Monday, May 14, 2007

Serving up some spicy reality TV, Moldofsky style

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The boys were excited and nervous as we headed to The Spice House in Evanston to film a segment for the award-winning by-kids, for-kids cooking website, Spatulatta. On the way, Splinter told me that he was feeling shy and might not want to speak on camera.

I responded like a classic stage mother. "Do what's comfortable, but given that I re-arranged my work schedule and took you out of school early to do this, I really hope you feel like talking."

I wasn't clear on all the details- was there going to be a script? Was this more of an interview? I had Smartypants write down a few questions just in case. I needn't have worried, though. Spice House owners Patti and Tom Erd are TV interview veterans. They talked spices with the boys and even had them grating nutmeg and some other things on a microplane all before the camera was even rolling to capture it.

Once the camera was on the boys got a bit nervous again, but it was short-lived. Smartypants asked a question or two and they got on the topic of cinnamon. Tom or Patti brought out a huge piece of raw cinnamon (did you know it's tree bark?). The specimen got the boys talking about our favorite Spice House product, Chicago Old Town Spiced Sugar. This delightful blend of cinnamon, sugar and cardamom turns ordinary French toast into extraordinary. It's also great on plain toast, pumpkin pie...we love it!

This spiced sugar turned into the focal point of the visit. For the next hour, Tom and Patti walked my boys though the making of this blend. They went into the mixing room where the boys cut vanilla beans and prepared them for drying, and then they headed to the basement to grind cinnamon on a massive scale. Smartypants and Splinter were perhaps the first kids ever to see Bad Boy, their industrial grinding machine. The boys donned aspirator masks to keep the fine cinnamon dust from their lungs and headphones to protect their ears from Bad Boy's loud noises.

After the cinnamon bark was crushed they helped sift it into a fine powder. Tom warned us though, his was excellent and potent stuff- some of the freshest and finest Vietnamese cinnamon to be found in this country. He told us to cut it with more generic cinnamon lest it will overpower the intended dish. Our timid midwestern palates are just not used to this kind of heat. Indeed, after Splinter tried a tiny sample he came running for my water bottle.

Each boy received a small jar of the hot stuff to take home, but we passed one along to our camerawoman, Spatulatta creator Gaylon Emerzian. Of course, we couldn't resist making a few purchases on our way out, like a jar of vanilla sugar to mix with our cinnamon. And speaking of mixing, it will take a few weeks for the episode to get edited and posted on Spatulatta, but we'll be sure to let you know when it goes live.

For more photos, see Scrambled CAKE.