I was skeptical of salt snobbery before visiting the Meadow, self-described “selmeliers” Mark and Jennifer Bitterman’s new West Village shop specializing in salt. How different is one salt from the next, really? Do you need to own multiple varieties of sodium chloride? Apparently yes.
The store, which opened a few weeks ago, carries 120 different salts from around the world organized by cooking purpose. Jars of French sel gris sat next to naturally formed spheres of white salt from Djibouti, reddish-hued salts from Molokai, and saffron-infused finishing salt.
Also there to help you to cultivate your inner (or outer) food snob is a huge selection of chocolate bars (several of which, like those from Minneapolis-based Rogue Chocolatier, aren’t carried anywhere else in New York) and small-batch bitters. And a selection of nicely arranged and pricey flowers, because if you like expensive salts and chocolates, you probably also enjoy expensive flowers.
As I eyed a gray-hued salt from Japan with small crystals called Takesumi Bamboo salt, Mark Bitterman shared with me the salt’s complex manufacturing process. He explained that it was harvested from seawater 3,000 feet deep, after which it was sprayed onto bamboo mats suspended from the ceiling in a greenhouse. Water trickles through the mat and eventually evaporates, leaving only a brine. The brine is then heated in a cauldron and stirred by hand for three days. After the water evaporates completely and a salt forms, it’s packed inside bamboo canisters and incinerated so that the salt crystals become carbonated and take on a lovely slate color along with bitter and sweet notes. Giving it even more cachet is that the Bittermans are the first people to sell the salt in America. Difficult to make and hard to find? That’s the recipe for food-snobbery success.
Picturing the Japanese salt makers stirring brine by hand for 72 whole hours persuaded me to buy a bottle, even though I balked slightly at the price of $15 for a 1.2-ounce container. But at least I can tell everyone it’s worth its salt.
523 Hudson Street