Sunday, August 09, 2009

Penzeys Spice and Everything Nice

During my recent jaunt down to the Peninsula, I made a point of visiting the nearly 1-year-old Penzeys Spices store in the heart of downtown Menlo Park.

Apparently, there’s a real cult following for Penzeys Spices, which started out being available only via a mail-order catalog out of Wisconsin. They now have 42 stores across the country and three in California. The Menlo Park store is the only one in Northern California.

I’d never heard of Penzeys until I read about it on THE South Bay foodie blog, Food Gal. And I’d been waiting to see it first-hand ever since.

Let me just say that downtown Menlo Park is soooo Main Street USA, which seems like the perfect spot for a Penzeys. The store itself is spice heaven, but in a very orderly fashion. The clear aisles display countless jars of spices, but all organized in ways to help the home cook.

Looking for something to grill? Check out the spices in the grill section. Want something to sprinkle in salads? Look under the big photo of a big bowl of salad. Want something to jazz up your cookies? Walk into the make-believe homemaker kitchen in the center of the store and check out the cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Shopping for spices is a lot of fun for me because I love the visuals of the different colors of the spice. What’s cool about Penzeys is that not only has it gathered unique or hard-to-find spices, but it also has created several spice combinations to get your creative juices running.

For example, taking Food Gal’s lead, I picked up a jar of Singapore Seasoning because I wanted to eat it out of the jar (it smelled like walking into a Singaporean restaurant). I also got a jar of Galangal, a spice used in Thai cooking and Penzeys seasoned salt because it was, well, so pretty.

As you can tell, there are snuff jars all over so you can smell the spices and let your imaginations run wild. You can definitely get lost here for a whole afternoon.

Penzeys Spices, 771 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park. PH: 650.853.1785. Open 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Monday–Saturday; 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Sunday.

Spiced Up Recipes:
Firecracker Shrimp and Humita
Spicy and Sticky Baby Back Ribs
Five-Spice Grilled Chicken with Orange Fennel


foodhoe said...

I've been ordering from Penzey's online for years, I guess for me the verbal descriptions were inspiration enough! I still haven't made it over to their local shop, I think I should start saving up for a visit now...

Kim said...

Cool! I didn't know that had a store!

Carroll said...

Thanks for the nudge, Single Guy! I live right down the road in Cupertino, and have still not made the pilgrimage. Keep us drooling by letting us know what all you end up making with that spice blend, OK?

Carolyn Jung said...

Glad you finally made it there. It's a fun store, isn't it? Oh man, I must have missed the galangal when I was there. Must pick some up the next time I'm there!

Mrs. L said...

I have had the place on my list to visit since they opened! Seems I must go soon.

Jeff said...

I have been a penzey whore for years!! Love their spices and love the dried chilis they offer way more.

They do have more with their mail order and great shipping.

Unknown said...

I had a chance to visit a Penzey store in Appleton, Wi this past weekend. I found theire spices to be stale and not appealing at all. What I've found is that the best spices for quality and freshness still come out of Wisconsin but are from PS Seasoning & Spices in Iron Ridge, Wi. While they don't have a retail store front do yourself a favor and try products from PS Seasoning at