Just Spices

Just Spices, a German-based company, has a mission to emotionalize the often-dusty, cupboard-restricted world of spices, as the right spices can make a huge difference in making cooking creative and eating pleasurable. I sampled several and found them all to be quite vibrant and worthy additions to a variety of dishes, such as Berry Yogurt Seasoning, containing acai, raspberry, blueberry and strawberry powder to pep up yogurt, cereal, milk or sprinkle on a dessert; Sweet Love, a dessert additive with brown cane sugar, almonds, cinnamon, lemon peel, orange peel and calendula blossom; Chicken Seasoning, a quick and easy way to enliven any chicken-based dish; Hash Brown Seasoning, a blend of smoked salt, fenugreek, curry and a bit of nutmeg to upgrade any potato dish; and Tofu Seasoning, to come to the rescue of the flavorless cubes often maligned in Western gastronomy but a critical source of protein, especially for vegetarians, with tellicherry pepper, turmeric, lemongrass and fenugreek, mustard, and caraway seeds.

The company’s 47 spice blends are now available to the US market and are sold exclusively via the website JustSpices.com. All products are certified USDA organic, with no flavor enhancers, and range in price from $5.99-$7.99.

Mezcal Marca Negra

The best drinks in the world are produced in small amounts and such is the case of Mezcal Marca Negra. Made from 100% agave and distilled by Maestro Jorge Mendez Ramirez in the San Luis Del Rio, Oaxaca region of Mexico, it’s matured for 8-12 years, and each bottle is labeled with batch and bottle number. As has been done since the 16th century, the pinas of select varietals of agave plants are placed in a fire pit of stones and wood, covered with palm leaves where they steam-bake for two to five days and are then crushed into a sweet, fibrous mash with a stone wheel powered by a mule. The mash is transferred into wooden vats where it remains for up to two weeks, allowing nature and time to convert airbone yeasts into sugar and alcohol. The taste is quite distinctive and should please any tequila fan. It weighs in at 50.2% ABV.

Up Mountain Swizzle

A drink called switchel also known as swizzle was originally created by farmers in Vermont in the 1700s to quench thirst while exerting physical and manual energy on the farm, and now we too can experience the farm-to-table beverage. The original drinking vinegar rooted in heritage and born in Vermont, Up Mountain Swizzle is a non-alcoholic carbonated drink made with only four ingredients: Berkshire mountain water, 100% Grade A organic maple syrup, organic raw apple cider vinegar and fresh ginger root. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce the first ever carbonated swizzle as we continue to reinvigorate this heritage beverage that has been part of Vermont life for generations,” said Ely Key, co-founder of Up Mountain Swizzle. He jokingly added, “No, Snoop Dog wasn’t a consultant on this project. Swizzle is actually what the Vermont field workers called it in the 1700s. Swizzle’s dynamic flavor experience delights the senses while providing a health-infused carbonated beverage, rooted in heritage.” Up Mountain Swizzle is naturally shelf stable without preservatives and suggested retail is $3.99 per 12 oz unit. For more info or to order, visit drinkswitchel.com.