Philippe & Ethné de Vienne, Owners
To truly appreciate how amazing the spices are at Montreal's Olives & Épices (Olives and Spices), one must try the ras el hanout, which contains 24 ingredients, including saffron and three kinds of dried roses.
"Ras el hanout means 'the best of the shop,' the benchmark by which you're judged," says Philippe de Vienne, who runs Olives & Épices with his wife, Ethné. While many spice purveyors pass off lower-quality spices in their blends, the de Viennes use only their finest to create mixes like a paprika-chile one for paella and a dried onioncoriander one for vegetables.
Former caterers, the couple were for decades the secret source for Montreal chefs like Normand Laprise before opening their store in 2004. Last year, they published Spice Hunters/Chasseurs d'Épices, a travelogue and cookbook that comes with six of their blends, giving a glimpse into their lives as spice selectors: "It's halfway between a Cancun vacation and Indiana Jones," Philippe says.