Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Montreal 2 - The Great Spice Adventure

Do you know this man?

Well you should.

For one thing, this is a man who trekked for nine days in Chengdu to bring you imperial peppercorns, three months to track down mastic and who can smell the difference between different types of Szechuan peppercorns.

This amazing man, who has travelled far and wide to bring the best of spices to the market, who is utterly charming, incredibly friendly, is a force to be reckoned with. Dedicated to his work, his passion for spices, cooking, adventure, without any of the ego, I hope and pray he gets a TV show soon, if only to keep up with his adventures.

I had visited Olive et Olive after reading about the amazing spices in the most excellent Montreal blog, An Endless Banquet. I was at the shelf containing spice sets, lovingly and usefully for me, categorized into cooking types, mulling over what to buy when a gentleman standing nearby approached me asking if he could help. After speaking to him I selected a box of spices and upon thanking him, asked him if he was working there. I wasn't sure as he had recommended a larger set of spices due to the value of the spices, saying that the smaller one was on the expensive side for the amount of spices you received. He also wasn’t at all pushy, which made me wonder. To this, he laughed and said that he owned the shop and wasn’t just another shopper. After overcoming my extreme embarrassment and shame, we got to talking and it slowly dawned on me that it was THE Philippe de Vienne, the man who had sourced the very spices I held in my hands! I was appalled at my own ignorance but in awe at the man who generously went around recommending a variety of spices, some his own and some commercially made which was of good quality. He described tales of his adventures in Turkey, China (sourcing imperial Szechuan peppercorns), Greece and other far flung places on the earth to find the very best.

This was a man who was at once dedicated but not aggressive and helpful. When I said I wanted to buy a gift for a friend skilled in ice cream, he recommended the mastic from Greece as well as Turkish malheb, which is used in Middle Eastern cuisine, the same way we use vanilla.

It was inspiring to meet the man of the spices. When he said how happy he was to be doing what he does, combining his love for travel and adventure with his passion for food and cooking, all I could say was how grateful we are too, for people like him, sourcing the best of the best from all over the world for our gastronomic pleasure.

Luckily for all of you, he does mail order for spices all over the world.

Email for an ever-evolving list of spices at info@oliveolives.com.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow that is amazing!!! Thanks for sharing that with us.

Foodie Chee On Neighbour