One of the most ridiculous things about my old West Village existence–living there, as I did, from 2009 through 2011–is that I never really noticed The Meadow.
I think I thought it was a sandwich place. Or maybe a boutique shop for expensive olive oil. Had I known what lay in store behind its doors, I would’ve gone there all the time. Thankfully, I made a point to visit it last week before meeting my publisher for lunch at The Little Owl. When you see what I found inside, you’ll understand why I’m already planning my next trip back.
The store is owned by husband and wife team Jennifer and Mark Bitterman. You may recognize Mark’s name (no, not Bittman, Bitterman) because he’s the author of a wonderful book all about Salt called Salted: A Manifesto on The World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes. The Meadow is his book come to life:
Yes, those are all different kinds of salts and you can try them from little sample jars that you shake into your hand. I thought there was only so much variety between salts before I visited the Meadow. How wrong I was.
The first salt that I tried was perhaps the most shocking: Kala Namak from India.
The flavor is immediately intense–reminiscent of Indian food or cumin–and I’ll admit, I thought it was some kind of spice blend when I first tried it. But reading about it online, I discovered that the aroma occurs naturally because of its sulfur content. Wikipedia likens it to “rotten eggs” which isn’t particularly appealing; I’d liken it more to how cumin smells a little bit like body odor? But in a good sort of way?
If that doesn’t sell you, you just have to taste it. I bet it would be wonderful with lentils or stirred into a curry.
And that’s the fun thing about The Meadow: tasting the salts and then figuring out how you’d use them if you were cooking with them at home.
Like the Fleur de Sel from Guatemala…
…has a purity about it that would enliven something simple like steamed asparagus with melted butter or, if you attempt it, serving a tuna carpaccio at home. (I suggest that because Anita Lo taught me how to serve raw fish for my book. Just slice it thinly, drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle with good salt, like this one.)
Check out the Black Diamond salt from Cyprus:
This offered up a great crunch and a great color; I wonder what that would look like baked on to a pretzel? Or used to sprinkle on radishes coated in butter?
I really got a kick out of the flavored salts at The Meadow. The lemon flakes from Cyprus had deep, authentic lemony flavor; and the black truffle salt offers an inexpensive way to get black truffle flavor into your food without actually buying a black truffle.
(Try using that in my Chanterelle Risotto with White Truffle Salt; black will do just fine.)
The smoked salts were probably my favorite salts in the whole store. You’ve got to try the Kauai Guava Smoked Salt from Hawaii:
The deep smoky flavor had such complexity, I think one teaspoon of this would deepen the flavor of everything from chili to lentil soup to BBQ sauce.
My absolute favorite salt in the whole store may have been the Maine Apple Smoked salt:
It has all the smokiness that the Hawaiian salt had, but a rougher texture; I had a vision for a sweet/savory oatmeal involving sautéed apples and a small sprinkling of that salt. We’ll see if I pull that together when I bring some of it back to L.A.
Finally, if you like things spicy, you’re going to love the Sal de Gusano from Oaxaca:
I guess I should’ve prepared myself for the possibility of heat when I dumped a sprinkling on to my tongue, but the smoke coming out of my ears most likely amused the staff. That stuff is hot. But really good. A nice option for adding heat to Mexican food you make at home.
So that’s it for the salt I tried at The Meadow. But there’s more! A wall of chocolate that has everything from salted caramels made using the salts from the store to chocolate with bacon:
And, as fits a store called The Meadow, there are lots of beautiful flowers to buy:
But what impressed me most was the collection of salt. What’s great is they sell it in sets: there’s a cocktail set and a smoked set, both for $44.
And a starter set that comes in three sizes (tins for $24, corks for $38 and glass top jars for $54):
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? These would make a terrific Christmas gift for a food lover in your life. In fact, I’ve made several not-so-subtle hints to Craig that I’d like some Meadow salt to be under the tree Christmas morning, but he’s busy directing a movie so I’m thinking I’ll have to gift myself when I get back to town. And if you don’t live in New York, you can order them directly from the website. You simply have no excuse.
I’m so glad I finally took the time to check out The Meadow. Trust me, I’ll be back.