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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING — Salt, Vanilla, Tea, Coffee

Basic pantry stock gets elevated with these picks. Each has a proud backstory that’s worth looking up.



Salt of the earth? As rarely as I use it, I can go for the good stuff.

Saltverk is the good, good stuff, hand-harvested from Iceland. Did you know that was a thing?

The umami comes from pristine seawater of Iceland’s remote Westfjords. Saltverks revived a 17th-century process powered by geothermal energy, leaving zero carbon footprint. So I did Google and those people are sure having fun leaving zero carbon footprints.

Flaky Sea Salt is one of the sustainable varieties and it just tastes pure. Lava Salt is a sparkly black and Birch Smoked Salt is my favorite of those I tried. There’s a body in it and the pleasure of knowing where your food came from.

If my eye catches the jar, I’ve been known to stop and take a little transporting whiff of the stuff. I also looked up images of the area and the beauty is breathtaking. I have a great sense of pleasure imagining all this when I pinch a bit of salt to sprinkle over a simple meal.


Native Vanilla

I’m sure your baking deserves ethically sourced, naturally grown Native Vanilla in extract or powder form. Or mixed with sugar.

Into DIY? Order some whole beans, submerge them in vodka or rum, and check in on those pods chilling in a beautiful glass jar. They’ll become homemade elixir over time.

Micro-farmers in New Guinea are sorting through premium beans for this company and a little tour at will help bakers understand the wonder of how these pods get from nature to our kitchens. Try a tiny spoonful of that dark, crystallized sugar with specks of bean. It’s aromatic and heavenly.

Let me know your top uses for vanilla in Southeast Texas. I might say bread pudding gets my vote. I’ve got big plans for the “pet” jar aging in my pantry.


Tea Drunk

Tea Drunk is in New Jersey and of course, online.

You can stay home with a red packet of Qui Hong #3, because they’ve already “done” the elevated provinces of China to bring you the best of loose teas. A little brown paper packet of Bai Mu Dan (or Fu Ding, or white peony, silver needle) is at my side with hints of sun-soaked cotton, mead and herbaceous. I’m watching the leaves unfold in a clear vessel like a little live-action ballet.

This is one more site that makes a product come alive: It helps a body understand how the many names for teas came about and shares images of collection and presentation. Some folks already “get” tea others “oolong” to. In these quiet times of winter, accept this opportunity to slow down and get Tea Drunk.


Biodynamic Coffee

Great coffee comes from healthy soil” is a trademarked thought on the Biodynamic Coffee by Holistic Roasters.

Just because they proudly show you a handful of soil on their website, don’t think they don’t use state-of-the art farming and machinery to bring you a back-to-basics experience. The French Roast note asks why anyone would mess with a classic, so you get smoky, bitter chocolate and “comforting” notes in whole beans that come in a package that goes with that “brown paper packages tied up in string” favorite things theme that’s hot this season.

Rise & Shine is called balanced, bold and straight to the point. Get yours from, a site that informed me that we’re hard-wired through DNA to assess nutritional value through flavor. So that’s why it’s good. The soil helped make it so.


Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie getting her holiday vibe. Reach her at


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