Last week, The Lady paired Moonstruck Chocolates with some of her sea salts and I reviewed them here although I wasn’t allowed to partake of those luscious morsels of cocoa and sugar… “Don’t want the baby boy to get a tummy ache”… what a crock… The Lady and The Man didn’t want to share… shame on them…

What I failed to mention in that blog post is that The Lady has quietly been building a salt cellar in the kitchen at the manse, grain by grain. Those who know her know she does nothing half-heartedly; moderation doesn’t exist in her life. In The Lady’s world, if it’s worth doing… then you do it well and with total abandon… and as it turns out, salt would be no exception… the things The Man tolerates… the things I tolerate…

On the counter above the olive bar at The Lady’s kiosk, is the specialty sea salts display that The Lady sells. There are a total of twelve and The Lady has purchased small containers of each of them. Now a salt shaker of Himalayan Pink graces the dining table; Cyprus White Flake and Murray River Flake sit on the cutting board where she prepares meals and a spice rack sitting next to the stove-top contains the rest.

Here’s what I have learned as The Lady “schools” The Man on the virtues of each salt:

Himalayan Pink:

This is now our “everyday” table salt.

Himalayan Pink, as the name implies, is a lovely pale-to-vivid pink that is mined by hand from ancient dried lakebeds, covered by volcanic lava, high in the Himalayans. This is a fossilized marine salt high in minerals and pure; nothing is added to this salt. In fact, in salt “circles”, Himalayan Pink is considered the purest salt on earth. What you see is what you get… and that’s a good thing. In addition to selling it in grain form for easy use, The Lady also sells it in rectangular and round blocks which can be used for cooking, serving and as décor.

To cook using a Himalayan Pink slab, you pre-heat your oven to 500° and heat the salt slab for 30 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, add a little EVOO to the top of the slab and sauté your thinly sliced veggies and meat. They take on a bit of the saltiness of the slab and sauté to perfection. When it cools, wipe it off with a clean, dry cloth and it’s good to go again… and again.

Himalayan Pink can also be used in the bath because it is naturally rich in more than 80 nourishing and skin-replenishing minerals. The Lady says that she has many customers purchase up to a pound at a time to be used for therapeutic reasons; claiming this salt soothes sore muscles, aids in digestion (reducing acid), lowers blood pressure and helps remove toxins from the body.

Murray River Flake:

Peach is a favorite color (and fruit) of The Lady’s so it is natural that she would like Murray River Flake. It is a delicate peach color and light with a mild flavor. It melts quickly and evenly making it ideal as a salt to use in cooking and finishing.

The waters of the Murray River of Australia, one of the largest on the continent, come from the snow of the Australian Alps. Salt is a natural feature there and the water settles in the Murray-Darling Basin which has low rainfall and a high evaporation rate. This is ideal for concentrating salt in the groundwater. This salt is produced naturally from the brine of the river and takes its color from the beta carotene secreted from the algae. The underground waters have been dormant for eons and from them this salt is produced.

Cyprus Flake:

The Lady claims this is a favorite of chefs. This salt is a bright white, shaped in pyramids and holds its crunch when used as a finishing salt. This salt tastes like the Mediterranean Sea around the island of Cyprus; you can smell the sweet, salt air when you let a flake melt on your tongue. You use less of this salt as it holds its shape when sitting atop food making its finish quite satisfying.

Fleur de Sel:

Many consider this the best of all sea salts. It is hand-harvested in salt pans as the sea water evaporates. Often the name will also include the area where it is harvested such as Fleur de Sel de Guerande which is harvested on the Guerande Peninsula of France. This salt is absolutely delicious with chocolate. Although, I personally would not be able to confirm this because of the selfishness of The Lady when it comes to sharing her chocolate… but I bitch and digress…

Bit of trivia: Only the top layer from these salt pans becomes Fleur de Sel as it is the purest. The layers below become Sel Gris, another salt that The Lady has in her salt rack. For every 80 kilos of Sel Gris (which means “grey salt”) only 1 kilo of Fleur de Sel is produced. As you might expect, Fleur de Sel is one of the more expensive of the salts The Lady sells. (It is three times the cost of Sel Gris.)

Sel Gris:

As mentioned above, this sea salt is grey in color; almost a dingy grey. It is the third most popular of the salts The Lady sells. France is the leading producer of Sel Gris but (surprise!), China is now producing Sel Gris. Italy also produces a respectable Sel Gris. It has an almost briny taste and is great on preparing and serving fish.

