The Perfect Host Gift

A few years ago, there was an swell of support for bottles of olive oil to replace flowers and or wine as the best gift to bring your host. Jenny Rosenstrach made my favorite argument for the switch, describing how olive oil is preferable to wine because it “usually catches you by surprise and because it can be stretched out for weeks, forcing you to remember the giver’s generosity every time you make a homemade vinaigrette or a eat a bowl of Sunday Minestrone, which demands a high-quality drizzle upon serving.”

I’m going to suggest that a cellar of Fleur de Sel—and in particular, Fleur de Sel de Camargue—be this year’s olive oil. They’re about $7 a piece and already come in a nice little package, so you could just add a ribbon.

I recall that I brought home my first little signed, cork-top box of the Fleur de Sel de Camargue after a summer spent living in Sancerre. I hoarded it in our pantry, not wanting to open it, not understanding that you could get it in Los Angeles (where I was living at the time), too. A friend I’d made while abroad came to stay the following year and opened it up without hesitation to sprinkle on a salad he made—simply greens, olive oil, and a finishing of salt, and it tasted amazing! Lesson learned: the good stuff is meant to be used.

Here’s a little backstory on why this particular salt is so special, because gifts that come with a story are always a little bit better…

There’s this sort of magical little region in southern France, near the mouth of the Rhone River at the Mediterranean sea, called the Camargue. Wild horses roam, pink flamingoes make homes in brine ponds, and over 500,000 tons of salt are collected annually from rose-colored wetlands. Salt can be found widely in the soil, and the nature of the flat and clayey land, dotted with ponds, lends itself well to the extraction of sea salt and the practice has been going on since Peccius, a Roman engineer at the start of the Christian Era, organized production. The collective is called the Salins du Midi (Saltworks of the South), and you can visit the salt pools between March and November.

Fleur de Sel translates as “Flower of Salt” and comes from the aroma of violets that develops as the salt dries. Fleur de Sel de Camargue is harvested in early autumn, and hand-raked so that only the top layer of the salt bed is used. These small flaky crystals have a moist texture and a slight grey and pink hue, and are perfect for finishing a dish and bringing out all the flavors.

This one is especially nice but—mais, oui—if you have a favorite salt with a better story, by all means bring your host that one!

P.S. There’s a very pretty salt cellar on this gift guide, if you’d like to pair this with one, or you can buy it in a ceramic jar. (I’ve also been eyeing this one for our house.)




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