[Stacey, of 17th Street Thrift Shops and Roasted Tomato with Shrimp and Feta fame brings us these thoughts on a mortar and pestle. Thank you, Stacey!]
Is there room in a small New York City apartment for a mortar and pestle? I never thought so, even though I could hear the scolding of minions of chefs and "real" cooks every time I reached for my pre-ground dried herbs and spices. Roasting and grinding my own just seemed to far to go for culinary perfection. Besides, the M & Ps I came across were too large and heavy for my space-challenged kitchen.
Then, during a recent trip to Florida, I wandered into a small Hispanic grocery store and spotted a shelf of mortar and pestles in several sizes. The smallest was of a hard wood and measured roughly 4 inches tall with a 2 inch wide opening and a neat pestle that just fit the grooved bowl. It would easily slip into my carry-on so I decided to give it a try.
While I still don't mix up elaborate Garam Masalas, I do use it to grind together small amounts of sea salt with herbs, or toasted Szechuan peppercorns. Its small footprint makes it a valued addition to my batterie de cuisine.
Fantes.com has a wide selection of mortar and pestles, including ones fashioned from wood, marble, brass... you name it.