A few weeks ago, my husband and I were strolling through a Greensboro, NC, shopping center, and came across Savory Spice Shop. I have never noticed the store before, and since I cook a lot, I’m always interested in good, local sources of ingredients. We walked inside, and I was immediately flooded with the amazing smell of spice!
There wasn’t a particular scent that stood out… they all seemed to mesh together in a beautiful harmony of flavor. Being a big-time foodie, I was entranced!
Within moments of walking in the door, we were greeted by Ashley, the Assistant Manager, who gave us a quick tour of the store, and some information on a few of the spices. She was so welcoming and knowledgeable, and I appreciate that she had lots of experience with most of the spices we saw!
I fell in love with this amazing little store, and decided that I would have to go back for an interview with Ashley!
I made an appointment, and went back to Savory last week. Again, when I walked in the door I was in scent-heaven. Amazing.
I could not believe the extent of variety! Who knew that there are so many types of Paprika? Ashley told me that paprika is made from ground and dried bell peppers or chili peppers, that it packs a huge amount of flavor, and that it goes on more than just your deviled eggs! The flavors range from mild to hot, and “Sweet Smoked” is the most flavorful variety.
While at the shop, I learned that Savory Spice Shop is actually a franchise company! It was started as a mom-and-pop company in Colorado by Janet and Mike Johnston. This couple wanted to provide high quality herbs and spices at an affordable price. Their store and website experienced so much success that they began offering franchise opportunities so that more stores could be run locally.
Ashley says that there are several things…
1. Savory provides amazing, personal service. In Savory shops, you can taste and smell everything before you walk out the door. The employees are knowledgeable, and they can make recommendations for pairings. It’s not just a browse-and-buy experience… it’s a personalized shopping experience.
2. The level of quality of Savory spices is remarkable. If you compare the look and smell of the spices you see at typical grocery stores, the difference is amazing. All of the spices smelled 100 times better than my bottles at home, and some of them smelled completely different from what I’m used to smelling (in a better, fresher way).
3. Savory spices are ground fresh weekly. They have a warehouse that only holds enough to stock 3-4 stores in each spice, and they have 20 stores nationwide, so constant, fresh grinding and blending is a MUST.
4. All of the herbs and spices are hand-blended, hand-stirred, and tested. Savory has foodies working in their warehouses… they taste everything, and test it by cooking with it themselves.
I could definitely tell that Ashley really enjoys her job… she was passionate about it! One thing she mentioned is how interesting it is to watch people as they smell and taste the varieties. So often, a smell brings back a memory long forgotten, a taste of some historic day… She told me a story of a woman who smelled one of the amazing cinnamons and burst into tears! The smell brought back a host of memories of her childhood, and she’d not smelled cinnamon like that since.
I asked Ashley where the spices and herbs are sourced, and she said that they always have fresh spices because they get them from all over the world! Savory sources from wherever the particular spice is growing seasonally and economically, and most of the time they come from small farms. The founders of Savory know many of the owners of the farms that grow the herbs and spices, and they’ve seen the processes from start to finish (from growing to toasting).
Cantanzaro Herbs – a savory blend that you can use for everything! They are a mix of Italian herbs, a little lemon, and some garlic. This blend goes well with nearly every meat or vegetable.
Spiced Vanilla Sugar – this is a sweet blend of sugar, vanilla, and spices. It works beautifully with spiced pecans, in cream cheese, or in coffee.
Of course, I had to ask about the most expensive items in the store… Saffron! Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and Savory has all kinds of varieties from which to choose!
Saffron lasts around 7 years or more. It has a lovely tobacco-like flavor to it. The reason this spice is expensive is because harvesting it is back-breaking work… the spice is actually the stigma of crocus flowers! So pickers must be on hands and knees, and bent over, to carefully gather the spice. You should never get saffron from a regular grocery store! Unfortunately, a lot of people call turmeric “saffron,” so while you think you’re getting a tasty ingredient, you are really getting a sub-par substitution.
The second most expensive item in the store is the truffle salt. Truffles actually come from subterranean mushrooms, and they amp up the flavor of anything and everything they contact.
The most underrated spice? Ashley surprised me with this one! She says salt! And it makes sense, if you think about it… a lot of people just dump salt on everything, or they won’t use salt for anything because they are afraid of sodium (check out this article, by the way!). But salt is a really important and vital seasoning! Even on network cooking shows, chefs will crawl all over people for not seasoning the food properly… and the “seasoning” they mean is salt. It is a natural way to enhance flavors, but it should be used delicately and carefully, and you should be sure to taste your food as you add.
Pepper is also underrated. Pepper brings out the “lower notes” and flavors of your dish, while salt brings out all high, bright notes. Together, these two seasonings make a perfect symphony.
Savory carries many types of salt, from sea salt (from the ocean) to mine salt (from mines).
The most popular spice? Ashley says that this really depends on what the employees have been using lately. They talk with customers all the time about their favorites, their recent experiences, and their recommendations. “Pearl Street” has been big one at the Greensboro location lately. It is great on salmon (marinate it in the fridge, toss it on a cedar plank, then grill it to perfection!). Cinnamons are also big sellers because most people have never smelled cinnamon like this before – it is FRESH and pure, with no added fillers or dyes.
Ashley’s favorite type is Indonesian Cinnamon because it is the sweetest variety.
Curious about how to store your spices?
First of all, they should be kept FAR away from heat! Are you doing what so many do, and storing your spices above the stove, in a cabinet near the stove, or in an area where there is lots of bright sunlight? That’s a mistake! Any light or heat is going to excite the spices and cause them to release their oils, which causes them to release their flavor.
Also, be sure to replace your spices when they start to lose their flavor. Savory is careful to mark each jar with the date of purchase when you check out so that you can track how long it’s been in your cupboard.
If you have ever complained about the “boring” element of constant meat and vegetables… let me tell you a little secret: spices are the way to keep your food interesting! Find yourself a Savory Spice Shop, and go experience the wonders of spices from around the world! Find some new things that you’ve never tried! Branch out with some different flavors!
One of the best resources for amazing Paleo recipes with lots of SPICE is Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed (check out my review here). This cookbook offers amazing suggestions for tons of worldly recipes, and lots of varietal spices are called into play! In fact, Melissa says “One of the things I love about spices and other seasonings is that, much like a good book, they can take you just about anywhere in the world.“
HUGE thanks to Ashley Stricker for teaching me so much about the wonderful world of SPICE!
Be sure to check out the Greensboro location’s Facebook Page too!