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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

I Shot the Sous Chef (but I didn’t Shoot the Garde Manger)

Playing with food has been sort of a tradition within my family, something which probably didn’t really take off until I took over as resident chef and artistic director. Long before the geniuses who invented spam began marketing their savvy coolness to insomniacs on “Nick at Night”, my oldest sister, a culinary stripling at the age of twelve, would pan fry (not sauté) slices of the delicious potted mystery loaf in butter and serve it to us with maple syrup along with something she called “Vampire’s delight” which was a toasted English muffin smothered in garlic butter and melted cheese. We all contributed something to the otherwise mundane routine of family hunting and gathering. My other sister was better known for her improvised lunchtime snacks- graham cracker sandwiches with a filling of chocolate and powdered sugar frosting- while my step-father, during his brief journeyman foray as such, made a variety of consumable concoctions, particularly his Chili Mac and something he called More. More wasn’t much different than Chili Mac, really- I forget exactly what the differences between the two may have been- but More was called More because, well, you always wanted more. I suspect you can figure out what the main ingredients of Chili Mac might have been. Oh- and there was always a gallon jar of Jalapeño infused pickled eggs in the refrigerator.

My mother tended to be adventurous on much more of a limited scope. She made some odd dishes which I could never really quite figure out the origins of other than they seemed to have been invented by the Ladies Home Journal VFW event planning cotillion. There was Rumaki, made with water chest nuts (which are not nuts, are only slightly watery and have nothing to do with chests) and chicken livers wrapped in bacon and fried. She made something similar which had, I think, onion and sweet gherkin pickles wrapped in thin slices of beef and baked. I forget the name of it but I believe it comes from the extreme Northern region of Europe, which is probably all the explanation we really need. Occasionally, to really impress a guest or to commemorate a special event, she would make a small ornamental salad which consisted of a single leaf of lettuce and a ring of pineapple (canned, of course) topped with finely grated cheddar cheese, a dollop of mayonnaise and lightly sprinkled with paprika for some color. We’ve had a tough time tracking down where this particular special party recipe came from yet it seems that it was often offered as a final repast to sacrificial victims at sacred Aztec ceremonies.

My mother and step-father both had a perverse appreciation for chipped beef on toast. I think this originated from the Navy’s menu of K-rations during WWII and is salt preserved beef on toast with some sort of bland white sauce smothered on it, presumably to obscure the flavor of the meat. This was also commonly known as “S.O.S” which stood for “Shit on a Shingle” and “Save our Souls” respectively. As I got older it eventually dawned on me that my mother didn’t really like to cook. She could make incredible tamales and Chile Verde from scratch, and broil a wicked juicy steak in the electric oven, but her all time favorite was taking a frozen pizza and, as she termed it, “doctoring it up” with excessive amounts of cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage and olives until it became a ten layer pie.

My contributions began modestly and inauspiciously. From the day I first stuck a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the tube of toothpaste and tasted it, there was no turning back. I learned at a young age to fend boldly and artistically for myself. Probably inspired in part by a neighbor who often gave us sandwiches made of butter and sugar, I would take this step to its obvious ascendancy: after liberally coating a plain piece of bread with butter and dusting it with sugar and cinnamon, I’d lay the toaster on its side and braze it until it crystallized or the table caught fire. Fold each slice over, dunk into a glass of chocolate milk, gobble, repeat as often as necessary and you’ve had the perfect power breakfast, ready to take on Mrs. Maguire and her dreadfully boring third grade mathematics class.

I was also, thank God, a latch key kid. I usually got home before anyone else and had to make my own snacks. I soon discovered the wonderful collaborative possibilities of Chef Boyardee with other members of the food families who lived in separate quarters of the kitchen. The chef met up with and had some pretty steamy affairs with Rosarita, Dinty Moore, Franco Americo and Mrs. Paul to drop only a few names. Liberating the Chef was desegregation at its finest and an art of unparalleled gastronomic mercy. Occasionally there is an impromptu reunion- like the viscous green fish stew my friend Ricardo and I once made- but we’ve all evolved and moved on. I’m an artist, after all. My aspirations migrated from providing basic sustenance to creating sublimely superfluous yet proletarian art for the masses through the merging of historic tradition and social constructivism. There was the Arcimboldo style Jack-O-Lantern, with the carrot nose, Green and yellow citrus eyes and hair made of thin strands of red onion, completely edible in an “in your face, artistic statement” kind of way. There were the Mandala crudité platters which provided contemplative spiritual enlightenment as well as physical refreshment. There were the conceptual socio-political themes radically addressed in the daily specials: the Capitalist Pig Sandwich (Pork, lettuce and mustard on sourdough with American cheese and relish) and the controversial Greek inspired Quiche Myenas, which was rejected outright by the cafeteria faculty of a certain prestigious institute of higher learning. There was the underground artist’s soiree where the retro-fauvist/ neo-post modern hors d'orderves scandalized the village and sent fad clad denizens scurrying back to enroll in refresher courses of art theory 101. Food was fun and began to achieve the status of performance art on the scale of a cosmic ideological food fight. I eventually returned, like a pilgrim, to the mythic land of Califas, to the source of my mystical culinary fusion and into the hands and guidance of some bad La Casinaistas from Oaxaca, whose respect I earned and was given the title of El Brujo.

Now that you are aware of my credentials- and what sort of person you are dealing with- I’d like to pass onto you this secret recipe which I made up last summer.

Corn tortillas are a common staple in Mexico and, like pasta in other cultures, are found in a variety of dishes: tacos, taquitos or flautas, enchiladas and tostadas, and are eaten as an accompaniment to most dishes such as carnitas or menudo. Tostadas were a favorite dish of mine growing up in Southern California. Basically, it’s a taco but without the bend- you fry them flat in a shallow pan until crisp, pat off the excess oil, pile the filling on top and you’re good to go. In this recipe we are going to do some completely unnecessary but fun imaginary anthropological inventing (what we in the business often refer to as fusion cuisine), following the theory that, eons ago, people from India somehow migrated from India over to Mexica. That’s about as far as we intend to go in our speculation, so please don’t contact me demonstrating the impracticality or impossibility of this premise. Whether they did or didn’t, and how, or why, doesn’t matter when your being called, especially when it’s for dinner. Certainly they would have packed along some tortillas- or some papadoms.

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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)