6 local spice companies to elevate your cooking skills

Boring meals begone — add a little spice from local producers to raise any dish from bland to bold.
All of the spices against a black backdrop
Photo by Nikki Hansen

Boring meals begone — add a little spice from local producers to raise any dish from bland to bold.

All in the Family
Owner Huma Siddiqui started White Jasmine LLC in December 2003 with her son Samir Karimi to introduce new and innovative flavors to Wisconsin. Using all-natural ingredients, White Jasmine sells whole and ground spices, plus flavored Gouda cheeses. Three signature blends are a great way to introduce yourself to White Jasmine. The most popular is tandoori masala, a mix of 13 spices with a smoky flavor reminiscent of the clay ovens used in Pakistan. Sajji masala has a bit of a kick but won’t mask the flavors of a dish — even when pairing with the recommended fish or chicken, which could easily get overshadowed. The final signature blend is garam masala, a staple in Pakistani households that Siddiqui recommends using in a stir fry. White Jasmine also offers cooking classes if you’re looking to elevate your cooking game. 225-0313, whitejasmine.com

Tikka Masala and Les Delices de awa spices

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Taste of West Africa
Awa Sibi, the owner of Les Délices De Awa LLC, started as a caterer and food cart operator in 2018, but in the past year has expanded to offering shelf-ready products and original dishes (for delivery). Sibi, who was born in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, creates West African cuisine using flavors from her home country, as well as Senegal, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and the Mediterranean. In August 2020, She released Dry Rub Saveur Africaine, which combines paprika, black pepper, garlic, onion, herbes de Provence, parsley and Cajun seasoning. She says it can replace your entire spice rack — that’s what it’s done for her cooking. It can be added to any protein (including vegetarian substitutes) when grilling or frying. Saveur Africaine (and Sibi’s African ghost pepper sauce) can be ordered online or found in-person at locations including International Market, Madison Oriental Market, Fresh Mart in Sun Prairie and Hy-Vee East. 501 E. Badger Road, 446-6108, lesdelicesdeawa.com

It’s Tailgate Timetwo bottles of Tailgate Foodie
The Tailgate Foodie started as Dean Johnson’s food blog in 2018, but it’s since expanded to a line of spices, barbecue sauces and pop-up events. Johnson, along with co-owners Edgar Nevarez and Josh and Lucas Bergeson, have created 10 seasonings and are working to develop more this year. The most popular is Burger Blend, and while “burger” might be in the name, Johnson says it’s an all-purpose seasoning. To help at-home cooks, every container has a QR code that connects to a recipe that will highlight the flavors of the spices. Johnson’s favorite is Nashville Hot because he loves the accompanying Nashville hot chicken sloppy Joes recipe. Tailgate Foodie is a passion project for the team and gives them a fun diversion from their day jobs. “We handmake all of our seasonings,” Johnson says. “We go in at 5 in the morning and hand-produce, hand-label all the stuff in Sun Prairie.” thetailgatefoodie.com

Sparks are Flying
In 2014, as a retirement project, Mike Wendt combined his passion for cooking with 35 years of experience with spices and meats to launch Spark Spices. Since starting the company, Wendt has created 16 spice shakers and five dry rubs, plus brines and drink mixes. “When designing spices I’m targeting a balance of flavor so the spices are complementing each other to obtain a pleasant palate experience,” Wendt says. The most popular (and Wendt’s personal favorite) is Zesty Snap, an everyday, season-anything-and-everything blend. While folks will use it as a popcorn seasoning or sprinkle some atop eggs, he recommends making Zesty Snap Dip, a recipe that can be found on the bottle. Pair the creamy dip with chips, pretzels or veggies for movie night or a picnic feast. 1219 N. Sherman Ave., 715-321-1350, sparkspices.com

Spark Spices and 7 Chili Blend

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Some Like It Spicy
Joan and Ted Ballweg are the duo behind Verona’s Savory Accents, a Dane County Farmers’ Market staple since the early 1980s. Ted Ballweg is the gardener while Joan Ballweg is the culinary creator. When traveling, they look for chili pepper seeds and recipes they could grow and develop for Savory Accents. “We love spicy foods, but our motto is ‘Flavor before Heat,’ ” Ted Ballweg says. “It is easy to make it hot — but making it tasty takes longer and requires trial and error before balance is achieved.” The Ballwegs’ favorite is the 7 Chili Blend, a versatile seasoning that can be used in almost any dish or added as a pop of spice at the end. The ingredients are simple: habanero, serrano, cayenne, jalapeño, Thai, red and green chile peppers, all of which are grown, dried, ground and mixed in Verona. In addition to the 7 Chili Blend, Savory Accents makes Chilean-inspired merken, espelette using peppers from the Basque region of Spain and southern France, and smoked paprika, which combines several varieties of paprika chile peppers and always sells out quickly. 1885 Range Trail, Verona, 848-4938, savoryaccents.com

two containers of The Deliciouser

Photo by Nikki Hansen

From a Chef’s Kitchen
With extra time on their hands during the pandemic, members of one Madison blended family started creating their own spice blends. Lombardino’s chef and co-owner Patrick O’Halloran teamed up with his wife, Shelly, their future daughter-in-law Anne Minssen, and O’Halloran’s ex-wife, The Old Fashioned co-owner Marcia Castro, to launch The Deliciouser in 2020 and bring top-notch spices to the home chef. “As a blended family business, all four of our partners have such diverse backgrounds and a deep appreciation for food culture,” Minssen says. “Whether it’s from traveling the globe, family dinners or working in professional kitchens, we are constantly drawing inspiration from sharing memories at the dinner table.” The Deliciouser has 24 products including spice and salt blends, specialty salts and single spices, with more on the way this summer and fall. Minssen says the most popular are the signature seasoned salt, Umamier, Togarashier (a Japanese seven-spice blend) and Deer Camp (a robust seasoned salt). To make it easier to cook at home, The Deliciouser provides online recipe suggestions. 2425 Atwood Ave., thedeliciouser.com

Maija Inveiss is an associate editor of Madison Magazine.