I discovered The Spice House during a last-minute rush to buy someone a present. I was sure the prices would be outrageous, given its location in affluent northern Evanston and the fact that spices are fast becoming an “artisanal” good, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the prices were not only reasonable, but kind of outstanding considering the fact that many of them are custom-made in house.
I like to buy creative gifts for other people, by which I mean I like to buy them something that’s unusual but useful and that no one has even given them before. This was a decent strategy when I was 12, but now it drives me crazy every year. The Spice House has so far saved me twice this year, and it’s not even holiday season yet.
The truly wonderful thing is that you can choose any 4 spices and make a custom gift box. I try to pick out stuff I’ve never seen/heard of before–they have everything from orange extract to maple sugar to Bavarian butcher rub to real saffron. Then they’ll put it together in a gift box for you and add dried bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, and whole nutmeg. They can ship directly from the store with priority mail, meaning most packages arrive in 2-3 days… which is great if, like me, punctuality is not your strong suit.
My favorite find is the Chipotle chile powder, which smells…wonderful. It’s not spicy, necessarily–more savory. It smells like BBQ or slow-cooked pulled pork. Hickory and bonfires and smoky wonderfulness. Ahhhhhh.
Luckily there are Spice Houses in a few more locations in the Chicago area if you don’t feel like making the trek up to Evanston. You can find out more information on their website, where they also post recipes and cool stuff about brewing beer with spices.
Even if buying fancy spices isn’t your thing, it’s worth it to visit The Spice House for the ambiance. With its dim lighting and stocked shelves, it feels like something slightly removed from the modern world. (I like to think that I’ve found a modern cinnamon shop).
And did I mention that it smells amazing???Disclaimer: I’m not in any way affiliated with The Spice House. I just think it’s a neat place & I love spices!