Flavored sea salts and sugars from Atlanta's Beautiful Briny Sea.
One of the best parts of living in an affordable part of the country is the fact that we have an abundance of creative and passionate food makers in the South. From chocolatiers to beer brewers, you can find just about any craft food and beverage here. One such maker is Suzi Sheffield, owner of Beautiful Briny Sea, a salt and sugar company based in Atlanta. Below, you'll get an inside look at the creative mind of Sheffield and you'll be able to bring five of her recipes into your own kitchen.
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.”
Speaking of kitchens, here are five of Sheffield's favorite ways to bring her products to life.
Easy Homemade Truffle Butter
This truffle butter is simply a combination of really good butter and Beautiful Briny truffle salt. Then the sky’s the limit on uses. Here are some 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; or melted and drizzled over popcorn.
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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.
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Mr. Gigglepants Hibiscus Vinaigrette
A vinaigrette is the perfect choice for the sparkling flavors of Beautiful Briny Sea's Mr. Gigglepants hibiscus sugar. Once you've got it made, here are three ways to use up the vinaigrette: 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; or on grilled radicchio chopped and tossed with hand-torn butter lettuce with toasted almonds and freshly grated Manchego cheese. Don’t forget to sprinkle your salad with a little extra sparkle of Mr. Gigglepants.
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French Picnic Chicken Soup with Lemon and Parsnips
This made-from-scratch chicken soup recipe gets a burst of flavor from lemon juice, sweet earthiness from parsnips and unique depth from Beautiful Briny's French Picnic sea salt blend. 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 the fat and proceed with the recipe.
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Pocketful of Starlight Vanilla Butter Cookies
These very simple cookies are utterly addictive. And they only require four ingredients, since the Pocketful of Starlight sugar is already flavored with vanilla. Add as many optional toppings as you'd like — or as your kids would like!
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