Random Musings on Salt from 28 Hours in Ann Arbor
Posted September 14th, 2009 by Chris
Filed under: Chef's Blend, Citrus Basil, Hickory Maple, Hot Habanero, Michigan, salt samples, Windy City Celery
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.
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.
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.