10 Years of Cultivating Foodie Culture at Zest!Feb 28, 2022 09:31AM ● By Sheila Julson
Today’s food enthusiasts want to go beyond the plate and explore the cultures, people and stories behind their products and ingredients. Sharon Landis, who owns Zest!, has seen changes and growth in the foodie culture during the 10 years she’s operated the store, spice shop and cooking school.
“The pandemic has definitely accelerated an interest in culinary arts,” she says. “People are cooking at home more often and appreciate the quality of their equipment, and they recognize that they might need to upgrade some of that equipment. At the spice shop, they’re finding that they can add flavor and variety to food without searching for an exotic recipe by simply adding a different spice to what they already make.”
Landis also observes more curiosity about where food comes from, and interest in locally sourced and Pennsylvania-made artisan products has grown. “We have great entrepreneurs here in Pennsylvania that make tremendous products whom we like to promote by offering them in the store.”
Zest! customers can find banana pepper mustard from Miller’s Mustard, which began with a few jars being produced in a home kitchen in the Pittsburgh area. Harrowgate Fine Foods is a small company founded by a British couple that moved to Lancaster County. They craft traditional English lemon curd, along with lime, orange and raspberry curd. Aunt Mary’s spaghetti and marinara sauce is also a favorite—as is Aunt Mary. “When Aunt Mary comes to our store to do tastings, people just love her,” Landis enthuses.
Zest! carries more than 200 spices from around the world. Landis has found a Pennsylvania-based spice dealer to supply pure spices sourced globally, ground and blended fresh as they are ordered. The spices contain no filler ingredients, anti-caking agents or hidden gluten.
Favorites include the multipurpose Tuscany bread dipping spice. Zest! also carries a broad array of Asian, Middle Eastern and African spices such as berbere, along with Cajun, Creole and Caribbean spices and spice blends, reflecting a growing interest in global cuisine. Along with steak and hamburger spices, Landis says there are many spices that work great for kicking vegetables up a notch for plant-based dishes.
Zest! carries a full line of quality kitchen tools and gadgets, including whisks, spatulas, zesters, Lodge cast iron pans, pepper mills, charcuterie boards and small appliances from SMEG, an Italian company known for their artistic designs. Landis says they try to source from American-made and women-owned companies whenever possible.
Zest Cooking School will offer an array of classes this spring, limited to 18 people to prevent overcrowding during the pandemic. Popular classes that are regularly offered include making French macarons, taught by pastry chef Danielle Belton. Upcoming classes include fun, interactive date nights for couples, as well as kids’ classes, gluten-free classes and plant-based cooking classes.
In addition, a Brazilian chef will teach a class about Brazilian Easter customs and foods on April 8. The variety of instructors at Zest! include former home economics teachers, pastry chefs, cookbook author Valerie Baer and culinary director Hannah Smith, who teaches several classes per month.
This spring, Zest! will expand into an adjacent storefront to offer a full line of Stonewall Kitchen products. Stonewall, based in York, Maine, produces artisan food products such as wild blueberry jam made from sweet Maine blueberries, sauces, pasta sauces, salad dressings, baking mixes, donut mixes, pancake mixes, baked cinnamon swirl coffee mix and more. Stonewall Kitchen has also acquired other small, artisan food companies, and Zest! will feature these companies, as well.
“Their products are well-loved by customers and they make a lot more products that we don’t carry, but want to carry,” Landis says. “The expansion will allow us to have a Stonewall Kitchen store-within-a-store.”
Zest! Store & Spice Shop is located at 30 E. Main St., in Lititz; Zest! Cooking School is located at 1180 Erbs Quarry Rd., in Lititz. For more information, call 717-626-6002 or visit ZestChef.com.