I didn’t think I was into salt. I was wrong. In 2012 I vacationed in Camden, Maine, a charming little seaside town that forever changed my opinion of salt. There’s a wide variety of salts available in the stores around Camden but it was Natalie’s that really rocked my world.
Natalie’s served me hands-down one of the best meals of my life. I would get on a plane at a moment’s notice to experience dinner again. Most notably, they brought out a flight of salts for us to select for our bread and butter. (Sadly, I didn’t have this website yet and didn’t get a photo of the salt selection.) I couldn’t believe the difference flavored sea salts made. I was hooked. It was such a simple thing really but I had never once (and still have never) seen that done in Texas. I brought several sea salts home with me from Maine and cook with them frequently.
These days I get most of my salt supply from Clara Ida Frances in Winnsboro, Texas. (Read my blog about Winnsboro here.) You may have seen the stunning Clara Ida Frances logo on The Rose Table before; I keep a jar of their French Grey Sea Salt on my table at all times. It’s the best salt for buttered bread. I’m always eager to pop into the cheerful shop and pick up more goodies for my home and kitchen.
Many of my recipes call for specialty salts such as Meyer Lemon Sea Salt, Garlic Sea Salt, and Mediterranean Herb Sea Salt. I don’t want anyone to see that in a recipe and feel discouraged from trying a recipe so I decided to dedicate a blog post to salt and was ecstatic that Clara Ida Frances owner Janice Schma invited me to come in for a salt tasting.
Janice had the genius idea to use watermelon for the salt tasting. We should all be so clever! Watermelon is the perfect vehicle for salt tasting, particularly since it’s so thirst quenching.
I took my parents with me since (a) I trust their opinions about food and (b) they had just spent several days hosting me and my friends at their lake house so it was a nice change of pace to sit down and enjoy a flavor flight.
From left to right, we sampled Clara Ida Frances’ Pacific Fusion, French Grey, Basil and Garlic, California, Alaea Hawaiian, Meyer Lemon, and Smoked BBQ. Dad preferred the Basil and Garlic, I loved the Alaea Hawaiian, and my mom chose the French Grey as her favorite after much dithering. We ended up taking home jars and jars and even tried three with dinner that night: smoked BBQ on steaks, Basil and Garlic on buttered corn on the cob, and Alaea Hawaiian on the tomato-cucumber salad.
I hope you read this and feel inspired to purchase a few gourmet sea salts. Most are about $10 for a jar and will elevate any dish. Start with a good table salt such as French Grey, a garlicky salt to add a flavor punch to any pasta sauce or veggie dish, and one a bit out of your comfort zone for fish or meat, whichever you eat more. I already love Meyer Lemon Sea Salt with seafood and am excited to start sharing recipes featuring the Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt.
The Clara Ida Frances sea salts will be available for purchase online starting in September. Until then you can give them a ring, tell them The Rose Table sent you, and get these salts shipped to you anywhere in the world. But if you do find yourself in Winnsboro, take some time to look around. For now, tour the shop with me: