Producer Spotlight: Boonville Barn Collective
How a French pepper, grown in California, became a staple in our spice cabinet.
In 2011, Krissy Scommegna was working in the kitchen at the Boonville Hotel and Restaurant—a charming, modern day road house located in California’s Anderson Valley. This is where she had her first encounters with piment d'espelette, a variety of chile that's predominantly dried and ground as a spice and grown specifically in the Basque region of France. As far as chilies are concerned, it’s not a pantry staple in American households, like paprika or cayenne—not yet, at least. But it’s versatile, with a moderate heat that won’t burn your tongue off and an endearing sweetness that makes it adaptable in many recipes. It’s often overlooked in the US due to its relatively high price point as a specialty, imported ingredient, but in the kitchen at the Boonville Hotel, Scommegna recalls that they used it as often as they could afford to.
“We used it to season any kind of meat. There’s also a local goat cheese creamery here in town. When we’d serve their cheese, we’d always mix a little bit of piment d’espelette in with the cheese along with a little bit of lemon and salt to flavor it,” she says. But their signature recipe, and one of the first things she learned how to make, was their legendary chile cream sauce.