Beautiful Briny Sea’s “salt studio” is nestled inside a small industrial-looking building in the middle of an intown Atlanta neighborhood. Nothing on the exterior prepares you for the rush of intoxicating, sweet, spicy, floral, herbal and pungent aromas that hit you when you come in the door.
The salt studio is where you’ll find founder Suzi Sheffield and a crew of folks she calls “The Saltines” stirring up fragrant mixtures created solely to brighten your meals.
Every mixture tells a story. And the stories are as much fun, and as delicious to hear as the salts and sugars themselves.
One perennial best-seller is French Picnic Salt, redolent of mustard, garlic and herbs. “I love that salt. My favorite foods are pickled things, and spicy mustard and hard cheese and charcuterie. All the things you’d enjoy on a French picnic! So we built the salt to recreate those flavors – tangy, spicy and tart,” said Sheffield.
Also consider Campfire salt, with its mix of sumac, chili and cumin. “This one is totally about a flavor memory for me. I spent my summers in western North Carolina, camping under hemlocks by the water. The sumac in the mix is sour, like the sour blackberries we picked, and the ancho and cumin have that earthy taste that makes you think of campfires.”
What about Mr. Gigglepants — Beautiful Briny Sea’s hibiscus sugar? “This is one where I came up with the name and the character first. I wanted something gender-friendly, age-friendly, celebratory and fun. And I’d been wanting to do something with hibiscus. So it’s pink and it’s tart and sparkly. Look closely and you’ll see the elephant on the label says, ‘Tee hee!’ It works great in cocktails and balances vinaigrettes out really nicely, especially if you use it on a winter salad with bitter greens and sliced citrus. I think it would be fun in batters for pancakes and French toast and what about meringues?”
And Friends Forever, a combination of kosher salt and granulated honey? “I was doing things like trying to dehydrate honey myself when my friend Laura, the beekeeper at TruBee Honey, told me about granulated honey. It’s spun honey that’s dehydrated and then granulated. The grains are the same size as a grain of kosher salt and we mix it up with salt, half-and-half.”
What was the inspiration for that combination? “My sweetheart Robby loves salty and sweet so I made it for him. I think it’s the essence of salty tears and sweet hugs. He puts Friends Forever on everything including scrambled eggs and we have a lot of bars who use it in their cocktail programs. It’s good on buttered toast, roasted carrots, baked sweet potatoes, things like that.”
The ideas just pour out of Sheffield. “If you ask me what my strength is as a business owner, I have to say it’s being the creative person. I love generating ideas and I love thinking about flavor profiles and combinations. In fact I’m working right now with Williams-Sonoma in their product development section. It’s really what I love.”
It’s apparent she has plenty of ideas for every single item in her product line.
The inspiration comes from the stories behind each product. “Our packaging tells people to be creative and do whatever they want to do, like Robby’s salt and honey on his eggs. I don’t want to create an artisan product that you keep on your shelf and never use. I have plenty of nicely packaged jars of condiments I’ve never used; I don’t want to have ours be one of those products in someone’s kitchen.”
Thistruffle salt is the quintessential example of what Sheffield loves to create. She makes a simple combination of really good butter and her Truffle sea salt. Then the sky’s the limit on uses. Here are some of her suggestions:
- Open-face sandwiches of really good bread topped with fresh radish slices, arugula, minced herbs, hard boiled eggs or smoked salmon
- Adult Grilled Cheese made of rustic bread and Gruyere cheese smothered in truffle butter and grilled to perfection
- Scrambled eggs cooked with a pat of truffle butter and topped with minced chives
- Slathered on steak once it comes off the grill
- Melted and drizzled over popcorn
You could make this same flavored butter with any of the Beautiful Briny Sea salts. It would be terrific with French Picnic salt in a radish sandwich, or with Magic Unicorn in that Adult Grilled Cheese.
Makes 1/2 cup
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Truffle sea salt
Soften butter so that a spatula easily cuts through it. In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter and Truffle salt and mix with spatula until the sea salt is evenly distributed throughout the butter. Let stand 30 min at room temperature. Transfer to a covered container and keep in the refrigerator for up to three months.
