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The Meadow

Tucked within the patchwork of cobblestone streets in the West Village neighborhood of New York City lies The Meadow. The store is the self touted ultimate source for gourmet salt, rimming salt, curing salt, finishing salt, sea salt, and artisan salts from around the world. The shop also carries chocolates, bitters, and fresh flowers. In short, it is a savory haven filled to the brim with saliva-producing tastes and smells. The space is postage-stamp sized, highly personal, and quaint. In the summer the shop even offers homemade ice cream sandwiches topped with sea salts and chilis! ARTISANAL! YES. Get thee to The Meadow for a dose of inspiration, stat.

If you have not heard about it, or usually do not partake in the world of nonfiction history through food (Cod, Splendid Exchange, The Big Oyster, et. al.), I highly suggest you pick up (and subsequently read) Salt. This mineral has a long and trying tale – a substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Next time you reach your hand across the dining room table or spin the lazy-susan, think about the surprising importance of this commodity. In the end, we’re talking about an EDIBLE ROCK.

Himalayan Salt Blocks are truly the perfect pink color. Shave away!

The store not only smells fantastic (and I really do have a visceral reaction to how well planned and tactile it all is), it is also designed to fully appreciate the arts. This is my cathedral of gustatory meets visual – where lush flowers intermingle with charcoal smoked salts, where finely framed gouaches match the colors of paper-covered bottles of bitters. Sensual – to the truest sense of the term.

Japanese Salt Set – 1.2 oz Jars – A set of five gourmet Japanese Sea Salts: Amabito No Moshio, Iburi Jio Cherry smoked salt, Shinkai Deep Sea Salt, Takesumi Bamboo and Cherry Plum. Photo by The Meadow.

Mark Bitterman, one of the founders of this shop and second half of the married duo, also wrote a book extolling the wonders of salt. It seems it is easy to write a book about an item that is older than civilization itself! Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral with Recipes should probably line the wall’s of every kitchen’s cookbook shelf. “From the elegant fleur de sel and flake salts to 500 million year old Himalayan salt slabs that resemble pink quartz, Bitterman explains the history and science of salt production. The book profiles over 150 salts, and includes 50 recipes that showcase this versatile and marvelous ingredient.” If your kitchen scares you, or if like I used to, you live in a 500 sq. foot apartment wherein your kitchen touches your bathroom which touches your bed – buy this book just for its glorious photos.

As always, my favorite storefronts are directly inspired by the visual arts, “Before founding The Meadow, Jennifer Turner Bitterman (other half of the duo) worked as an art historian at The Metropolitan Museum and The Frick Collection in New York, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Musee du Chateau de Versailles in Paris. Jennifer’s passion for cooking, eating, and reading and writing poetry have guided her travels and inspired her belief in running a business that above all honors the intimate connections between producers, merchants, and customers.”

Would it be too weird to begin using these salt blocks as legs for tables? Or as bookends? Salt should be the next frontier in interior design. 

Your eyes doth deceive you!  Michel Cluizel Milk Chocolate Sardines – 5 pc Tin – Sardines En Chocolat Au Lait – Fine chocolate doesn’t have to be serious. These five milk chocolate sardines from Michel Cluizel are still made of the highest quality ingredients, but with an added element of fun.

I have actually had dreams that feature a wall of chocolate like this.

To show you that I am not crazy and that salt CAN actually be used as design inspiration, check out these Epsom Salt Luminaries, above. Photo and a how-to from Crafts by Amanda, HERE.

The shop’s name was chosen because Jennifer wanted to create a place that felt like coming home, where personal connections and sensual pleasures welcome you. I suggest you visit and spend time amidst beautiful fresh cut flowers, taste strange and enticing foods, and explore the astonishing depth of the elemental ingredients.

And now, for a pun, you’ve officially been A-SALT-ED (assaulted? get it? ….crickets).

P.S. All photos taken by me unless otherwise noted. 

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East Meets West

Let’s talk chinoiserie. It is a French term, meaning “Chinese-esque”, and refers to a recurring aesthetic and design theme created by European artisans since the seventeenth century, which reflect Chinese influences. Chinese decorateive arts are heavily based in lacquer, asymmetry, ceramics, and fanciful vignettes. The earliest beginnings of Europe’s obsession with the “orient” began in the arts of the nations with active East India Companies (stock and trade in in cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium) – Holland, England, and Portugal. Western designers were inspired to imitate the technical precision of Chinese ceramics  – particularly in Holland, in the Dutch town of Delft wherein in artisans heavily copied the white-and-blue tea services of the Ming dynasty. Hence the term – Delftware. It is said by Daniel Franklin Wright, in his thesis Chinoiserie in the novels of Robert Hans van Gulik, that this design aesthetic (a creation of “Chinese” goods by European artisans) was less interested in closely emulating Chinese styles than in creating fashionable exotica for the domestic market.

Images from Top Left Clockwise: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

Edward Said, the famed sociologist, in his seminal book Orientalism, actually gives Chinoiserie a negative connotation wherein the fashion became a usurping of false Eastern ideals. European artisans were merely copying the visual style without understanding its spiritual or religious meaning and importance. In this way, the West was colonizing and patronizing the East.  Indeed, he postulates that the design first became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe because the West was viewed as a “fantasy”, “fiction” and place for the “other”. European artists often cosmetically stole forms from China and skewed the perspective using Western and Classical painting techniques – Chinese painting did not adhere to the laws of exact representation and perspective. Western artists used imaginary scenes to essentially create interior design that offered mental escapism. Indeed, I do not see Chinoiserie as either “negative” or “positive”, I believe it represents an homage to the beauty of certain eastern aesthetics. Modern day decor using these Eastern influences combines straight lines, bright neons, and nontraditional minimalist decor with the ornate details of Chinoiserie. I see this style as a beautiful combination of two worlds, coexisting together.

A bamboo chair painted a glossy cornflower blue, and a whimsically patterned wallpaper – in Delftware blue! Image found HERE.

Chinoiserie bedding meets ultra modern, neon, diagonal rugs. The gilded frame brings several eras and styles together! Image found HERE.

Dragons, Pagoda Lamp, Red Glossy Mirror! Image found HERE.

From the Domino Magazine Files, circa May, 2007. Cheery wallpaper (France meets China, look closely), 1st edition iPod, white wall clock decal.  Image found HERE.

Seaside Cottage meets China. Image found HERE.

Anthropologie’s Whisting Thorn Wallpaper.

Delftware Stencils found via The Royal Design Studio.

Baroque pastels meet Chinoiserie details. Image found HERE.

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