It's a long way from the legendary sources of spices to the Johnstons' bright, well-appointed kitchen, where the six episodes of Spice & Easy were shot (the Johnstons are waiting to hear if more will be ordered). On the screen, Janet Johnston adds zip to everyday foods — ribs, mac and cheese, fries — through an expert use of spices. She puts wasabi in her slaw and cumin in her burgers, curries her fritters and adds real vanilla-bean seeds to a strawberry milkshake. Along the way, she imparts a fair amount of information about spices — but more important, she demystifies their use and shows how a teaspoon or two, or an unexpected combination, can bring a dish alive. I've used cinnamon forever, of course, but it had never occurred to me that five-spice powder might be a good companion for it before seeing the show. It doesn't hurt that Johnston is a beautiful woman, and clearly and sensually in love with food: She's unafraid to hoist a dripping burger to her lips or — after an ironic "Oops" — to rapidly consume chocolate chips accidentally dropped on the counter. She has a sense of humor, too, which I hope will get more play if Spice & Easy is renewed. And she's so damn happy in the kitchen. "See," she croons, regarding one of her finished creations, "I told you. I told you how pretty it is."

Mike and Janet Johnston started Savory Spice in 2004.
Mark Manger
Mike and Janet Johnston started Savory Spice in 2004.

Location Info


Savory Spice Shop

1537 Platte St.
Denver, CO 80211

Category: Retail

Region: Northwest Denver

Savory Spice Shop

2650 W. Main
Littleton, CO 80120

Category: Retail

Region: Southwest Denver Suburbs

Spices have been domesticated. You no longer have to seek them out in dusty little emporia known only to the cognoscenti; tastes you savored in foreign places are now available here. It's no surprise that sellers should wish to expand their markets: Spices aren't that expensive, it takes a lot of volume to make a profit, and no matter how dedicated, the average home cook can only use so much pepper or nutmeg in a year. Which means you're unlikely to run into anything like Ruth and Bill Penzey's original Wauwatosa Spice House these days, and the aggressive tactics employed by chain stores and big boxes must surely be more and more tempting to sellers. Still. Set that aside. Compare the taste of cassia from China or Vietnam with that of true Ceylonese cinnamon. Watch a pinch of saffron turn your rice golden and inhale the scent. Place a whole star anise in the palm of your hand, consider the elegant shape, think about how it might taste with, say, apricots. And spare a grateful thought for the traders, both ancient and modern.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help