AbdesSalaam Perfume Course – Part II: Getting There, The Germano Reale, Meeting Salaam & Coriano Food

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

Giant sunflowers filled the field, their yellow faces turned down to hide against the glare of the sun that dominated the cornflower blue sky. The next field over was filled with golden hay, freshly harvested and rolled into enormous, round bales that dotted the landscape for several miles. Small grapes hung from trees in another field, while the distant landscape was a gentle, rolling wave of green hills adorned with tall, ancient cypresses, elegantly pruned into long columns and standing proudly like Roman centurions guarding the land.

Coriano. Source: spezio.it

Coriano. Source: spezio.it

This was Coriano‘s “Agriturismo” commune, the countryside about 15 to 20 minutes outside the busy seaside resort of Rimini on Italy’s central coast. As I stared at the view from my taxi window, I thought of how the scene had been repeated from the trains I’d just taken from Rome and from Bologna. Well, minus the enormous fields of sunflowers that would have made Van Gogh utterly ecstatic. Italy was in full bloom, its countryside lush and slowly getting ready for harvesting. It made me all the more eager to get to my destination, to harvest my own crops of an olfactory nature, and to begin the perfume course that I’d journeyed so far to take.

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Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part II)

In Part I of this series, I talked about Mandy Aftel‘s Chef Essences, and focused on the Ginger, Basil, Blood Orange, Rose Absolute and Pear. Now, I’d like to look at six more: Pink PepperCepes (Porcini Mushrooms), Cognac, Coriander Leaf (Cilantro), Tarragon, and Chocolate, before ending on a personal note about why I think these Chef Essences are so significant.

PINK PEPPER:

Source: worldflavorz.com

Source: worldflavorz.com

According to the Aftelier website, the Pink Pepper Essential Spray is composed of berries from Kenya and its aroma is described as “fresh wood and warm-peppery.” I found its spiciness to be piquant, fruity, and a bit tart as well. It also made me realise something: I do not like pink peppercorns. I’ve always had issues with its fruity, gooey, jammy aroma in perfume, but I never really thought about how I avoid cooking with them, or how I actually pick out the pink peppercorns in any pepper mix. (Same with the green ones, actually.) I will put up with the lightest, barest sprinkling, but not much more. Which is why the intensity of the Aftelier Chef Essence came as a little bit of a shock to my system.

It is just like the real berries, with layers of nuance and, yes, the woodiness mentioned on the Aftelier website. I’d previously been told by a few people that the Black Pepper Chef Essence was astonishingly good on ice-cream, so I thought that the same thing would apply to the Pink Pepper one. To my surprise, it really was decent on vanilla ice-cream, though it took me a minute to wrap my head around the flavour combination. It’s certainly different, and captures your attention in the same way that sea salt does on things like cookies, chocolate, or other seemingly inapposite items. Continue reading

Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part I)

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen. Source: www.tiboo.cn

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen. Source: www.tiboo.cn

If you’re a foodie, there may come a time when you experience something whose flavour is so remarkable that words fail you, hyperbole becomes actual reality, and taste feels like a revelation. That is what happened to me the first time I tried one of Mandy Aftel‘s Chef’s Essences. My eyes grew wide, words didn’t come out in full sentences, and I felt a mixture of awe and disbelief. I know it sounds like an exaggeration but it’s not, and I mean it with absolute sincerity. Some of Mandy Aftel’s Chef’s Essences rocked my (food) world, and I think they’re pure genius. I’m not the only one. Ms. Aftel’s creations are used in the White House, as well as some of the top restaurants in the world.

The Collection is an extensive one, with 15 essential sprays and over 50 essential oils, ranging from basic items like Black Pepper and Cinnamon to funky things like Peru Balsam, Frankincense, Fir Needles, Ylang-Ylang, Magnolia, and Violets. I’ve tried 11 of them now and wanted to share my experiences with you, covering what exactly they are, why they are a remarkable invention, how you can use them, and some of my adventures (or misadventures in a few cases). The ones I’ve tested are: Rose, Ginger, Blood Orange, Pear, CognacCepes (Porcini Mushrooms), Chocolate, Tarragon, Sweet BasilCoriander Leaf (Cilantro), and Pink Pepper. Today, I’ll start with a background explanation and introduction, then focus on 5 of the Essences: the Ginger, Sweet Basil, Rose Absolute, Blood Orange, and Pear. The remainder will be covered in Part II.

Just a few of the Chef Essence oil bottles and two of the Chef Essence sprays. Photo and source: Aftelier.com

Just a few of the Chef Essence oil bottles and two of the Chef Essence sprays. Photo and source: Aftelier.com

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Let’s Play Questions… Vol 6: Christmas, Presents & Perfume

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

Source: Pinterest. Original source unknown.

