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Gourmet Salts: Restaurants’ Way of Making Up For Less Salt In Food

Here we are, thinking that our palates are doomed because of the impending federal regulations about salt. The last few months saw restaurants cutting back on their use of sodium, in preparation for the next laws that would require them to use the mineral sparingly.

But Technomic’s Menu Monitor, which tracks over 2,000 restaurants across America, gave us a bit of good news. It seems our taste buds would still be opened up by this great flavor enhancer.

Studies show that salt citations on restaurants chains and independent dining places have grown by 144% in the past five years. The actual amount of salt in our food may have been lessened, but many more dishes are beginning to feature swankier versions of the mineral. We can call it the evolution of salt.

“Salt and pepper is quite common in every restaurant’s menu in quality menu cover,” said Darren Tristano, Technomic’s EVP. “But over the years, we have seen more spice blended, artisan and specialty finishing salts that restaurant chefs have largely introduced across their entrees, appetizers and dessert items. Although this first happened in fine dining restaurants, the trend is catching up in mainstream fast casual dining, casual, as well as quick service chains.”

“This fact does not mean, though, that the restaurant industry is not doing its task to decrease the total sodium content of our food. The usage of the mineral has been consistently reduced over the past years, despite the increase of the use of these gourmet spices,” Tristano pointed out.

Some of these gourmet salts include:

Dragon Salt. Asian stir-fry chain Genghis Grill mixed salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger and Cajun spices into a blend they call Dragon Salt.

Sea Salt. Old Chicago Restaurants featured salt and vinegar French fries, while Wendy’s rolled-out their Natural-Cut Sea Salt Fries last year. Boston-based Japanese fusion restaurant O Ya matches up their Seared Petit Strip Loin with a Potato Confit with Sea Salt White Truffle Oil. Tanuki Tavern, a Japanese gastropub located in New York, features their Hawaiian black lava sea salt with their Miso Braised Beef Marrow.

Up until lately, sea salt has been considered a basic commodity. Gourmet chefs, apparently have learned to appreciate this type of salt, distinguishing it from all other types. Among the many types of sea salt are, finishing salts, flake salt, fleur de sel, grey salt, grinder salt, kala namak and smoked sea salt.

Maldon Salt. Chef Thomas Keller’ French Laundry in California recently recognized as the most expensive restaurant in the U.S. today, offers Caramel Ice Cream and Maldon Salt as their specialty dessert. Maldon salt is a unique kind of sea salt produced in England.

Salted Caramel. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill has Warm Chocolate Brownies topped with Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Sauce.

Black Lava Salt. A martini-extraordinaire labeled as Sea Salt Caramel Martini is offered by Ocean Prime’s menu in superior menu cover. It has Navan vanilla, Belvedere Vodka, caramel and Black Lava Salt. Sushi Samba serves Kimori cocktail with Nori-salt rim. Black lava salt is sea salt harvested from different places all over the world that were blended and colored with activated charcoal.