This is your source for information on premium, unrefined, gourmet salt. Here you will find an ever-changing smorgasbord of entries by
our staff and guest authors about their experiences and love for gourmet salt, references to salt in the news and on the web, and salt application and tasting ideas.
Archive for September, 2009
Posted September 26th, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Detroit, gifts, holidays, Michigan, news, salt sets
Tyler with Beyond the Shaker Salts
A great article about Beyond the Shaker appeared in the Detroit News earlier this week. We are really pleased with all of the press we have been receiving over the last two months. Thanks everyone for the support.
It was fantastic working with Jennifer Youssef and her photographers at the Detroit News on this article and we are proud to be part of the vibrant Michigan economy as it continues to transform itself. Maybe instead of “Pure Michigan” as a slogan, the state should adopt the tagline “Moving from Cars to Cuisine”?! We will see….
And as an update there are many exciting things in the works at Beyond the Shaker which we are rolling out for the holiday season including some fantastic gift ideas and new salt sets. Get ready.
Posted September 22nd, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Farmers' Market, free range, French Herb, organic, recipe
Lovely French Herb Pork Chops
The Farmers’ Market isn’t just for vegetables. Ideally, your local farmers’ market supports farmers raising livestock in an organic and sustainable manner. One of the largest carbon emitters, and therefore contributors to global warming, is commercial livestock farming. In addition, if you research the commercial farming industry, you’ll discover deplorable conditions, animal cruelty and practices that lead to the kind of food borne illnesses and contamination that have plagued this country in recent years. I try to eat consciously and responsibly, and I choose to be a carnivore, I feel I need to do so in a conscientious manner. Commercial meat products come to store shelves laden with chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and little flavor. Meat from a local farm is an entirely different animal.
Local farmers (hopefully) feed their pigs and cattle a natural diet that promotes health and well-being, eliminating the need for the antibiotics and hormones that are necessitated by a chemical-laden diet that fails to reflect the animals’ nutritional needs. Look for free-range, hormone and antibiotic free. Look for grass fed and finished cattle. Often local farms will not be organic because they cannot afford the certification process from the USDA, but if you take the time to engage your local farmers, they will be more than happy to describe their process. Taking care in raising animals makes an enormous difference not only in their health, but in our health. And it makes a huge difference in flavor. A great, free range, grass fed cow produces steak that tastes like…steak. The meat has a full, beefy flavor to it that really bring to light the injustice done to commercially raised beef. It cheats the animal, it cheats us and it cheats our palate. This may sound silly, but if you’ve tasted properly raised meat, you know what I’m talking about.
Recently, I met a lovely woman at the Farmers’ Market who runs a local farm with her husband. She offered a beautiful selection of properly raised pork and beef. We didn’t want to buy too many items on our first visit, so we picked up a couple porks chops and some steaks (more on those another time). If you’ve read any of my past Farmers’ Market posts, you know I like to prepare dishes simply and let the fantastic natural flavor of the ingredients shine through.
Pork chops on the grill are the ideal way to highlight their flavor without too much fussiness. We rubbed a small amount of French Herb Blend into the pork chops before putting them on the grill. Make sure the grill is properly heated before putting the pork chops on the grill. If you are careful, and turn them only once, the result will be a much moister pork chop. A word of caution here: free range, naturally raised beef and pork tends to be leaner than commercially raised meat. Think about it: this animals get exercise so they are obviously fitter and therefore have less fat than their factory farmed counterparts. This means that you have to be very careful not to overcook the meat or it will be tough. A nice piece of pork can be served less than well done. It will be moist and delicious.
After cooking, we finished with a little more French Herb Blend. The pork chops were so juicy, and you could taste the freshness, the diversity in the diet and the care with which the animal was raised. It tasted the way you imagine pork should taste, and so rarely does. This dish is awesome with zucchini or brussels sprouts.
If your Farmers’ Market does not have meat purveyors, investigate your local farms or check out www.localharvest.org to find a farmer near you.
Posted September 19th, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Citrus Basil, Hickory Maple
Salmon on the BBQ finished with Citrus Basil
Last week I attended an incredible wine tasting at the University Club in Chicago that featured wines from various producers in Napa Valley, California. A few of my favorites included wines from Trinitas Cellars, Folio Wine Producers, Rutherford Hill, Oakville Ranch, and an incredible Cabernet Franc (which I usually do not like because a lingering green pepper taste) from Larkin Wines. Since this was a private event (that I was oh so lucky to get invited to), the crowd in attendance was not overwhelming and so the guests could speak to the folks pouring the wines without feeling rushed to move to the next table. Additionally, most of the people pouring the wines were actually intimately involved with the winery they were representing – for instance, Sean Larkin, of Larkin Wines, was pouring for the guests. Certainly this is a step above the typical ‘cattle call’ wine tasting event where everyone is herded around and the people pouring the wines were hired only hours before from a temporary labor agency.
