The Spice Route

Find seasoning inspiration at SoCal's newest Penzeys Spices

You can drive all over town to the different ethnic markets for unique spices and seasonings, or you can get everything you need–and then some–in one simple trip to Penzeys in Santa Monica, a new store just a stone's throw from the Wednesday farmers' market.

The art of spice is serious business for Penzeys, a Wisconsin-based chain with only two SoCal locations (the other is in Torrance). It's like a multicultural tour of scents and flavors: There's Hungarian paprika, Pakistani ajwain seed, Honduran allspice, plus more than a dozen Mexican and Asian chile peppers that range from 3,000 to 140,000 Scoville units (heat rating).

The baking section, styled like a homey 1950s kitchen, serves as a showcase for the store's cinnamons, from the pungent, spicy-sweet Vietnamese Cassia to the citrusy, rich Sri Lankan Ceylon. To get the best of all four varieties, Penzeys launches its new proprietary cinnamon blend this month–a balanced, fragrant combination that's as good in baking as it is on a frothy cappuccino.

When you need inspiration and information, the store's helpful staff has plenty of tips and recipes at the ready–click here to download (pdf) a new one for cinnamon-blueberry muffins.

Penzeys Spices, 1347 4th St., Santa Monica; 310-917-5577 or penzeys.com