Restaurant quality spice blows into home kitchens

In 1990, Martin Rice sold custom spice blends from the back of his pickup at farmers markets. As a food and beverage manager at Coco Palms with a passion for spice, he began working with other chefs to create custom blends for their restaurants. When Hurricane Iniki destroyed Coco Palms in 1992, Martin partnered with Fred Rainville and founded Tradewinds Spice Company of Hawaii.

“I’ve known Martin since I was 9 years old,” says owner Cindy Johnson. “He was a family friend when we all lived in Long Beach, California. He passed in 2007 and I assumed full ownership in 2012.”

Today, Tradewinds is used at more than 40 restaurants across the island and Cindy is enabling home cooks to order herbs and spices at wholesale prices. This is an amazing bargain. For example, high-quality Korintje cinnamon, a sweet and mellow variety from Indonesia that we all remember from childhood, can cost $3.65 per ounce, plus shipping when ordered online. Tradewinds sells the same 1-ounce jar for $1.57 and Fred and Cindy will deliver it anywhere on the island for free!

Ninety-four herbs and spices are sourced from Pacific Spice Company in California and range from whole achiote seeds ($3.44) and ground allspice ($5.25) to bay leaves ($6.41), dried chili peppers, ground wasabi ($5.87) and vanilla beans ($47.50). All eight spice blends are hand mixed to order and the gift set ($15) includes 1-ounce jars of each blend.

Martin created Leilani’s Seasoning Salt ($6.06) for Leilani Cord, who along with her husband, Robert Cord, own Duane’s Ono Char Burgers. At the Anahola restaurant the blend — which contains salt, granulated garlic, paprika, granulated onion, celery and cayenne pepper — is sprinkled on burgers and fries.

Paniola BBQ Mix ($5.56) — with paprika, garlic, onion, salt, cloves, chili, celery, coriander, cayenne, nutmeg and black pepper — is used in Waimea at Wranglers Steak House and Shrimp Station. Both Duke’s in Nawiliwili and Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu use Madam Pele’s Heat ($5.47), which contains paprika, onion, salt, garlic, black pepper, white pepper, thyme, cayenne, oregano and allspice.

“We buy most of our spices from Tradewinds,” says Ron Miller, executive chef and co owner of Hukilau Lanai in Kapaa. “I think the only thing that they don’t have is smoked paprika and Fred helped me find it elsewhere. I like being able to buy small quantities on a weekly basis so that it stays fresh; as opposed to the large commercial sizes that might sit on the shelf for months at a time. I would have to count, but I suppose we have more than 40 varieties of spices on our shelf. Refills come in bags and I appreciate that we can re-use the same spice container until it wears out.”

Anuenue ($7.79) is the Hawaiian word for rainbow and the 5 Kind Peppercorns includes white, black, Szechwan, green and pink peppercorns. Fajita Mix ($6.03) is a simple blend of salt, onion, garlic, sugar and black pepper. Wu Chow Auntie’s Five Spice ($5.59) contains star anise, cinnamon, fennel, ginger and cloves. Kokee Curry ($4.56) is a warm blend of turmeric, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, allspice, cinnamon, fennel and cloves. Martin had a sense of humor when he created Juian Jerk ($5.41). It’s pronounced like Hawaiian, but with a “J.” The flavorful Jamaican blend includes cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cayenne.

“We work with Tradewinds for a number of reasons: freshness of product, supporting local business, price and variety of product,” says Michael Simpson, executive chef at Living Foods Market in Poipu. “From ordinary to exotic, such as Afghanistan saffron, Tradewinds meets all of our culinary needs and plays a major part in our success.

“Our lamb sausage on our Merguez Pizza contains Tradewinds’ cloves, ginger, paprika, fennel, cinnamon, cayenne and cracked black peppercorns,” says Simpson. “The Harissa sauce that is featured on our falafel is a blend of caraway, coriander, cumin, and a mix of rehydrated hot peppers such as arbol, New Mexico, guajillo, chipotle and pasilla. I was first introduced to Tradewinds in the 80s and over the years have nurtured lasting relationships with them. An added benefit is how quick Tradewinds responds. We place orders by mid-week they are delivered on Friday.”

Customers place orders online. There is no minimum order, but they must be received by Wednesday for Friday delivery. Deliveries are made every Friday. Jar sizes include extra large (24 ounces), large (8 ounces), retail (4 ounces) and sample (1 ounce). Refills cost less because they come in resealable bags. All prices listed are for large jars or large refill bags.

Tradewinds Spice

Company of Hawaii

Info: 822-7171, TradewindsSpiceOfHawaii.com

Marta Lane has been a food writer on Kauai since 2010 and is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit www.TastingKauai.com.

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