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Spicetrekkers.com - On the hunt for the world's best spices and blends

On the hunt for the world's best spices and blends

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Tastes and Flavours: Crete and Provence

Epices de cru - Tastes and Flavours: Crete and Provence

Crete is situated in the eastern Mediterranean in southern Greece. It was on that island that Minoan culture was born (2600 B.C.); becoming the first European civilization, and one which has had a defining and long lasting influence on Greek culture. Already at this time, grains, olives and grapes were considered the pillars of their food foundation. It was this basic combination, which came to be identified as the Mediterranean trilogy that allowed many of the civilizations in and around the Mediterranean basin to prosper.

Beginning in the VI century B.C., the Greeks established many colonies in what is today southern France. They introduced an agricultural system which they inherited from Cretans. Centuries later, this region became the first provincial of the Roman Empire, the name by which it is still called to this day. Continue reading →

Meet the staff: Julien-Pier

Meet the staff: Julien-Pier

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 

Juilen-Pier is most pronounced by his versatility. Not afraid to get his hands dirty, he always volunteers for manual tasks of every kind (he was everywhere painting the walls when we were renovating our boutique). He makes kombucha himself and loves to impart his valuable knowledge to anyone who’ll go on the journey with him, particularly with his passion for rock n roll. He is deeply interested in the benefits of teas and spices and serves, for his colleagues, as a surprising- and sometimes wild!- source of knowledge.

Meet the staff: Julien-Pier

Which spice or blend is your favorite?

I particularly like Sri Lrankan Black Curry, a relatively sweet curry with notes of roasted nuts. I often use it in soups and dahls. In fact, I put a little in pretty much everything, since it’s a versatile curry that you can add as a finishing spice at the end. Continue reading →

A Toast To Our Stores on the Eve of Their Marriage

A Toast To Our Stores on the Eve of Their Marriage - Epices de cru

Last year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of our store, Olives et Épices. Little did we know that this marked the beginning of a totally new adventure for us. The idea of putting tea and spices under one roof, united at last, had been running through the minds of the de Vienne family for a long time. It’s a project that will finally be realized in just one week at the Jean-Talon Market. Our one and only store (where our Tea Bar used to be) where we can find the whole team, ready to give advice and travel with you. With a little wisp of nostalgia, I asked the employees to share some of the memories they accumulated over the years.

Eric now occupies the post of Director General for the company, but he started on the floor at the store in the market. He was there for the grand opening: “I put the ‘open’ sign up on the door of Olives et Épices, which opened in a whole new wing of the Jean Talon Market, on the Henri-Julien side. It was just us and the other people who were ready for the official opening day… it wasn’t a big crowd, but we all pretty well on edge. And we were pretty proud of our five little spice blends, and our shelves (empty!), on which we would sporadically put mortars to fill the space.” Continue reading →

Meet the staff: Marie-Pier

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 

Meet the staff: Marie-Pier - Épices de cru

Marie-Pier is a true source of quiet strength for our team, and everyone here agrees that her calm, sweet nature makes for an exceptional colleague. Deeply curious and passionate about cooking, she collects cookbooks (and literary books of all kinds) and never misses the opportunity to develop her knowledge of tea and spices, which she sometimes shares on our blog. She will also starting giving seminars on spices this fall.

What is your favorite spice blend?

Zaatar, a blend made of the thyme that bears its name, sumac and sesame, along with some other spices and a little salt. It’s a blend that I’ll use anywhere, any time. Continue reading →

Tastes and Flavours : Yucatan

Philippe & Ethné in Yucatan

The Yucatan Penninsula is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, making it a meeting place between Central America, the West-Indies and Mexico. This emplacement means the region is one of the most important intersections of spices in the Americas.

Yucatan food is characterized by rustic dishes with uncommon flavours. Other than a few hot exceptions, dishes tend to be dominated by sour and salty. By contrast, accompanying salsas are ferociously hot.

The cuisine of the Mayas, who inhabit the Yucatan, has long been composed of corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, chiles, annatto, turkey, and wild game. With the arrival of the Spanish to the continent, new ingredients were added, including: garlic, onion, citrus, and herbs and spices from the Mediterranean world, as well as chicken. Later, in the 19th century, an important wave of Syrian immigration contributed a deeper understanding of spice blends and a love of grilling to the local cuisine. From this slow intermingling an original cuisine was born, quite different from the cuisines of other regions around Mexico, one that unites the fragrances of spices like cumin and allspice with smattered herbs like epazote and Yucatan oregano, a variety remarkably different from the one from its European counterpart. Continue reading →

Tastes and Flavours: Southern India

Tastes and Flavours: Southern India - Epices de cru

The Malabar Coast, in the Southwest of India, is, quite possibly, the most fabulous place in the history of the Spice Road. It’s not only where pepper originated, but it’s also there, deep in the jungle, that one finds one of the rarest spices in the world: cardamom, which lends its name to the very hills in which it grows.

