I’m the Grocery Editor at Kitchn and This New Spice Set Tops the List as the Best Thing I Tried All Week

published Mar 25, 2022
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shortbread cookies

Overnight oats. Salmon fillets. Shortbread cookies. What these three seemingly unrelated items have in common is that they were my test subjects for the week. You see, Burlap & Barrel — the single-origin spice purveyor that works directly with farmer cooperatives and small farms around the world to source its ingredients — recently launched a new collaboration with Just Date. (As the name suggests, Just Date makes natural sweeteners using upcycled kentichi dates. The company has collaborated with other Kitchn editor favorites like Seed + Mill and Raaka.)

I was lucky enough to sample the trio of spiced date sugars. I decided to try them in a few different applications: hot and cold, cooking and baking, and savory and sweet. Before we get into how they fared, let’s start with the sugars themselves. 

The three varieties — Buffalo Ginger, Black Lime, Pompona Vanilla — arrived in glass jars nestled in a corrugated cardboard box. You can easily remove the box’s top flap and use the base as a storage tray for the spices (a nice perk!). First, I smelled each one: the Pompona Vanilla is the most subtle of the bunch; the Black Lime, a bit stronger, with a peppery scent layered onto the citrus; the Buffalo Ginger is, in a word, vibrant. It smells so fresh, I would have thought I was smelling a piece of raw ginger in a blind smell test. Next, I tasted a tiny pinch and have similar reports in the intensity of the flavors. All three have a delightful sweetness to them, while the Black Lime and Buffalo Ginger have a powerful zesty finish that lingers, almost dancing across my tongue. It got me even more excited, yet nervous, to try them out in a recipe.

Experimenting is fun and liberating …. if you’re someone who finds experimenting fun and liberating. I am more of a “by the (recipe) book” type of person. Exact measurements? Step-by-step instructions? That’s what I call liberating! That’s also why I started with this recipe for shortbread cookies. Plus, well, I wanted buttery cookies. I split the batter in two, so I could try both the Black Lime (right) and Pompona Vanilla (left) without depleting my entire stockpile of butter. Each half of batter got one tablespoon of one spiced date sugar. Once baked and cooled, the crumbly cookies were delicate in texture (so much so, I moved them with the care and attention normally reserved for filled coupe glasses). Both spices added a new and unique flavor to each rich, buttery bite.

The success of that experiment gave me confidence to ad lib, albeit slightly, with my next culinary endeavors. I swapped honey for Pompona Vanilla in my overnight oats, which made them taste akin to Cinnamon Toast Crunch, although not as sweet. And after seeing this recipe for sheet pan crispy salmon and potatoes on Kitchn’s IG, I decided I’d create my own marinade using the Buffalo Ginger and see how things would go. It was the best WFH lunch I’d had all week, maybe all month. I do wish I added more of the Buffalo Ginger so the salmon had more of that zingy, gingery, punch I’d gotten when sampling the spice on its own (I actually ended up sprinkling a little extra on after the fact). There is always next week, though.

What are some your favorite spices that you’ve been using lately? Tell us in the comments below.