I have a special love for wine tastings, above and beyond trying the wines themselves (of course that is a BIG part of it), because these events remind me of how similar wine is to unrefined salt. There are distinct varietals in both wine and salt, which have unique characteristics that can be teased out or enhanced by blending in other ingredients. And perhaps because of the many similarities between wine and salt, there seems to exist a special appreciation by ‘wine people’ of the remarkable variation between types of unrefined salts. These people embrace the notion that there is not just one single type of naturally occurring salt, and that each salt brings something different to the kitchen table in terms of flavor, color and consistency. In wine, you see variants identified in many of the same ways as salt, and so there exists a natural analogy.
After the wine tasting, I ran into a friend and we got to talking about Beyond the Shaker, and the use of salt in general. I had several samples that I proceeded to dose out to my friend, and I then began to describe some culinary applications for the various salts. Before I could get based on my second recommendation, Jake piped out, “well aren’t these salts only good for finishing a dish?!” Two problems with that question – first, unrefined salts in both their Pure and blended form, can be used for much more than just finishing the flavor canvas of a dish. Indeed, in the information provided with each of our Pure Foundation and Beyond Blend salts, you will find application ideas that fall into every part of the cooking process.
The second (and more serious) problem with Jake’s question/statement, was that there is an assumption that being part of the ‘finishing’ of a recipe or dish is something that is not incredibly meaningful to how the food turns out on the whole. This mistaken notion is downright hogwash! I would argue that it is indeed the opposite- that the ‘finish’ on a dish may be the most important influence on how the flavor is ultimately transmitted to the person eating the food. Adding a sprinkle of our Hickory Maple Blend to a grilled lamb chop just prior to serving means that this will be the very first flavor that hits the tongue and mouth once consumed. Indeed it sets the ground work for all other flavors to come, and so if it is off balance or over powering this finishing could wreck the entire meal. Likewise if this flavor is deep and sophisticated (like what you will find in the Hickory Maple Blend), it can carry the rest of the dish even if you screwed up and grilled your lamb chop a bit too much or made some other culinary misstep along the way. One of my recent favorite application involved finishing herb encrusted salmon that has been grilled with a sprinkle of Citrus Basil blend right before serving (picture above). The flavor is incredible and the Citrus Basil acts as a warning to your mouth that some awesome food is about to be eaten. YUM.
Jake agreed (and I don’t think he was simply doing it to placate a salt fanatic) that he would need to rethink his perception of salt, and flavor in general the next time he did some cooking. Similarly, after my conversation with Jake, I was reminded of one of the vintner’s comments at the wine tasting earlier in the evening. He elaborated on wine making and the focus that needs to be had at every step of the process to create an ideal wine. This could be years in the making as the grapes are harvested and aged before being bottled. So in reply to the question of what part of the process was the very most important, he replied that in his mind it was really the little things that happen at the ‘end’ which can make or break a great wine. The final processing of the wine can destroy an otherwise fantastic wine, since mishandling at this point will erase all the time, work and effort exerted. And similarly, an example that the vintner used to prove his point that the finishing on a wine can be the most critical part of the wine tasting experience, was describing the importance of decanting particular wines. This final step can take a wine that initially would only taste mediocre and allow its true flavor to shine.
Posted September 14th, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Chef's Blend, Citrus Basil, Hickory Maple, Hot Habanero, Michigan, salt samples, Windy City Celery
Chris in the new Beyond the Shaker t-shirt standing with some studly friends in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
What a weekend! In a crazy 28 hour window of time, I traveled from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan to get dinner with friends on Friday, and then the next day attend a roller-coaster of a football match between the mighty University of Michigan and the (over-hyped) Notre Dame (for the Domers in the crowd I promise this is my last bit of gloating in this post. Here is a link to the synopsis of the game.).
There were a lot of adventures (culinary and otherwise) in this jam packed 28 hour whirlwind trip (6 hours of which were spent driving). Late Friday night, as we rolled into Ann Arbor, I got drinks with some pals from my U of M undergrad years at Arbor Brewing Company. Of course I had several Beyond the Shaker salt samples at the ready, and although everyone had already enjoyed a very large dinner only hours earlier, we decided the blended salts were just too enticing to simply look at…in the end we ordered a huge plate of hand cut french fries and a dollop of vanilla ice cream (yep, ice cream and our blended salts are a super YUM experience).
