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Going to Penzeys for the 1st time...recommendations?

Hiya hounds... I am making a run to Cleveland to Trader Joes, Wild Oats and for the first time...Penzeys! (I know, sad I have to drive an hour but what can ya do?)

Any recomendations for must haves? Not so greats? Tips?

Thanks in advance!

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      1. re: ziggylu

        Agreed! Be sure to purchase several jars of the Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia...you can give them to friends!
        We have purchased all the various cinnamons that Penzey's has, and it is this Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia that we continue to use over all the others.

        1. re: liu

          I am interested in your answers too. There's a new Penzey's shop in my neighborhood and Im itching to get in there and see what they have. All those things I didn't know I couldn't live without, Im sure!

        2. re: ziggylu

          The Vietnamese cinnamon is good, but so is their Ceylon cinnamon. I love their 2x vanilla, and their tellicherry whole peppercorns.

          I would pass on the salad dressing blends, as they have too much salt and sugar.

          While your in Cleveland, make time to visit the west side market, and Gallucis on Euclid ave.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            I love Fox Point blend and use it on many things including eggs. the bay leaf blend has been a staple in my kitchen for some time also. But, there has been other threads about this before wherein some posters point out that the blends almost all contain salt. If this is an issue for you check the ingredients. If you are a baker don't pass up the orange and lemon rinds. You can make a powerful mustard with the dried mustard powder.
            Enjoy all the aromas and take your time. You'll be surprised at how good herbs and spices really smell when they have not sat in the grocery store for years.

            1. re: Kelli2006

              I just returned from Traders Joe's, Penzeys and Sur La table. This was the first time I had ever been to Woodmere plaza and I am quite impressed. The parking is convenient and everybody is almost painfully polite.

              Trader Joe's was a madhouse but I found a few splurges and I will definitely be back for the baking chocolate and some of the frozen items. The produce wasn't the best I have ever but I compares well to what i have seen at the West Side market, and I would definitely purchase it. This store needs to expand, with maybe a location on the west side in Medina. hint, hint.

              I have shopped at the Grand Rapids Penzeys location and this store is very similar.

              I had never shopped at Sur La Table, but I was quite impressed. The selection was impressive, and the prices were much better then expected. I came very close to buying a piece if MC2 All-Clad, as it seem to be on sale, but I resisted.

              I will definitely be making another trip.

              1. re: Kelli2006

                If you're at all interested, just a short piece up 271, at Mayfield Rd, there's a Costco. We usually hit there, too, when we go to Trader Joe's.

                I think Trader Joe's likes that small crowded neighborhood store feel. The three I've been to are all just like that.

                1. re: yayadave

                  I was very temped to hit the Wild Oats market just before I got back on I-271, but I resisted. Chagrin Road could be very dangerous for a foodie's budget.

                  I have never seen a Stone Oven bakery that is in the west end of the Traders Joe's plaza, but I wonder if it is as good as Breadsmith, or is it akin to Panera? The baguette and pan au levain at Breadsmith are very good, and would be considered respectable in Montreal.

                  I had only ever been to a T-J's in Columbus, and I wasn't entirely impressed with that location.

                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    I adore the Wild Oats on Chagrin. The bulk food section is where its at. However, the grade B maple syrup shot up to 8 bucks a pound from 3.99 and I got the Mesquite Honey from TJ's. The cheese and wine section are pretty good too.

                    Im interested in going to the farmers market everyone talks about...anyone have more explicit directions from Woodmere Plaza and I 271????

          2. Yes, as lucyis noted, many of the blends do contain salt; some of them a great deal of it. The Fox Point seasoning is 4% salt (it's the first ingredient listed); the Chicken Taco seasoning is 23% salt (also the first ingredient listed). The only reason I have these is that Penzey's often sends free samples when you place a large order with them. I'd avoid them. You can make your own blends easily enough. Why pay for salt?

            And although it may be difficult when you're making a special trip, try to resist the temptation to buy too much. Ground spices that are kept at room temperature begin to lose their aroma in as little as a few months. Whole spices can be kept without deterioration for about year. It's far preferable to buy smaller quantities and replace them more often than to try to store larger quantities for longer periods of time. If you do want to buy larger quanities of ground spices, they are best stored in opaque glass containers in the freezer and warmed to room temp before using.

