Are St. Louis chefs keen on filling their salt cellars with the fancified new varieties? "I think it's a ridiculous idea," says Stephen Gontram, of Harvest. He admits that he's salted vegetable desserts, such as candied beets, but insists that seasoning should be used to pick up flavor, not to add texture. Vincent Bommarito, of Tony's, agrees that the exotic salts serve little purpose. "Sea salt and kosher salt are all we need here," he concludes. But Steve Komorek, of Trattoria Marcella, welcomes the trend. "I think it's neat," he says enthusiastically. "After all, salt is the spice of life." On Komorek's last trip to New York, he tasted the red-clay and black-lava salts and was impressed by their purity and the subtle mineral flavors they imparted to the food. Thom Zoog, of Shiitake, expresses perhaps the most circumspect view of the craze. "The new salts offer an opportunity to experiment," he says, "but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. It has to taste good." In place of ordinary salt, Zoog seasons the food at Shiitake with a mixture of roasted, ground Sichuan peppercorns and kosher salt. To find a recipe for a similar spiced salt and to order luxe salts for your own kitchen, visit Dean & Deluca, a New York specialty-foods retailer, at www.deandeluca.com
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