If were to go out and purchase a magnificent cookbook of Middle Eastern cuisine -- say Yotam Ottolengthi's Plenty -- you might find its pages laced with shockingly beautiful photographs: fire-roasted eggplant topped with za'atar and pomegranate; tamarind-stewed chickpeas with caraway; or tomato-coriander semolina soup. Armed with inspiration that only comes after seeing perfectly-styled food photographs, you head on over to your local grocery store to rummage for supplies.
Then, a problem arises. Unless you're planning on adding three ounces of paprika to tonight's cous cous, you're going to end up with a surplus of spices in your pantry. And most ground spices only stay fresh for about six months. (So you better start making a whole lot of cous cous.)
Enter Spice Galore, a specialty shop in South Miami that sells sugars, salts, teas, spices, herbs, chiles, honey, chocolates, and, even, ingredients for molecular gastronomy. The store, which opened in early November, is owned by partners Victoria Nodarse and Aimee Ortega. Both have a culinary background, and a serious passion for all things spicy.
The duo met at the Miami Culinary Institute, where Ortega is currently enrolled and Nordarse was formerly an instructor. (Previously, Ortega was a private chef and Nodarse worked at restaurants like Michael's Genuine Food & Drink and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden as a culinary coordinator.)
But the big news isn't that there's a well-stocked spice shop in Miami. Instead, it's that this spice shop will sell as little as an ounce of spice at a time. And, since the shop has a local storefront, you can replenish supplies constantly.
In other words, your days of bland curried chicken are over.
"There was nothing in Miami for spices like this. These things were only available online before," explains Ortega, referring to the bounty of spices around the store.
The shop sells everything from housemade, ground-to-order spice mixes, like madras curry, za'tar and punjabi garam masala, to specialty salts, including Alderwood smoked and Himalayan pink varieties. There are also teas -- including the pricey, hand-picked, organic white silver needle for $7.50 an ounce. There are many organic options among the array of spices and teas.
Prices are affordable, too. (Well, except for that tea). Caraway seeds cost $2 an ounce. Tamarind paste goes for the same price. Spice Galore's house-mix of za'atar is just $3 an ounce.
The duo also owns a farm in Homestead, where they started planting fresh herbs like basil, chives, and Kaffir lime. Soon, they hope to offer these products in-store.
But the locale doesn't intend to be just a one stop shop for spices. In the space, Nodarse and Ortega have already set up a kitchen, for monthly cooking demonstrations. A tea bar is also in the works.
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"This is not only a spice store, but also a cooking school. This is a place where enthusiasts can come to learn about things like Indian cuisine. It's fun and entertaining, with an educational twist," says Nodarse.
Call it what you want. This shop is a welcome addition to the South Miami neighborhood. I know I'll be back again soon -- especially when those cravings for punjabi garam masala kick in.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.