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Portland's Salt Seller

The Meadow, in Portland, Ore., sells over 100 kinds of salt.

Portland's Salt Seller, Mark Bitterman, image
Photo caption
Mark Bitterman suggests Himalayan pink salt quarried in Pakistan.

Mark Bitterman roamed the globe hunting special salt for 20 years before he and his wife, Jennifer, opened the Meadow, a gourmet shop selling more than 100 kinds of salt in Portland’s North Mississippi neighborhood. Mark’s obsession crystallized in late 2010 with the publication of Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes, a comprehensive guide.

Q A hundred varieties of salt? Really?
A We have marble-size salt from Djibouti. Our Hana Flake from Japan is überrare, incredibly complex, and makes you think of the throwing stars used in martial arts. The mineral-rich Icelandic Hot Springs looks like chalk and tastes like lightning. Italy’s Fiore di Cervia is lightly fruity.

Q What makes good salt?
A Three characteristics: crystal size and shape; moisture content, which affects suppleness of crunch and how it dissolves on foods; and mineral content, which gives salt its unique flavor—briny, bitter, spicy, sweet.

Q Why North Mississippi?
A We like this area for its many family-owned businesses. In keeping with its homey style, I teach intimate classes such as Introduction to Artisan Salt—each includes wine and concludes with chocolate.

Q Is there a perfect salt for every food?
A I recommend three core salts. For cooking, use sel gris, which has big crystals and lots of moisture. For red meats, keep a finishing salt that has a distinctive flavor. For salads, stock a flake salt with snappy texture.

Photography by Don Frank

This article was first published in January 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.