Archive for the 'News & Musings' Category

Fleur de Sel for the streets of New York

The cover of The New Yorker hit the ball out of the park with Peter de Sève’s drawing of a chef sprinkling fleur de sel on the snowy sidewalk outside his restaurant. Mina Kaneko and Francoise Mouly from The New Yorker’s Culture Desk desk posted this interview with de Seve: “Putting together a cover like this is a little bit like cooking,” says Peter de Sève about his image, “Just a Pinch.” “Having the right ingredients is one thing, but knowing how much to put in is just as important. At first, I sketched a regular guy in the foreground spreading salt from a big bag, and the chef in the background adding ‘just a pinch.’ By the third sketch, it became clear to me that I didn’t need the other guy. With the right body language, the chef would say it all.”

My mother wallpapered (literally) the kitchen of my childhood house with New Yorker covers, and they have been with me my whole life.  But this is my favorite one ever.

The Meadow Opens in New York City

New York's Salt Chocolate Store with Bitters Flowers

The Meadow in New York is open!  Planning, searching, building, setting up, and opening have somehow resulted in an actual, physical incarnation of a dream.  Finishing salt (100+ varieties), chocolate bars (300+ varieties), flowers (fresh cut), and a smattering of gourmet items for the kitchen (mills, odds and ends) and the bar (cocktail bitters).  Here are some pictures—with a little back story—of our new shop in the West Village in New York City.

  • The Meadow  in New York :  salt – chocolate – flowers – etc.
  • 523 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
  • 212-645-4633   – –  YELP!

Starting in the middle, with the mind reeling: Zeno of Elea proposed a series of irritating paradoxes that pit sensibility against reason the most famous of which was summarized by Aristotle: “That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.” In other words, before you get from point A to point B, you have to go half the distance between point A and B.  Fair enough.  But before you can get to that halfway point, you have to go half the distance to it, and so on and so on.  Any distance you hope to traverse, you are first confronted with getting halfway to it before you can get there.  Your original goal, whether it’s the eye-batting creature at the other end of the bar or a monkish mountaintop in Nepal, recedes like a hall of mirrors into infinity, with you unable to get anywhere farther than halfway on the path towards it…. forever.

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Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes

Finally, we have a book that gives salt its due!  Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. Written by Mark Bitterman, selmelier at The Meadow, Salted is the fruit of decades of field work (a.k.a. eating, traveling, talking) and research.  The book opens the door to salting for greatness in everything you eat, and includes hundreds of full color photographs illustrating the dazzling diversity of gourmet salts.  The inspiration for this book is simple: salt is the most powerful ingredient in the kitchen–and the most commonly used and universal one.  An understanding and respect for salt leads inevitably to more distinctive and better tasting food.


Salted has three parts:
1: The Life of Salt explores the history of salt from mankind’s first salted bite to the industrialization of salt with the advent of the modern chemical industry, concluding with the explosive revival of gourmet salt in the culinary world.  A science section investigates the vast complexity of salt, from its origins in primordial oceans to the myriad roles salt plays in human physiology.  Then a look at the craft of salt making describes the key principles and technologies behind saltmaking, from rock salts hauled from the depths of the earth to sea salts evaporated under an open sky.

2: Salt Guide provides a first of its kind taxonomy of culinary salt, delineating the basic families of salts and summarizing the merits of each in the kitchen.  A field guide to salt provides full color macro images of more than 150 salts, with tasting notes and suggested uses for food.  Profiles of more than 80 of the most important salts revel in the charms (and occasional horrors) of the most important varieties.

3: Salting is the hands-on part of the book. This section provides key strategies for salting, with basic techniques for the novice cook and advanced concepts for professional chefs and bartenders. Fifty recipes organized by cooking technique cover everything from seasoning fresh foods to grilling to curing to cocktail mixing, with plenty of helpful charts and tips. There’s even a section on cooking with Himalayan salt blocks!

$35 hardcover • 320 pages • Full Color • 8″ x 10″ • ISBN: 978-1-58008-262-4 • Ten Speed Press


Named in “6 Best Food Books” of the Fall by Christian Science Monitor!
If you care about food, cooking, and taste, then you care about salt. And if you care about salt you will be over the moon about Salted by Mark Bitterman (Ten Speed Press).

