How spicy do you like it, Arkansas? Salt and black pepper? Smoky chipotle? Sweet and fruity pink peppercorns? The nuclear holocaust of ghost peppers? Everybody’s got an opinion about spice, from my ongoing love affair with the trance-inducing narcotic heat of Szechuan peppercorns to my colleague Steve Shuler’s favorite movie. Thus, for this week’s Friday Five open line, we’re talking spice shops where you can get your heat fix just like you like it.
*Dandelion: In terms of selection, Dandelion in the River Market is second to none, plus they sell bulk spices — meaning you can get as much or as little as you need. This is a fantastic option for trying out new flavor combinations, and the knowledgeable staff is certainly capable of great suggestions.
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*Eggshells Kitchen Co.: The self-proclaimed “toy store for foodies” is a great place to get spicy sauces, condiments, and marinades. For the particularly brave, pick up a bottle of Monk Sauce, a delicious habanero sauce available in red or green from the fine brothers at Subiaco Abbey. If it’s from Arkansas and delicious, you can probably find it at Eggshells.
*Ali Baba: We’re huge fans of this Middle Eastern restaurant and grocery located right across the street from UALR. And sure, they do great food, but there’s a lot more to love about the place — namely, the excellent selection of reasonably priced spices located in the grocery section. Fans of curry, tandoori chicken, or sweet/spicy moussaka will have a field day at Ali Baba.
*Maison Terre: If you’re like me, the advent of online shopping has revolutionized your life. One of my favorite online stores, Maison Terre Natural Products, has its base in the Argenta district of North Little Rock — and they sell everything from bulk herbs to spice mixes to essential oils (and a lot more). As an added bonus, check out their new line of beat-the-cold hot chocolate mixes.
*Mercado San Jose: There are a number of excellent markets in Southwest Little Rock, but I find myself at Mercado San Jose on Geyer Springs more often than not. Mexican cuisine is known for its excellent spicy flavor profile, and San Jose has everything you need to get that spice into your life. Plus, like many ethnic groceries, the spices are far cheaper than their equivalent at the big supermarkets.
So what about it, everyone? What kind of spice do you like? This post will also function as your weekend open line, so feel free to go off topic to let us know what you’ve been gnawing on this week.