Tuesday, May 19, 2015

La Jolla Salt Company: From the Pier to the Plate

We Americans love our salt. But as we grow more conscious of using it judiciously, the emphasis focuses on the quality and flavor of this powerful mineral. You likely grew up with the idea that salt magically manifested from a blue cardboard cylinder sporting a young girl in a yellow dress with an over-sized umbrella. Morton Salt may still be the go-to for most households and restaurants, but the market for artisan salts--particularly finishing salts--is rising. In San Diego we have several options, now including La Jolla Salt Company.

La Jolla Salt Company's salts are different from some of the "artisan" sea salt brands you may already buy since those often start out coming from a business called SaltWorks. The salts are then mixed with flavor ingredients and repackaged. There's nothing wrong with that. The salts are usually quite good.

But La Jolla Salt Company harvests its salt from the Scripps Pier in La Jolla. Chris Polley, the founder and owner of La Jolla Salt Company, started out in this venture as a chef for Matt Gordon at Urban Solace, where he's been working for three years. Given that the restaurant makes so many of its own condiments, Polley thought it would be a good idea to make their own salt, too.

He admits that the salt at first wasn't all that good, but he continued to make adjustments to perfect it--working on this project at his home during his off time.

So, how does it work? Polley goes to the Scripps Pier, where there's a purified water hose available for public use. Filling buckets of water that he takes to his new space rented from graphic designer Daniel Heffernan of Clove St Press in Barrio Logan, Polley evaporates the water over three induction burners to create sheets of salt that fall and break into crispy flakes. The process takes two days. He keeps some of the salt in its natural state. He also creates several flavors--lime, black truffle, smoked, ghost chili, rosemary, lavender, and bacon. Polley then packages the salts in pouches, jars, and even small tins that you can take with you to a restaurant to use when you eat out.

I've been besotted by the flavor and texture of these salts. I love sprinkling the bacon sea salt on scrambled eggs. You get a smokey crunch that complements the creamy eggs. I've taken to sprinkling the lime salt on salmon and other fish. The black truffle salt is perfection in a baked potato, on popcorn, or blended into a vinaigrette.

I'm not the only fan. Richard Blais uses the salts at Juniper & Ivy. Gordon, of course, uses the salts at his three restaurants. And Matt Richman uses them at his Table 926.

You can buy La Jolla Salt online and at several retailers in San Diego, including The Heart & Trotter Butcher Shop, Geographie Shop, Teter, Urban Beach Girl, Urban Beach House, and Azucar.

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