If you were expecting me to rave on about flying fish and the produce available at Pike Place Market… I am sorry to disappoint you. Let’s face it, those stories have been done to death. This story isn’t about fish, cherries, flowers, chowder, coffee, or “Pike Place Market Gum Wall”. This story is about expanding your culinary horizons so to speak. There are a few hidden gems in the market that if you know how, and what to ask, you can increase your culinary IQ exponentially with healthy, flavorful additions to your cooking repertoire.
Market Spice has been a part of the Pike Place Market landscape selling specialty spices and teas since 1911. I consider the freshness and quality of herbs and spices just as important as the freshness and quality of your meat, poultry, fruits or vegetables. In short, you wouldn’t put old spoiled milk over your cereal, would you? Yet, a majority of home cooks use old, stale, and flavorless spices in their recipes robbing them of flavor and health benefits.
The first thing you should look for when finding a spice merchant is quick turnover. Just like fish, you do not want your spices hanging around very long. Market Spice manufactures all of their spices in small batches by hand, this along with their high traffic creates a very high turnover. Spices, particularly ground spices and herbs quickly lose their freshness, aroma, and flavor. As a rule of thumb, you should not keep your dried herbs and spices more than one year, and using them within 3-6 months from when you purchased them is even better. In short, spices are not something you want to be buying in bulk, unless you are an incredibly active cook and are heavy handed with the spices. Remember, if you’re buying high quality spices, you will not need to use as much in your recipes. A little goes a long way.
If you are feeling adventurous, I highly suggest that you talk to the people behind the counter at Market Spice, ask them what they like to use, how they use it, and ask for a sample. The staff at Market Spice are passionate about spices, herbs and teas. They tend to have personal stories about different spices like cumin and spice blends like their signature kebob blend or harissa spice blend. Once you discover the world of spices you will never be able to buy grocery store herbs and spices again.
Besides Market Spice, Britt’s Pickles is a must-stop while at Pike Place Market. The store is in the Corner Market Building on Pike Place, just down the hall from Frank’s Produce and across from both Shy Giant Yogurt and B&B Ranch Meats. These are not your ordinary store bought vinegar cooked pickles. The pickle fanatics at Britt’s Pickles are hand making deli-style pickles, kraut, and kimchi the old fashioned way with no artificial preservatives in oak barrels. By naturally fermenting the pickles, versus cooking the pickles in vinegar, you keep the culture probiotic organisms that occur naturally in the pickle brine give you fantastic mouth-watering flavors without the vinegar overload that most people associate with pickles.
If you are like most people that visit Pike Place Market, you are an out of town tourist. The best way to save money while shopping at Market Spice and Britt’s Pickles is to stop at City Target located less than a block away and purchase a case of Ball mason jars with covers. This 10 dollar investment will save you many times over. In fact, Britt’s Pickles give you a discount if you bring your own container. Not going to fill up a case of mason jars with herbs, spices and pickles? No problem, head to Cost Plus World Market and they sell individual jars in different sizes starting at about $1.50 per jar. Market Spice sells glass containers but they sell them for twice as much as those found at City Target or Cost Plus World Market. Yes, you can buy spices and herbs without the glass jar but I have found that the aroma of the spices leeches out of the plastic bags and can quickly ruin your other spices not to mention permeate your clothes. Trust me your luggage, clothes, and wallet will thank you.