Curiospice at 2265 Mass Ave in Cambridge (near Davis) has gotten lots of local media publicity. I love this store. I found stuff there I never knew existed…included some new-to-me chiles, and I spend lots of time looking for spices and chiles. Amazing custom spice blends as well. Friendly, helpful, knowledgeable staff.
Also I just visited the newly opened Elmendorf Baking Supplies and Cafe at 594 Cambridge St, Cambridge. They have some regional flours (I got some rye), nuts (including hazelnuts), new-to-me baking cookbooks, everything you need for baking, supplies such as a corn grinding device you can use to make your own masa for tortillas from dried corn and even dried lime to slake your dried corn. The owner told me the dried corn they stock is an heirloom variety from Anson Mills in South Carolina and they are looking for a New England source. Very nice people. My son said their chocolate chip cookie was the best he ever had. Coffee, beautiful looking croissants. Very nice people.
I used to go to Christina’s Spices in Inman to get chiles that Penzey’s doesn’t carry. I still do sometimes, but you will find Curiospice fascinating if you love chiles, and unusual ones. And the other spices are excellent and very fresh. Yes, it is expensive, but she spends lots of $$$ sourcing and everything has a date on it…so worth a splurge, in my opinion. I have a huge spice collection and Curiospice is “forcing me” to do an inventory and a purge so I can go back and try out new stuff!
I think of it this way: buying and using the spices is cheaper than traveling.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. I went into a Penzeys for a jar of Aleppo pepper and also hoped to replenish my stash of Calabrian chiles, which they do not carry. Apparently Curiospice is a destination I should check out!
I have found Aleppo, Maras, Ufra chile flakes at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge (I store them in the freezer in their metal cans). True Aleppo has been hard to get recently because of the tragic circumstances in Syria. Christina’s has historically carried a much larger selection of whole dried chiles than Penzey’s. Curiospice doesn’t have the entire range, but they do have both whole dried and powdered chiles I’ve never heard of but now know I truly need. Capone Foods in Union Square Somerville sells fresh Calabrian peppers that are preserved and need to be refrigerated. They are wonderful.
Some experimentation with Curio peppers earlier this summer.
I made a potato chaat with mustard and nigella seeds, curry leaves (crisped/popped in hot oil), cilantro, and yoghurt, then stirred in the dried pepper powder with which each picture is labeled. Peach and lantern papers are, my investigations tell me, versions of the habanero (and hotter than cayenne), but with fruitier (especially the peach), rounder flavor. I’ve used the lantern pepper successfully on both broiled and pan-fried white fish. Hard to see from the pics, but the peach has the palest color.
I also sprouted like crazy this summer: chickpeas, mung beans, whatever. If I could catch it, I sprouted it. Now, as all you avid sprouticians out there know, the fresher the bean/seed, the more readily it sprouts. My most successful venture was sprouting fenugreek seeds (methi in Indian cookery) from Curio. They practically sprang to life:
I used the sprouts as a crunchy, slightly bitter counterpoint to a chicken-apricot dish (in coconut milk) I’d made. I strewed the top of the serving dish with the sprouts.