The average customer could feel a bit overwhelmed entering the new Savory Spice shop on Times Blvd. in Rice Village. Looking for sea salt? Will that be regular or smoked? If you’re looking for smoked, would you like it smoked with hickory, alder wood or chardonnay oak barrels? Questions like these could plague the casual shopper, but for discerning gourmets looking for unique spices to enliven their dishes, the Savory Spice shop will seem a remarkable addition to the shops at Rice Village.
During this weekend’s grand opening, owner Michelle Halbert outlined some main goals of the shop, including offering ingredients that “99.9 percent of the time won’t be found in grocery stores,” hosting events like book signings and cooking demonstrations and staying true to local Texan ingredients. While Savory is a franchise, it offers an impressive selection of 14 Texan-grown teas, ranging in flavor from chamomile to a dirty chai blend with fresh ground espresso beans. The rest of the stock is produced in Denver, Colo., where small-batch blending allows the proprietor to create a number of unique combinations. Black onyx cocoa powder alkalized to the extreme to reduce bitter flavors, powdered honey and ras el hanout (the Moroccan “King of Spices”) are all blended in the Denver headquarters and bottled on site in Rice Village.
Some of the more rare items can be prohibitively expensive. The Tahitian vanilla is incredibly floral and nuanced but costs $5.80 per bean. Likewise, their acclaimed truffle salt costs $9.00 per ounce. However, prices like these can be expected when dealing with hard-to-find ingredients. The rest of the inventory is quite reasonable. Standbys like cinnamon, vanilla extract and fleur de sel are competitively priced, and many items are available in bulk.
Free recipes are available throughout the shop on cards perched by their key ingredients. Recipes for Chinese five-spice carrot cupcakes and chia tequila shortbread both typify the adventurous style of cooking that founder Mike Johnson champions. Bimonthly cooking demonstrations also aim to educate and inspire the local community of food enthusiasts. During the grand opening, Chef Soren Pederson of The Eastside Farmer’s Market prepared a mushroom cream sauce and spinach pasta before the crowd, incorporating many of the shop’s spices and explaining how to enhance the dish without over-seasoning.
As Savory continues settling into its new location, Halbert hopes the shop will create relationships between Rice’s food community and the growing number of food enthusiasts in Houston.