December 2010 0

Best of 2010: Crack open the cookbook cream of the crop
By Mark Bitterman Ten Speed Press, $35, 312 pages 

The subtitle of "Salted" says it all -- "A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral" -- because this book isn't really a cookbook, not in the recipe-driven sense of the word. It's more of a user guide, and an inspiring one at that from author Mark Bitterman, who owns the North Portland salt boutique The Meadow. From the lively introduction, in which Bitterman recounts his first experience with sea salt, to the geeky chapters on the history and science of the stuff, to the slim selection of recipes broken into categories like "brining," "curing," "salt crust" and "cooking on salt blocks," this book is aimed at inspiring and educating people on the virtues of natural salt. Bitterman's passion is infectious -- especially after reading his Salt Reference Guide, which takes up the bulk of the book and provides poetic mini-essays on dozens of salts. The Salish Alder Smoked, for example, "sizzles with intense smoke flavor. ... grinding a few crystals over hearty dishes effortlessly evokes the traditional flavors of the Pacific Northwest." How can you not want to cook with that salt? Short bulleted lists describe the salts' characteristics at an oft-hilarious glance -- one salt's crystal structure is described as "heavy-bottomed shot glasses for mice"; another has the flavor of "electrified frost." Though borderline silly, the playful guide does give readers a sense of what to expect from each salt and how best to use it.

Recipe we liked: Flambéed Bananas With Cyprus Hardwood Smoked Salt -- Danielle Centoni

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December 2010 0

The Meadow specializes in flowers, gourmet finishing salts, artisan made chocolates and a great selection of unusual fine wines which pretty much covers the very best things in life. Thanks to Jennifer's well trained eye, (her credentials include working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty, the Frick Collection and director of a major Art Gallery in Portland) the shop has a great look with loads of character. The interior fittings have been made from thick slabs of hemlock and yellow pine reclaimed from old barn timbers milled in the late 1800's The weathered looking exposed bricks were apparently covered by several layers of plaster so had not seen the light of day for many decades. Beautiful blooms including peonys (my favourite) are displayed on a long table in the centre of the store.

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November 2010 0

The Meadow in the West Village sells over 100 varieties of salt from all over the world

If your idea of salt is limited to what comes in a shaker, a trip to the West Village will rock your world. The Meadow, which just opened Wednesday on 523 Hudson Street, sells over 100 kinds of salt, from coarse to flaky, volcanic to rose-colored, Mesquite smoked to salt mixed with truffles. Some taste strongly of mineral, others taste fresh from the sea. Shop owner and cookbook author Mark Bitterman and his wife Jennifer want you to toss your box of iodized salt. "Our focus is on finishing salts," Bitterman told the News. "We suggest using more complex salts at the end of the cooking process rather than adding in the middle." Each salt can be paired with a certain foods. He recommends a flake salt for salad dressings. The silvery-gray sel gris is ideal for finishing meats. A Fleur du Sel makes butter pop. Taster size salt bottles (1.2 oz) start at around $4 and go up from there. Two and half pounds of their multipurpose sel gris will run you about $14.


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: November 2010 0

His obsession first led to The Meadow, a Portland, Oregon, boutique that specializes in rare salts as well as specialty chocolates, small-batch cocktail bitters and fresh flower arrangements.

Now He's brought His wares to the West Village in a shop that just opened on Hudson Street. Hand-labeled apothecary jars, each filled with salt, line the shelves of the long space. And each tells a story: There are gumball-shaped boules from Djibuti, stark-white nuggets harvested from Icelandic hot springs, bright pink Maboroshi Plum salt from Japan and Burgundy rock salt infused with Oregon Pinot Noir.

Himalayan salt blocks and bowls--which you can heat and cook directly on--are stacked vertically alongside handmade silver salt cellars and copies of Mark Bitterman's excellent new book, Salted, which chronicles the history and science of the mineral and includes recipes.

Other shelves showcase a chocolate collection highlighted by cult makers like Claudio Corallo, a curated selection of bitters and displays of seasonal flowers.

The Meadow will also host salt and chocolate tastings, plus cocktail and cooking classes; click here for a sampling of offerings.

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Salt Sellar: Mark Bitterman has scoured the globe for infinite renditions of his favorite ionic compound: salt.