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How Sweet It Is

Local Feature
By: Jessica Merchant
How Sweet It Is

Hey hey hey! Can we talk parties and cake?

Of course!

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend an AMAZING dinner with Spice Islands® Trading Company at the NYC Wine and Food Festival. The dinner was hosted by Dana Cowin, the editor of Food and Wine (um, hellllllo dream job) and filled with food from chefs Andrew Zimmern, John Besh, Jose Garces and Daniel Boulud (< major crush). Spice Islands Trading Company stocked the kitchen for the chefs and they created the most flavorful, unique meal experience. The food was… insane. Guys, it was so, so good. The wine was plentiful and even the passed appetizers were over the top and just plain excellent. And it wasn’t one of those situations where there was SO much food that you couldn’t enjoy it all – it was somehow perfectly portioned and timed so that we wanted to devour every single bite.

Let me give you a run down!

Apps were fabulous, but my favorite was this giant clam by Andrew Zimmern with shabu shabu flavors. I love when bites are served in a spoon like this – one and done. Or in this case, maybe three and done. But still! Easy to bite and not messy at all. And so freaking delicious.

To start, we had some gorgeous Ecuadorian ceviche served in this perfect shell. Holy cow. Wonderful and so much flavor. Then came some corn tortelli with blue crab, and that was probably my favorite dish from the actual dinner. But you know my corn obsession. Off theee charts. (!!!!)


The main courses were split between abalone with sticky rice (this presentation was so cool) and venison topped with foie gras and a bunch of fall flavors.

For dessert, we had champagne and a poached pear wrapped in chocolate sponge cake (and filled with chocolate ganache – oh hi, I’m dead) and that’s where I got my inspiration for the recipe you’ll see here.

Um, also, how adorable is that Spice Islands® spice set up? I love the bulk spices in mason jars paired with the candles and wish I had some décor style to do something like this in my home for a party. I might just copy this exact photo some day. Probably.


 So, Spice Islands Trading Company has been around for.ev.ER. (sandlot style) and I know this because when my mom saw the collection sitting on my counter, she was all “OMG we always ONLY used Beau Monde® in our dips in college.” My mom has the best college stories, by the way. I mean, it was the 70s and she was in music school. So take from that what you will.  But I love that they only choose their spices from the best sources, offer organic versions and harvest at the peak freshness so they taste absolutely amazing. They’ve been around for over 70 years and produce the most authentic flavors. 

(P.S. I’m kind of obsessed with their Carne Asada Seasoning annnd their Chimichurri Seasoning!! I have never seen a dried version of chimichurri and I am majorly hooked. I’ve been putting it on everything from eggs to crockpot pulled pork to avocado toast and it’s so awesome.)

To celebrate and remember this once-in-a-lifetime event, I wanted to make something delicious with all of the spices I was gifted. Something autumnal (obvs), spiced and filled with the fruit that often gets ignored come fall – pears! Everyone, including me, goes wild over apples but I hate overlooking pears because I love ‘em. When they are perfectly ripe, they can’t be beat. And fun fact, my husband only likes firm and unripe pears.


I made a spiced bread filled with the Spice Islands Ground Saigon Cinnamon (the best!), Ground Ginger and Ground Cardamom. Like fall in a loaf! And seriously, even though it’s a bread, we all know that it’s reeeeeeally a cake disguised as a bread. Right? Like banana bread. We call it bread but it’s totally cake and that makes it acceptable to eat for breakfast, at snack time and at lunch dessert. Yes, lunch dessert. Totally a thing. Should always be a thing.

While the cake masquerading as bread is off the charts good, it’s the caramel fresh pears on the bottom (and subsequently, the top) of the bread that MAKE it. So soft and sweet and juicy and caramelized and everything I want in life forever.







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