            1. Their salt-free Tuscan Sunset blend has turned into a must use when we're making pizza sauce at my house. And I'll add another vote for the cinnamons. Galangal is nice to have for stir fry dishes. Most of their curry powders are salt free, and are also good to have on hand if you stir fry a lot. Nice number of ground chili peppers of various types. I also use the Florida seasoned pepper on roasting chicken or turkey.

              1. Another vote here for the cinnamon. I also like the Sunny Paris and their salt free seasonings. Plan to spend some time in the store, everything is in a glass container so you can see and smell their spices before you buy. Take your time and enjoy.

                1. Their Spanish Smoked Paprika is wonderful as is their Medium Hot Chili Powder and Garam Marsala. Penzey's has salt-free spice blends.

                  1. Their cumin powder is a sure-fire thing to sniff and know, instantly and intimately, that you've entered an entirely new realm and it may be time to throw out your entire spice rack and start anew.

                    1. Their vanilla beans are much, much less expensive than anything I can get locally. They have dried shallots, which are hard to find. It is great being able to sniff & smell the differences! I'm always very happy with the quality. My SO loves the Brady Street Cheese mix on pop-corn. The Adobo is quite good on pork roasts. I have used Fox Point & Sunny Paris for years with great results.

                      1. The jfood love the Florida Pepper on fish and the Shallot Pepper.

                        But the only spices jfood buys now are pennzey's from salt to saffron

                        1. Ditto meatn3's recommendation for the dried shallots. They're expensive but worth it, in my opinion. My husband is addicted to the Vietnamese cinnamon. And I like the Bavarian-style seasoning mixture in burgers and meatloaf.

                          And JoanN has the best tip - don't go overboard, especially on anything ground or in a mixture. You won't use as many as you think you will. Three years later, I still have several mostly-unused jars from my first wild splurge at Penzey's.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            "don't go overboard, especially on anything ground or in a mixture. You won't use as many as you think you will. Three years later, I still have several mostly-unused jars from my first wild splurge at Penzey's"

                            What you say is true. However, if you have a cupboard stocked with lousy, ancient supermarket spices, and you do intend to keep a decent selection on hand (i.e. the situation is inevitable), it's better to start fresh with terrific Penzey's versions, because they'll be better even when ancient and it takes them a while to reach that point, which you'll enjoy the whole time. So I wouldn't be too conservative necessarily...

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              The good thing about this is you can buy pretty much everything in as small or as large a quantity as you like. Want to just try something out? Go for the small plastic bottle. Know you're going to use a lot? Buy in the bulk plastic bags (most everything has two sizes of bulk bag). We were just in there today (got off work early so were able to stop by before closing) so it's all fresh in my mind (and nose!) again. :-)

                              We're trying to get into the habit of marking the incoming date on the packaging, plus just keeping track of what we have and what we've used up as sometimes we've started a recipe assuming we had all the ingredients and ended up being out of something. ;-)

                              And one of the things that continues to surprise me about Penzey's is that for all the variety and what appears to be high quality, it costs less than McCormick in the supermarket. We only buy stuff at other stores when in a pinch and can't get to Penzey's (it's near work, but not near home, and it's not open late enough to go after work, so it can be tricky, but still worth it), and apart from maybe Trader Joe's it always costs more when that happens!

                          2. Just today I was marveling at how much I love their French grey sea salt. I eat a lot of plain veggies with just a sprinkle. It adds so much in taste and texture.

                            Go, smell, enjoy, buy.

                            1. I love their Shallot salt, and the Schezchuan (SP?) pepper salt.

                              1. Be prepared for a sensory overload! There is a lot to see, and the aromas are enticing. I second the cinnamon, although I usually buy Chinese. Also, saffron. They probably have the best in the country. We love the Tellicherry peppercorns. I especially like the chili powder (you can choose your preferred level of hotness), bay leaves, rosemary, dried jalapenos and vanilla. If you buy big packages, be prepared to freeze them. But they carry small sizes too. Now that there is only 2 of us to cook for, that's the size I buy. Also, in the past the bay leaves were exemplary. But I noticed that the quality of the leaves I bought recently weren't up to past standards. I don't know why that would be.

                                1. Pick up a couple boxes of Diamond kosher salt while you're there. They will be about half the price you'd pay at your local supermarket.

                                  I swear by the Ozark seasoning among the blends. Just a nice, simple southern-style blend that's excellent on beef dishes and in fried chicken.

                                  1. If you have any wedding showers or foodie gift occasions coming up in the near future, I'd say grab one of their gift boxes and fill it up with whatever. They make a very attractive gift. I like the spices in the little jars as you can usually use them up before they get stale and you can fit a larger assortment in the gift box.

