Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 27th
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Worth Her Salt

dining pic 1431 01Emily Freed’s sensuous salts, plus spirits and salmon

We now have two new favorite salts on our table, keeping company with the usual Bretagne and pink Himalayan varieties. One blends parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme with kosher salt, another, called “Spice It Up Salt,” includes the kick of cayenne and smoked paprika. Under the handsome retro Farmer Freed label, they are among the six new varieties of culinary salts developed and marketed by the very can-do Emily Jane Freed. A former apprentice with the UCSC Agroecology project, Freed is now a production manager with Jacob’s Farm. “I felt lucky to get such a great job out of the program,” she says. “Every day I get to tromp through the fields” of the nine-location organic network. A few years back, Freed began tinkering around with the farm’s herbs, putting them together with salt and giving samples to her friends for feedback. “I’ve been experimenting with it off and on, and now I'm taking it to the outer world,” she explains.

Currently, six varieties of fragrant Farmer Freed Culinary Salts ($10 each) are available, including a Vanilla Sea Salt that Freed created as a baking salt—“I love to bake,” she says. For her savory salts, she chose Kosher salt. “It’s a bigger, coarser grain with a beautiful texture.” Another blend of thyme, marjoram and kosher salt is called “Sababa,” which means “awesome” in Hebrew. Freed was interested in creating a Jewish product, “one that could support Jewish female farmers,” such as the You Grow Girl project she created that helps to raise awareness and financial support. “Salt flavors our food. It brings that added oomph that makes everything taste good,” says Freed. Look for more blends in Farmer Freed’s future. For now, you can purchase these vibrantly flavored salts online, and local spots like Companion Bakeshop.

Venus Spirits
Gin Launch

Angie and I swung by Johnny’s Harborside last week for some “Drinks with the Distiller” featuring Venus Gin cocktails and a chance to talk spirits with Sean Venus. The beautiful round bottle of Venus Gin Blend No. 1 is filled with a distinctive artisanal infusion of aromatics. We detected cardamom, lemon, juniper, angelica root and lavender among the flavor notes. It made into a lovely cocktail, with lime and lychee, called (appropriately enough) “Vague Recollections.” Smart appetizers, including micro french fries with a kalamata cream dipping sauce, kept us company as we got hypnotized by the boats bobbing in the sunlight. The Venus Spirits tasting room is still a work in progress on the Westside, but meanwhile the elixir’s in the bottle and headed toward retail all over the Bay Area. 41st Avenue Liquors already has the new flagship Venus Gin Blend No. 01—$30—but you can now sample Venus Gin cocktails at Crows Nest, Cafe Rio, Cafe Cruz and Crepe Place.

Assembly Lunch:
Part III

Lunch at Assembly last week was a thing of joy. Bev ordered the house chopped salad with shredded chicken breast ($12.50), loaded with delicious little gem lettuces, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes, kraut, avocado, egg, olives, and topped with crunchy quinoa and red wine vinaigrette. My poached salmon salad ($13) was gorgeous, with fat morsels of poached salmon, ringed with chunky red and yellow beets, slices of crispy fried green tomatoes crunchy in a cornmeal batter (highly addictive!), yogurt, and drizzles of tarragon-spiked olive oil. We split an order of Pellegrino Chinotto, a bitter cola flavored drink made from the myrtle-leaved orange. Not sweet, very intriguing. Can’t wait to try Assembly’s new brunch.

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