Penzeys Spices in Arlington

June 17, 2009 · 46 comments · Print This Post

in Boston / Massachusetts, To Buy / To Try

Watson <3's Penzeys

I embarrassingly admitted to the fact that I’d never been to the Penzeys Spices store in Arlington the other day and several of my fellow bloggers demanded that I make a command appearance as soon as possible. What’s a girl to do? Well obviously I obeyed and made it a priority to stop by that Saturday.

I’m so incredibly glad that I did. They have absolutely everything you can imagine there from Kosher Salt to Cocoa. The best part is that you can smell all of the spices before you purchase them. Interestingly enough the testing spices are held in large jars that remind me of the candy jar my grandmother always keeps pink Canadian mints in. We refer to them as “Pink Peppermints” though.

My Penzeys Purchase

I essentially bought out the store. My treasure trove of booty included: Smoked Spanish Paprika, Ancho Chili Pepper, Peppercorns, Vanilla Extract, Sesame Seeds, Poppy Seeds, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Onion and Garlic Powders, and Dutch Process Cocoa. Needless to say I’m deeply in love (and apparently Watson is too). Also, I fear that any duplicate supermarket spices have an upcoming date with the trash bin.

Did I forget to buy one of your favorites? What are your must-have items from Penzeys? It’s only a few miles from my house. I can easily go back for more!  At some point I may need a spice rack intervention but until then I’m going to continue my goal of possibly moving to using only Penzeys Spices at home.

Salt: Does a Kitten Good

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam June 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

YAY! So glad you liked it! I’m about ready for a trip myself (which is good, because my new place is roughly 5 minutes away). I’m a huge fan of the Tsardust mix – it’s AMAZING on corn with a little bit of butter – yum!

Let me know what you think of the vanilla. That’s one thing I haven’t tried from them. I am in love with the vanilla paste from Williams-Sonoma (which I buy at the outlet for just slightly cheaper).

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2 Erin June 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I definitely will! I’m very curious about their vanilla vs. what I usually use (Nielsen-Massey). What’s the paste like?

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3 Theresa June 17, 2009 at 11:01 am

Can I just say that I love the kitty addition to your food photography? Watson is so cute :)

And now I totally want to go to Penzeys! Fortunately there’s one located 2-3 hours from my house, so hopefully I’ll get to visit one of these days.

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4 Erin June 17, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I’m so glad you mentioned liking Watson being included in the post. After I hit submit I had a few moments of rambling insanity with CK over whether or not people were going to think I was a whacky cat-lady etc… but he’s just so cute that simply I can’t resist showing everyone. I promise not to make it an every day occurrence. At least not on ErinCooks….XoXoErin is an entirely different story though.

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5 jennywenny June 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

Lucky you, what an adorable kitten too!

I love the ginger, crystallized and ground, and I always try to get the freeze dried chives, which are a great addition to lots of things. The ancho chilli powder is great too.

The only thing I havent got on very well with is their curry powders. For some reason I’m just not enamoured with them. Maybe they have too much cumin for my liking…

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6 Whitney June 17, 2009 at 11:19 am

I’ve never been to Penzey’s but I live dangerously close to The Spice House (http://www.thespicehouse.com/) and always have a problem going in and leaving with just the one spice that I needed. I love the Spice House because you can get just a little of whatever you need so that you don’t have to buy an entire jar of something if you only really need a teaspoon for the foreseeable further. I hope Penzey’s is the same way.

BTW. Watson is too presh.

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7 Erin June 17, 2009 at 11:33 am

I *love* Penzey’s. I see that you have one of my favorites, the Ground Ancho Chile Pepper. I use that in almost everything I cook, from spaghetti sauce to brownies. (Yes, it’s obvious I live in Texas, isn’t it?) One of my other favorites is the Trinidad Marinade … it’s a lemon, clove, garlic, and salt blend that I use in place of Garlic Salt a lot of the time. The Fox Point Seasoning is fabulous for scrambled eggs and tuna salad, and I’m newly in love with the Tuscan Sunset for a quick, easy, salt-free vegetable seasoning. Let’s see … OH! Northwoods and Northwoods Fire are an absolute must for seafoods. My stepmother taught me to use those to sauteé shrimp in a little olive oil. I also use the Northwoods in spaghetti sauce. And speaking of spaghetti sauce … I use Penzey’s Lavender in that, too. I keep some of their dried ginger on hand so I can use that instead of fresh ginger. My friends swear by the Garam Masala, the BBQ seasonings, and the Pizza Seasoning.