As a side note, the looks and stares I receive from diners and wait staff when spreading salt samples across a restaurant table never gets old. The little foil lined bags with colorful labels and compelling contents almost always draw a crowd. Surprisingly, in almost 2 years of toting samples around publicly, I have only been asked once by a suspicious third party if I was a drug dealer. At the time I was yearning for a witty retort, but unfortunately simply stammered something like, “well if flavor is a drug, than consider me guilty as charged.” Lame. UBER LAME. I could picture a brazen letter “L” burnt orange into my forehead as I mumbled my pitiful response. Next time I will be ready with a snappy line or two, since surely this moment will present itself again in the future…
Anyway, back in Arbor Brewing Company, when the steaming hot french fries arrived, everyone grabbed an appetizer plate and began tearing into the various salt samples they had hoarded in their corner of the table. As I required plenty of samples to shower on folks throughout my remaining 24 and counting hours in Ann Arbor, I supplied our group with only a smattering of blended salts including- Hot Habanero, Chef’s Blend, Hickory Maple, Citrus Basil, Windy City Celery and Everest Wet Salt. What ensued was a veritable salt frenzy as everyone tried to taste every blend available before they all disappeared. Of course the question that may be on your mind is, “which salt was the most popular?” As the blends were all gobbled up along with the fries, it would be difficult to say which actually was the biggest hit, but I can confirm that Hot Habanero seemed to be eaten the fastest. This may have to do with how well it paired with the hot and crunchy fries (which we ordered with no salt so as to not muck up our tasting).
A related question I get a lot is “which salt do you like the best?”….Seriously, this is a tough one because I ultimately picked these blends out of an insane amount of versions and revisions over a long period of research and development with our salt chef. The blends available on our site are the best of the best of the very best as there was no way that Beyond the Shaker was going to offer up anything that was not up to snuff. However, I do have to admit there are some favorites. Even parents have favorites amongts their children (you know this is true), but the salt blend I like the best is my little “McVictories’ Secret” and so I guard that information closely (wow, that was lame too).
After we demolished the fries, it was time for the ice cream, which the salt-newbies at the table were a bit apprehensive about…however, when the cold vanilla taste of the ice cream combined with the kafir lime & spiced salinity of Everest Wet Salt, this unusual duo converted all that tasted its fascinating flavor. There is a reason salt is used in baking and most sweet applications as it tempers and enhances the richness of these sweet foods. After it became clear that mixing ice cream and salt was pretty darn tastey, we experimented some more and found that the other three blends that went well with vanilla ice cream were the smokey Hickory Maple, the spicy Chef’s Blend and the light/clean taste of Citrus Basil.
It was great to catch-up with these friends from undergrad, especially over some Beyond the Shaker salts. Later on Friday evening we went to my favorite Ann Arbor bar, Ashley’s, for one more drink prior to conducting a very late night/early morning tour of the campus. Walking into Ashley’s, there was a rush of feeling as I have so many amazing memories from this bar – heated conversations about life, literature, philosophy and all the other matters that are paramount to a slightly inebriated undergraduate student. I could recall almost every table I had ever sat in at that bar and the topics that were whirled around between us at such table. A decade & more later, and the place was almost identical except for better menus and superior music playing in the background.
While at Ashley’s, we discovered a great use for refined table salt as shown in this picture.
When it is a humid evening in the midwest and your cold beer is perspiring and sticking to the coaster on the table, why not use a thin sprinkle of table salt to act as a barrier so that the coaster will stay firmly planted?! Genius.
As always, Ashley’s did not dissappoint and we stayed there until the bar closed at 2am. We then walked around the campus, including the law quad and the new business school buildings. I believe we got back to the hotel close to 5am ET and I had plenty of work to get done in the morning before we went tailgating, and so sleep was sacrificed.
All and all it was a great weekend with one more thing to note- If you look closely at the picture accompanying this post (and I know you will), you can catch a glimpse in the photos from that night I was donning the new, limited edition, Beyond the Shaker tee-shirt with an ultra cool design on the back that combined an overlay of our logo with a paragraph describing the impetus behind our gourmet salt line.
Close-up Photo of the Front of the Beyond the Shaker T-shirt
The Back of the Beyond the Shaker T-Shirt.
Here is a picture of the back of the t-shirt and then a close-up of the front. You know you want it! We plan to be selling these t-shirts shortly and also giving them away in contests that we will be hosting in the Fall. Until then, you will have to make due with your good ‘ole hanes undershirt.
Posted September 13th, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Michigan, news
Beyond the Shaker was featured in an article in the Sunday September 6, 2009 edition of the Oakland Press and we are just pleased as punch! The article contains a picture of the two Beyond the Shaker founders, Chris and Tyler, standing outside of a restaurant in West Bloomfield, Michigan, from earlier in the summer of 2009. To read the article click on this link- (link to PDF version of Oakland Press Article About Beyond the Shaker – the picture is a bit granular, but heck, so are some of our salts!). Thanks everyone for the continued support!
