Travel the spice route by logging on to www.thespicehouse.com. The company, a prized source of spices for professional chefs, is run by Patty and Tom Erd, who travel the globe seeking out the best spice growers from A (ajowan seed, used in Asian breads) to Z (za'atar, a Middle Eastern mixture of sumac, thyme, sesame seed, hyssop, and oregano; the Web site will tell you how to cook with it.) What I prize most, though, are Spice House basics—superior-grade saffron from Spain, particularly aromatic cinnamon quills from Ceylon, fragrant, plump vanilla beans from Madagascar, Malabar coast black peppercorns with a bouquet that jumps from the jar. The high turnover means that spices are fresh. And that's critical, for over time spices lose pungency. If they've been sitting on a shelf too long, they're about as effective as adding a pinch of dust to a dish. 847-328-3711; fax 847-328-3631.
The Spice House
A resource prized by professional chefs