November 17, 2008

Salt of the Earth: Joseph Conrad's Secret Stash

Joseph Conrad, the novelist, wanted "by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel... before all, to make you see." Joseph Conrad, the chef, wants to make you taste.

Joseph%20Conrad%20%26%20Janna%20Wemmer.JPGConrad the novelist wrote The Secret Sharer and The Secret Agent; Conrad the chef created a secret stash of flavored condiments. Conrad the novelist died in 1924; Conrad the chef is very much alive, and wasn't deterred by the demise of his latest culinary assignment (at Qube). Handed lemons, Conrad made lemonade. He and business partner Janna Wemmer promptly set about creating Secret Salts, a business based on his ability to impart a great variety of flavors to the delicate and flakey fleur de sel crystals from the island of Ré off the Atlantic coast of France.

So far, Secret Salts is available in a dozen or so flavors; they have nothing to do with the bitter, chemical-laced Bacon Salt that's been getting a lot of attention locally. Nor with a whole shelf of "seasoning salts" (like Lawry's) that shake up an assortment of dry ingredients.

The least challenging of Conrad's blends is Bloody Mary salt (great for tomato-based drinks, or perhaps for a grilled steak). Also straightforward flavors like lavender-rosemary, and olive-niçoise. Intensely flavored soy and complex blends like pineapple-cumin-chili taste terrific on pork chops; coconut garam masala works beautifully as a seasoning for Indian dishes, or even roast lamb. For the holidays, the new apple-five-spice gives a touch of the exotic to pies and stuffings. The caramel salt, a good idea on paper, is too sticky for some folks.

The salts are available online and at several farmers markets, in 3.5-ounce jars for about $15. Since a teaspoon of these condiments goes a long way, it might make sense down the road to provide an option in a smaller size, or a three-salt sampler.

Conrad the novelist gave his character Kurtz (in Heart of Darkness) those famous last words, "The horror, the horror." Conrad the chef has penned no last words, thank goodness, but "stimulate," "highlight" and "accentuate" wouldn't be inappropriate.

For comments on the morning news: see earlier posts, "The Fish, Boss, the Fish" and "The 12-Year-Old Foodie."

Posted by Ronald Holden at November 17, 2008 2:30 PM | TrackBack

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