I’m planning to weed out my non-Penzeys spices and herbs, too. If it’s not fresh or Penzey’s, it’s leaving!!

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8 Erin June 17, 2009 at 4:55 pm

You’re a total Penzeys guru/addict! I love it. I’ll send you an invite to my spice rack support group immediately ;)

Mmm…Garam Masala…must resist the urge to shop.

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9 Becky June 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I’m also a Penzey’s Loyalist. When I lived to far away, I did internet purchases often, and now I’m only 45 minutes away from the one near Kansas City.
Like the commenter Erin, I love Fox Point with eggs and believe me, their Garam Masala is the ultimate. Yum.

Here’s my two cents – the Adobo seasoning mix is the best, I use it in anything Mexican/Spanish inspired. It has a mix of cumin, corriander, pepper, chili powder, garlic, and lots more. It isn’t hot-spicy, but just extremely flavorful and great in tons of dishes.

I also love their vanilla (which I see you bought) and their lemon/orange/almond extracts. Great for baking. Have fun with your new-found favorite store!

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10 Erin June 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I almost bought the Adobo while I was there. I’m glad you recommend it so highly. Onto the “to buy” list it goes!

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11 Sarah June 17, 2009 at 12:31 pm

It’s so funny that you posted this today because I just visited my local Penzey’s for the first time last night! It’s in the same plaza as Trader Joe’s. All those times going to TJ’s and I never made it into Penzey’s. Last night I just browsed, I’ll be going back with a list after I clean out my spice cabinet.

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12 Erin June 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I can’t think of a more perfect combination: Trader Joe’s and Penzeys?! Be still my heart. Now if there’s a nice wine store next door you’ll have to email me and let me know what town you live in because obviously I need to move there.

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13 Kara June 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I love Penzey’s. I just placed an order last night in fact … so good timing.

The things I love from them and order all the time are:
Cajun seasoning
Medium/hot chili powder
Ground cumin
Taco seasoning mix (which I use for a ton of stuff other than tacos)
Buttermilk ranch dressing mix
Cinnamon

This last order also had ground ginger, more dried chilies and more bay leaves.

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14 A Mom Anonymous June 17, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Jealous!!!! I used to live in Milwaukee where I believe they started out. I remember my mom and I going into this tiny store where it smelled heavenly. I see them griding the cinnamon you just know it’s as fresh as can be! Now their shipping costs are a bit ridiculous and I live very very far away from a store so I don’t get as much as often. But I could take a picture of my spice cabinet and it would be 99% Penzey’s labels. I love so much of their stuff. The great thing is that you can get a small jar of something to try out and it’s reasonable (until you add the crazy shipping costs!) so I try many many things. I am out of quite a bit right now and need to make an order but I’m hoping my mom and I can combine one to save a little $$ on the shipping. I love to make garlic bread with their Brady Street Sprinkle. Their double strength vanilla is awesome. I read their catalog just to get ideas too.
Enjoy being so close to such a gem!

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15 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I wondered about the double strength vs. the single strength vanilla. They both seemed to smell the same to me so I ended up just taking home a small bottle of the single strength. What do you think? Should I have gone with the double?

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16 Nicole (dishin') June 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

That’s so funny that you mention Penzey’s. I’ve driven by a bunch of times but have never visited. Great to know it’s worth it. What were the prices like?

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17 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I thought the prices were reasonable. Especially since my closest grocery store is Whole Foods. I just peeked in the cupboard. Here’s what I paid for a few of the items:

4 ounces of single-strength vanilla: $10.95
2.4 oz Onion Powder: $3.59
2.9 oz Garlic Powder: $4.35
2.4 oz Smoked Spanish Paprika: $4.95
1.1 oz Sesame Seed: $2.09
1.2 oz Poppy Seeds: $2.39

I justify the slight increase in price because I love cooking and spice quality really does make a difference.

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18 Carla June 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

According to Map Quest, I live about 35 minutes away from Penzey’s. I have never been there, so maybe some afternoon when I have money (after I find a job), I’ll make a special trip. That and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Love how Watson enjoyed your spices! What is he biting in the first picture? And is the box of salt really that big? ;)

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19 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Watson was actually biting the cocoa powder in the first picture. Thankfully he didn’t bite through the packaging! The box of Kosher Salt is 3 pounds so it’s fairly large. Watson only weighs 4.6 pounds. He’s a little guy. He’s just 16 weeks old.

