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Elevated versions of pantry staples like salt and butter are becoming the new luxury ingredients
Gone are the days when chefs of fine dining restaurants showcase only luxury ingredients like foie gras, truffle and caviar in their dishes. These days, elevated versions of pantry staples such as vinegar, salt and butter are becoming highly coveted ingredients among forward-thinking chefs.
Here’s a look at some of them.
More chefs are using quality vinegars to take their cooking up to the next level. For instance, chef Michael Vignola of Henry at Life Hotel in New York is a firm believer in subtlety of flavours—he uses Lindera Farms honey vinegar, a two-year-old cask-aged elixir that costs about US$90 for 240ml, in his Faroe Island salmon tartare dish.
FLEUR DE SEL
Considered the finest of sea salts, fleur de sel, also known as flower of salt, is prized and expensive due to the painstaking labour involved to obtain them. These delicate salt flakes are hand-raked and harvested from the top layer of the salt beds in Guérande, France, using an instrument known as a lousse à de fleur. Boasting a moist texture and is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, fleur de sel is most often used as a finishing salt on red meat dishes, salads, grilled fish and as a piquant addition to some dessert.
Top chefs around the world love cooking with Jean-Yves Bordier’s delicious handmade butter. An artisanal producer in the charming Brittany seaside town of St Malo, the Frenchman’s butter is a staple at Hong Kong’s L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Pétrus in London, La Mercerie in New York, and many other top restaurants. In Macau, chef Fabrice Vulin at the two Michelin star Tasting Room uses Bordier’s butter across his menu such as the seaweed butter in a turbot dish, and the vanilla butter in a shortbread biscuit dessert. Over at La Mercerie, chef Marie-Aude Rose also uses Bordier in her cooking—a dish of six oysters with seaweed-flecked butter goes for
US$24. According to her, each oysters costs US$1, but the butter accounts for US$1.50. Bordier now offers more than
10 different types of flavoured butter including espelette chilli, buckwheat and fennel.
At the widely acclaimed King restaurant in New York, run by chef Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt, the two chef-owners tend to stay away from luxury ingredients, instead, cook with plenty of Tenuta di Capezzana—an organic, single estate, first-press olive oil from Tuscany. According to Boer, the kitchen uses four to six bottles of Capezzana a day, dousing the peppery finishing oil over poached wild striped bass, baked borlotti beans, and pillowy ricotta gnudi. Each bottle costs about US$38.