By Matthew Kronsberg / BLOOMBERG
The path most spices take from the exotic places they’re grown to your less exotic kitchen cabinet is a long one, both in miles travelled and time elapsed.
Which is why the pepper you grind onto a rib-eye and the cinnamon you sprinkle over your oatmeal are already pale, tired shadows of their original selves.
Burlap & Barrel, based in Queens, New York, bypasses the centuries-old, slow-moving supply chain and sources whole spices directly from growers.
While “single origin” and “fair trade” are virtuous traits, it’s the vividly fresh taste that has chefs from Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park and Blue Hill ordering Turkish black Urfa chile (US$9 or RM36.99 for 1.8oz) and delicate shavings of Zanzibar cinnamon verum (US$7 for 0.3oz).
On another note, Claire Cheney of Curio Spice Co sources and blends delicious and unusual spice mixes. Edo (US$9 for 1.5oz) is inspired by Japanese shichimi togarashi and highlights the lemony sansho pepper.
In addition, Sichuan peppercorns are typically heat-treated before import, blunting their flavour and character. Mala Market’s peppercorns (US$10 for 2oz) are not, so they retain more herbal hints.
Meanwhile, the benefits of turmeric — the bright yellow cousin to ginger — diminish with poor handling and storage. Diaspora Co imports directly and mills quarterly, so its product (US$15 for 3.5oz) is fresh and potent.
Burlap & Barrel co-founder Ethan Frisch left his job as a pastry chef in New York to work for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in northern Afghanistan in 2012.
But even while he dealt with the construction of roads and schools, his chef’s sensibility remained.
The Wild Mountain cumin seeds (US$10 for 1.5oz) he discovered there are tiny, but they pack powerful fragrances of pine and mint.
Friends at other NGOs put him in touch with a farm co-op in Zanzibar, where sun-dried black pepper (US$8 for 2oz) punches through with fruitiness and heat — and totally redefines a spice you thought you knew. All spices are available at burlapandbarrel.com. — Bloomberg