Posted September 11th, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Chef's Blend, Citrus Basil, fish, French Herb, Garlic Shallot, Herb Garden, recipe
I don’t always have time to prepare an exquisite, gourmet meal during the week. But I do love to eat and frozen pizza doesn’t always do it for me. Although I love fresh produce (see here and here), I often rely on frozen ingredients for quick, easy meals. One of my favorite freezer staples is individually vacuum sealed fish fillets. Now, stop right there gourmet critics/snobs. I know fresh fish looks better, tastes better and probably is better for me and the environment. And I strive to do better with my food choices, diet, carbon footprint and sustainability contribution. But sometimes life gets in the way and I still need to eat.
Here is my favorite, 15 minute gourmet, weeknight meal: Citrus Basil Tilapia with Sauteed Broccoli (or other frozen green vegetable). Serves 2
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Defrost two frozen tilapia fillets. On one small plate, pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of milk (I prefer local or organic dairy products-yummy). On another small plate, combine bread crumbs with Citrus Basil salt. I use a ratio of about 3 parts breadcrumbs to one part salt, but you should combine to taste. Dip the tilapia fillet in the milk, followed by the Citrus Basil breadcrumb mixture, and lay on the tin foil lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tilapia fillet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
While the fish is baking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add frozen broccoli or green vegetable of your choice. Cook until heated through, but not soggy. This should take no longer than the fish. I like to season with Garlic-Shallot, but French Herb, Herb Garden and Chef’s Blend are all great options.
Voila, dinner is served. Sometimes I add rice or a green salad, but often fish and veggies is plenty for a healthy, quick meal.
Posted September 4th, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Chicago, news
Chris, our founder and attorney extraordinaire, is featured in a fantastic article in the AmLaw Daily. Thank you to Francesca Heintz for this wonderful piece. We are so excited that Chris is being recognized, and that BTS has been introduced to lawyers everywhere!
Posted September 3rd, 2009 by Lindsey
Filed under: Alderwood Smoke, Bolivian Rose, Cyprus Black Lava, Fumee de Sel, Hawaiian Black Lava, Himalayan Pink, Pure Foundation Salts, Tasting
Recently, I was asked how to host a salt tasting. In my opinion there are two different ways to stage such tasting- (1) Simply taste the salts, one after another, in their natural form, or (2) stage a multi-course meal with different salts utilized in each dish. This post covers the first type of tasting, and I will discuss the second type at a later date.
I hosted a salt tasting a few weeks ago, and I learned a few important lessons. First, you need a foil to balance out all the saltiness. Second, you can’t taste too many at one time or it burns your tongue (even our premium unrefined salts can be TOO much salt if eaten in excess in a single session).
Here are my tips for a delicious, successful salt tasting.
I prefer a fairly neutral palate for tasting the salt, such as white bread, like sourdough or challah. I offered both olive oil and unsalted butter. This is a great opportunity to try a local or artisanal butter.
Offer as many salt options as you desire, but suggest that guests taste no more than two or three at a time. Recommend a generous break in between every few salts.
To balance the salt, I recommend a smooth beverage. If you are interested in wine, try something that is not particularly dry, acidic or oaky. I think Riesling, particularly from Black Star Farms, is an excellent compliment to salt tasting. For a non-alcoholic beverage, try sparkling water. In addition, snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables (rather than cheese and crackers) will cleanse and refresh the palate for continued tasting.
The Pure Foundation Salts are excellent for tasting in this manner. The subtle differences in salinity and minerality can be appreciated while tasting with bread and butter. Offering a tasting allows you and your guests to study the diverse crystal structures and colors. I love trying salts with similar characteristics, such as color, and really studying their differences. Take, for example, Himalayan Pink and Bolivian Rose. Each is a pink, mountain salt. But they are so different. Compare the pink color and clarity. Let the crystals dissolve in your mouth and note the difference in minerality. Chew a few crystals and feel the difference between them on your teeth and your tongue.
Compare Hawaiian Black Lava and Cyprus Black Lava. Each is a black lava salt, but the difference in shape and texture make them so different and delicious in their own way.
One of my favorite comparisons is the smoked salts. Try to tease out the differences between Alderwood Smoke and Fumee de Sel. See if you can taste the subtle sweetness in Fumee de Sel, compared to the more robust Alderwood Smoke. Note how the size of the crystals affects the flavor.
Enjoy your tasting, share your comments and stay tuned for the next salt tasting installment.
Posted September 2nd, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Boathouse, news, Salt Chef, Traverse City
Beyond the Shaker was referred to in the Cook’s Corner Section of the Traverse City Record Eagle, and we are just so darn happy. Traverse City is incredibly important to us and our vision and our salt and so it is a great honor to be noticed by this fantastic northern Michigan publication. Our Salt Chef, Eric Nittolo, works out of Traverse City at the Boathouse Restaurant with owner Doug Kosch, who is a great friend of Beyond the Shaker. We are excited about the attention that is being generated by our line of salt blends and the approach we are taking toward salt in general.