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Well, this is it. The spice store has made it's last gasp & is shutting down. Thanks for your support. If you have any requests or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards to all,
Elliott

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Important Notice:


6/7/2010:

We're back. I'm still trying to re-figure/ streamline the Spice Selections to make it all more sensible to you and feasible to us. Truth is, y'all just don't use the spices and seasonings as much as I do (despite that, as with all spice & seasoning ingredients, they are best if used within a six month period and not after). That's understandable, but it makes having an online business impractical, is all. Over the course of many months I've been considering ways to make the spices more appealing to first time as well as repeat buyers. I've sought to solve several problems with the product, including:

The tendency for the spice seasonings to clump - I've switched suppliers and am now using ingredients which are ground finer and have less tendency to clump. I've been satisfied with the results and I hope that you have as well.

Packaging: The metal tins I'm using are, at best, a compromise in order to ship the spices as well as make them appealing and functional. When I initially started selling spices back in 2005, I was using 4 oz. glass jars. People really like the jars over the tins, and while the tins cost more, they are easier to ship without worrying that you will end up with a package of seasoned glass shards on your end.

Packaging #2: I have been considering losing the tins in favor of simple, functional, utilitarian plastic bags. Why? I have a lot of plastic bags in stock intended for refills of spices, and that just doesn't happen. If I switch to using the plastic bags, I could probably increase the amount of spice seasoning per order while decreasing the cost of each item as well as shipping. How about that?

Packaging #3: Wouldn't ya know, now they are saying that plastic is EVIL and DOES NOT LIKE YOU or YOUR FAMILY. Oh, plastic - we lived with so many hopes for you that must now go unfulfilled. It was sweet while it lasted.

Scrapping the catalog: That's right. Another serious consideration I've had for some time now is to scrap all of my current product and sell only certain items. What I have been selling over the past several years would essentially be retired. "What will you replace it with?", you ask? Well, let me tell you - I've been thinking of starting a whole new line of extremely hot and spicy seasonings and bbq rubs, so that I can rename it THE BURN WARD. That's right. I don't joke about such things. We're talking (or rather mumbling, since we've been steadily searing off the nerves on our tongues) serious Scoville Units here. What is your vote?

Spice of the Month Club: While it is still a serious consideration, it has never generated enough interest to convince me to do it. Maybe. Drop me a line and tell me you'd support it if I made it available. No, not just you, I mean some of those other people out there who haven't piped up yet.

Gift Sets: Of course - there will always be gift sets, as well as sales, like the ever popular buy 2 get 1 free deal.

Cost: Oy... one could make a living, if only they'd let you - ya know what I mean? Over the past 12 to 18 months, cost just got weird, particularly because import/ export costs that bear on the availability of ingredients for the spices and seasonings. I try to keep that old carbon foot print as small as possible - I've even considered binding my carbon foot to a child's size 2 - but there are certain ingredients that just are not easily available in our area of Western Massachusetts. Things like fresh Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lemongrass which, the last time I had to purchase a bulk of each I was told that I would need to pre-order it as it comes from places with sunnier climates, yet it is also affected by state restrictions which prevent growing these plants in proximity of delicate citrus agricultural regions. So - I temporarily stopped making the Green Thai Curry, which needs a good amount of each to get the flavor perfect. I know - it makes me sad, too, not to have my Green Thai Curry.

So that's the short of the long on the matter. Write me and let me know what your vote is on any or all of the intertwining topics.

And thanks for your support, your patience and your friendship - I really do appreciate it!

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This blog is a companion site to my online business at emburke.etsy.com where I sell unique spice and seasoning blends. I will be featuring recipes that use the spice blends here, but you can easily adapt them to suit your own needs. Also, my spice and seasoning blends are interchangeable - you can easily use one blend in place of another to get a different creative result or you can play it safe and stick to the recipe.

I have a variety of spice & seasoning blends available for purchase here - the perfect compliment for your meat & vegetarian entrées or side dishes. Each of my spice blends are made from fresh, organic spices purchased locally and are ground & blended by myself. They can be used as a dry or wet rub, as a marinade or sauce, or as a seasoning to add a little extra flavor.

