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El­e­vated ver­sions of pantry sta­ples like salt and but­ter are be­com­ing the new lux­ury in­gre­di­ents

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS MICHELLE YEE

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.

VINE­GAR

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.

BUT­TER

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.

OLIVE OIL

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.

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