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August 9, 2006
first bite: Jolene Ketzenberger

Spicemeister explores blends
By Jolene Ketzenberger
Star correspondent

Beaded ankle bracelets, watercolor beach scenes, souvenir T-shirts. These I expected, and indeed bought, when I wandered recently through the annual Art on the Bay fest in Alpena, Mich. I wasn't expecting to find something for the kitchen -- something to cook with, that is. I did spot wooden rings to screw on Mason jars, so that utensils don't chip the glass rims -- handy for people who use jars to hold spoons and spatulas.

But I really did find something to cook with when I came across a booth with Mickey & T's Gourmet Rubs & International Spices.Proprietor Michael "Mickey" Richards retired from the restaurant biz and moved from Boston to Michigan, where his wife was from, and began mixing up a few spice blends as gifts.

Then he discovered the craft fair circuit, and the business took off. Now he has blends ranging from rib, chicken, fish, veggie and wild game rubs to Greek, Italian, Indian, Thai and Jamaican seasonings. He sells from his Web site, www.mickeysrubsandspices.com (or call 248-634-3436), as well as specialty shops in Michigan and Florida. While he still tinkers with the combinations, adding an additional spice to the Greek blend, for example, at the prompting of a regular customer, he may be most proud of his All American Season, which the bottle proclaims as "the last steak seasoning you'll ever need."

Since he had a special going during the art fair I visited, I picked out six varieties--the All American, Great Garlic, Sweet Seasons and Greek, French and Pacific Rim blends.

So far, we've used the All American and Great Garlic on steaks, burgers, chicken and shrimp (along with the Taste of Pacific Rim) with great success. I like the Taste of France herbes de Provence blend because the bright lavender flavor isn't overwhelmed by the other herbs: basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, fennel and parsley. But it's the Sweet Seasons that the kids have especially liked. The combo of maple, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg has topped toast, apples, cocoa -- and, I have to admit, my coffee as well.

Contact Jolene Ketzenberger at jolene@foodiemom.com or leave a voice-mail message at (317) 444-6132.
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