Mar. 17th, 2007

sylvar: (Alton Brown: What Would Alton Do?)
Since Heathrita asked, here's the dirt on Penzey's:

There are two store in Jacksonville; we went to the one further east.  Its hours are ludicrously short (they're never open past 5:30), but we had over an hour to browse, and used almost all of it.

The store is difficult to find; it's in a strip mall.  But it's worth the hassle.  It's not the smallest store in the strip, and it's not an anchor either.  The interior is structured like a small but airy bookstore, with small "rooms" pocketed off by shelving.  The shelving looks like crates and old furniture; the spices are organized by themes (there's a curry section, a pepper section, an upended-rowboat shelf stocked with everything from coarse fleur de sel to ordinary fine sea salt).  There's also a section that's strictly alphabetical and has no other unifying theme.

Spices are priced just as on the website and in the catalog, but there are three major reasons why going to the store is functionally better. 

Most importantly, there are square jars with silicone gaskets on the lid (apothecary jars) with a sample of pretty much every spice, so you can smell everything in the store.  We even got to taste a sample of the grey sea salt to help convince Jodi that it's worth having around, but this may have been unusual; they replace the open samples every six months to keep them fresh, and we visited at the beginning of the cycle, so there was no reason for them not to open a fresh bag.  Still, I suspect they'd be willing to do that for others if you asked nicely.  I was also fangirling the place pretty hard, and they knew it was a special treat for me to be there.

Another important advantage of the store is that their employees truly love the place and know the spices fairly well.  We're not talking about master-sommelier expertise, but they're enthusiastic and informed, and will offer photocopied recipes using the spices you like, even though they're not generally on display.  They can tell you what ingredient makes "Sunny Paris" so expensive (purple shallots) or whether Dutch-process or natural cocoa is better for baking (Dutch-process).

And finally, there's the advantage of not having to pay shipping costs, which can be a nice advantage when you get about $50 worth of spices (about half of which were a wedding gift).  And you can buy little empty jars at very reasonable prices, too.
sylvar: (Star Trek: TNG: Rocking Out In Car)
Last night, as I was finishing what I'd been writing about Penzey's, Bryan (the groom), Krista (the bride), and Brad (her brother) came by to invite us to join them at Dave and Buster's.  I like D&B a lot more than GameWorks, which is Tampa's lame excuse for a grownups' arcade.  I had mentioned going there while we were at Al's Pizza in Riverside, blocks away from the wedding site.

So Jodi and I drove -- it was about a quarter mile, but chilly with 20-30mph wind -- and we got there at the same time as the pedestrians.  Brad used to be a manager at this store, so he was greeted by the guys at the door, who let us in without a cover.  He even got Jodi a game card (and I bought one for myself).

They mostly played classic games; I played a trivia game that could have up to six players competing.  Alone, you can get about 20 prize tickets for the game.  With six players, the player with the most correct answers (and, as a tiebreaker, the least total time elapsed) can win up to 190 tickets. 

Even though Jodi and I took a break for a drink and a snack at the restaurant area, I still quickly and easily racked up enough tickets to win her a Care Bears plush.  Appropriately enough (it was after midnight), it was the beshamrocked Lucky Bear.  (Shut up, Firefox, I know beshamrocked isn't in your spelling dictionary.)  I've had no luck convincing this laptop to recognize the camera, so I might not be able to post photos for a few days.  But there's a cute photo of Jodi and her new stuffed animal, and you'll get to see it eventually.

This morning we gathered at the house my aunt Linda (mother of the bride) bought when it was a foreclosed-upon crack house and improved the hell out of.  We had brunch, featuring a chocolate fountain, champagne punch, homemade egg-a-mooby-biscuits, etc.  (Linda runs a cafe in Riverside and has also had a catering business--thus the chocolate fountain--so she was happy to be the brunch walla.)  They weren't asking for gifts, but they happily accepted a few.  They were excited about Penzey's and would have gone for themselves if they'd had time.  Oh, and by the way, since Linda's cafe is in another part of town, she's selling the house brunch was in.

This afternoon I fetched some lunch for Jodi from Dave and Buster's and walked over there with my aunt Susan.  I showed her a few of my favorites, and we shot up some aliens together while we waited for Jodi's food.  When Jodi called to see what was taking me so long, Susan answered my phone "Hello, Dave and Buster's", which got a laugh.  Jodi is now napping, and while I'd like to be out at D&B for the next half-hour or so, I accepted "how about you stay here and Internet for a while" as a compromise.  I'm sure I'll be back there tonight after the reception anyway.

I really wish the camera would connect to the laptop.  There are some wonderful shots in there.

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