Good cooks will tell you to replace your spices about once a year. Great cooks, every six months. The reasoning: After sitting around for a while, they lose so much of their essential essence that you may as well season with sawdust.

Case in point: The row of bottles in my spice rack dating back to, uh, the 1980’s. I’ve made a lot of cream sauce a la sawdust, it seems.  Someone needs a trip to Savory Spice Shop.

The idea: Rows and rows of freshly ground spices — from true cinnamon (that stuff on your shelf is a sad imitator) to exotic curry blends, whole vanilla beans and hundreds of sweet, savory, spicy ingredients from around the world. Organized by affinity, baking spices gather on one wall, Asian on another, Mexican and Latin spices, etc. So, if you’re looking for, say Garam Masala, you’ll know just where to find it.

The fun is in sampling. Each has a tester bottle, so you can sniff and taste your way around the store. Dumping any leftovers on the floor is encouraged, lending to the inviting scents that are ground into the very floorboards.

Can’t miss additions to your kitchen:
True Ceylon Cinnamon: Sweet and pungent, this is is the essence of cinnamon. You’ll never use the other stuff again. You may also find yourself rubbing it behind your ears and on your wrists.
Garam Masala:  A signature Indian mix of coriander, pepper, charnuska, cumin, cardamon, cloves, mace, cinnamon and bay leaves.
Shichimi Togarashi: A spicy Japanese seasoning blended with sesame seeds, orange peel, white poppy, paprika, Chinese chiles, Szechwan peppercorns, ginger and toasted seaweed. Love this on udon noodles, and chicken.
Park Hill Maple and Spice Pepper: Maple sugar, black pepper, coriander, mustard and a ton of other spices make this a sweet and savory mix perfect for rubbing on pork loin. Or just eating out of the jar.
Paris Cheese Sprinkle: Dill, Romano cheese, onion, basil, chives, tarragon, chervil and parsley make this perfect for mixing into dips or sprinkling on popcorn.
Vadouvan: A smokey, oniony curry powder that’s great on chicken or veggies.

A big plus is that many of the flavorful blends don’t include salt, making them a great solution for folks watching sodium intakes. The store also offers “kits” of herbs and spices perfect for wedding, birthdays, or housewarming.

Spice things up.

Savory Spice Shop, 317 D St., Santa Rosa, (707) 284-1310