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20 Carla June 17, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Oh btw are the prices in the store roughly the same as on the web site?

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21 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I just compared some of my items and they are priced exactly the same online and in-store.

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22 Anna June 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Sounds like a fun spice store!
Every photo with Watson is just that much better. He is the cutest.

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23 Sues June 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I LOVE Penzeys!!! My parents are totally obsessed and their cabinets are out of control with Penzeys Spices. They’re definitely the best around; ancho chili pepper and peppercorns are sooo fantastic!

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24 ttfn300 June 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm

LOVE penzeys!!! i am a fan of the fox point/sunny paris blend… i need to go back there!

and watson is adorable :)

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25 Jeff D June 17, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I can’t believe you didn’t know about Penzey’s. Better late than never!

I am not a big fan of garlic powder in general so I get their flaked garlic. If you add it to something with a bit of moisture in it (like a stir fry) it actually rehydrates very nicely.

I will slowly replace most of my spices with Penzey’s stuff. I already pre-empted my wife buying more Old El Paso taco mix buy picking up some of their taco seasoning, which is very good and not overly salty.

I’ve also grown anal enough about my spices that when possible I buy whole seeds and peppers and grind them myselves, so I have bags of guadillo and ancho chilis in the spice cabinet waiting their fate.

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26 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I knew about Penzeys. I just didn’t make it a priority (i.e. I’m lazy). Then I realized someone was probably going to fire me from the food blog world if I didn’t get over there ASAP.

You’re very lucky to have garden space! I really wish I did.

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27 Jeff D June 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Well I have space, not dirt so everything is in pots. It does get the job done though. My tomatoes are doing pretty good so far but it will still be at least a month before anything ripens.

At one of my old apartments I turned our back deck into a garden. Had all kinds of pots hanging off the rails too. I will say that when we eventually buy a place a clear southern exposure will be an absolute must.

And I think now I’m going to have to head to Penzey’s tomorrow after reading everyone’s comments.

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28 Steph June 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

How cute is that kitty?!

We don’t have Penzey’s around here, and I’d never heard of it before reading your blog. :)

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29 Erin June 17, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Thank you Steph! If you want to see a little more of Watson you can take a peak over here: http://xoxoerin.com/category/kitten/

The great thing about Penzeys is that you can always order items online. It appears that the in-store prices and online prices are the same.

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30 Patti Anastasia June 17, 2009 at 9:24 pm

cinnamon! You must try all 4 types of ground cinnamon to find your favorites. I’m partial to Ceylon and Vietnamese.
ground cumin
ground chipotle pepper
ginger, powdered and crystallized
cracked rosemary
black sesame seeds
turmeric – nothing like crappy grocery store version

I’ve been buying from Penzeys for about 20 years, back when the catalog was black and white newprint. Last summer I visited the Arlington store. Almost all of the spices I use at home and for my personal chef clients come from Penzeys.

The blends that contain salt are mostly too salty for me. I stick with individual herbs and spices, and salt-free blends.

Have fun with your bounty. It’s probably a very good thing that I don’t live closer to the Arlington store.

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31 BigSis June 17, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Hi Erin! I grew up in Arlington before I moved to Dallas, and didn’t know Arlington had a Penzeys! That’s so great. I’m SO fortunate to live a hop, skip and a jump from the Dallas Penzeys though. I did exactly what you mentioned…any tired old, grocery store spices went into the garbage once I discovered Penzeys. I post on them ALL the time. My favorites? The shallot pepper (!), lemon pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, natural cocoa, mural of flavor, sandwich sprinkle, smoked paprika, fresh ground pepper, shallot salt, fleur de sel, minced garlic, I love it all! One good tip is to find something you like, and buy it in the bigger bag. You save a ton of money that way! Welcome to the Penzeys addicts!!

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32 Elissa June 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I’ve never heard of this store but I wish there was one in Seattle! Spices and herbs are one of my favorite things about baking, just for the amazing smells and colors and flavors. My all time favorite has to be cinnamon, actually – it’s kind of common and rather average, but something about it just makes me feel warm and cozy.
(Watson looks adorable too!)

