GUIDE: Mark Bitterman

The Salt Vault

Portland’s maestro of all things saline—co-owner of the Meadow and author of Salted: A Manifesto—shares four salts no kitchen should be without.

 

 

1. Black Flake Salt 

“With flake salt, you get a bright, electric snap that subsides quickly—a fresh pop of salt that doesn’t  

 overpower food. It’s great on salads and steamed veggies. A black flake salt also has fantastic visual drama—it’s tantalizing on baked potatoes with a dollop of crème fraiche.” 

 

 

 

2. Sel Gris

“Any good French sel gris is a fantastic option: it’s coarse and briny, with a ton of moisture. It’s dynamic and playful. Put it on top of something big and moist and hearty, like rib-eye steak or bone marrow, and you get amazing flavors. It’s almost like sprinkling fresh herbs on top.”

 

3. Fleur de Sel

“This fine, granular, moist salt has a delicate, minerally crunch. It’s the perfect all-purpose finishing salt for most foods, from cooked vegetables to scrambled eggs to fish, and it’s the best thing in the world with bread and butter. It’s badass salt to have in the kitchen.” 

 

4. Smoked Salt

“My favorite is cold-smoked with alder wood—it’s got a clean, bright, and woodsy taste. Put it on vanilla bean ice cream, or on seafood. A furtive sprinkling sets off an outdoorsy flavor. It’s great for the Northwest—people would suffer from less depression in this city if they had smoked salt.”

 

Spice Route

 The lowdown on intriguing spices showing up on portland menus

 

 Korean Chile Powder 

Spotted at: Boke Bowl

“I love it for its sweetness and mellow spice finish, and its unique smokiness. We use it for a number of things at Boke Bowl—primarily as a base for our kimchi, but also as a garnish for ice cream or on our corn, with bacon. It’s also amazing sprinkled on summer melons or mango. In any recipe that calls for chile powder, like a rub or a sauce, give it a try!” —chef Patrick Fleming

 

 

 Cardamom 

Spotted at: Beast

“I think cardamom is one of the most underused spices. It’s got this great, intense flavor—just a few little pods really brighten things up. It’s so floral, so menthol-y. People think of it as a spice for ethnic foods, but I really like sneaking it into unexpected things, like bread, or ice cream, or apple pie—or in a brine or pickling liquid. There’s just so much bang for your buck.” —chef/owner Naomi Pomeroy

 

 Nigella Seed

Spotted at: Smallwares

“People also call it black cumin. It’s really common in Indian food like curry powders and flatbreads. It’s got a kind of oniony, cumin taste. I throw it in our squid salad for a nice sesame-seed note. I also use it in my spice blend for our quail dish. It’s really versatile, and it lasts forever. Sprinkle it in a salad for some texture and flavor.” —chef/owner Johanna Ware

 

 Amchoor Powder

Spotted at: Bollywood Theater

“At the restaurant, we make our own amchoor powder by drying green mangoes, but it’s also available at Indian markets. It’s got a really bright, slightly fruity but also acidic flavor—it’s tart and lively. We use it in our samosa filling because it pairs really well with potatoes. It’s really nice sprinkled on fresh cucumbers with salt, or with grilled corn. It kind of plays the same brightening role as lemon, but in a more interesting way.” —chef/owner Troy MacLarty 

 

 Piment d’Espelette

Spotted at: Laurelhurst Market

“Viridian Farms is really making this Basque chile powder famous throughout Portland. I tend to use it as a finishing spice—I put it on pork loin as it’s resting or on tuna carpaccio for a nice, sweet heat with peppery, floral notes. It’s perfect for a home cook—just a half ounce can last you months.” —chef/owner David Kreifels


ADVANCED SHOPPING: PORTLAND PANTRY 

Fifteen local condiments and goodies for your cupboard

 
This hyper-local honey is sourced from backyard hives around town, expressing the terroir of individual neighborhoods.