Inside this gorgeously appointed space next door to Brodsky’s Books, the first thing one notices, is not the decor.
Rather, it’s the glorious olfactory cacophony of scent and fragrance that sends one for a minute on a magic carpet ride through the centuries of Spice Trade and the intrigue and legend born from that Trade, along the mythical Silk Road Marco Polo once traveled, before the World was discovered and commercialised.
Spices carry the romance of exotic faraway places we only travel to, whether through stories or in reality, but those places are far removed from our daily lives, here in Taos (which might read exotic to some!)
We can however capture the essence of those places through using these spices in the food we cook and serve, Cooking a fillet of salmon on a slab of Himalayan rock salt, placed on the grill and rubbed with a fragrant blend, either pre mixed or concocted by you – accompanied by a few sides of curried veggies, will take you there.
The day I visited, Eliza Collins the store manager (and Delta Cosette Bayer’s mother), was putting the final touches on several gift bags containing all the chiles, spices and recipe needed to make “Holy Mole”, ordered by a local gentleman for gifts for his family.
“That really says it all about shopping local.” Eliza remarked.
Eliza has brought in some great gift items just in time for the Holidays! Pepper and salt mills (and salt cellars), from Peugeot.
“Simply the best.” She says.
Beautiful tea towels from France, as well as the fabulous stoneware crocks and bowls, mason jars and other accoutrements for fermenting. Organic olive oils and Balsamic vinegar from Napa County, flavoured salts (the truffle is to die for), sugars for the baker on your list, curry blends from everywhere and so much more! The ideas for gifts are endless.
You could also throw in a book on the history of the Spice Trade or a recipe book if you’d like, but the spices should be front and center.
“We can mix up all sorts of custom blends,” said Eliza, “and are just as happy to see you get creative with gift ideas,” she looked around. “The possibilities are endless.”
Eliza told me that the one thing she has been surprised by, is the fact that many people (both local and visitors) assume the business is part of a franchise.
“When I tell them it’s a locally owned, family business, they are very surprised.” She notes. “I think people are just a bit intimidated by the jars of mysterious substances, but we are so happy to explain and help with everything.”
Taos Spice Merchants have ongoing classes teaching people how to use the spices they carry that might be unfamiliar to you.
They’ve also had a class on fermenting and plan to continue hosting these informal cooking classes (at the huge farm table in the back of the store.) Check out their site (and the shop’s chalkboard), for details and much more info on what they carry.
Taos Spice Merchants join a growing movement of small businesses in Taos, focused on small growers, artisanal products and sustainable living.
All images taken on my iphone except B&W portrait of Eliza by Delta.