Food Check-in: SALT Artisan Market

Posted on May 16, 2014 by


Thinking about spending your sunny Saturday afternoon touring Monticello and Ashlawn, or sipping wine at one of the gorgeous vineyards long Thomas Jefferson Parkway?

Well, you’re going to need some snacks and sandwiches to go along with your scenic tours and Virginian wine, and SALT Artisan Market will prepare the perfect picnic for you! Barrett Hightower and Rani Morris run this cozy, rural Artisan Market, and their seasonal focus and thoughtful ingredients are guaranteed to make your mouth water upon first glance at the menu.



Barrett and Rani moved to Charlottesville from DC, and with the help of Barrett’s sister and local chef, Ashley East, they opened SALT.

“I have a background in consulting and really just wanted to learn how to run a business,” explained Barrett. “My sister, Ashley East, is a chef here in Charlottesville, and has been a part of Charlottesville’s food scene for over ten years. She and her husband/business partner, Carter East, actually located the opportunity for us and helped us get off the ground. Rani is naturally a creator, and every business needs an R&D department and Director of Product Development. Rani heads these spheres in addition to being Salt’s chef.”

Barrett and Rani

Barrett and Rani of SALT

Barrett described herself and Rani as “quality-obsessed” when it comes to carefully selecting their ingredients and preparing their food.

Full sized petit - Roasted strawberry, bacon, chèvre, and spinach sandwich

Full sized petit – roasted strawberry, Rockbarn bacon, chèvre, and spinach on a baguette

SALT’s most popular item on the menu is a creatively-constructed sandwich called “Le Petit.” This snack-sized sandwich is recreated regularly, to showcase local and seasonal ingredients.

The Petit on the day of my visit featured Chèvre, roasted strawberries, Rock Barn bacon, and baby spinach. The Petit prior featured orange-basil Chèvre, grilled asparagus, and prosciutto. Another unique Petit on the menu recently was Virginia Chutney’s hot peach, Kite’s ham, Caromont’s Plank Road cheese, and arugula. My personal favorite was the Brie, Rockbarn Bacon, and Fig from this past winter. Each featured Petit is available for just a few days, but can be recreated upon request.

“We have a lot of fun with the Petit, and we have a lot of regular customers who come in and order it without even asking what it is that day. We also make the Petit a regular-size sandwich for those who aren’t in a snacking mood,” says Barrett.

The majority of Barrett and Rani’s ingredients in their prepared foods come from Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina.

“We are about our sandwiches. We’re about our local sourcing philosophy, supporting small vendors, and putting together fresh, seasonal food combinations that show off Charlottesville’s, indeed Virginia’s, ‘bread basket.’ This is also how we keep a relatively small menu dynamic and are able to maintain such a strong returning-customer traffic.”

“We do this with the Petit and the rotating ‘Craft’ sandwich, featuring sausage by Richmond-based Sausage Craft. For example, the Craft this weekend was chorizo sausage, chimichurri, roasted tomatoes, and grilled onions. Another Craft is rosemary lamb sausage, sage aioli, sundried tomato tapenade, and mixed greens.”

SALT’s shelves carry local coffee, pancake mixes, spiced nuts, local teas, apple sauce, crostini, potato chips, and more. For those who have an undeniable sweet tooth, they have over-sized cake pops and cupcakes supplied by Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe (located on West Main Street). They also have sweet bread and an assortment of freshly-baked cookies made in-house.

For those looking for a picnic spread of cured meats and perfect-for-wine-pairing cheeses, try SALT’s tasting plates.

“Our tasting plates so far feature a variety of Olli Salumeria’s cured meats and only Virginia and Maryland cheeses. Virginia cheese makers that we’re buying from right now include Caromont Farm, Everona Dairy, Meadow Creek Dairy, and Oak Spring Dairy. On the Maryland side, we’re pretty attached to Firefly Farms, near Frederick.”

SALT is proud to support many local vendors, including farmers and makers from Cville and beyond.

“We have one vendor in North Carolina – the best gluten-free bread that we’ve found is made by Kalo, a family-owned company near Greensboro. All of our food retail in the front of the house is local to Charlottesville and Virginia. We have met, and in many cases have visited, these vendors, which helps us tell their stories and makes supporting them personal.”

DSC_0372Rani is not only SALT’s creative and seasonally inspired cook, but on Saturday mornings, she takes on another persona: The Clockwork Witch. At the Charlottesville City Market, you can find Rani selling her beautifully hand-crafted jewelry, cufflinks, belt buckles, and wine stoppers, among other things. She constructs all of her pieces out of recycled materials and found objects, including chocolate wrappers, postage stamps, watch and clock parts, and even insect wings. Just look for the woman with the parasol at the City Market.

“Our favorite thing about being a part of the Charlottesville food community is being a part of a larger consciousness of the importance of supporting farmers and producers in our own economy.

This is such a beautiful place, and we can keep it beautiful by keeping the land-based production relevant to the way we want to live and eat and the values we want to instill as a community.”

So join their celebration of community and stop by SALT Artisan Market for a fresh, seasonal, and local experience.


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Words and photography by Shannon Gillen

Posted in: food, New to Cville