....
posted by jeanmari at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2005

And I second the Spice House.
posted by jonzino at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2005

I'll second World Spice. The Chipotle and Ancho chili powder mixes are especially good.
posted by sevenless at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2005

can i tag on a rider: any great spice shops in Vancouver?
posted by stray at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2005

Penzey's is reliable and has everything, but you might also try Zingerman's mail-order, especially if your friend goes for the exotic stuff. They've got good saffron and vanilla, but they've also got indigenous spices from Australia, sea salts and peppercorns from around the world, and some other rare odds and ends. (Check out the rest of their site too; they're the best when it comes to olive oil, vinegar and handmade cheeses.)

No, I don't work there. They're just a local business from my home town, and one of the things that made me proud to live there.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:32 PM on August 2, 2005

I came in this thread to suggest Kalustyan's, so, yeah, I'll second that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2005

A fifth vote on Penzey's. There may be reasons to shop elsewhere, but they require more thorough knowledge about one's own particularities and idiosyncracies.
posted by willbaude at 12:39 PM on August 2, 2005

If you really want to blow a gourmet away, there's nothing better than a vintage balsamic vinegar. My wife got me a 100-year-old bottle from Di Bruno Brothers.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:43 PM on August 2, 2005

Penzey's for sure.
posted by leafwoman at 12:52 PM on August 2, 2005

Using saffron as a benchmark because it's so difficult to harvest as is therefore the most expensive spice there is, I checked World Merchants, Dean and Deluca, Kalustyans, and Penzey's offerings. Penzeys is the one who seems to have the best. I couldn't really judge Kalustyans though because there was no photo or explanatory information.

For info, Indian saffron is the finest quality saffron you can buy, followed by Moroccan, followed by Iranian. Also, never let anyone sell you powdered saffron, as it will have almost no flavor.
posted by hazyjane at 1:09 PM on August 2, 2005

Kalustyans, good lord yes, they have like 5 kinds of black peppercorns, dried keffir lime leaves, garam masala that has not been ground up, truffle everything, everything you can think of.

Also, I recently found Nirmala's Kitchen. They have great gift packages, salt from France, Japan (a green tea blend) and Australia. Lovely.
posted by scazza at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2005

nothing new here, but in case you're still uncertain: one more vote for PENZEY's. Received a huge crate of spices as a wedding gift and was totally sold!! great customer service as well.
posted by roundrock at 2:00 PM on August 2, 2005

I've been hearing lots of raves for these organic, sustainably harvested vanilla beans. They were recently linked on MetaEfficient and the LJ food_porn community.
posted by Melinika at 2:19 PM on August 2, 2005

I have had good luck with for spices, but some of the dedicated spice places already described here will probably have a little broader variety. ChefShop is more of a general gourmet food shop. They have lots of great gift items.
posted by caddis at 2:47 PM on August 2, 2005

Fleur de-sel. I don't know if the (post?)graduate students got the authorities in Portugal for them to sell it as a food aditive yet. I have no idea where to get it, sorry - been looking for it locally, myself.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:07 PM on August 2, 2005

Herbs-not-Spices reply: The Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, sell herbs. You might also consider a pot of fresh herbs. It's nice to have fresh rosemary, chives, sage, and other herbs out of season.
posted by theora55 at 3:24 PM on August 2, 2005

An nth for Penzey's, even though I live near Zingerman's. Both have excellent customer service, and will talk you through orders, if needed.
posted by QIbHom at 3:41 PM on August 2, 2005

A tangent: the folks over at America's Test Kitchen did a testing with various vanilla beans, real vanilla extract, and imitation vanilla. They were shocked, SHOCKED!, to find out that no one could taste the difference between real and imitation vanilla.

So forget about the vanilla beans and buy more saffron instead. :)
posted by luneray at 3:53 PM on August 2, 2005

Penzey's ROCKS!!!
posted by nimsey lou at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2005

Just got our first Penzey's shipment. Opening up that box and taking a whiff of each spice just makes you want to cook. Plus, the bonus spices are always nice.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:55 PM on August 2, 2005

Another vote for Spice House here. And they sell really cool gift boxes.
posted by awegz at 5:42 PM on August 2, 2005

Spice House just cuz it's in Milwaukee, an' I love me some Milwaukee. (Penzey's is good too, though.)
posted by chota at 8:47 PM on August 2, 2005

Melinika... I just got my package of organically grown/sustainably harvested vanilla beans this morning. My whole house is filled with their intoxicating aroma.

* drools *

Oh... and Penzeys. Definitely Penzeys.
posted by silusGROK at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2005

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