Where salt is the spice of life: Portsmouth shop caters to gourmet salt lovers
Co-owner Judit Tydeman displays several food finishing salts from among the dozens available at the Salt Cellar in Portsmouth Monday afternoon. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)
PORTSMOUTH - SALT IS A MINERAL many people associate with the routine and health problems.
But to walk into The Salt Cellar on Commercial Alley is to enter a world where salt is anything but boring, and is also celebrated for its health benefits.
Judit and Don Tydeman developed a fascination with salt over many years of travelling around the world. Judit Tydeman is from Hungary, where salts are also used often as treatment for skin and respiratory problems, or just for relaxation.
But it was the discovery of the wide world of food finishing salts that led the couple to leave New York City in November to open their dream store in Portsmouth to share their knowledge and passion about the artisan product.
On deep brown wooden shelves illuminated by soft pink tiles of Himalayan salt, jars of colorful crystals representing more than 50 flavors of salt from around the world intrigue the senses.
Then Judit or Don pulls a jar from the shelf, opens the lid and envelops the customer in the infused scents of black truffle, porcini mushroom or ripened tomato. For the sweet side there is vanilla and espresso, and for the more adventurous a soft yellow ghost pepper that is not for the faint of palate.
There is a “Lemon Twist,” “Lime Fresco” and “Thai Ginger” that are perfect drink rimmers. “Habanero Pepper,” “Chile Verde” and “Spicy Curry” offer more spice with the saltiness, and the list goes on.
The specialty salt products are already being used by Portsmouth restaurants as the Tydemans do more to educate local foodies about the wonders of finishing salts. Cava, right across the street from the Salt Cellar on Commercial Alley, is using Himalayan salt tiles to cook scallops and serve sashimi, while Radici has added a jar of “Ghost Pepper” salt to its Bloody Mary bar.
In addition to finishing salts, The Salt Cellar offers bath salts and soaks with infused Dead Sea salts, salt air inhalers for respiratory problems, and scrubs.
Judit Tydeman is a licensed massage therapist and yoga instructor and focuses on the external benefits of salt.
“We had this idea for a saltthemed store and looked at virtually every possible town from New York City to Portsmouth and thought this was the ideal location,” Don Tydeman said.
“Something about Portsmouth felt so European,” said Judit Tydeman. “People go towards more holistic point of view and understand bath salts and are such natural people, so open-minded about it.
“And it is a total foodie town.”
Indeed, it is the array of food finishing salts that really capture the customer’s imagination.
The Tydemans are happy to educate customers about how surface area that does not dissolve as easily, he said.
He said studies have been done that show people who finish with salt consume about 70 percent less sodium chloride than those who cook with it.
“And it is far superior in taste,” he said. “The flavor is right on the surface of the food and excites the tastes in every way.”
The lesson, and the range of possibilities is enough to make anybody want to try a flavor.
Information about the variety of salt products and flavors of finishing salts available at the Salt Cellar is available at www.portsmouthsaltcellar.com.