It is no surprise our spice merchants are passionate about cuisine, but there's more we'd like to know about them. Learn more about the people behind the world's finest spices and discover their favorite spices, recipes, and hobbies.
Q: What’s a favorite spice you've discovered since starting at The Spice House, and why?
A: Aleppo Chile Flakes—I think they are so versatile and a sweeter, less spicy alternative to crushed red chiles. They're my finishing touch to almost every meal, like my Black and Red Avocado Toast!
Named after the Syrian city, the Aleppo pepper found its way along the Silk Road into kitchens and recipes across Central Asia. From Turkish kebabs to Uzbek lamb braises, and to the now-global phenomenon that is avocado toast, these pepper flakes add color, mild heat, and a unique salty-raisiny flavor.
Q: What’s your favorite Spice House blend, and why?
A: Argyle Street. I make a lot of Southeast Asian dishes, and this is my favorite for tofu. It's very forgiving, not too salty, and can be used in so many types of dishes. I use it in stir fries, add it to pho, use it on Bánh mì, noodle dishes and green papaya salad. A close second is our Sweet Curry for the same reasons!
Argyle Street Stir Fry Blend
Ideal for a weeknight stir fry, this blend brings together the staples of Southeast Asian flavors: lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, garlic, and chili pepper. Flash fry in your wok before adding vegetables and proteins to release this blend full flavor. Or sprinkle some on a cold noodle salad.
Q: What’s your can't-live-without spice, and why?
A: Ground Cumin. Ours is so fresh and flavorful, and it's used in nearly every cuisine. I love cumin for fajitas in a cumin lime vinaigrette when I'm feeling lazy, and I will find any excuse to eat curry as a vehicle for cumin. And with Jeera rice? Absolute heaven.
Ground Cumin Seed
Cumin's savory pungency has been essential in curries for thousands of years. Today, you can use our ground cumin spice as a key flavor in American chili and barbecue sauces, certain Swiss and Dutch cheeses, Mexican bean dishes, and many Central Asian dishes.
Q: If you could cook with anyone, who would it be?
A: Claire Saffitz, former contributor for Bon Appétit, or Lidia Bastianich. I love seeing Claire's process and problem-solving skills, and think it would be fun to learn from her, and maybe tease her a bit by asking her to temper chocolate. I used to watch PBS on Sunday afternoons and loved watching Lidia's Family Table. She's the type of grandma I'd love making memories with in the kitchen.
Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Any kind of Vietnamese dish.
Q: What was the first Vietnamese food you had?
A: Bún Chay, which is a vegetable and vermicelli noodle dish. I taught a class at the Milwaukee Public Market this year on Vietnamese cooking, which covered making Sichuan chile oil, Argyle Street Tofu, and rice paper rolls. Being vegan, I love the use of fresh produce as well as the ideology surrounding balancing sweet, savory and spicy flavors. I don't like food that is too heavy, so perfecting rice paper rolls is ideal for summer when everything is garden-fresh and it's too sweltering outside to justify eating hot food.
Q: If you could live in any city in the world, where would it be and why?
The Netherlands just feels like home. It's a cultural melting pot with every kind of cuisine imaginable. Utrecht, my favorite Dutch city, reminds me so much of La Crosse, WI (where I lived for about 5 years) in a way I can't describe. Amsterdam has some of my favorite spots to relax - like Vondelpark, and the oldest bar in the city, de Aepjen, where Dutch sailors would first stop after arriving back from their many travels abroad (including for spices.) Many wouldn't have any kroner (money) and would pay their bar tab with what they brought back during their travels....monkeys! My other favorite spot, de Ooeivaar, is right across the street and is my favorite proeflokaal (gin tasting room.) Dutch gin is so uniquely different from English dry gin, as it uses other botanicals and is more malty. Plus, the bicycle culture makes me feel I'm among my people.
Q: You've been a bicycle commuter since 2007, what does the perfect solo ride day look like to you?
Freshly paved streets with no potholes! What I love about cycling around is that it allows me to really take in my surroundings. Milwaukee has a lot of beautiful historic architecture which I love to admire, so I suppose a ride around a historic district to take in the sights and sounds is among my favorite things to do on a bicycle! I plan to do this in Philadelphia very soon :)