This is my grown-up version of kids' reports on what they learned on the latest field trip. In my case, the excursion was to the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference in Portland, Oregon. I learned a lot of really neat stuff.
For example, see those gorgeous stone bowls and blocks? Well, they're not stone at all, but salt quarried from a mine in the Himalayas. Really! Both the blocks and bowls can function as serving or food presentation pieces and I promise they'll be the talk of your next gourmet event. (I took the pic during a visit to a charming Portland specialty shop called The Meadow. It also sells dozens of sea salts and gourmet chocolates, plus fresh flowers.)
At a party hosted at the home of The Meadow's owner, Mark Bitterman, he displayed various chocolates for guests to sample on some of his salt blocks. The dark, glossy chocolates were stunning perched on the smooth, luminous salmon-pink surfaces; I'd have sworn the slabs were pink marble or maybe Vancouver rhodonite if I hadn't known better. Although Mark didn't offer any salted nuts or chips, it occurred to me that it would be amusing to serve salty snacks in the salt bowls. For more info on these beauties as well as The Meadow's other products, click here.