Amidst much anticipation and excitement, Penzeys has finally arrived in Los Angeles! The new Torrance store is their first in California, and has been open just about 4 weeks.
Penzeys started in Wisconsin in 1987 and now has 28 retail stores, mostly in the midwest. I was vaguely familiar with their catalogue, but had never actually ordered anything from them. So I had no idea what to expect when I went to their store.
First of all, this place is HUGE. I mean, for a store that specializes just in spices, I was shocked at how big it was. Probably about 5,000 square feet, with really high ceilings. I was expecting it to be much busier, but there was only one other person in the store, and no one came in during my entire half hour there. Let's hope it gets busier for them soon!
If you like the Penzeys catalogue, the store is an explosion for the visual and olfactory senses. All the spices are categorized by name and beautifully arranged on cedar shelves, with descriptions, multiple bottle and package sizes, and even recipes for some. According to the staff, all 250+ items in their catalogue are there in the store. Most of them are accompanied by a jar of loose spices, so you can smell and even taste if you so desire.
The store is conveniently arranged by cooking needs, so there is a general section, plus sections for baking, chilies, peppers, salts, seasonings, etc. The prices really can't be beat - most of them were about half the price I normally expect to pay in the grocery store, plus the spices are extremely high quality and fresh.
The Penzeys staff are knowledgable and helpful too. It's definitely worth a trip, even if just for the experience of being able to smell before you buy.
Here's a look at the chili section:
Here are some of the various cloves:
Three different types of star anise (which smells SOOOO good, by the way):
Dozens of varieties of pepper:
And here's what I took home:
- Vanilla beans from Madagascar (3 whole beans) - $6.29
- Fleur de Sel (3.5 oz)- $7.49
- Black sesame seeds from India (2.7 oz) - $2.39
- Anise seeds from Spain (whole, 2.2 oz) - $2.89
- Vietnamese cinnamon (0.8 oz) - $2.59
- Horseradish powder (0.9 oz) - $1.99
- Lemon pepper seasoning (1.4 oz) - $2.39
- Cloves from Madagascar (0.8 oz) - $1.79
I haven't cooked anything with these spices yet, but already some magical things are happening:
1) I put the vanilla beans in a cabinet by themselves, next to my wine glasses. Despite being corked and sealed in a glass bottle, when I opened the cabinet this evening, the most delicious and delicate vanilla scent wafted out. Amazing. I'm thinking about buying a bunch of these and just putting them in all the drawers in my house!
2) The Fleur de Sel is delicious just by itself. On my way home from Penzeys, I opened it and tasted a few granules. So much better than the Fleur de Sel I usually buy at Whole Foods. It sounds weird, but a little pinch of Fleur de Sel makes a great "snack" when there's no food around. I'll be using this a lot!
Penzeys Spices (Torrance, CA)
21301 Hawthorne Blvd.
Hours: Mon-Fri 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sat 9:30AM-5:00PM