During his stint in the Israeli Defense Forces Lior Lev Sercarz was once responsible for frying 200 pieces of schnitzel on a propane stove while Lebanese rockets flew overhead. Perhaps because he got his start cooking while under fire, Sercarz developed a fascination with spices. Not the powders you buy in the grocery store: Sercarz searches the globe for the most pure and intense flavors, and at La Boîte, his New York City shop on an industrial strip, he combines them into spice mixes that trigger the deepest and most mysterious places in your brain. He even has a specialized service called spice therapy, in which he mixes up a special spice blend based on your background, which might just help you make an important psychological breakthrough.
If you’re not quite ready to make that kind of commitment to spices, you can still try Sercarz’s intense spice blends, many of which are inspired by flavors he encountered growing up in Israel. Sercarz even has a blend that’s great for kosher-keepers: the New York Times swore that when a cube of salmon was fried in olive oil infused with Ararat (Blend No. 35, with smoked paprika, Urfa chilies and fenugreek leaves) it tasted exactly like pork belly.