Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spicy Christmas Gifts

I have long been a fan of the bulk spices found at French open air markets.  One can buy by the gram so that everything is fresh, and the spices are used up quickly.  The traditional French packaging has always been a small plastic baggie labeled with a black sharpie (e.g. “Canelle”), but that has been improved upon in recent years with spices packaged and sold in corked glass test tubes by Fabrice at our market in Beaune.  Over the last few years I have included the spice tubes on my list of “things to bring back,” and blogged about it, but that quickly ramped up to bringing 500 test tubes of herbs pre-sold at cost back with me, and it became, frankly, rather difficult to transport safely.  

Imagine my delight to discover a new store in our area that stocks a fantastic array of fresh, exotic and interesting herbs, spices and other blends.  At our cooking class at Sur la Table Sunday, I presented an array of suggestions, essentially Kerry’s and my picks after shopping the spice store together, which students at the class packaged and brought home with them~IMG_9270

I bought the test tubes on Amazon from Lake Charles Manufacturing, see link HERE.  These are six inch 16 x 150mm corked test tubes; $3.99 for ten tubes I think it was 60 cents each delivered.  I like the small size for gifts as they are “just enough” and for certain herbs you don’t need a whole lot.  These tubes also ended up being the same size as the ones I buy in France and they conveniently fit two fresh vanilla beans perfectly~


The store is called Savory and you can find locations around the US, or order online HERE.  My local store is located in Newport Beach. Call them (949) 717-7776; they ship anywhere and you can buy by the ounce, shipped in nicely labeled zip lock bags.  Diane is the owner, and her husband and daughter frequently manage the store.  Mention Andrea from French Basketeer sent you, please!

Of all the goodness in the store, this is the bomb, Black Onyx Cocoa Powder.  I bought two ounces for $4.05, and it was enough to doctor two recipes of chocolate mousse and layer in several tubes and I still have plenty left over. 


The black onyx is double-processed, so drier and less fatty than regular dutch-process cocoa~


The mousse presented at Sunday’s class (at left) was the easy recipe I posted yesterday with the addition of two heaping spoons of the Onyx Cocoa; this Cocoa was fascinating to some of the attendees who cook a lot and love exotic ingredients.  Can you imagine making a chocolate soufle or chocolate ice cream for holiday, or tarte in summer, with this cocoa??  Just a little extra to the recipe and you get a very nice dark color and rich taste~


Other loves, their Mulling Spices; we used this at class for vin chaud and mulled apple cider; but fill a nice bottle with organic apple cider and tie on a bow and tube of mulling spices and you have a lovely gift~


What I call the “secret ingredient”, Nutmeg, I use it sparingly but use it a lot, Julia Child uses it a lot, and the Savory ground nutmeg is the BEST~


Savory has several kinds of cinnamon, love; freshly ground Pumpkin Pie spice, for pies and breads~


I use the array of vanilla sugars, here Vanilla Bean~


Another with peppermint, on top of a home-made latte or coffee?


There are other sugars which are spiced with cinnamon or lavender; I use on oatmeal and apple tarts and can think of tons of other ways to use this….and you can surely doctor up your own sugar with vanilla or cinnamon or others spices; all I know is that it’s a great, useable gift that is rather unique~


And let’s move on to pepper; I only use a peppermill, hope I am not alone!  Here, Savory’s black & white~


Organic Tellicherry Black, strong, but great; I would use for steak au poivre~


Their Four Corners blend is what’s in my mill for everyday~


But a tube of pink peppercorns is great for Christmas gifting; add it to whatever else is in your pepper mill~IMG_9282

I love to gift these tubes with mixes; for example here is Dutch Cocoa with Black Onyx Cocoa which I would use for a single shot of awesome hot cocoa~


And my fav, herbes de Provence (which I brought from Beaune) with culinary lavender.  Throw a tube of this in with some olives and olive oil and let marinade; I use these herbs for grilled meats, sauces, chickens, fish, tomato sauces and with olives.  For the herb tubes, I layer in herbes de Provence with an interlude of culinary lavender buds; who would not love this, even for display?? What is it?  Any combination of rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, savory, tarragon or sage; it is all fair game depending on where the mix is made.


There are many other wonderful items at Savory that I hope you will explore, or maybe you have a great spice store in your area? I think the cost per tube including the tube is about $1.50 and so reasonable for a gift….


  1. Hello Andrea, i enjoyed this post a lot and LOVE the test tube idea..mmmmm
    Off to find some! Thank you for sharing

  2. Hi Andrea, how lucky for me to find this post this AM. I have two chefs in the family and wow I will be ordering items today. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ooooh! I am lucky. I have a Savory right down the block from where I live. They have some lovely things.

  4. Your tubes of herbs and spices were a big hit last holiday Andrea! I just love this as a gift giving idea. XO

  5. Hi, love, love this post with great information for herbs and the tubes...Thanks so much.

    Sheila in S.F.

  6. The herbs look so appealing in their glass tubes - even if they weren't fresh!
    Thank you for stopping by all of my posts. Yes I would love to catch up in France!
    For a lover of baskets, I would like to suggest a visit to Fayl-Billot on the boarder of Burgundy and the Haute- Marne. It's the basket weaving capitol of France and has a wonderful vannerie! Hope to hear from you via my my blog email. Bon weekend.

  7. I went down yesterday and got a couple of sugars in the tubes: one Peppermint Vanilla Bean and he other Lavender Vanilla Bean. Very nice! Thanks for the post, otherwise I might have passed them by.

  8. Love this post...thanks! Who knew these things could look sooooooo pretty!!! All the best,Chrissy