fall tastes: 8 posts

Warmth and Comfort: Perfect Teas for Autumn

Andy invites us to share a cup of tea.

I’m never really sure autumn has begun until I can smell the fallen leaves. Even as the trees begin to shed their green coats, sporadic warm days and bright sunshine deliver teases of summer. Nonetheless, once the leaves begin to tumble, so fall the tea leaves into my cup, and when dried foliage starts to crunch underfoot and release its crisp perfume of vetiver, myrrh, and scorched citrus peels, I know I’m in another season. Much in the way I select a perfume to wear, I often tailor my choice of tea to harmonize with the seasonal scents that naturally color my day. Whether you wish to reflect the time of year in your teacup or simply want to experience a taste of fall wherever you are, below are some of my favorite autumnal teas.

tea-autumn

The Art of Tea Caramelized Pear

I never would have believed a tea could deliver on a promise as specific as caramelized fruit, but this offering by Art of Tea actually does. The real wonder lies in a pear flavor married perfectly with the toasty softness of rooibos, so as to create the effect not merely of pears, but those slowly baked in the oven and glazed with golden sugar. This herbal tea is an indulgent choice, but even a sometimes tea-purist like myself can appreciate the autumnal embrace of this comforting cup.

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Vanilla and Nutmeg Scented Plum Jam

Judging by the variety of gourmand fragrances, the kitchen is a terrific source of inspiration for perfumers, and the exchange happens the other way too. A perfumer turns to vanilla to round out a composition, and if you’re in doubt how to jazz up your dessert, try this familiar sweet note. Vanilla is versatile enough to play along side many different ingredients, but it pairs especially well with stone fruit. This was my thinking as I simmered plums with sugar and a generous dose of vanilla in an impromptu jam I had to devise with a surfeit of damsons. I splashed it over the bubbling jam so liberally that the kitchen was filled with vanilla scented steam within seconds.

plum jam2

The jam was very good, and my husband pronounced it the best plum jam he has tried, but I felt that something was missing. The sweetness of vanilla and plums was rich and deep, but I wished there was more bite and sparkle. When I returned to the kitchen for one more experiment, I added lemon zest and nutmeg towards the end, and the spicy-citrusy twist completed the picture. Now, this jam was not only perfumed as well as something from Serge Lutens, but it was also richly flavored.

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Miso Grilled Salmon with Honey and Orange

As much as I love experimenting with new foods, there are times when all I want is comfort. If I’ve had a tough day and need a hug, I make a bowl of mashed potatoes with a side of cucumber salad. Or I whip up lacy crepes and eat them with plenty of sour cream and cherry jam.  These dishes are old childhood favorites, and they always make me feel better. But over the years, I’ve added a new set of comfort foods to my repertoire. They range from my mother-in-law’s Indian sour lentil soups and vegetable stews to Vietnamese grilled pork on rice. And anything made with miso immediately qualifies as comfort food.

salmon-miso1

What is it about miso that makes it so comforting? It might be its intensely savory flavor or the velvety, suave aftertaste; I’m not quite sure. All I know is that I love it. Miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans and/or other grains with salt and koji, a special starter. The result is the unique vitamin and protein rich condiment that has been used in Japan for centuries. The proportions of soybeans to other grains in the miso recipe will determine its flavor and color. There are numerous miso types, but the white (shiro) and red (aka) varieties are the most common. White miso, which is really golden yellow in hue, contains more rice than soybeans and has a mild, sweet flavor. By contrast, the soybean rich red miso is meaty, bold and salty.

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Persimmon Toast

My husband first encountered a persimmon during his first visit to my family home. My stepfather handed it to him and simply said, “Just eat it like an apple.”  For some strange reason, my stepfather prefers persimmons unripe and hard. But my husband wasn’t convinced, as the hard flesh was unyielding and his mouth felt coated with sticky cotton.  It took him a few hours to get rid of the bitter, tannic sensation. The same willingness to please his new in-laws also left my husband unable to refuse yet another shot of vodka, but the consequences of that lasted into the next day. Imagine his surprise when he finally tried a ripe persimmon and discovered that it was a juicy fruit with a delicate perfume.

persimmons-market-japanpersimmon toast2a

There are thousands varieties of persimmons, but Fuyu and Hachiya are the most common ones. Fuyu (top left photo) looks like a squat orange tomato, and it can be eaten when it’s hard. It’s sweet and crunchy, with a distinctive flavor of dates and plums. The Hachiya variety (in the photos below) is pointy and elongated, and it’s the kind that tormented my poor husband. As he will tell you, when hard and unripe it tastes even worse than a green banana–bitter and chalky. But give it a few days to soften and it turns sweet and luscious.

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Autumn in Brussels : Pork Loin with Peaches and Thyme

Autumn here in Belgium begins overnight. After the short interlude of an Indian summer, you wake up to an overcast, gray day and feel that the clouds are only a few inches above your head. The roses might still be in full bloom, the daytime temperature is still comfortable, but you already know that the rainy season is here. It’s telling that in the old Bruxellois dialect, there are numerous words for rain. It can be a delicate mist that looks innocuous but soaks you to the bone within minutes. It can be a lashing, cold rain that makes umbrellas obsolete, or it might just be a nagging drizzle that makes me feel sad for no particular reason and ponder the wisdom of bears that go into hibernation for the winter.

Since the winter here is nine months long, hibernation isn’t really an option. I’ve learned to do all of my chores on foot and shop at the open air markets which are run year round in each neighborhood, rain or shine. Brussels is made up of 19 communes, and if you love markets, you can explore different areas of the city based on your specific shopping needs. On Saturday, you can pour over the antique books at the market held at the Place du Sablon. On Sunday, you can buy spices and vegetables at the sprawling le Marché du Midi or walk along Rue de Brabant and feel as if you’re in Morocco. While les grandes surfaces (supermarkets) offer stiff competition, the vibrancy of the open air markets even on the dreariest of days is appealing.

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  • briony in Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes: Thanks for this post – iris is my absolute favourite note. I, too, love ISM. I also love Cuir de Nacre but wish it were stronger. It disappears on me… April 25, 2017 at 7:25am

  • SophieC in Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes: One of my favourite notes – I adore Chanel 19 and also really enjoy Bois D’Iris by Van Cleef. I am taking notes of other iris perfumes from all the… April 25, 2017 at 6:40am

  • Karen A in Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes: Until receiving a recent Iris sampler from a generous BdJ regular, I had a bit of a prejudice against Iris perfumes, probably because I, too, was expecting the beautiful sent… April 25, 2017 at 6:27am

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