If you think salt is exclusively white, descend the steps of the Portsmouth Salt Cellar (yes, it is below street level), and you’ll be greeted by the glowing lights of lamps carved from blocks of pinkish orange Himalayan salt.
Judit Vano-Tydeman and her husband Donald Tydeman opened this saline destination last November, moving from Long Island, New York. “We love the whole concept of the healing properties of the salt,” Vano-Tydeman says. “And we love using different infused salts when grilling and cooking.” The couple, who are ID themselves as "selmeliers," searched the northeastern seaboard for an optimal location for the store they envisioned, which would promote both salts used for healing properties and finishing salts for foods.
“Something about Portsmouth just spoke to us. For me, it was almost like a European city,” explains Vano-Tydeman, a native of Hungary. “It’s a foodie town. And of course there’s the big salt pile at the beginning of the city – that was one of the signs too.”
Himalayan pink salt dominates the health area. It’s high in minerals, and, Vano-Tydeman says, can be helpful for skin ailments, and for asthma. It’s also cut into slabs to use as a cooking surface.
On the culinary side of the store, dozens of different salts are arranged on shelves along the stone walls. There are a variety of sea salts from around the world, like sparkling white Cyprus Flake, and rust colored Alaea Hawaiian. Smoked salts include pale green-tinged Fumee de Sel from France and American Applewood Smoked in shades of brown. And there are several infused salts include a heady Black Truffle, earthy Espresso, and several chile pepper varieties. I liked the mild, tangy Chile Verde. And of course there’s pink-orange Himalayan, in a variety of grinds, from large crystals to a fine powder.
Most salts are $8 for 1.5-ounce jars; three jars are $20 (truffle salts are $14). In addition to salt, there are salt-inspired sweets, like luscious caramels from local Tahana Confections and salted chocolate bars.
Response has been excellent, Vano-Tydeman says – so much so, the couple is opening a second store in Portland later this month.
Portsmouth Salt Cellar
7 Commercial Alley
Photography by Lisë Stern