What Spices Up Your Life?

As I continue to play in the kitchen, as I read cooking magazines, when I hit the occasional restaurant, when I walk through the grocery store (I’m one of the people who loves that — I have friends who dread it), I think about the flavors I love the most.  I often think about the spices I could not do without.

I have a top two, a solid third, and then two more that cater to the baking side (more sweet than savory).

*I recently took a Smartphone photography class to sharpen my food photo skills since I take all my blog pictures via my iPhone.  So, this was also a great way to start working on these and play with my new olloclip.  If you’re in the DC-area, check out Washington Art Works & Washington School of Photography and Adam S. Lowe‘s Smartphone class — I give them huge props (and all their other classes) — they have food stuff, too — oh, I just found out they have wine tastings, as well.

Anyway, my top spices:

1.  Cumin — give me cumin or give me death.  You can use it in so much stuff, and it’s very convenient that I love (tex)mex food.  Maybe there’s a correlation here…hmmm.


2.  Coriander (dried cilantro) — will ALWAYS take the fresh stuff.  Where’s the guac when you have the fresh stuff?  I can be caught using this in near everything.


3. Fennel (seed)!  What’s funny here is I can’t stand black licorice (it’s not a like of many).  Though they aren’t super close to the same, that’s always what I think of when I know that I love this stuff.  So, give me fennel, the spice or fresh stuff and I am in heaven!

IMG_23794.  As we move down to the lower half of the top five, the next two are sort of tied, so I’m going to put them in alphabetical order for safety sake.  So, cinnamon, bring it on!  You’re in my baked goods, and sometimes ‘cooked’ ones.

IMG_23825.  Last but not least, nutmeg.  From baked goods to sprinkling it on fruit.  Has some great health benefits, too.  I definitely won’t say no.


So, what spices up your life?  What are your favorite spices?  Are they more savory or sweet?  Let everybody know.

Wine Notes, continued

There were more great tips in the wine notes I found from my class years ago.  These were on Basic Flavors.  This is something I (and could likely do a generic ‘we’) often think about when selecting a wine to pair with food.


  • Salty
    • Works well with crisp, dry white wines
    • Trick: adding salt to food reduces the tannic impression of some red wines
  • Spicy
    • Reduces the sweetness of wine, making some dry reds taste astringent
    • Works well with ripe fruity wine
  • Sour (e.g. lemon, vinegar)
    • Generally very hard to pair with wine
    • Rely on crisp, acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc
  • Savory (e.g. mushroom, soy, umami)
    • Red wine, preferably full bodied
    • Rarely works well with white wine
  • Smoky (e.g. smoked meat, smoked fish, even some smoked cheeses)
    • A bit of sweetness will work, like in Sherry of Gewurztraminer
    • With smoked fish or pork, German Riesling
    • With smoked meat, try spicy Zinfandel or (Australian) Shiraz
  • Sweet
    • Sweet foods make the wine taste drier than it truly is
    • With desserts, wine should always be sweeter than the food, otherwise the lose their body and often taste sour

And some side scribbles:

White before red
Young before old
Simple before complex
Dry before sweet
Temperature – 20 minute rule – need to remember the exact specs, but I think it’s put a red in the fridge for 20.
Cork does you no good for testing
Crystals on the cork are no problem
Price a bottle of wine between the cost of 1-2 entrees
The wine doesn’t have the match the main ingredient on the plate
Red fish = red wine
Short cooking time = white wine
Soft cheese = white wine
Hard/veined cheese = red wine