I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, if you celebrate the day, and a very happy end of the year if you don’t. For those who partook in the festivities of the day, I thought it would be nice to have a chatty post where we could all share some of the highlights. So, it’s time for another round of the Questions game. Take a gander at any or all of the following.

  1. What was your scent of the day or night, either on Christmas Eve or today?
  2. What was one of the more cozy or fun parts of either day?
  3. What were some of your favorite gifts that you received? If you received any perfume, you really must share! 🙂

I’ll start first, but please feel free to talk about whatever you’d like.

Question 1. I rarely get the chance to wear perfume just for myself, so I’m afraid last night was no exception as I was doing my usual testing. Same story for today, but at least I chose a scent that seemed to be more up my alley and bound to be enjoyable. Thus far, it has been. You will have to wait to see what it turns out to be, but an early hint: it features patchouli. (Yes, I know, I’m quite obsessed these days in my hunt for the perfect patchouli. And no, my patchouli series is not actually over. You’ve only had a temporary reprieve from my madness….)

Question 2. I haven’t really had a conventional Christmas Eve or Christmas Day thus far. For one thing, there has always a bit of a tug-and-pull in my family when it comes to which day to celebrate. My family has traditionally followed the European habit of doing things on Christmas Eve, including the feast and the opening of presents. I’ve always objected to that, and I’ve stuck pretty adamantly to my rule of leaving everything for Christmas Day itself. This year, everything got even more screwed up because of a sibling’s schedule, so we had our “Christmas Eve” celebrations last Saturday. Since I can be quite stubborn, I refused to open my presents, which resulted in much eye-rolling and resigned sighs from my family.

So, today, the Hairy German and I had an early, mini-Christmas of sorts with my parents. In a short while, we will have a small, casual lunch, picnic style. There will be tons of French cheeses for me, several types of bread, soups, smoked salmon, mini-quiches, dim sum, sushi (yes, I have a thing about Asian food), Japanese seaweed salad, gourmet pizza, lamb shanks, and other tidbits.

The Hairy German on "his" bed with his badly chewn Santa.

The Hairy German on “his” bed with his Santa.

Question 3. Some of my favorite gifts were German shepherd related! (Deutsche Schäferhund für das Leben. I would say “uber alles,” but that has negative connotations.) You should see the GSD puppy calendar in particular! The photos are so adorable, you have no idea.

I also received a few culinary and gastronomy items, from books, to special bags of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from one of my best friends who reserves them months in advance. The beans are only grown on a particular stretch of mountains in Jamaica, and their classification as “Blue Mountain” is sharply regulated. Blue Mountain has developed the reputation of being one of the best and most expensive coffees in the world. Rumour has it that the price is sky-high mostly because all the Russian oligarchs buy it up en masse, but that sounds dubious to me. Wikipedia claims instead that 80% of the beans are exported to Japan, so clearly, limited availability of some kind is the responsible for the hype. (Wikipedia also adds that  [i]n addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.”) In this case, I think much of the hype is well-deserved as it really is fantastic, deep, dark coffee, and I’m lucky that my coffee-addict friend always sends me some as part of my Christmas box.

Some of the GTPC's offerings via roadfood.com

Some of the GTPC’s offerings via roadfood.com

This same friend also sends me every year two pies from the famous Grand Traverse Pie Company, which are freshly made in Michigan and arrive the very next day. My enormous box came on Christmas Eve via over-night Fed Ex delivery, and consisted of two huge pies that are 9-inches deep. This year, I received: Holiday Hill pure Rhubarb, and Opera House blueberry-peach. I’ve eaten a lot of pies in my life, and outside of the French tarte tartin, I’ve never tasted anything quite like the creations of Grand Traverse Pie Company. If you ever want to send someone food as a gift, I really recommend them. They have the most enormous range of items, from pecan to chocolate pies, cheesecakes, brownies and more. Plus, the items are so carefully packaged and so deeply insulated, they arrive in pristine condition and the result is a pie as fresh as if you had just ordered it in Michigan yourself.

In terms of perfume, I received some books on the subject, but no actual scents. I can’t decide if my family thinks I have too many fragrances, or if they simply don’t dare buy me any. Since I’ve left numerous broad hints about my wish list, I suspect it’s the former. But I did receive money, so perhaps it’s the latter. I doubt I’m the easiest person to shop for when it comes to perfume.

So, that has been my Christmas thus far. Tell me about yours!