Mt Lebanon Magazine

710 Washington Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

Mt Lebanon Magazine

The official magazine of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

three ways to spice up spring

Spring is a fine time to freshen up your spice rack, or whatever you keep your spices in—a drawer, a cupboard, a beer box (I do that with some of mine, but I’m a food editor.)

It’s a good time to freshen up, especially if you haven’t done so since … ever.

Just ask anyone who is savvy about herbs and spices, such as Mt. Lebanonites Deb and Dave Johnson, who a few months ago opened Savvy Spices  on Banksville Road.

They’ll tell you, as they advised in a recent newsletter, that, “There is a huge flavor difference between old dried and fresh dried herbs. Buy high quality, in quantities you need, and strive to use within three to six months.”

Look at some of your jars for dates and you might be shocked. You might have quite a different hairstyle than the last time you used them.


You’ll want to buy fresh versions of the ones you use. But a more fun way to “freshen up” is to buy an herb or a spice or a blend that you’ve never tried. Retailers such as the Johnsons will have ones you’ve probably never even heard of and can help with ideas, but may I suggest three:

Marjoram Get out of the basil-and-oregano rut with this bright-tasting green herb.

Saigon (or Vietnamese) cinnamon A super-flavorful cinnamon that won’t let you take it for granted.

Piment d’Espelette I’m addicted to this gorgeous red ground pepper, which, while low in heat, is high in flavor.

Raisin-bread French toast made with Saigon cinnamon
Raisin-bread French toast made with Saigon cinnamon


Savvy Spices, at 3015B Banksville Road (inbound to Downtown side), just [March 3] added Sunday hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s closed Mon., open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues.-Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. 1-800-343-1087.

Read more of Bob’s blog at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:


  1. Author’s gravatar

    Great piece, Bob. I have wondered about stopping into Savvy Spices, and now I will! (I also see some star anise on that table in the pic – nice to have another local source for it. I might have an idea or two for using that!)

  2. Author’s gravatar

    Hey, Daniel — thanks for checking out this baby blog. Savvy Spices is a great store, run by really nice folks, and they seem to have great stuff. I’m due to stop in for a few things this week (and will encourage them to source some piment d’espelette). Meanwhile, I have Straw Bale in my sights for a future post here, maybe before your B-town gig, so be ready. 🙂

  3. Author’s gravatar

    Bob, thanks for the kind words. We are searching for a good source for piment d’espelette as we speak. Not the easiest one to source but we will get it done.

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