Spice up your life | August 28, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - August 28, 2019

Spice up your life

East Palo Alto family starts a homemade seasoning blend business

by Daniel Li

Vampire Salt, Brown Sugar Baby, Honey it's BBQ, and You Jerk! are just some of the quirky names Duanli and Lisa Spencer and their son Myles plaster on little containers filled with their homemade spice blends.

For the past four years, the Spencers, of East Palo Alto, have been running Savor Seasoning Blends, which specializes in salts, rubs and other seasonings.

"All of our products have really ridiculous names but people love it," Lisa Spencer said. "For instance, the garlic salt is called 'vampire salt' because vampires are known to be afraid of garlic. I call myself the chief creative officer. My son does a lot of the packaging and my husband does some of the making of blends."

It all started with a book called "Food in Jars," which Lisa gave to her husband as a Christmas present in 2014. Soon after, he made his own rosemary salt; tasting it inspired her to make her own garlic salt. She started to create more unique blends in her home kitchen, giving them away to friends and family.

"During that first month, that damn book turned our tiny kitchen into a crazy mess of salts, bowls and pans," she said. "I had no recipe and I cannot follow recipes because I always end up putting too much or too little. Every once in a while, when we sold a jar, it was the most exciting thing. We probably sold four jars in 2015. The friends who we sold stuff to would come back for more, but nobody else really knew about it."

That changed in December 2016, when she sold her blends at a craft festival at the Peninsula School in Menlo Park. So many people loved it, she said, that she came back the following year.

They now sell their creations online — there are 17 flavors, from rosemary salt to Jamaican jerk seasoning — and at The Market at Edgewood in Palo Alto and Delucchi's Market in Redwood City.

For the past two years, Lisa has also been attending local pop-up shops. It was at one of these events at the Tulip Jones Women's Center in East Palo Alto in February that she invented what she calls "vampire butter," which caused what might be called a "Savor Seasoning Blends Sensation."

"I decided to take the vampire salt, stir it up with some butter and put it on sourdough bread," she said. "One hundred people came through and asked where the butter was. I told them I sold the salt but I just mixed it with the butter to enhance the flavor. One of my friends yelled and said, 'Just make the damn butter.' People lost their mind; they kept talking about the vampire butter and posting it on Facebook."

Afterward, Lisa said, people would knock on her door and ask for a container of vampire butter. By the end of February, she had sold 300 containers of the butter. She also adds garlic, sea salt, parsley and basil to the mix.

She emphasized that she does not follow recipes, and instead relies on experimentation and intuition to "throw something together."

"My mom is from the South and most people who are from the South do not follow recipes well because we were never taught by recipe," Lisa said. "My mom had a cookbook and every once in a while she looked at something that looked good but she never followed the recipe. We call it 'just throwing something together.' What I will write down is what I put in it."

She has no aspirations for Savor Seasoning Blends to be sold in bigger grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's; instead, she hopes to get the blends into smaller, boutique-style stores. Her goal is to perfect the recipes and sell them to a corporation in the future.

Her favorite part of the experience has been coming up with new blends with her family.

"I love creativity and Savor Seasoning Blends satisfies that," she said. "Seeing what I am able to make from scratch is always really exciting."

More information can be found online at savorblends.com.

Daniel Li writes for the Palo Alto Weekly, The Almanac's sister paper.


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