Harvest's honey semolina cake with homemade sea salt
Brian Mercury’s homemade sea salt tastes exactly like that first time you tried to body-board as a kid, when you wound up face-planting in the surf and were gifted with a mouth- and nose-full of ocean water. In a good way.
Mercury, the executive pastry chef of Harvard Square’s Harvest, has been trawling New England waters (including Maine’s Lobster Cove) for his own sea salt for the better part of a year. It seems like a strange hobby until you dip your finger into a soft little mound of the stuff — since he doesn’t dry it out, the consistency is closer to slightly damp, super-fine sand — and experience the explosive flavor that makes you vow to never settle for store-bought again.
“I get a lot of people staring at me, especially over the summer,” he says, grinning. “All in their swimsuits, sitting on the beach, and I’m walking out there with giant orange buckets. You know how there are signs saying you can’t take the rocks or the sand? No one says you can’t take the water!”
Harvest is currently featuring his DIY sea salt in a few menu items. Our favorite comes in the form of a demure honey semolina cake (points if you can pick up the faint mineral edge from the salt), perched on a fig-and-port puree, dotted with caramelized figs, and served with a spoonful of lemon mascarpone.
And before you decide he must be some sort of high-and-mighty salt sommelier by now, someone who turns up his nose at the everyman’s iodized swill, he assures us he’s most definitely not.
“It’s just such a simple and basic thing that anybody can do, and it’s fun for us because it provides that extra personal step,” he says. “The first time I did it, I was so excited. It’s the weirdest thing: you’re just boiling water, but I was calling over the sous-chefs, like, ‘Look at this! Solids! It worked!’ ”
FIND IT:: HARVEST | 44 BRATTLE ST, CAMBRIDGE :: 617.868.2255 :: HARVEST-CAMBRIDGE.COM