In Chicago, back in the mid-1990’s, New York toy seller, FAO Schwarz tried a new concept. A candy store that was stocked to the gills with every type of confection known (and even unknown) to man. It was called FAO Schweetz. If you were under the age of ten, your eyes would almost bulge out of your head just by walking in the front door. You could smell the sweetness in the air. And, if you were lucky enough to have a cooperating adult, you could stuff a basket with enough sugar to make any respectable dentist jump for joy.
Now, imagine a store packed with every spice, sugar, salt and tea imaginable. That’s what the Spice and Tea Exchange located on St. Armands circle is like. It’s FAO Schweetz for cooks. If you’re looking for that just right flavor to make a dish, chances are you can find it here. It doesn’t matter if you’re a full time professional chef or a weekend dabbler, if you need that special something, a trip to St. Armands circle is in order.
Not sure what you’re looking for? They have a great knowledgeable and helpful staff that can guide you through the dizzying array of choices. On my most recent visit, I was looking for some specialty salts. I love salt and had lots to choose from.
After some window shopping through the “salt aisle” I decided that some help would be in order. I was looking for something a little different. I’ve had all the usual’s; Murray River, Cyprus Black Lava and Hawaiian Red (that one sounds illegal). I even own a block of Bolivian Rose and a micro planer.
A few tastes later, I decided on two salts I hadn’t used in my kitchen. The first was a Black Truffle salt. It had a nice truffle flavor, not to overpowering, but, not to subtle either. I thought this one would be a great finishing salt or even used to season a nice steak. Pretty tame stuff really.
My second selection wasn’t quite as safe. India Black, a type of mineral salt. This was different! This salt apparently has a very high sulfur content which makes it taste like hard boiled eggs. When you first taste it your senses are really fooled. It looks nothing like eggs. In fact, it has a pale pink dusty texture. So when it hits your tongue it’s like “where did that come from!”. Cool.
I really wanted to take home the India Black. But, what could you possibly do with this stuff except freak your friends out by offering them a small taste (blindfolded of course)? My new salt consultant said it would go great in any dish that used hard boiled eggs. Hey, why didn’t I think of that! Tuna salad came to mind. How about potato salad? I think I might miss the actual eggs themselves. Egg salad? No I guess that doesn’t work.
A little after the trip research yielded some additional info. This India Black salt is also called Kala Namak and is used extensively in Indian cuisine. It is mixed into a variety of dishes including chutneys and chaats. Here’s a link to a Tandoori Cauliflower With Mint Chutney recipe that uses Kala Namak.
I am taking that salt home. It’s too interesting to pass up. I’ll write another post when I figured out what to do with it. Stay tuned.
If you’re out hunting for that perfect rub, spice or seasoning, The Spice and Tea Exchange probably has something for you. With literally an endless of combination of spices available it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll come away empty handed. Just wandering through the store and smelling the aromas make you realize that sometime it’s the spice IN life that matters most.
The Spice and Tea Exchange
345 St. Armands Circle
Sarasota, Florida 34236