Northern Spices for Your Northern Michigan Holidays

The holidays are a time for spice—smells and flavors of all kinds waft about kitchens and linger at the dinner table. We decided to sit down with Chris Sack, co-proprietor of Great Lakes Tea & Spice in Glen Arbor, to talk about his life centered around spice.

Tell us about your background

I grew up in Birmingham, Heather (his wife and co-owner) in Ada. We met at Michigan State and just dreamed of moving Up North. I did a three-year internship at Cherry Republic, opened our shop in a boutique shed in Glen Arbor in 2004, expanded to another shed in 2007—more than doubling our size to all of 280 square feet.

Why did you become a spice merchant?

I had always enjoyed being the grillmaster—it was my gateway into the world of spices, using rubs I made. Heather and I did spice tours in North Africa and the Caribbean, and we just got back from Asia and Indonesia. Basically the origins, history and flavor profiles were seductive enough to make us travel far and wide and want to expose others to these things. It’s also healthy—you don’t have to eat as much when food is spicy.

Aside from the artistic tins with the bamboo spoon inside, what sets your spices and rubs apart from the pack?

We always put together flavors that are of a unique origin and combination, and they stay fresh longer than the usual six months because of the poly-foil wrapping inside.

How can your Moroccan Ras al Hanout blend liven up Thanksgiving?

[Use it] anytime you would use nutmeg—mix a tablespoon with a quarter cup of brown sugar and a little butter with sweet potatoes, or rub it on a bird, add it to cooked rice. On grilled salmon it’s really amazing. I love to grill year round, so I keep the path shoveled to the grill all winter.

Where's the Spice?

Sack's 55 teas and more than 70 spices and sea salts range from $2.75 to $17.95. He can send them anywhere along the BATA busline for $4.50. Also find blends in Traverse City at Peppercorn, Oryana, Folgarelli's and Skinny Dudez and Pizzelle Gourmet in Manistee. Order online at GLTEAANDSPICE.COM. Great Lakes Tea & Spice, Glen Arbor. 231-645-8327 or 877-645-9363.

Spicy Up North Eateries

Spicy Blends

Another Up North outpost for sweet and sassy spice blends is the Alden Mill House. The Miracle Blend Salt and Malabar Island Pepper Blend are famously fab, and the Cinnamon-Sugar Blend turns toast into dessert. 800-226-5481 or ALDENMILLHOUSE.COM

Nice and Spiced

Want Indian tikka masala with chicken kabob? Thai peanut salad? It’s at Wellington Street Market. 115 Wellington Street, Traverse City, 231-946-8702, WELLINGTONSTREETMARKET.BLOGSPOT.COM

Get Greek

Lebanese and assorted ethnic eats at The Silver Swan. 13692 S. West Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, 231-932-0203

Mid-East Feast

Shawarma, kafta, kabobs and mujaddara are Middle Eastern feasts at Zakey’s. 2101 3 Mile Rd. Traverse City, 231-946-4533

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