Hey. Do ya love Penzey's spices as much as I do? I bet some of you are nodding. I've never been lucky enough to go to one of the shops in person, but once I made an online purchase I was hooked. These days I'm totally into the cinnamon, ooh and the chile powder. The catalog that I receive in the mail is very descriptive and often includes recipes with which to use the spices. Or I suppose to lure you into buying them... Here's a link to one that I made last weekend for the kids: puffed apple pancakes.
On a similar note, if you want to support a similar and LOCAL merchant, check out this small shop in Kerrytown, called The Spice Merchant. Although the variety is not quite as great as Penzey's online, it is wonderful to walk into a local shop selling an interesting collection of fresh spices. Last year when I was working through the Fork in the Road cookbook by Eric Villegas, one recipe called for tomato powder. The closest thing I could find was a smoked tomato blend at The Spice Merchant. It was also great on top of grilled cedar planked salmon.
Whether you're an Ann Arborite looking for somewhere local or reading from far away, there are definitely better spice options than the small selection at your big box grocery. And believe it or not, they do make a difference.