along with your main course at the french laundry, you are brought a selection of three fancy salts in a precious silver caddy, complete with tiny spoons (and we all know how i feel about little spoons). because i was there with someone who was considered a vip, we got five or six salts. later, when i met someone whose wife works there, i was told that the really important people get nine. nine salts! there aren't even nine bites of meat on which to sprinkle salt! it's amazing.
salt. my best friend. i love salt. i'd marry salt. in a heartbeat.
the funny thing is that persian food is traditionally very lightly seasoned. and perhaps because she was really health-conscious, my mother was very light-handed with the salt. i was raised with a bland palate.
and then i became a cook.
i remember when i was just starting out at cp, seasoning something and bringing it to a chef to taste. he'd taste it, come back to my pot with me, and oh-so-confidently add handfuls upon handfuls of salt before tasting it again. i'd get upset with myself--how could i have been so far off? this happened time and time again, and with many different chefs and experienced cooks, until one day, i finally got that taste in my own mouth. after eating that food day after day, i began to understand what my goal was, with salt, with acid, with herbs and spices. it's why alice keeps saying you have to taste--tasting is the only way to know, to learn.
anyway, at that time, we used kosher salt in the kitchen. that's part of the reason why they'd add so much of it. kosher salt is only about 1/3 as salty as table salt. when i went to florence, land of the salt lick, i really learned to take things to the edge of saltiness. it's a delicate line to tread, oh, but it makes so much difference. in italy, i got used to using sicilian sea salt, which is quite a bit saltier than kosher salt, for everything. and when i came back, cp had switched to sea salt, too.
at the farm, bob insists on using celtic sea salt, which is unprocessed and chock full of minerals. my other favorite salts are maldon sea salt, fleur de sel, and sel gris.
at le sanctuaire (and this is just a bit too precious for me, but i do think it would make a pretty beautiful gift), you can get black lava salt, hawaiian red salt, japanese deep ocean salt, jurassic salt (one of the ones they bring you at tfl), murray river salt from australia, and pure welsh salt.
so my gift idea is an assortment of salts--you can be as daring or practical as you like. fill a few lovely jars or metal tins with different salts, stick on a beautiful label, and tie on a sweet ribbon, and you're set to go. write a little note with some history about each salt, and let people taste and learn how amazingly different each one can be. the beauty of it all is you don't even need to go to yountville to taste nine salts anymore!
weck--european canning jars
whole foods--has practically every kind i listed
country cheese shop--i heart berkeley. i know they have maldon, sicilian and fleur de sel.
le sanctuaire--salt, salt, salt (expensive!!!)
celtic sea salt
sks bottle--metal tins with clear tops that would be perfect for this project, as well as lots of glass jars that are really cute
lehman's--more european canning jars