Campfire Cauliflower Soup
Cauliflower is a great platform for the warm flavors of Beautiful Briny Sea’s Campfire salt. The apple or carrot adds a bit of sweetness to the soup and you can make it vegetarian, vegan or none of the above. Your choice. Garnish the soup with a little bit of Campfire salt just before serving, or rim your soup bowl with the salt for a festive presentation.
- 1 1/2 pounds cauliflower
- 3 leeks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, or your choice of fat
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 medium shallots, rough chopped
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 medium apple, chopped, or one carrot, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Campfire sea salt (or more to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
Trim cauliflower stem and leaves and cut florets into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.
Trim leeks and cut off dark green part of the leaves. Roughly chop white and light green part and rinse thoroughly.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, onion and shallot and saute until softened. Add cauliflower, broth and apple or carrot. Turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. After 3 minutes, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes. Stir in curry, Campfire salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Puree mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender. Process until smooth. If pureed in blender, return to pot. Stir in cream and/or water if the soup is too thick. Return to heat and cook on high just until it begins to bubble. Serve immediately and garnish with Campfire salt.
Mr. Gigglepants Vinaigrette
Sheffield reminds you that the quality of your vinaigrette is only as good as its ingredients. So use a really good olive oil and Champagne vinegar. The vinegar is the perfect choice for the sparkling flavors of the hibiscus salt.
Sheffield could dream up a dozen ways to use this vinaigrette. Here are three:
- On an arugula and winter green salad with sliced apples, jicama, toasted walnuts and freshly grated pecorino.
- On a salad of endive and Valencia orange sections garnished with snipped chives and pomegranate seeds.
- On grilled radicchio chopped and tossed with hand-torn butter lettuce. Add toasted almonds and freshly grated manchego cheese.
Don’t forget to sprinkle your salad with a little sparkle of Mr. Gigglepants.
Makes 1 1/4 cups
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Mr. Gigglepants Hibiscus Sugar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard and shallot. Add sugar, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
French Picnic Chicken Soup with Lemon and Parsnips
Sheffield said if you want a richer soup, use all chicken broth in the first step. To reduce the amount of fat in the final soup, make the initial broth the day before and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, skim fat and proceed with the recipe.
- 1 (3-pound) chicken or 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 ribs celery, divided
- 1 onion, skin on, cut in quarters
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 peeled shallot
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons French Picnic sea salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 scallions, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Possible aromatic additions to taste: 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley, 1 sprig thyme, 2 star anise and 1 cup cremini mushrooms.
In a stockpot with a heavy lid, combine chicken, water and chicken stock over medium heat. Add 2 ribs celery, onion halves, garlic, shallot and lemon quarters. Add any aromatic additions you want to use. Bring water to a boil and cook 10 minutes, then reduce to simmer and cover pot. If you’re cooking a chicken, simmer soup for 2 hours. If using chicken breasts, simmer soup 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out chicken and set aside. Strain broth and return to pot. Discard all vegetables. If possible, refrigerate overnight and remove fat.
When ready to serve soup, bring broth up to a simmer and add carrots, parsley, diced onion and French Picnic sea salt. Dice remaining 2 ribs celery and add to pot. Cover pot and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. While vegetables are cooking, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and pull it into bite-size pieces. Add as much as you like to the soup. If you don’t use it all, reserve for other uses. Simmer soup 30 more minutes and add lemon juice and scallions. Taste for seasoning.
Pocketful of Starlight Vanilla Butter Cookies
These very simple cookies are utterly addictive. Only four ingredients since the Pocketful of Starlight sugar is already flavored with vanilla.
Serves 6 to 8
Makes 30 cookies
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
- 1 cup Pocketful of Starlight Vanilla Sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
Additions: sprinkles, chopped pecans, a mixture of 3 tablespoons white sanding sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt, quartered brandy-soaked dried apricots.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until mixture is light colored and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix until combined. Gradually add flour to the mixture until dough forms. Remove dough from mixer and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 1/2 hours up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Slightly flatten each ball and use your thumb to make a gentle indentation in each one. Sprinkle any of your desired additions into the indentation. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or just until the edges begin to turn golden. Allow cookies to cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.