11.17.13 | Everyone, Mark Bitterman, salt expert, author and merchant extraordinaire, says, has a salt story. I’d just told him mine, about the thrill of seeing the salt marshes in Ile de Re in the mid-1990s, and returning home with an abundance of sel gris, some of which I shared with a chef friend. I used that sel gris sparingly, on things like roasted asparagus or roast chicken or roasted root vegetables, until eventually there was no more, at which point I resorted to a narrow selection of salt, Morton’s and, when a recipe called for it, kosher.
Then, on a trip to Chicago several years ago, I came upon The Spice House, a specialty shop near the North Side / Old Town part of town. This visit expanded my salt horizons to include Hawaiian black lava sea salt and red alaea sea salt. I was over the moon, and took a liking to the red alaea. The baked salmon I make using red alaea sea salt has become a part of my repertoire. (Recipe below.)
Then, in the most expansive salt experience of all, there was an event in D.C., hosted by Visit Portland, which featured a dinner menu designed by the aforementioned Mark Bitterman, who spoke after our meal. (Interestingly, he didn’t plug his store, The Market.) I wish I’d saved that menu. I remember halen mon gold smoked sea salt paired with a subtle ice cream or maybe it was crème caramel. Either way, it was heaven on earth, this salt of the earth at every course and turn. At the end of the evening, we each got a bottle of Garibaldi salt and a copy of his book, Salted: A Manifesto.
Lucky for me, my friends now know I’m a salt enthusiast, and generously ply me with gifts of salt they pick up on their travels. My friend Marie-Elise brought me back an organic applewood smoked salt she’d bought at the Ithaca Coffee Company (along with two packets of peppercorn) this summer. (I inquired by phone this afternoon, and they don’t sell their salt online, they only sell it in bulk at their store.) My friend Tracey gave me a stash of Jacobson Salt she got on a trip to Portland in September. Just this week, and what inspired this post, is my friend Maria giving me a jar of natural sea salt from Eggemoggin Salt Works, which is collected near her family’s house in Deer Hill, Maine. Delightful!
I will never want for salt with friends like these.
I’m especially partial to smoked salts. Besides the halen mon I tasted at the Visit Portland dinner, and the one my friend brought back from Ithaca, I’ve taken to a Northwest alderwood smoked sea salt I discovered in a store while I was traveling last summer, to visit family in Connecticut. It’s intoxicating.
Now, what’s a blog post without some links?
GQ: Chocolate and Salt Tasting with the Portlandia crew and The Meadow’s Mark Bitterman | September 2013 (With Fred Armisen!)
A Pinch of Salt Has Never Tasted So American | Smithsonian | 9.13.13
Lessons from Mark Bitterman | Food & Wine | August 2012
The Super Power of Salt | The History Channel (Bryan Cranston narrates!)
BB’s Salmon With Red Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt and Pepper and Orange Juice
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
I make this in a Pyrex dish. I coat the dish with olive oil, then coat the salmon with olive oil and place is skin down in the dish. Then I pour the orange juice over the salmon. I add pepper and salt to taste. Getting the salt right is tricky, it’s easy to under- and overdo it. I suppose the best way to describe the right amount for me is it looks like dotted Swiss. Bake until done.
11.16.13 | I’ve lived on the same block for nearly 20 years, the longest time I’ve lived in any one location, including my childhood home. In the years between college and settling into my charming, two-bedroom, pre-war abode, I moved every two years. (The upside there was every move inspired a major edit, a purge of the first order. How we accumulate when we stay in one spot!) So, I know the neighborhood like, as folks like to say, the back of my hand. I share the block with another large apartment building, two restaurants, a copy shop (they take passport photos, send faxes, that kind of thing) and a corner store that saves my arse when I don’t want to deal with the long lines at the Safeway one block over. One of the restaurants is Chief Ike’s, and in the past year or so, it’s become a home away from home, a place I hang, and drink and dine, about once a week. Tracey, the chef, makes the best pizza, as well as fab chiles, soups, burgers. I love her cooking. Rob the bartender is a sweetie, too. Here’s to my local pub!
11.10.13 | It’s been awhile. I don’t post here much these days. Busy, busy. I’ve got an on-site assignment that involves a commute. My car radio was on the fritz when I started the assignment back in mid-July. It gets some error code I can’t decipher. I was going to get it fixed but then, after several days of driving into the sun in both directions, for as little as three and as many as five hours a day, I realized the silence in the car might be preferable to airwave blather. It’s quite relaxing, this contemplative driving, especially in the morning. I highly recommend it.
I love this stamp. I’ve got a quiet summer ahead. I’m going to scoot up to Connecticut to visit family and that’s about it as far as travel plans go.
