Title: Owner, Juliet Mae, maker of The Occasional Gourmet a line of fine spices and herbs sold in recipe-friendly portions in stay-fresh packets
Hometown: New York, now San Francisco

1. How do New Yorkers compare to San Franciscans?
New Yorkers are specialists. But people here are interested in more things, and open to new ideas, more well-rounded. People out here are creative. I’m not sure I could have started this business in New York.

2. How did you come up with the idea for The Occasional Gourmet?
I was sitting in the kitchen one day looking at tea bags and I thought if people could buy individually foil wrapped tea bags, why not spices?

For coming up with blends, I’ll go out to eat and think about how someone prepared food or read cookbooks, figure out how another culture combines flavors. I like creating blends because they’re like culinary play dough. There are no limits to what you can do with them.

3. What are some great recipe tips from your customers?
One customer shared how she used a tagine blend with white beans, sausage and tomato sauce to create a kind of Mediterranean cassoulet. Another idea is to use herbs de Provence with a little white wine, chicken broth and some shallot or garlic to poach fish in the oven.

4. What trends do you predict in spices and flavorings?
A broadening appetite for spices, because of health reasons, cocooning, odd economic times, people may actually have to learn how to cook again.

Some people are looking to entertain and need solutions, other people use spices because they want to break out of the same old thing–but they all want them to be easy to use. Most people don’t want to spend all day preparing dinner. The real trend is people are cooking less at home so when they do, they want to make it special.

Spice usage has been increasing partly because Indian and Mexican cuisines are becoming more and more established. I see more fusion. People are more likely to combine flavors. North African spices will become more popular.

5. What are your favorite spices these days?
I like them all, but some of my favorites are a few Middle Eastern peppers, Marash, Aleppo, and piment d Espelette from the Espelette region in Basque country. The Marash is a finishing pepper. I also discovered using smoked paprika instead of chipotle.

Take 5 with Kathy FitzHenry 6 April,2005Amy Sherman


Amy Sherman

Amy Sherman began blogging in 2003, because all her
friends and family were constantly asking her where
and what to eat. Three months after it launched,
Forbes chose her blog, Cooking with Amy, as one of the
top five best food blogs, praising her writing as
“smart, cozy and witty”. Since then her blog has been
featured and recipes reprinted in many newspapers and
magazines in the U.S. and the world.

In addition to regularly updating her blog, Amy is a
guest contributor to the Epicurious.com blog, and
Contributing Editor of Glam Dish. She also writes
restaurant reviews for SF Station.

Her focus on Bay Area Bites is primarily cookbook
reviews along with some interviews and current events.

Amy is a recipe developer and freelance food writer.
She is author of WinePassport: Portugal and wrote the new introduction to the classic cookbook, Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book, published by the University of Nebraska Press. She recently completed 45 recipes for a Williams-Sonoma cookbook and wrote her first piece for VIA magazine.

She is currently serving on the board of the San Francisco Professional Food Society and is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Amy lives in San Francisco with her husband, tech journalist Lee Sherman.

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