My dining companion and I dressed in our finest for SALT. But not just because it’s a rustically chic eatery on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder designed by co-owner Carol Vilate. We hoped our dapper appearance disguised our secret, ugly desire: To gorge on more dessert than the food pyramid suggests for cardiovascular health.
The menu description for SALT’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Salt Tart I’d read online wasn’t exactly poetry — just the words chocolate, caramel and salt together — but I’d been dead set on eating one ever since. And now that it was time and the tart was within my reach, without explanation, SALT turned us away an hour before closing time. If you’ve ever scoured for an open table on a weekend night in a trendy neighborhood in a proper city, you’d know that a table, heck, even a squeezed seat at a bar with just enough breathing air, is enviable. And SALT had many open tables.
We gave our best impression of a scowl and managed to negotiate a seat.
And it wasn’t the only issue I’ve had. Over my three visits to SALT, the service has been somewhat erratic, which is surprising since chef and co-owner Bradford Heap trained in New York and Europe, locales known for encouraging good service. Not to needlessly rub salt in anyone’s wounds, but why not pepper your guests with a little good will to go with the good eats?
And the eats are good. What SALT lacks in consistent courtesy they make up for with desserts that will make you forget your woes, much less any minor offense received at the door.
Ganache is the star ingredient of the chocolate tart: nature’s gifts of butter, cream and chocolate all mixed together for the holidays. Add the finesse of a trained chef, large crystals of salt and warm caramel, and I wouldn’t care if the waitstaff dropped a tray of coffee in my lap.
Smitten, I searched the ’net for similar recipes and found some with the same ingredients as SALT’s standout dessert. I look forward to making a few of them. After all, it wouldn’t be fair for trademark to pertain to burgers and chocolate.
Apart from a near perfect dessert, the tavern burger topped with trusty Vermont cheddar cheese is nearly heroic. It may not have saved any kittens from a burning building, but the locally sourced ingredients and fresh flavors certainly better humanity. I barely noticed anything else as I chowed down.
One lesson Heap picked up from observing cuisine in Europe is that freshness is paramount. SALT is partnered with Boulder’s extraordinary farmers, giving them poise to procure the freshest ingredients possible.
Even with the discordant interactions, my overall impression of SALT stems from the quality of the food enjoyed over a few occassions. The feeling I got was analogous to attending a cocktail party at the house of an acquaintance instead of a close friend. The wine is flowing, the food is plentiful and satisfying, the atmosphere is at once comfortable and nice enough that you can dress up without feeling on display. But the host may whip out the vacuum cleaner before you’ve decidedly gorged yourself, as if saying, it was lovely to have you, but please, it’s time to go. Just make sure you eat the chocolate tart before. It’s a recipe for forgiveness.