Local chefs and bartenders are using cardamom in unexpected ways

February 6
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Cardamom — the subtly sweet black seed pod that has long been relegated as a background note in Indian spice blends — is finding itself in unexpected places.

“It’s the next salted caramel,” says Victoria Lai, the owner of Ice Cream Jubilee, which is opening its first shop, in Navy Yard, this spring (icecreamjubilee.com). “It has an element of novelty for the American palette,” says Lai, who pairs cardamom with crushed black pepper in one of her signature ice creams, above, available at Glen’s Garden Market ($3.49 for 8 ounces, 2001
S St. NW; 202-588-5698).

The ginger relative can also be found sprinkled into Mike Isabella’s ragu at Graffiato (707 Sixth St. NW; 202-289-3600). The restaurant also steeps it in alcohol and adds it to the lemony Champagne Supernova ($11) for a gingery, clean finish. Isabella’s Greek venture, Kapnos, features the spice in a pomegranate soda ($6, 2201 14th St. NW; 202-234-5000).

Taha Ismail, the head mixologist at both restaurants, was inspired by his Morocco upbringing to incorporate the spice into the drinks.

“I learned to love the aroma it adds and appreciate how it complements so many ingredients,” Ismail says.

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Holley Simmons · February 6