Can Piment d'Espelette Come from California? (That's a Trick Question!)

Review of Piment d’Ville, a great Piment d’Espelette-style powder from Boonville, California. In short, this less-expensive alternative to Piment d’Espelette is every bit as wonderful as its French counterpart.

J’adore Piment d’Espelette, that captivating bright-red spice powder made from ground chiles grown only in and around the town of Espelette in France’s Basque region. (Read my ode Piment d’Espelette here.)

Funny thing is, although it’s named after a town in France, the piment itself is not native to France. Instead, 16-century explorers brought it back from Mexico and South America; but, it seems, the pepper grew well in France, and the Basques knew a good thing when they tasted it.

And so, when Kendra McEwan, a spokesperson from Piment d’Ville, a Boonville, California, company that’s making an Espelette-style spice powder, reached out to me, I was all ears.

After all, why couldn’t you make a powder outside of Espelette, especially since the piment is native to our shores? Of course, you can’t call it Piment d’Espelette (since that’s a name-controlled designation*), but why couldn’t it be just as good, if the piments grow well and you know how to grind them?

Kendra and Nacho (the farmer) harvesting the piments in Boonville, California.

Spokesperson Kendra McKwan and farmer Nacho Flores show off the harvested piments in Boonville, California. Photo by Mary Zeeble.

Kendra sent me some samples of Piment d’Ville, and now, I’m a fan.

The piments are grown from the seeds of the Espelette peppers, so they’re the same variety of peppers in my beloved French spice. They’re ground pretty much like the Piment d’Espelette powder (from France) that I have on my shelf—that is, it’s a coarse powder with a few flakes. The California powder had a few more slightly larger flakes, but that’s great by me. I love the visible texture it gave to my dishes.

The flavor? Frankly, if I were blindfolded, I’d have a hard time telling the difference. Going back and forth and back and forth, I decided that the French product was vaguely more bitter, and the California powder was a titch more fruity. But I’m talking very miniscule differences.

Piment d’Ville is also a little less expensive. I found it on Amazon for $9.99 a jar (versus $13.50 for the French product).

Want recipes for Piment d’Ville? Check these out: Just use Piment d’Ville wherever I call for Piment d’Espelette.

Want more? Here’s an inspiring, beautifully shot short video about Piment d’Ville that tells you all about the passion behind this great spice.

Disclosures: I was sent samples of this spice for this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. In addition, I’m an Amazon affiliate, which means that any product you buy through one of my links will help support this website (without adding to your costs whatsoever). Thanks for your consideration.

 

* If you, like me, love geeking out such things: Piment d’Espelette is an AOP product….Now, don’t go to sleep on me here. AOP stands for “appellation d’origine protegée,” and simply means that, by law, no one can call their piments “Espelette” piments unless they’re grown in that very specific Espelette region. Lots of European products have these strictly controlled AOP designations (Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, anyone?). So, to make a long story medium, Piment d’Espelette cannot technically come from California. But a great product made from exactly the same variety of peppers can. And it’s called Piment d’Ville.

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