Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pepper Kapow!

Pepper is not something I grew up thinking about, even though it was the co-starring spice in my mother's cooking (Salt & Pepper, that was it. No wonder The Man is so intent on invading spicier countries). Our pepper appeared in a little round canister, like our Parmesan cheese, and had about as much flavor. As a kid I eschewed it mostly for the color-- it looked like dirt sprinkled on my food, yuck.

Fast-forward a lifetime: I'm at the magazine and in charge of bringing in new products, testing them, and writing up the ones that make our mouths sing. My buddy Janet, a genius in the Test Kitchen, pushes a package of stuff from Nirmala's Kitchen into my hands. Their tagline, Bring Home the Exotic, seemed a little stank to me; I've yet to find a friend who likes to have their food (or self) called exotic.

But then I opened a tin of the whole Tazmanian Pepperberry, and all political thought stopped. The fragrance was from deep in a magical pine forest, spicy without being harsh, with a whisper of dried green bayleaf and a citrusy brightness. For tasting, the Test Kitchen simply cracked them and pressed them into a steak. The result was magnificent: the peppercorns were the color of black velvet and the kicky, floral flavor developed slowly in the mouth, like a good pinot noir.

I was thinking about good gifts for cooks for the coming holidays, and though the price is a bit gasp-worthy at $13 a tin, this one's a winner. Also as a gift for oneself...

Disclaimer: if you go to the Press portion of Nirmala's website, they quote a snippet of my review in Bon Appétit. I'm not a slacker! They're just so excellent I wanted to mention them again.

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