East Coast Spice Blend at the Deli

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

Or find it on the East Coast Fries at the Roadhouse!

Épices de Cru’s East Coast Spice Blend is really quite a spice-world lineup—celery seed, Indian black pepper, red chiles, ginger, Chinese mustard seed, Spanish paprika, Moroccan bay leaf, Indian clove, Jamaican allspice, Sri Lankan mace, Indian cardamom, and some Indonesian cassia. It’s exceptionally aromatic and, for me at least, liberally enticing. Philippe de Vienne once told me, “East Coast Spice Blend is what the original Old Bay would have tasted like back in the ’30s.” If the name weren’t already owned by someone else, I suppose we could have called it the “old Old Bay.” The original blend, by the way, was created by a Jewish immigrant to the U.S.— Gustav Brunn escaped Nazi Germany and came to the States in 1939. He named his blend for the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship that served the Chesapeake Bay. Shortly after arriving, Brunn got a job at McCormick spice company, but, Brunn claimed, he was quickly fired when the company discovered he was Jewish. Ironically, McCormick bought Old Bay in 1990.

To use the East Coast Spice Blend, you’ll want to run it through a spice grinder or do it old-school by hand with a mortar and pestle. Do the grinding as close to the time you use it as possible so the essential oils aren’t lost to the atmosphere. (This is why the de Viennes are so adamant about selling mostly whole spices—as it is with coffee, grinding fresh is a better way to go!). Honestly, you might buy a tin just for the aroma alone. The smell when you crack open the can is so good I’ve started using it to shift my mood. Smelling salts of course are used to revive someone who’s been knocked out. Smelling spices is a far less extreme alternative for someone—like you or me—who’s feeling uncentered!

While we’re using the East Coast Spice Blend on the fries at the Roadhouse, the reality is that I can come up with probably a hundred other good uses quite quickly: I’ve had it in potato salad and macaroni salad and it makes magically delicious deviled eggs. Sprinkle some (after you grind it) on an omelet. Add it to soups or stews or bean dishes. Toss small potatoes in olive oil and then in the East Coast Spice Blend and then oven roast them (at high temp—probably about 450°F) til tender. In essence, the blend is kind of a curry blend (Épices de Cru already has about 18 of those!), so you can use it with fish, lamb, or vegetables.

After the March specials were rolled out to the crew last week, Sophie who works in the Roadshow stopped me to say that she had lived in Baltimore earlier in her life. And, she wanted to share, there it was common to put Old Bay on ice cream! I kind of thought it sounded crazy but in the spirit of our work with positive beliefs, I managed to get myself to respond with curiosity instead. Then I went and tried it—ground East Coast Spice Blend on the Creamery’s vanilla gelato—seriously delicious! I loved it! Makes me think the blend would be great in baked goods. Whatever you’re cooking, I can pretty much guarantee that East Coast Spice Blend will add character, beauty, and complexity!