Sunday, January 18, 2009

Penzeys Spices Tuscan Sunset: The Melding of Taste and Sight

Perfumers and spice blenders are highly skilled in the art of combining individual ingredients and cultivating new aromatic effects. Naming a new creation is extremely important as the result must reflect the defining qualities that stir the senses. A name brings a creation to life, providing a reference point and destination. When we have a name for something, we know how to relate to it and share its story. Penzeys Spices Tuscan Sunset is an unforgettable example of the masterful art of spice blending and aromatic appellation.

Tuscany is known for its rich agriculture and a landscape dominated by rolling hills. Its simple and mesmerizing beauty is reflected in the pages of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, which was made into a movie starring Diane Lane in 2003. Cereal grains, olives and grapes are popular regional crops that support a culture where artisan foods flourish. There is something about the Tuscan landscape that plants itself in the soul of anyone whose feet touches its soil. Tuscany has a magical character and Penzeys has found a way to cultivate its essence in a spice mixture that includes: basil, oregano, red bell pepper, garlic, thyme, fennel, black pepper and anise. The result is an aromatic blend that is verdant, uplifting and bright.

Penzeys' packaging is simple; demure black-capped glass jars affixed with pastel yellow labels. There are no fancy pictures on the labels and the spices are permitted to speak for themselves through the glass. If you’re familiar with the ingredients in the mixture, flavors will begin to form in your culinary imagination as the taste of the blend is anticipated. A palette of colors emerges in the mind in synesthetic response to the colors of the spice mixture. "Harvest Time", a painting of the Tuscan countryside by Kendra Schwabel, echoes a culinary vernacular that is immediately evident in the artist's choice of colors and the way her brushstrokes portray shadow and light. The painting expresses the flavors in Penzeys Tuscan Sunset better than any subjective explanation of ingredients possibly can and inspires admiration for Schwabel's talent.

Tuscan Sunset is recommended as a seasoning for vegetables, chicken, pork or fish. Glass Petal Smoke has discovered another application that is simple and delicious; warm bread drizzled with olive oil, Tuscan Sunset and a layer of fresh ricotta. Buon appetito!


Penzeys Tuscan Sunset is available in a variety of sizes and can be purchased on their website. To view their catalog, click here. If you are in New York City you can visit Penzeys at the Grand Central Market on 42nd Street.

Looking to increase your knowledge when it comes to herbs and spices? Aliza Green's Field Guide to Herbs & Spices packs an incredible amount of information in a pocket-sized book. If you can't find what you're looking for in the book, the author encourages you to visit her website and let her know.

Kendra Schwabel’s paintings may be purchased via her website. The image of “Harvest Time” is protected by copyright. Rights remain with Kendra Schwabel Designs.