Upon entering The Spice House in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, one is immediately overcome with the aroma of the most intense, unexpected blend of herbs and spices: spicy cinnamon, piquant peppers, luscious citrus, earthy mushrooms, savory sage, summery basil and oregano...and more. It seems that encountering such a motley blend of scents all at once might seem overwhelming, and perhaps it is to some, but to me it is one of the most meaningful sensory experiences ever. Other spice merchants try, and I suppose they'll do in a pinch, but none seem to reach the pinnacle of perfection that my beloved Spice House achieves every time I enter its doors.
Readers who don't live in Chicago or Milwaukee (or Napa Valley... I saw several of their products during a visit to The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone) will be pleased to know that The Spice House's entire catalog is available online. Shipping isn't too bad if you purchase as many items as I do when it's time to restock my pantry. Some of my favorites include Vulcan Fire Salt, Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper Butcher's Rub, Lake Shore Drive Seasoning, and Chicago Old Town Premium Spiced Sugar. Chef Alton Brown likes The Spice House too, and has created several proprietary blends in conjunction with owners Tom and Patty Erd.
Check out The Spice Town in person or online. Trust me, you'll be glad you did. The location pictured above can be found at 1512 N Wells St in Chicago, Illinois.