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    Eat & Swig

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    I usually buy spices at Lotsa Pasta. I like that you can buy them in small quantities – they’re more affordable, and less goes to waste that way. But armed with a spice shopping list a mile long last week to make a Moroccan tomato jam, I came up nearly empty-handed at Lotsa Pasta. Not since I lived in the foodie wasteland of Somerset have I felt so let down while food shopping. I’ve come to expect that living in Louisville I can get nearly any food item I want, not matter how obscure.

    Luckily the guy at the cheese counter let me in on a secret – the Spice Merchant in Chenoweth Square carries everything, he said. I have to confess. Though we hit Paul’s nearly every weekend, and go to Seafood Connection for our fish, I kind of think the other shops there are for snobby, frou-frou women who wear coordinated track suits and hairspray on Saturday afternoons. Once in a while I spend a ridiculous sum on dog treats from Three Dog Bakery, but other than that I don’t set foot in those little shops.

    IMG00321-20090606-1205.jpgSo away we went. Stepping in the fragrant store, I felt a jolt of longing for the spice shops of Morocco. The orderly glass jars and neat shelves of this air-conditioned shop felt a million miles away from the piles of cumin and paprika in the lively souks of Marrakech, but the toned-down perfume transported me there in a moment.

    “How could we never have come in here before?” I asked my husband as we admired the rows and rows of spices from around the world. And not just spices – salts galore, as well as myriad teas filled the shelves (more than 175 spices, salt and peppers, and 70 loose leaf teas to be exact). They even make ras el hanout on occasion (a special Moroccan blend of spices that adds depth and complexity to your dish). And sure enough, I found more or less what I was looking for – whole star anise and mace (though it was ground, not whole as I was hoping for – evidently you can’t buy it whole back home?).

    The way things work here is you make your selection, and let the shopkeeper know what you want. Prices are marked on the jars, per ounce in general, with a one ounce minimum. So I ended up with a few more star anise than the four I needed, but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it. You get your spices in clear little plastic bags with cute Spice Merchant stickers labeled with the contents.

    So, I’m sorry Lotsa Pasta, but I’m leaving you for the Spice Merchant when it comes to my spice shopping.

    The Spice Merchant
    3917 Chenoweth Square

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