In antiquity, East Asian spices like cinnamon, cassia, clove, star anise, nutmeg and mace, would pass by the Spice Coast to eventually reach the Middle East and finally Europe. It was in well-known ports like Goa, Cochin and Tellicherry, that Arab sailors, like the Sinbad of 1,001 Nights, would come to buy the spices of the Hindu Kingdoms. Continue reading →

Meet the Staff : Étienne

The employees in our stores at the Jean Talon Market are the true experts in matters of spices, tea, and cooking in general. It is they who, over time, have made your visits such a unique experience. We invite you to discover, each month, an introduction to each one of them. This interview is translated from French. 

Etienne-closeup

Étienne has worked in our two stores in the Jean-Talon market for over two years. An accomplished musician (he plays in Caltâr-Bateau with our colleague Alex) and an evident epicurean, he has a good sense of humour as well a good dose of goofiness that is contagious. Thanks to his famous habit of biting into each whole spice raw, he has acquired, over time, a great knowledge of the gustatory secrets of each spice in their most primal state. Continue reading →

How true is your cinnamon?

How true is your cinnamon? - Epices de cru

There’s a spice hiding out in many Quebec pantries which has always played a major role in its history and culinary culture: cinnamon. We may hate it or love it – but do we really even know what it is? What if we told you that the product which you buy from the supermarket that you’ve been told is cinnamon is not true cinnamon? What is often sold as cinnamon is in fact cassia, a family member granted, but not true cinnamon.

To fully understand this misrepresentation with which we have lived for so long, we have to go back a few centuries. True cinnamon, also known as Ceylon cinnamon, has one unique terroir – Sri Lanka. And to this day it is still considered to be the best terroir for cinnamon production in the world. Cassia on the other hand, comes from China, Vietnam and Indonesia. There are of course lots of reasons – geography being one – which made the cassia trade lucrative for many countries. True cinnamon was discovered when traders and sailors began exploring Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon) and it was then that the differences in quality and flavor of cinnamon versus cassia became apparent. At that time cinnamon, like many spices, was considered a luxury product, available only to the rich. Continue reading →

My Stupid Indian Phone

Posted on by Ethne

My stupid indian phone - Epices de cru

I am the first to admit that I have very little patience. Monopoly is one of the few games I can endure and that’s only because I get paid for passing “Go”! I never fidget or “have something better to do” except, when babies, dogs or canard de confit are around.

My kids, Marika and Arik were used to me saying “speed it up” whenever what I considered to be their ramblings began to bore me. They both learned early on to punctuate their conversations with humour and to speak quickly if they expected to keep me engaged.

I believe in karma: you know, what goes around comes around. Indians in general are also great believers in that sort thing, but I never dreamed to what extent my impatience and Indian bureaucracy would prove to be karmically incompatible. Continue reading →

A Montreal Poutine

Posted on by Steve

Poutine - Epices de cru

I don’t know why the staff decided the American should make poutine for an all-Quebec crowd. I know they thought it was funny. I thought it was funny. Something to do with the March spice of the month, Montreal Spice Rub. But as I make more and more of the staff lunches, I’ve got to build by reputation. And being able to make poutine, one of those simple, honest dishes that can get messed up easily, is a reputation-making dish. Fries, cheese, and gravy- or is it poutine sauce? These are the kinds of questions I would have to answer if I was to make a good, filling poutine for the staff of Épices de Cru.

Poutine consists of French fries, which can vary but are usually thin, cheese curds, which are akin to nuggets of unprocessed string cheese, and sauce, which is contentious. There seem to be two schools of thought on the sauce. One is that it’s basically a gravy: roux and stock. Another suggests a specific “poutine sauce,” one that includes ketchup, green peppercorns, and apple cider vinegar. I admit there is a distinct sour flavour to poutine sauce as opposed to normal gravy, but no one seems to complain about poutine with gravy. For my poutine, I decided to go with a good old fashioned gravy. Continue reading →

Cheap, lazy and impatient: Why I Use a Gaiwan

Posted on by Marika

Gaiwan - Epices de cru

In many ways, I am not a traditionalist at all. I am firmly entrenched in the 21st century, using every modern convenience I can get my hands on to make my life easier. You see dear readers, I have accepted that I am a lazy, cheap and impatient woman who wants easy access to all the best things life has to offer, without having to inconvenience my day in least. Latest phone? I have it. New fangled matcha shaker? Mine. I love what is new, what is convenient, and what gets me to the point of the things, the heart of the matter, without wasting my time or energy. And that is why I have a 400 year old Chinese invention at my desk. A Gaiwan appeals to every part of me. Continue reading →

Oolong 101

Oolong 101 - Epices de cru

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the employees at the Tea Bar have a particular favourite tea, so let’s just say we have a great weakness for oolongs. This befell us because Marika, our tea huntress, always comes back from her travels in China or Taiwan with one or two new oolongs in her suitcases for us to discover. It’s a source of wonder, as we discuss tea in the shop, to note that people know few (and certainly not all!) kinds of oolongs. And yet, as soon as people taste their first sweet infusion of our oolongs, they fall under the charm of these teas. Continue reading →

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