— Barbara Benham (@TravelSweeps)
5.8.13 | Banjo Boy’s headed to San Sebastian this weekend, for his last independent travel. Three weeks from today, he will be home, and my nine-month stretch of transatlantic parenting will be but a memory. Like so many things parenting, some days were harder than others. On the days I missed him so much I thought my heart would burst, I reminded myself that his experience was worth every longing.
5.7.13 | Oh, to win a safari. That’s been one of my greatest sweeps fantasies. This safari sweeps is from the adventure-outfitter Sobek, in honor of its 40th anniversary. The package consists of a 12-day Tanzania safari, through the magically inspiring Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park, as well as a round-trip flight from Exito Travel and assorted travel gear from Magellan’s.
To enter, click HERE. You can enter once through July 16, 2013. Go for it!
5.1.13 | I’ve been writing recaps for my favorite TV show of all time, Mad Man, over at Reel LIfe With Jane, the sensational site devoted to film and television and run by the phenomenal Jane Boursaw. It’s a complicated season, my second as one of the Mad Men obsessed, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride. Here are my recaps.
Here’s a line from last week’s episode that sheds light on Don Draper’s struggle to love his children.
Then one day they get older and you see them do something and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have and it feels like your heart is going to explode.
— Don Draper, “The Flood,” S06 E05.
And this being Travel Sweeps, what would a post be without a shoutout for a chance to win a trip? There’s still time to enter AMC’s Hawaiian sweepstakes for a four-night stay at the Royal Hawaiian, the hotel featured in the Season’s Six opening episode. The sweeps closes May 7. You can enter daily until then. Go for it!
4.18.13 | I won four nights at the Majestic Colonial Resorts in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic from Expedia in yesterday’s #ExpediaChat on Twitter. Amazing! Look at the beach, at that water! The prize is for two adults. I’m confirming that I can take my son as my guest. He’s sixteen. I hope it flies. He’s been three times, with his dad, so this is amusing. I’m planning on snorkeling and swimming and taking long walks on that gorgeous stretch of sand.
4.12.13 | Two weeks ago I attended my very first DC Travel Tweetup, a gathering of travel-inclined folks who get together on a regular basis and organize themselves on Twitter under the hashtag #DCTravelTweetup. It was great fun to meet several people I know through Twitter in person, including Marilyn Terrell, National Geographic Traveler’s chief researcher and, under the handle @Marilyn_Res, an engaging and generous Twitter presence.
The event took place at Edgar Bar and Kitchen, off the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel (a Marriott property, if hotels are your thing). I sat with two new-to-me faces, a blogger who posts photos of D.C. and a woman who’s building a blog of her own. (Normally I’d include their names, but I misplaced their business cards!) I ordered some appetizers and a cherry martini and sat back while panelists Ann Tran, Marilyn Terrell and Kerry O’Shea Gorgone (@KerryGorgone) shared blogging tips and inspiration.
The highlight of the evening for me was a story. When Marilyn Terrell was traveling in Croatia several years ago, she exchanged email addresses with someone. There was confusion because in Croatian, the “@” sign is not referred to as “at,” rather, it’s got a wonderfully visually inspired name: monkey. Apparently, in an iteration that would make Rorschach proud, the “@” sign takes names of the things it resembles, from, depending on the country, the animal and plant world to the kitchen. The Israelis call that “@” sign strudel, the Danes a cinnamon bun, the Italians and the French snail. Back at the ranch, I hopped on my computer and found several articles about this phenomenon, including this charmingly informative one in the Washington Post, which references this article from the website Herodios.com.
Here, from the Herodios article, are two of my favorites – and this is just the d’s!
In Danish it’s either called “alfa-tegn” [alpha-sign] or “snabel,” [elephant’s trunk]. Obviously the former is the more formal useage, but the latter term is used most often when refering to e-mail addresses.
The @ sign is also sometimes called “grisehale” [pig’s tail].
The imaginations of Dutch speaking people seem to have worked overtime to come up with names for this little symbol. The original name was “een a met een slinger” [an a with a swing ], but was soon more popularly called either “apestaart” or the diminutive “apestaartje” [(little) monkey’s tail] or “slingeraap” [swinging monkey”]
Other names attested:
"a-krol" or "a-krul," [curly a].
"slinger-atje" [little swing a]
"apeklootje" [little monkey’s testicle].
Since nearly everyone in the Netherlands also speaks English, and as more and more people go on-line, the English term is increasingly recognized.
I can’t begin to imagine what various countries would do with the ampersand. As for the punctuation of the moment, the practical hashtag, that seems to be “hashtag” in many countries. Except in France, where they tried to ban it earlier this year. Who knew comparative punctuation could be so fun!