Yesterday I revisited "The Meadow" to snap some pics and talk to the co owner about this innovative new store on Hudson Street in the West Village. Mark Bitterman is a writer, a shop owner and an expert on salt. A culinary experience in France when he was just twenty years of age set him on a road of discovery that has culminated in the publishing of a book "Salted" and the establishment of two stores that sell salt from all around the world. He is quick to acknowledge his partner in "The Meadow", his wife, Jennifer.
"The Meadow" specializes in flowers, gourmet finishing salts, artisan made chocolates and a great selection of unusual fine wines which pretty much covers the very best things in life. Thanks to Jennifer's well trained eye, (her credentials include working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty, the Frick Collection and director of a major Art Gallery in Portland) the shop has a great look with loads of character. The interior fittings have been made from thick slabs of hemlock and yellow pine reclaimed from old barn timbers milled in the late 1800's The weathered looking exposed bricks were apparently covered by several layers of plaster so had not seen the light of day for many decades. Beautiful blooms including peonys (my favourite) are displayed on a long table in the centre of the store.
These exquisite little salt dispensers allow customers to sample the various salts available at The Meadow.
Judging by the volume of people in the shop on Sunday I'm not the only person in New York to love it. It was all hands on deck at the counter, so while I waited to speak to Mark I spent some time browsing through his book. I was instantly impressed not only by his writing but by the passion with which he offers the world his expertise. He writes,
"When a visitor enters the store and says, "Oh Salt?" I hear surprise, curiosity, and a tinge of something else- a bond being formed. It feels like we're suddenly alone together, stranded in a strange space, trying to recapture something just beyond our reach...holding a pile of salt in my hands before a small crowd of people in The Meadow, surrounded by tables overflowing with seasonal flowers, opposite the chocolate shelves, flanked by a massive case bearing unusual wines, aperitifs, Champagnes, vermouths and bitters and tonics, with a towering wall filled with more than a hundred artisan salts at my back-I sometimes begin to literally tremble." Page 5 "Salted"
Mark in his element.
I observed many customers take an interest in these salt blocks.
The idea with these is that they be used to cook food on. That's right, not to put in food but to cook food on. The blocks can be heated on a stove top, ideally to 600 degrees. Once heated you can cook prawns, eggs, bacon even thinly sliced steak on it. Mark explains it best,
"When you cook on Himalayan block salt several things are happening at the same time: the heat of the block sears and browns proteins while the salt subtly dehydrates the surface and seasons the food. Together the heat and salt work in wonderful harmony, producing unique salty-toasty-caramelized flavours and delicately crisped surfaces as thin as a single layer of glaze on porcelain." Page 267 "Salted"
I so badly want to try that salty-toasty-caramelized flavour, I'm thinking that I might have to work some suitcase magic so I can bring one home!
I recommend Mark Bitterman's scholarly work, "Salted. A manifesto on the worlds most essential mineral, with recipes." published by Ten Speed Press (Random House, Inc.) to every self respecting foodie.
Kind ( and lightly salted) regards from your New York correspondent.