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Jun 5, 2012 11:54 AM

Local Boston specialty spices.

I just picked up the book Wicked Good BBQ and it's a great read.

Is there anyplace in Boston to get hard to find spices like Szechuan peppercorns and Gebhardts chili powder?

Just bought a smoker. Here we go.

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  1. Szechuan peppercorns @ Polcari's Coffee Shop on Salem & Parmenter in the North End. Don't know about the Gebhardts.

    1. Szechuan pepper corns should be easy, christina's (inman,) penzey's (arlington ) as well as many of the markets in C-town, don't know about the Chili powder though.

      What time is dinner??

      3 Replies
      1. re: lc02139

        i bet the sichuan peppers are a lot cheaper in a chinese grocery. Christina's has a very good selection though it is not worth a special trip of course.

        1. re: cambridgedoctpr

          I do not do not do not like the customer service/reception to customers at Christina's, but since I live nearby and penzey's in arlington is too far away, I go there frequently. They have almost everything though check the stuff in cans and containers on the shelves as opposed to the spices on the big long table carefully...some are outdated (I bought an outdated container of shrimp paste) whereas I've never been disappointed with the spices. And if you decide to make your own chile powder blend (which I'd recommend, check out the threads on the homecooking board) you'll find all kinds of chiles there both whole and ground, far more than I can find in my East Somerville neighborhood hispanic food stores. Or google Gerhards and find out what's in it and make your own blend like theirs.

          by the way, i read the book as well and they are certainly "damn yankee" recipes that didn't work for this formerly north carolina girl though I can see why they appeal to others!

          1. re: Madrid

            The service at Christina's is pretty hands off (which I actually like) but if you ask them about a certain product everyone I've ever encountered there is very nice and knowledgeable and quite happy to help.

      2. Here's my list so far:

        Turbindo sugar
        spanish paprika
        Chili powder
        Cumin seeds
        chipotle powder
        hickory powder

        Some are pretty common.

        7 Replies
        1. re: typhoonfish

          Stop and Shop sells turbinado sugar.

          For the others I'd head to penzey's. Have lunch at blue ribbon and tell us if they've really jumped the shark.

          1. re: typhoonfish

            Frankly, I wouldn't bother to buy a hard to find seasoning like hickory powder locally, because even if you find it, low turnover means its not likely to be very fresh.

            1. re: typhoonfish

              Turbinado sugar- trader joe's
              spanish paprika- la Vera brand is the best. Formaggio in Camb or So End; Capone's
              Chili powder- whole foods;gebhart's - penzey's?
              Cumin seeds- whole foods,but indian stores cheaper- centr sq, No. mass ave.
              chipotle powder- whole foods? penzey's
              hickory powder
              szech peppercorns- can be confusing w/ no-english labels on some look-alike Chinese store products (she speaks from experience), so Sun Sun in Ctown (Wilson/owner will help you)
              lump charcoal and smoking chips- Brookline Ice and Coal

              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Gebhardt's is a specific brand of chili powder, so they wouldn't sell it at Penzey's (although Penzey's does make a fine chili powder of their own devising.)

                1. re: Allstonian

                  Allstonian, not to hijack the thread, but do you remember if Penzey's is fairly pure without the cinnamon, etc. of Frontier?

                  1. re: bear

                    They have a number of different chili powder blends - ingredients for all are listed at

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      Thanks, I'll check out the different blends.

            2. I LOVE polcari's but their spices are not always the freshest.

              Penzey's is excellent, but pricey and out of the way.

              Harvest food coop Central Sq. bulk spices. Great stuff great prices very fresh. Buy only what you need.

              Chinese supermarkets particularly the two on Washington Street in the South End. Insanely good prices, very fresh stuff, very good prices.

              Not sure exactly why, but Christina's never wows me.

              You don't need Spanish paprika per se. Particularly if you are smoking anyhoo. Hickory powder I've never even heard of and may be tough to find. Also not required for good cue.

              1. There is not a single damn place anywhere where you can get Gebhardt's in Boston. Believe me, I know.

                But everything else you want you can get at Penzey's for short money and not much trouble.