                                    I get their cinnamon (both kinds), bay leaves, cumin, chili powder, ground sumac, shallot pepper and coarse grind pepper. Although I tend to stay away from the blends, I do have a small jar of seasoned salt for popcorn.

                                    I always indulge in a small jar of whatever looks interesting. I'm three miles away from a Penzeys so I tend to go every month or so.

                                    While you're there, grab a free catalog if you don't have one already, so you can compile your list for the next visit!

                                    1. Most of the plain spices I have on hand are from Penzeys now. I always buy the smallest size and I don't buy many pre-mixed blends. A real treat are the dried toasted onions. Wonderful mixed into bread dough. And they have the freshest poppy seeds I've ever found: much better than any bulk grain health food store.

                                      1. the two things I always go back to Penzey's for are: Bangkok Seasoning and dried ground Chipolte powder.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: PamelaD

                                          I agree on the ground chipotle powder - it is so great!

                                        2. Peppercorns. I'd never buy them anywhere else.

                                          Bay Leaves


                                          Florida Seasoned Pepper.

                                          Sunny Paris

                                          California Seasoned Pepper

                                          Shallot salt

                                          4S seasoned salt

                                          Chili powder


                                          Cajun seasoning

                                          And of course their cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cake spice

                                          1. Hello,

                                            As others have stated, love their cinnamon and vanilla. Other favorites include baking spice, Trinidad ginger/lemon marinade (a little of this in some melted butter is wonderful for dipping artichoke leaves!), smoked paprika, Fox Point seasoning, lamb seasoning, Chicago steak seasoning (great smoky flavor), peppercorns, poppy seeds, there are so many!

                                            Going to the store is a treat. They have little glass sample jars of the spices there that you can open and smell. Everything smells so good! I have bought gift boxes there and chosen their spices to fill them up with for wedding and holiday gifts and everybody loves them. Have fun!


                                            1. I'll add another vote for their Fleur de Sel grey sea salt. I don't know what it is about it, but I really like it.

                                              I'll also throw in a vote for their Chicago Steak Seasoning - it's excellent.

                                              And as someone else already said - visit the West Side Market if you can!


                                              1. Well, Chelley, I guess you wasted all your money on "two buck Chuck" and didn't make it to Penzey's this trip. It's O.K. They do great mail order.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: yayadave

                                                  actually, Dave, its the blueberry beer at TJ's that does me in! We were supposed to go to CLE last weekend, but all got hit with the flu, so this Saturday is my day! TJs and Penzeys are in the same plaza as Sur La Table, so there goes my tax refund!

                                                  Thanks for all the great ideas, hounds! I'll report back to what I actually blow the wad on!

                                                2. You have to get their Smoked Paprika and their Mogra Cream Saffron

                                                  1. I've got a kitchen full of Penzey's Spices! Haven't heard anyone mention their Fajita Seasoning, but if you follow their directions, it's amazing on chicken, flank steak and shrimp!

                                                    I use the "Sandwich Sprinkle" as a staple for quick garlic bread. Either brush melted unsalted butter or olive oil on good sliced bread and LIGHTLY sprinkle with the Sandwich sprinkle. Wrap in foil and heat in the oven or on the grill.

                                                    Penzey's "Sate" seasoning is wonderful on thinly sliced pork, chicken, beef, shrimp or scallops. Once again, follow their directions and broil or grill for a fantastic appetizer or entree!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Minnesotagrrrl

                                                      Sandwich Sprinkle, Prime Rib Rub (also good for burgers w/ worcestershire), Fajita Seasoning, Adobo Seasoning, Peppercorns, Salt, Curry, any of the baking stuff....I can't stop!!!!..... Must make a trip down there this weekend.

                                                    2. I love most of their spices, and the orange and lemon peels. The spice that I keep reaching for over and over though is the Sunny Paris.

                                                      A word of warning, when you sniff on the jars of spices don't shake them or wait until the dust settles before taking a whiff. Last time I overdid it and was sneezing uncontrollably for a while...

                                                      1. No one here has mentioned Northwoods Fire. I love Northwoods Fire! It's great on anything but dessert. I love it on a grilled steak especially though.

                                                        Fox point is great with eggs.

                                                        Great vanilla beans and vanilla extract.

                                                        1. I use the greek seasoning on almost everything. I love the sandwich sprinkle, and use it as seasoning for hamburgers, fried potatoes, etc. The dried shallots are really good, too.