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33 Lindsey June 18, 2009 at 9:03 am

Did I mention that your cat is adorable? I’ve never been there either, and might need to make a trip myself…

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34 Rebecca June 18, 2009 at 9:21 am

Yay for Penzey’s. I’ve been ordering from them since they were paper-catalog (black & white) only! Then via Internet, but now, when I visit my sister in Medford, we make sure to take a trip to the Arlington store together. I love the ancho pepper, and also the bbq seasoning mix, and the garam masala. The other thing I love from them (and you can only get it at the store, when they have it in stock; it’s not available via mail order) is the Mexican vanilla. Hands down, my favorite vanilla (I got hooked when I bought a bottle in Mexico years ago). Worth a try if they have it in stock.

And, yes, Watson is adorable!!

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35 Dana June 18, 2009 at 10:55 am

You are lucky to live close to them! We have several great spice stores in Seattle, but I think the quality at Penzey’s might even be better. I love their dried chiles – I buy all different kinds.

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36 Candy June 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I love your photos with the kitty! I wish my kittys were so photogenic, unfortunately they’re old and grumpy most of the time :P

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37 Brianna June 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Aww, I have a cat who looked exactly the same as a kitten! I love incorporating him into my food pics :) A friend of mine once sent me some Penzey’s spices in Japan. Some familiar flavors were the perfect cure for homesickness. I’m glad I came across your blog!

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38 Fuji Mama June 18, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I am a Penzey’s die hard! I used to live in Memphis where I had one that was only 10 minutes away and it was heaven. Now I don’t have one near by, but I’ve gotten my mother hooked as well, so a few times a year we do a joint bulk order to stock up on stuff. Some of my faves? Zatar, Szechuan pepper salt, fleur de sel, and their curry powders (especially their hot and their mild–I have yet to find another brand that equals the depth of flavor)!

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39 Ashley H June 18, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I was SHOCKED at how cheap bay leaves are at Penzeys. Seriously, the huge bag was MUCH cheaper than any of the itsy options at our local Whole Foods. My boyfriend has been all about the star anise.

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40 Slow-1 June 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Wow, wish I had a Penzeys Spices near me (Centennial Colorado) I’m googling now to see if any are near . Prolly not though…

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41 Bren June 19, 2009 at 11:35 am

girl we need a spice store like this in Atlanta… i love your trove! great finds. i would definitely would have walked out with CUMIN!!!! yes!

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42 Singleserving June 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

GREAT JOB! I’m not really a fan of cats, but your cat in the first pic is just way too cute for words! ♥

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43 Elysabeth July 4, 2009 at 4:57 pm

When my husband and I moved to Arlington, my mom helped us move in. she nearly laid an egg when she saw there was a Penzey’s nearby. They’re based in WI, where I am from and it just tickled her to no end that we would be close to a part of WI life/culture. We go every now and again, just to stick our noses in the spice containers.

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44 Carolyn July 8, 2009 at 2:33 am

I made my first Penzy’s order just a few weeks ago (no store close to my house), and needless to say… I’m in LOVE! Their fajita seasoning is out of this world, and my family is really enjoying the taco seasoning as well. Happy spicing! :)

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45 Stephenie October 10, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I recently found Penzeys here in Jacksonville, Florida. I passed their storefront and thought, “How can a store that only sells spices stay in business, especially in this economy?” But one stroll around the store later, I am addicted! I’ve already spent $150 in the store getting all the basics (vanilla, almond, garlic, onion, cocoa, cilantro, italian herbs…) If I also bought everything else I want (ancho peppers, chervil, sweet curry), I’d spend another $300. :) I don’t have a big enough kitchen!

The intense flavors beat grocery store offerings hands-down. I never even knew toasted onion powder existed! I just made some white rice and spruced it up with salt, butter, garlic and the toasted onion… I don’t think I need another food group ever again!!

I weep for the wasted years without Penzeys in my pantry! :) I am dying to try their Northwoods and Southwest Seasonings, but I fear I’ll be divorced if I step foot in their store again before the holidays are over… *sigh* :)

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46 Jenny December 31, 2010 at 7:47 am

I got a box of Penzey’s herbs from my best friend who lives in Texas and was telling me how much she loved the store. I knew it sounded familiar but I read something on Grub Street that alluded to it, then googled Penzey’s Arlington and your post popped up and I did a facepalm. Well OF COURSE.

Seriously, I’m going to need a bigger spice rack.

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