Also, if you have any ideas, suggestions or challenges - send them on to me and I'll place them on the site as well.

Each quarter a portion of all sales from this site will be given to support a local charity in Western Massachusetts.

I think you will enjoy them as much as I do. Please spread the word!

Thanks, Elliott

P.S. - I'll have some other items available here in the near future.
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What would you like to find here?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fat Thursday, or Organic Free-Range Thanksgiving Kangaroos!

For the past several years Cheryl and I have been re-inventing the Thanksgiving dinner tradition. By that I mean we've been trying alternatives to the tried and true traditional fare, something we have grown quite weary with. We both realized that neither of us really care all that much for turkey and, as a couple, we always end up with way more food through the next week than we really need. If you're not fond of turkey then why cook more than you want or need? Cheryl isn't big on potatoes in any variety, I've never cared much for the cranberry sauce and candied yams, especially when they are served from a can like they were when I was growing up. I've never figured out what ambrosia is, where it came from or why anyone would make it let alone eat it. I suspect that ambrosia evolved into the traditional holiday fruit cake - leave it alone in the back of the refrigerator to petrify, then slice it up, serve and see if anyone is brave enough to take it. Stuffing still makes the list. We both like pumpkin pie and, to me, the arrival of pumpkin pie and egg nog officially announces that the holiday season is here. So in the past we have sought out variations on the holiday menu, some of if swiped from past traditions that have been nudged out of the way by the turkeys. We live near a game farm that does an incredible business in turkeys this time of year but also offers a variety of substitutes: geese, duck (including smoked duck), chicken and Cornish game hens. They also carry ham as well as buffalo, alligator, ostrich and kangaroo meat, but we've yet to try them. Maybe someday the phrase "Thanksgiving Ostrich" or "Thanksgiving Kangaroo" will sound as common as organic free-range does. Imagine that being shouted from your holiday circular headlines - "Organic Free-Range Thanksgiving Kangaroos!"

I once worked at a great restaurant in Cambridge called "Daddy-O's Bohemian Cafe". The philosophy and approach of the owners, Paul Sussman and Ellis Seidman, was simple and refreshing: home style comfort food with an emphasis on the ethnic traditions that our familiar American foods had evolved from. Daddy-O's was warm and inviting, earthy and unpretentious, akin to going to a block party barbeque in your neighborhood. The environment was funky and eclectic, styled as an imaginary 1950's roadhouse diner where Ferlinghetti and Kerouc might have met up for some grub after a long day of yo-yoing. Food not too far removed from your sphere of familiarity, but better, served along with a plug of seltzer, lime rickey, coffee, wine, fresh baked pies and cool jazz playing in the background. Daddy-O's also developed their own contemporary philosophy about food - we all grew up eating bad food that either our parents or the local restaurants didn't know how to cook. Rubbery veal parmigiana or breaded chicken cutlets, watery and flavorless sauces, over cooked and dry steaks, mushy pasta, thick and lumpy mashed potatoes, gravies that tasted like unset plaster of Paris with artificial turkey flavoring, instant food from a box or a can. You remember. Of course you do. Daddy-O's set out to re-define and improve upon the great, favorite traditional meals of our youth and succeeded with style, creativity and flair. Sadly, Daddy-O's closed their doors about ten years ago and I have to make do with their expert influence and inspiration.

I did with our Thanksgiving dinner what Daddy-O's might have done with the holiday meal.

This year we went with the game hens. They are smaller than a chicken, gamier and better tasting (ditto for turkey as well) and will leave you with only one or two small to moderate portions to deal with the day after. The game hens were lightly coated with garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and some ground pepper, then stuffed with a quarter wedge of onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some sprigs of fresh marjoram and sage. They also take far less time to cook - about an hour to an hour and a half. Since we had our friend Rachel over, there was one for each of us. Plus they were on sale at our store - two per package, buy one get one free. I placed the game hens breast up in our roasting pan and cooked them at 450 degrees for a half hour, then turned them over and reduced the heat to 350 for another 40 to 50 minutes. They came out perfect, with the skin nice and crisp and the meat tender and juicy.

