I won’t often profile businesses here that aren’t vegan or vegetarian, but this one makes me so happy–and has so many products that are vegan, that I want to tell you all about it.
It’s a magical little shop on Seattle’s Capitol Hill just begging for a long browse, a chance to check out new flavors or new scents, or to find a lovely gift even for those hard-to-shop-for people.
Don’t you want to go in there?
SugarPill Apothecary is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, but the shop fits the space so well it’s easy to imagine that it’s been there for decades. Karyn Schwartz, the proprietor, has an energy that’s at once very warm and very calm, and just furthers the sense that you should stay a while. Let’s take a tour.
The Wall of Salts
One of the first things that you’ll notice upon walking in is this beautiful display of dozens of different salts, both in their natural states and seasoned in various ways. Open containers of each one invite sniffs of wonderful smoky, savory, spicy flavors overlaid on the salty base, and many of them have gorgeous colors and textures to add to the appeal. In a country where plain ol’ table salt gets painfully overused in part because it’s so neutral, I love the opportunity to focus instead on using just a bit of a more special salt to add complexity to food.
Salts to keep you busy all day
See that Spicy Celery Salt at upper right? I initially got it for Bloody Marys, and I still look forward to trying it that way. But meanwhile, I seem to add it to everything: fried potatoes, salad dressing, and most especially to this super-easy-and-addictive Chickpea and Avocado Smash from Emmy Cooks. You’ll also find a wide array of natural salts from around the world, like Himalayan pink or Hawaiian black, along with a variety of smoked salts (which make everything delicious), and ones infused with things like wine, hot chilies or wild mushrooms.
Most of the salts come in those flat silver tins, in either tiny or medium sizes. Obviously the larger ones are a better deal if you’re going to be using a lot of the product, but the tiny ones are wonderful for traveling. It’s fairly common for me to cook in other people’s kitchens, including rental ones without much in the way of spices. Having a bit of a complex spice blend or some rich smoked salt with me is an easy and compact way to make much more interesting food when I don’t have my full spice collection available. They’re also great to have tucked in your purse for those tragic times when you might get stuck with a plain baked potato or a stripped-down salad as your only vegan options. Neutral foods will perk right up with some of that spicy celery salt, or the lemon pepper blend.
And if that weren’t enough, the tins are attractive enough to make nice gifts, and there are even pre-grouped sets of them bundled neatly together for that very purpose to save you some time and difficult choices.
Ok, enough about salt. How about chocolate?
Spiced up or straight up, your chocolate options are many.
Much of the chocolate is not vegan (some even has bacon in it…), but you’ll find lots of options that are, in high-quality offerings of bars, powders and nibs, with a strong emphasis on fair trade products.
Speaking of which, let’s focus for a moment on this lovely thing:
“Nutella for grown-ups,” the proprietor calls it. “Heaven for vegans,” I call it.
Yes, it’s a creamy-smooth chocolate-hazelnut spread that’s vegan. Let that soak in a while. Special bonus? The hazelnuts are locally grown, by Lynden, Washington’s Holmquist Hazelnuts, and the chocolate is sourced directly from the cacao farmers in the Philippines. It’s decidedly less sweet than Nutella, and with a much deeper chocolate flavor (very much a dark, and not a milk chocolate). I find that those things just mean I’m able to make a jar last longer. Which is good because the stuff is not. cheap. But damn, it’s a nice splurge!
And there’s more: A wide assortment of small-batch bitters for your craft cocktails. Fancy oils for dressing your salads. Letterpress cards for every occasion. Soaps, lotions and other personal-care products, many of which are explicitly labeled as vegan. Rancho Gordo beans. Specialty mustards and locally made pickles. Even Washington-grown organic grains and grain products from Bluebird Grain Farms.
So many temptations to explore!
Finally, SugarPill stocks a wide array of medicinal herbs (seen filling the cases behind the owner in the first photo). I haven’t tried any of those, but if–as I would expect–they’re prepared with the same care and attention as the rest of their products, people looking for herbal remedies should definitely take a look. Rebekah Denn, writing for my employer, covered much of the medicinal side of the business in her recent Pacific NW Magazine story.