Back to the Future at Salts Restaurant

Submitted for your consideration:

Three chefs, two weeks, one writer. Cleveland is the common denominator. Coincidence?

One chef, at Salts, uses modern techniques, even futuristic ones, to present traditional comfort foods. Familiar flavors and combinations artfully presented, profiles orchestrated and presented just so…a risotto with a foam, for example.

Who will admit to being old enough to remember where that comes from…? Rod Serling, Twilight Zone, of course.

Here’s a question: I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting three chefs from Cleveland in two weeks. I enjoyed their food tremendously. I got to know the three chefs in person and over the phone/emails. I am the better for it. Solid guys, all.

So, to all you Buckeyes…I’m wondering what are your theories about what’s going on in Cleveland that it keeps turning out such good chefs?

Do drop me a line and let me know.

A frog, a rabbit and a duck. A great meal, an interesting fable.

Recently, we enjoyed a terrific meal at Salts Restaurant In Cambridge MA. Frog, rabbit and duck were on the menu. Step into the way-back machine for this story which might have driven even Serling wild.

Submitted here for your consideration: a Tibetan fable about how their sacred golden-breasted ducks obtained their golden breast feathers.

A frog and a rabbit had a wager set to help them decide which would get the pot of gold they’d discovered while playing together on a mountain.

The frog outwits the speedier rabbit but then cannot carry the spoils of his deceit down the mountain. The duck (not yet a sacred yellow) sees the frog and asks of his dilemma. The duck carries the pot down the mountain after agreeing with the frog that half the gold would be his for his efforts. At the base of the mountain, the duck finds the gold to be so beautiful he smears it all over his breast feathers. That is how the sacred ducks acquired their beautiful gold breast.

Moral of the story?

  • true riches are not measured in gold. That’s one read.
  • Perhaps beauty is wealth?
  • Maybe the moral of the story is that riches should not be gained by deceit or greed?
  • Maybe less wealth is the price of vanity?

While you ponder this conundrum…here’s a proverb from the same Tibetan source:

When life ends you may arise and have peace with Droma, but nevertheless it’s a great calamity when the rock rolls down the mountain and takes your life.

So, before a rock rolls down the mountain and takes your life…fly or hop over to Salts and have yourself a beautiful meal while contemplating the concepts of joy, greed, deceit, and beauty.

Maybe meals don’t have to come with any morals or stories. Maybe they can just be enjoyed. Ours was certainly one that we enjoyed a great deal. Like reading a good book…after it’s done, you find its memory lingers, the characters feel like a friend who just left the room. I kept pining for some leftover duck…my mind playing tricks on me, wasn’t there a bit leftover?

Our meal at Salts:

  • Hot sourdough rolls just-from-the-oven warm, blistery crust, chewy center. Salted softened butter.
  • Verdad Rosé from Santa Barbara
  • Amuse Bouche: chilled tomato soup with Serrano ham crisps; HB egg, chervil, crouton. This did exactly what “amuse bouche” is meant to do: pique your anticipation, tease your palate.
  • First Course (addition to the menu): Frog leg risotto, garlic scapes foam, frizzled parsley. The risotto was perfectly executed. Rice done well and slightly loose. Garlic scapes foam added a nice note while not being substantial enough to compete with the flavors of the risotto.
  • Rabbit tortelloni with Salts Farm fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms, tempura lemon confit, smoked parmigiano. Another well executed and well-conceived dish. Earthy rabbit complemented with nice tender crisp favas. The tempura fried confit lemons were the perfect tart note in this earthy dish.
  • 2005 Domaine des Fouques Cotes de Provence – more earthy leathery notes than I would have expected from a Cotes de Provence red. It was a good choice for the duck, however, and not heavy so as to overpower.

I dislike the trend of careless preparation passed off as “country style” or “rustic” food. Rustic and country food, when I’ve had it in authentic settings anywhere, has always been done with great care. So it is at Salts. While I would not describe the food here as rustic, it struck me that this duck is a reminder of how many lesser dishes around town are described as “rustic” to hide their poor execution.

  • Lavender honey glazed whole roasted boneless duck for two with leeks, roasted peaches, and Salts Farm turnips. This was semi-boneless, carved tableside and artfully so. The vegetables were obviously done with care, not carelessly roasted. Perfectly tender baby turnips lending a slight bitter note to the unctuous roasted peach and the rich duck. Leeks and cippolini were beautiful. And yet another tender-crisp vegetable, shaped like okra but it looked pink, a radish perhaps?
  • Chilled Peach soup with Jasmine parfait and local strawberries

This was another dish that shows Chef Bremer’s deft touch. Peaches are set off with ginger or cardamom, perhaps and bits of ripe strawberry (beautifully diced into perfect cubes) almond croutons. Again, a thoughtful combination, expertly rendered.

To read more about Chef Gabriel Bremer read my two part interview in my Suite101 column:

We can’t wait to return to Salts. Hop into your vehicle of choice and get there soon. It is a rare thing to enjoy such a meal beginning to end. It would be a calamity to miss it.

Service and ambience were also comforting and welcoming. More refined than my grandma’s but no less warm and wonderful.

Salts Restaurant

798 Main Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

617 876 8444

~ by jacqueline1230 on August 12, 2008.

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