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On the Purity of Sea Salt

Sometimes we get inquiries from our customers at The Meadow which, in the interest of promoting better awareness about good culinary salt, merit a public response.  Jason L asks about the purity of sea salt. My book, SALTED, to be released this October 12 (more on that in a later post!), explores this question in detail, and provides solutions that lead us toward the ultimate goal of tastier, more exciting, satisfying, and nutritious food.



I have a couple questions about salt production and I’m hoping you can answer them.  I’ve had an interest in salt for a while and how it is made. I’m curious about two things.


1. How can you tell where sea salt is made?  Coastal water pollution is a problem all over the world.  Why should I assume that “French sea salt” (or any sea salt) is made from clean waters?  Is there a way to find out and/or verify?



2. Solar evaporation is a very old and common practice for making salt.  But how do they keep stuff out of the ponds?  Bird poop?  Bugs?  Dirt? Whatever else?  It seems like creating something with that much exposed surface area is bound to get contaminants.

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Video Tour of the Salt Universe

No matter how you approach it, saltmaking seems miraculous. Some salts are exotic because of the places they come from, or appealing because of people who made them, or amazing because of the techniques used to make them. Some salts are intrinsically beautiful, or especially delicious, or just plain cool. On the opposite side of things, some salts–often of the industrial sort–are ugly to look at, and their origins are repugnant. You can see the intrinsic qualities of all the salt you want by visiting our shop (we stock over 100 now). But unless you enjoy vast wealth and plenty of leisure time for travel, you’ll have a heck of a time seeing even a fraction of the places where salt is made.

For the next few months I’ll post favorite videos of saltmaking around the world. Some salt manufacturing facilities are filthy affairs where bulldozers groan amidst the thunder of dynamite. Others are tranquil places where all you hear is birdsong and the rustle of marsh grasses over the occasional laugh or murmur of an artisan practicing thousand year old saltmaking traditions. While the two extremes are related through the universal human need for salt, salt from the former finds its way to our tables only as a refined byproduct of a far vaster industrial need for salt. Salt from the latter makes you want to travel, talk, learn, cook, and eat.

This is one of the best videos I know describing traditional saltmaking at Malta. The Gozo salt pans located on Xwieni Bay have been been producing salt at least since Phoenician times. (The megalithic structures of Gozo date from 3600-3000 BC and there is every likelihood that salt was part of the economy that thrived there) The use of some modern equipment doesn’t diminish the charm and weird beauty of Gozo salt.

Honor the Mineral

Michael RuhlmanMy friend Michael Ruhlman has shared his thoughts on salt.  He suggests using Kosher, a fine grind of so-called fine Sea Salt, and a finishing salt of choice.

I have a thought that speaks to both of our perspectives on salt.  Ruhlman ’s book, Soul of the Chef, is a brilliant account of what’s involved in the technical mastery of cooking.  But implicit in the story (and sometimes explicit) is the importance of the ingredient.  Thomas Keller is a technical master, but he is also the consummate curator of ingredients.

The tension between technique and ingredient is age-old.  In the history of food there has always been a fight between technique and ingredient.  Cultures tend to come out on one side or the other: French, the technique; Italian, the ingredient.  This tension also plays out through trends and influences:  molecular gastronomy is about technique; Alice Waters is about ingredient.  As he describes so well, Keller is not only a master technician, he also emblematizes the age-old concept “honor the animal” and “honor the vegetable,” meaning use your ingredients fully and respectfully.

Keller also honors the mineral.

Keller’s strategic, creative, mindful use of natural, unique salts has been a major inspiration for me in my life and work.  If fact, I can think of no other person (outside Japan) who has so fully grasped the essential link between the technical perfection of cooking and the elemental imperative of good salt.  Several of the over 100 salts we carry in our store I discovered through Keller.

But, in conclusion, I will say that I totally agree three salts are enough for any household.  But they should be salts that reflect your values as a chef no less than the grade of meat or freshness of vegetable.  Coarse, moist Sel Gris for all around cooking and hearty foods like grilled and roasted meats and roots.  Delicate, irregular crystals of Fleur de Sel for subtler, moist foods like fish, sauced foods, and cooked vegetables.  Parchment fine Flake Salts for fresh vegetables and wherever you want a dramatic salty snap.  We have the Foundations Set at The Meadow to help with this.

The technical skill required for using salt masterfully is easy as pie (or easier: crust is a bear).  And finding good salts is easier now than ever.  My book will be coming out this fall in an effort to help matters along.  Honor the mineral!

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