I had a whole list of things I was prepared to be excited about at the Fancy Foods Show in New York, but salt was not one of them. Was I ever surprised! Naturally-flavored salts were everywhere at the show, and we sampled several that we could not stop talking about.
My favorite was a vanilla fleur de sel from Madecasse, a company that features products from Madagascar. I usually associate vanilla with sweets, but the seductive aroma of the vanilla bean was a welcome presence in this coarse-grain salt. It was not sweet at all, but rich and smooth, just like high-quality vanilla. You have to use your imagination when you're tasting salt by itself, so as I tasted I dreamed of sprinkling it on grilled vegetables, grilled salmon, and fresh tomato slices. Actually, I want to sprinkle it on everything I eat from now on.
My colleagues Jennifer and Holley raved about the black truffle salt from K.L. Keller, Imports and the idea of sprinkling it on popcorn. I believe that would just take popcorn to a whole new level.
Our other favorites from the show came from Lord of Salt, makers of naturally-flavored hand-harvested sea salts. We were drawn to the booth to try the chocolate salt and the pinot noir salt, which were both quite tasty, but all three of us really loved the serrano lime sea salt and could envision using it on grilled shrimp or fish, on homemade tortilla chips, a south-of-the-border salad, or perhaps in a Bloody Mary. Lords of Salt also has hazelnut, chardonnay, and olive salts.
If you want a simple way to transform your dishes, I highly recommend replacing your table salt with one of these artisan finishing salts. And you only need to use a tiny sprinkle to get big flavor.