Hawaiian Alaea:

This salt is a deep red color and is harvested on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai. The coarse grains make it pretty and ideal for presentation. It has a hint of sweetness to it and is great for grilling and sprinkled on mild aged cheeses such as Mahon or Chaumes.

A bit of trivia: The Island of Molokai does not have a single traffic light…

Others that The Lady sells include: Bolivian Rose, Hawaiian Black Lava, Mediterranean Fine Grain, Atlantic Coarse Grain and two smoked salts: Fumee de Sel from France and Salish Alderwood from Wahington State.

The Lady also has a Habanero-flavored salt that she purchased at Foster and Dobbs in NE Portland.

For more information, The Lady recommends you visit the Saltworks Sea Salt website, which is the company that supplies her with The Salts she sells.

Also, please check out the cheese, salts and chocolate pairings we recommend by clicking here.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, the popular Seattle artisan cheesemaker, will open a factory and shop 3,000 miles east of its Pike Place Market location.

By Melissa Allison , Seattle Times business reporter

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, meet the Big Apple.

Seattle’s popular artisan cheesemaker is taking a great big bite, with a factory and shop opening next winter 3,000 miles east of its only other location, in Pike Place Market.

The space on the southeast corner of Broadway and East 20th Street in Manhattan is more than twice the size of Beecher’s current spot. Its 8,000 square feet will include a below-ground wine bar and a cheese cave for aging cheeses that are made on the premises.

Founder and owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier got the idea for a Manhattan store a couple of years ago, when he visited New York to be on “The Martha Stewart Show.”

His business case goes like this: “We sell the bulk of our cheese within a three-hour drive of Pike Place Market, and there are about 2 million people in a three-hour radius of Pike Place Market. There are about 20 million people in a three-hour radius of Manhattan. My simple math says if we can be one-tenth as successful there, we’re going to do great.”

Beecher’s will use its retail outlet in Manhattan as a marketing vehicle, like it does in Seattle, where only about 10 percent of sales come from the store. Most sales are through grocery and specialty markets that sell its cheeses — particularly its Flagship cheese, a cross between cheddar and Gruyere — and other products like frozen macaroni and cheese.

It sells cheese in about 35 states and a handful of other countries, but 70 percent of its sales are local.

People see cheese being made at its glassed-in Pike Place Market factory and remember that experience when they see Beecher’s products in their stores. Even tourists get hooked.

“The window is what got us at first,” said Annie Nguyen, a visitor from Las Vegas lunching at Beecher’s on Tuesday afternoon. Her friend, Yesenia Palma, thinks the cheese-making room should have a microphone so people can hear what the cheesemakers say.

Lucy Wilma, a guide for Seattle Food Tours who eats lunch at Beecher’s daily, thinks New Yorkers will be drawn to the cheese-making aspect as well.

“I think of New York as being a real foodie city. Having a new proprietor of old-world craftsmanship will intrigue them,” Wilma said.

Beecher’s is among a handful of Northwest retailers setting up shop in Manhattan. Nordstrom Rack is opening there this spring, glass votive maker Glassybaby of Seattle opened a shop last year, and Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters opened last fall in the Manhattan location of Ace Hotel, itself a Northwest brand.

Dammeier said Beecher’s Manhattan store will be similar to the one in Seattle, “but maybe not so farmhouse-y, maybe more turn-of-the-century industrial-looking on the ground floor.”

He expects the expansion to more than double his employee count from 35 people now, including cheesemakers, retail and wholesale workers.

He does not expect to open a third store for Beecher’s, which he founded in late 2003.

“I’d guess this is going to be it,” he said. “We needed something that would not feel outclassed by Pike Place Market, and when you start using that bar, it eliminates most places from consideration.”

The new place, a few blocks north of Union Square, isn’t expected to open until February. That’s because Dammeier is constructing a cheese factory in the space — and he’ll be busy for the next few months co-chairing the 27th Annual American Cheese Society Conference that Seattle will host in August.

“It’s a four-day conference and competition with 1,000 attendees, 1,300 to 1,400 cheeses and like a $1 million budget,” he said. “I can’t even focus on this thing until that’s done.”

But he can be excited.

“New Yorkers are cheese crazy, and New York is just where it all is,” Dammeier said. “If you want to go to the top, that’s where you go. They love cheese in New York. Love, love, love cheese.”

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

Humboldt Made is a series of segments featuring the entrepreneurs of Humboldt County, showcasing its beauty and world class products.

This segment features Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Chevre. Directed & Produced by Maria Matteoli. Director of Photography: Kenneth Thomas. Music by Maria Matteoli. FilmHumboldt. humboldtmade.com