The Meadow is co-owned by Mark Bitterman and his wife, Jennifer Turner Bitterman. They are entrepreneurs in all senses of the word. They own two shops of the finest goods in both Portland and New York and have made a life of supplying their community with rich chocolates, preserves, floral arrangements, but most intriguing of all, fine salts, finishing salts and salt blocks. We first learned of the Bitterman’s goods when we discovered their salt blocks in Zupan’s market one day. We knew they were something special and we had to know more about them.
As I did my research on where these beautiful pink salt blocks came from, I soon discovered that they were sold through their shop in Portland. Not only that, we found that Mark is a James Beard Award winning author of Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, which Jade has been hinting at me for ages to buy her. He is also the the first salt expert who coined the title of selmelier, which is essentially a professional on the topic of salt as a mineral, a historical ideal, and a cultural mainstay. He has traveled the world to collect salts for his shop and personal collection and gives lectures academically on the subject. So… he’s kind of a big deal when it comes to knowing things about the topic of salt.
We scheduled to meet him at the Portland location of The Meadow one slightly grey day to view his shop and talk with him about what he does. After arriving, his store manager Violet Tchalakov, called him down from his office. She said it would be a few minutes and feel free to take a look around, which is exactly what we did. There was a massive stack of beautiful himalayan salt blocks carved to perfection on one side of the room with a rather intimidating wall of finishing salts. So many salts, so little time! They also have a wall dedicated to single origin chocolates which were absolutely fantastic. Violet let us sample a few and needless to say each one was fantastic in its own unique characteristics. It’s safe to say we were in absolute HEAVEN.
Mark came in the front door and greeted us. Just as we began chatting on the subject of his salt we were interupted by a flash hail storm outside which was pelting some floral arrangement’s sitting out front! Mark quickly grabbed the most important of the bunch and brought them inside, I offered my help, but he said it was fine and he had it handled. It was obvious that Mark is no stranger to hard work and getting his hands dirty to get business done. He came back in and we discussed some of his beginnings, going form Reed College in Portland to Sarah Lawrence in Yonkers, New York. I asked him if there was one he preferred and his response was Reed’s curriculum and strict nose to the grind stone mentality was one he enjoyed, but Sarah Lawrence was a bit more conversational and free. His journey after college took him to Europe where he discovered his love for fine salt.
Throughout his travels in his early days, there was one constant, which was his wife. He is a bit of a restless soul it seems and the call of road and adventure was one he could not veer away from. He and his wife decided to start The Meadow to culminate many different things that sparked their interest from business, to culinary accouterments, to basically whatever tickled their fancy. Since starting their business in Portland in 2006 they were able to expand to New York’s West Village in 2010, which is fitting since that is where Mark was born. Mark strives for continuous education upon his passion of salt, which surprisingly only became a passion for him after starting his business, he said. Becoming an expert on salt has opened up many doors for him and it seems that with his book, which came out roughly the same time his New York location opened, things aren’t slowing down for him.
As our conversation came to an end, I asked him if he had any new projects he had been working on. He was excited to give us a peek at his next book that he has been working on, where he delves into the use of cooking and utilizing the salt block. He even photographed it himself! It looks like a fantastic collection of recipes and tips which we can’t wait to own a copy of ourselves, especially since we purchased a salt block of our very own from the shop. Mark is an incredibly interesting and humble individual, and we are honored to have had the chance to meet and speak with him. The Meadow is a incredibly beautiful place to wander into, whether to buy a gift for a loved who appreciates the finer things in life, or simply to find something new and invigorating to try yourself. We can’t wait to return.
Jade could have stayed there photographing the bounty of flowers for days…