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Chef's favorite salt can't be bought

By Joleen Oshiro

LAST UPDATED: 12:06 a.m. HST, Jun 24, 2010

Chef George Mavrothalassitis' favorite salt is from Hanapepe on Kauai, where families still make their salt the centuries-old way, by hand.

"It's the best salt in the world, and I mean that," he says.

Unfortunately, it's not for sale, as tradition dictates the salt be given away.

While that doesn't help those of us not on the gift list, there is another salt the good chef deems of near-equal quality.

It's called Fleur de Sel ("flower of salt"), hand-harvested in various parts of France, including Brittany, Noirmoutier and Camargue, and also in Spain and Portugal.

The chef says Fleur de Sel is an exceptionally pure salt. Harvesters remove salt from ponds and form peaks that dry in the sun. Just the right amount of rain will provide the uppermost peaks additional clarification. It is those peaks, carefully raked by hand, that comprise top-grade Fleur de Sel.

"This salt is totally white; it's the creme de la creme of salts," he says.

The layer right below has a tinge of pink, which Mavrothalassitis says is of good quality as well, while the layer below that is pink and orange in hue.

Kona sea salt, meanwhile, is made from water pumped from 3,000 feet below sea level, the chef says. This seawater is clear of metal and pollutants because it comes from the deep, making for a very pure salt.

Molokai is another prominent source of salt. Alaea salt is tinged with the red clay from salt ponds, and "lava" salt is colored with charcoal.

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