The Little Flavors

If you can’t hop a plane to Paris this spring, settle for flavors of France in Madison instead

Sel de Mer

Most households use sel, or table salt, on a daily basis, but occasionally they use a local product: sel de mer, or sea salt. The Camargue, a marshy area south of Arles, is known especially for its high-quality sea salt. Specialty salt can be enriched with flavors like rose and truffle.

Savor the sinful combination of sweet and salty in the Dark Chocolate + Caramel + Sea Salt crepe at Bradbury’s Coffee (at right). 

Herbes de Provence

Taste southern France’s sunny marketplaces with Herbes de Provence, a mixture of regional herbs. Traditionally made with rosemary, savory, fennel, thyme, basil and lavender florets, the seasoning has no consistent recipe because it is often home-produced with whatever herbs are available. The versatile mix is used to flavor poultry, pork, beef, vegetables, cheese and salad and is sprinkled on top of unbaked bread. It even serves as a key ingredient in the traditional French dish adobo.

Buy Herbes de Provence locally at Penzeys Spices. Their mix combines traditional flavors with tarragon, dill weed, chervil and marjoram.  

Nutella

Neither condiment nor sauce, the chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella earned a category of its own in the French kitchen. Originally made in Italy, the staple spread is often smeared on bread, crepes or fruit. When the tax on palm oil—a major ingredient of the spread—hit the ceiling last fall, French jaws hit the floor in disbelief. Many expressed their dismay online. “Tax anything else, OK, but not Nutella!!!” exclaimed one fan on Twitter.

Head to Cafe Porta Alba at Hilldale for the Pizza Alla Nutella, a true dolci (at right). Add gelato on top for extra decadence.

Brianna Wilson is a former editorial intern with Madison Magazine.

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