Thanksgiving offers us a great opportunity to get a jump up on our fat layer for the winter. We accomplished this with plenty of butter and cream in the soup, sides and dessert. The week before I made a roasted squash, leek and apple soup. Using vegetable stock for the base I added the squash, leeks and apples (cooked with a light coating of EVOO, salt and pepper) and pureed it until smooth. Blend in ground ginger and coriander, a touch of honey, and lots of butter and cream while it's simmering and you have a hearty harvest soup that compliments any meal. I used the basic ingredients here except I baked the squash, leeks and apples with my Green Thai Spice Seasoning and used coconut milk instead of cream. It turned out quite nice.

For sides for the game hens I made stuffing using butter, chicken stock, fresh marjoram and sage, diced onion and sliced baby bella mushrooms. I used a package mix since I rarely ever have stale bread in bulk on hand, either for croutons or for feeding pigeons. We had mashed potatoes and mashed yams, both cooked with butter, cream and sour cream and topped with sliced green onions. For a garnish I toasted chopped pecans and hazelnuts, added butter, suger, quatre épices and a spicy pepper blend I made from a combination of dried chiles. Oh, and there was gravy, too, of course, which I made from the pan drippings.

For dessert I created a pumpkin crème brûlée galette, which was actually more of a mousse in texture. I incorporated a couple recipe outlines for pumpkin pie type deserts and modified it into a galette - a sort of open topped pie. I used canned pie filling (some day I'll have to try fresh baked pumpkins) that I folded into whipped egg whites, egg yolk emulsion and whipped cream, flavored it with sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and Grand Marnier - NO PUMPKIN PIE SPICES! All in all, the filling wasn't too sweet, more on the savory side. Rolling out a simple pie crust into about seven inch circles, I placed a scoop or two of the filling in the center and folded the edges up around it so that it sort of looked like an aperture, then baked at 380 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes and served it with a drizzle of burnt caramel sauce over it. To compliment our Thanksgiving meal we had a sparkling peach cider.

Should anyone have any interest in the recipes for these dishes - in approximates, not exact measurements, natch - you can write me back here. I'll be recreating them in writing in the next week and have them available for you.

1 comment:

Jennine said...

Elliott - This Jennine from etsy, thanks for the link to this blog. Oh please publish a "sort of" recipe for the squash, leek and apple soup. It sounds delicious. Thanks again for the great spices, gorgeous packaging etc!

Read what some nice people have to say about my spices:"

Some mornings, I just stand in the kitchen alone and sniff Elliotts' spice. Then I'm somehow ready to start my day. And, oh yes, Elliott's spice IS great for cooking. Your eating habit will literally get "spiced up"."~ Tomoko Deeney (TADworks)

"I’ve almost never finished a full jar of spice and I’ve used several jars of Elliott’s spices in a matter of months. They are very unique and full of different flavors without being too salty or overpowering. They get my highest recommendation. Try them and you will love them."~ Keith Brisebois

"Elliott’s Green Thai is the most amazing spice... perfect for tacos, fish, chicken or beef. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to cook without it!"~ Chrissie Henry

"I hadn't really explored the world of spices until this mixture somehow found its way into my cupboard. I had lived a fairly plain sea salt and cracked pepper food life, until this came along. I enjoy the 'kick' it has on my palate. And still the blend lends itself to good eatin'."~ Rachel Wilson

"Having a jar of Elliott's spice blends in my cupboard I feel as if I have been instantly transformed into a fantastic chef. Dishes I would normally feel intimidated to try - Curried Cauliflower, Tandori Chicken, Morrocan Lamb Stew - now feel within reach. Thank you, Elliott for opening up a whole world, literally, of fabulous food!"~ Alicia Pritt

"Filled a void in my life."~ Elizabeth (from Russia)