(basil salt pictured above)
This weekend on our way home from the Gilbert Farmers Market we decided to make an unscheduled stop at a new Italian grocer we had learned about. (yes, the same grocer that prompted our guanciale and spaghetti alla carbonara post from last week)
I was desperately in need of olive oil for our traditional Saturday bruschetta and had heard that Dolce Vita carried a great EVOO (Giachi Allegretto Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil) at an incredible price ($17.50/ liter). So a short diversion on our way home took us to seek out this new oil.
On arrival, we found a small eating area in the middle of the space and a few shelving set-ups on the walls. A couple of customers were quietly dining, and had just received their Tiramisu and Cannoli. The wife half of the gracious husband and wife duo (Walter and Martha Bergamaschi) that runs Dolce Vita kindly offered a couple of espressos on the house to the quietly dining pair.
As we continued our somewhat dazed perusing in an effort to find what we were looking for, one of the diners commented on our ‘go lb. salt’ shirts, then she asked about our Ignite Food presentation. In the meantime, I still haven’t found the olive oil I came looking for and have a somewhat singular focus in an effort to find the oil so I can get home to make lunch. I’m on my phone, searching the specific thread on the Phoenix Food Nerds forum trying to find the post that mentioned the oil. I finally share what I’m looking for and the other diner says ‘Oh, from the Phoenix Food Nerds board? It’s right here.’ She points to a bottle on the table next to her.
Next thing you know it’s introductions around and who have I run into but Helen Yung of Sweet Republic fame (honored as one of the Top 10 ice cream shops in the US by Bon Appétit) and Lori Hashimoto – Hana Japanese Eatery’s rare female shokunin. For a moment or two I felt like an absolute dunce for not knowing or being able to recognize two very recognizable women from the Phoenix food scene. (thanks for being so gracious ladies!) Especially since both were just featured in the Phoenix Top 100 Tastemakers list this year -yeah I was pretty focused on getting that oil and getting home!
After a few minutes of casual food conversation it was easy to understand why these two made the cut. What’s more, it reinforced the need to get out and pay them a visit. We’ll do that in the near future, we promise.
In the meantime, part of the discussion centered on what else. . . salt and pepper. Lori shared commentary about Helen’s tongue tingling, cheek numbing Szechuan Pepper Ice Cream and then Helen mentioned Lori’s matcha infused salt recently crafted for use with some fresh lobster. Hopefully we’ll be getting together with each of them soon for some personal salt tastings and some potential pairings discussions too. I’ve got my eye on some of Helen’s ‘I Love Bacon’ ice cream and Lori told us that blue fin will be in house soon!
Through all of this it’s the ‘outside the box’ purposeful pairings and creations that keep coming through. These are the mainstay for both Lori and Helen as they continue to hone their craft and produce flavor profiles and palate pleasers that EVERYONE loves.
Flavored salts are no different. We bristle every time we hear the term ‘flavored salts’, mostly because we know that many simply use kosher and infuse citrus zest and herbs. We beg you, please don’t do that! Ever. Again.
If you want to make a flavored salt of your own, consider using Sel Gris de Guérande or a Mediterranean flake. Both will have enough moisture to bring the entire combination together and enough mineral content to accentuate the over all flavor profile too!
If you really want to kick things up a notch or two, consider a chile pepper infused salt, or maybe even get your hands on some kaffir lime leaves. Making your own flavored salts is really as simple as selecting a great unrefined sea salt for starters. Then, choose your flavoring components. Toss everything into a food processor or mix with a mortar and pestle.
Start with something tried and true like a citrus salt. Venture into something strange and unusual like a rose salt. Whatever you do, keep learning, keep doing and keep trying. Remember, the ocean is the only place that sodium and chlorine come together naturally. Who knows, maybe your kitchen will provide a similarly unique environment that will produce some wonderfully life altering combination!