The best salts
The city says salt will kill you. We say bring it on.
Mon Jan 25 2010
Former NYC health commissioner Thomas Frieden has called high blood pressure—which many correlate with excessive sodium intake—“the greatest public health threat facing the city.” Now Mayor Bloomberg is rallying restaurateurs to support his most recent public-health crusade—against salt—and chefs are reacting with equal measures of apathy and bewilderment. George Weld, chef-owner of the Southern-style farm-to-table success Egg, says, “I don’t have a big problem with his efforts, but it looks a little eccentric and personal, like Giuliani’s campaign against ferrets.” We like salt even more than we like ferrets. So join the resistance by seasoning with one of these premium picks. After all, there’s always Toprol.
Sel du Pcheur
This super-coarse offering from the Lorraine region of France is all about the fennel. If you’re a fan of the herb and don’t mind a little crunch between the teeth, this one’s for you. We like to eat it straight out of the box, but for those who aren’t so hard-core, it’s ideal for soaking up the juices of a bloody steak. Lobel’s Prime Meats, 1096 Madison Ave between 82nd and 83rd Sts (212-737-1372). 17.6oz box $24.95.
As anyone who’s been to her East Village shop can attest, Sara Jenkins knows pork. And she knows how to season it. The sandy texture of her proprietary Sicilian sea-salt blend is closer to a rub than a table salt. The addition of wild fennel pollen, sage and other Mediterranean aromatics makes pig pop like never before. Or try it on your morning eggs, and you won’t need to bother with the bacon. Porchetta, 110 E 7th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-777-2151). 4oz tin $6.
The best choice for do-gooders. These pink Himalayan crystals, from Sustainable Sourcing, are mined using renewable energy, and a portion of the profits goes toward environmental charities. This one’s potent, so start with a light sprinkle. Try it on pork chops or a vegetarian entre, especially if it’s eggplant. Whole Foods, locations throughout the city (wholefoodsmarket.com). 2.8oz jar $17.99.
Dean & DeLuca Fumee de Sel salt
This earthy domestic salt is hit with a drop of chardonnay during the smoking process, for added sweetness and depth. Its ashy color and oaky flavor can give any meat that straight-off-the-grill look and taste, but for a real treat, skip the protein and sprinkle some on a salad. Dean & DeLuca, various locations throughout the city (deandeluca.com). 5oz jar $13.25.
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
The industry standard; you’ll probably find at least one box of this in every professional kitchen in New York. Why? The medium-grain product is perfect for sprinkling with your fingers, so you don’t have to rely on a shaker, and it adheres to food for dear life—rare for a salt of this texture. It can also cling to a glass, so try it for rimming cocktails. Fairway, various locations throughout the city (fairwaymarket.com). 48oz box $1.99.
Profumo del Chianti
Pricey, but versatile. This is an ultrafine premium Italian sea salt that smells like a flower garden. Developed by a Tuscan butcher with a green thumb, it has an impressive quantity of herbs and spices that includes heavy doses of rosemary and lavender. The taste is quiet and clean, just like its snowy texture. This one loves lamb in particular, but you can’t create a bad pairing here. Formaggio Essex, Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (212-982-8200). 150g jar $26.95.
The pros name their go-to salts
Andrew Carmellini, chef, Locanda Verde
“Salt selection is all about cost. I use a good, inexpensive kosher salt for pasta water. And I really like Maldon for finishing. It melts really well and isn’t outrageously expensive.” 377 Greenwich St at North Moore St (212-925-3797)
Erin McKenna, founder, BabyCakes NYC
“I’m not fancy—plain kosher salt.” 248 Broome St between Ludlow and Orchard Sts (212-677-5047)
Mathieu Palombino, chef-owner, Motorino
“We use colatura di alici, which is a fermented anchovy juice, as a substitute for salt on one of our pizzas. It’s fishy in a good way and a true Neapolitan specialty.” 319 Graham Ave between Ainslie and Devoe Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-8899) * 349 E 12th St between First and Second Aves (212-777-2644)
Jesse Schenker, chef, Recette
“I serve fleur de sel on my butter. I also like to use smoked salt from Ohio Barry Farm on my hamachi crudo.” 328 W 12th St at Greenwich St (212-414-3000)
Jason Hall, chef de cuisine, Gotham Bar and Grill
“I make a brunoise out of the unusable ends of the white truffles we shave tableside and combine it with a sel gris from Normandy to make a super-fragrant truffle salt.” 12 E 12th St between Fifth Ave and University Pl (212-620-4020)
Chris Leahy, chef de cuisine, BLT Prime
“We finish our steaks with Maldon smoked over hickory chips. The salt turns gray and has this amazing texture and smoky flavor.” 111 E 22nd St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-995-8500)