Ari's Picks, Deli

Chicken Hill Black Pepper from India

In his terrific, if also terrifically obscure, little book, Tastes of Paradise, the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch says, “The taste for pepper [in medieval Europe] showed symptoms of having become an addiction. Once habituated to the spices of India, Europe was ready to do anything to gratify its craving.” In 1492 that addiction led Christopher Columbus to sail west into the unknown of the Atlantic.

Personally, my own addiction to pepper has led me to search, with ever greater diligence, for more and more interesting pepper offerings. Fortunately for me, the de Vienne family at Épices de Cru are very kind and excellent enablers. Every year they seem to show up with some super interesting, exceedingly excellent example of black pepper perfection. A year ago September it was the made-especially-for-us 5-Star Black Pepper blend. Earlier in the year, it was the Tellicherry #10 from India that the de Vienne’s friend Sudheer sought out for us. Beyond that, it was the fascinatingly excellent Yupanqui family’s black pepper from Ecuador. And now, it’s this wonderfully named, exceptionally aromatic black pepper from India. They’re all good!

But Chicken Hill is my top choice for the summer! It’s an amazingly aromatic, demandingly flavorful, super fine, black peppercorn from a small corner of southern India in the famous Cardamom Hills. If you’re looking for something special, if you love black pepper even half as much as I do, if you’re even a tiny bit adventurous but don’t want to personally sail halfway around the world (like Columbus did) to feed your peppery fix, come on down to the Deli and check out this terrific Chicken Hill black pepper.

Tin of Epices de Cru Chicken Hill Black Peppercorns

Can you tell the difference? Of course!! Let the Deli crew sample (or at least help you sniff) four or five of the fine black peppercorns we’ve got in stock from the folks at Épices de Cru. Like wine, each will have its unique flavors, a function of terroir in which the pepper vines grow, and the style and craft of the farmers who grow, pick and process the peppercorns. Each will have its fans. I happen to like them all. The Chicken Hill stands out, though—like the music from your favorite musician. There’s something subtly special, something a bit more than everyone else can bring to the table, something that keeps you going back even if you can’t quite put your finger on why. Here are the notes from the de Viennes, who clearly know what they’re talking about!

“Chicken Hill pepper grows on a very small plot of land in the Cardamom Hills, with a microclimate unique to the region. This exceptional terroir produces dense, heavy peppercorns, which in turn presents a heady, strong aroma reminiscent of black tea. Very subtle, but it’s a little unexpected for a pepper doing this job. Mushrooms, fruit, clove. With plenty of heat, this gorgeous black pepper kicks up any dish, whether added during cooking or as a finishing spice.”