How to Spice Up the New Year

An Oakland spice boutique has the goods to give yourself a kick start.

Some might say that Grand Lake took on a deliciously pleasant scent the moment John Beaver and Erica Perez opened Oaktown Spice Shop in 2011. Perez gave us the lowdown on what spices should be making it into your kitchen in the new year.

erica_perez_IMG_0002Photo by Erica Perez courtesy Oaktown Spice Shop

erinscott_oaktownspice-0235Photo by Erin Scott courtesy Oaktown Spice Shop

What spices can you use in place of oil and butter? 

EP: First, let me say that we are big fans of butter and oil! But using fresh spices can add flavor without using too much fat. A customer favorite is our Better Than Everything Bagel Spice (on toast). One of my favorite easy weeknight meals is to rub chicken thighs with a spice blend like our Persian Lime Curry or Japanese Curry Powder.

What’s the “secret” spice that more people should be using? 

EP: Ajwain seed. It’s traditionally used in Indian cuisine, but it’s much more flexible than that. It may remind you of anise seed, cumin, thyme, and oregano, but it has its own distinct flavor.

What’s the spice people always underestimate? 

EP: Bay leaves. Everybody uses them but no one really talks about them.

What’s the best smelling spice combo out there?

EP: One of my favorites is our Umami Salt (Korean black garlic and shiitake mushrooms). That one gets my mouth watering every time I smell it.

erinscott_oaktownspice-0502Photo by Erin Scott courtesy Oaktown Spice Shop

erica_perez_IMG_0003Photo by Erica Perez courtesy Oaktown Spice Shop


If you're not already a member, sign up now to start earning points toward incredible Joie de Vivre experiences and free air miles with your very next stay at one of our boutique hotels, each with its own unique brand and personality.