rhubarb: 5 posts

Hermes Eau de Rhubarbe Ecarlate : Perfume Review

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As in fashion, fragrance outfits that engage in-house perfumers find themselves in a bind. On the one hand, one expects new designers to exercise their vision, but on the other, the fragrance industry is far more conservative than couture and they have to maintain the house’s creed. Christine Nagel’s first fragrance for Hermès, Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate, is a promising sign of things to come, because not only does she retain the radiance lit by Jean-Claude Ellena, she adds curves and sultry touches of her own, even in a fairly straightforward cologne.

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Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate is my rhubarb-rose sherbet in perfume form, albeit with a moderate dose of sugar. Since the French word écarlate, comes from the Persian word saqerlat–do you hear the echoes of “scarlet”, vivid red?–this association is fitting. Nagel softens the green, acidic edge of rhubarb with berries, but she retains enough of its savory, green nuances to make sophisticated perfume and not confiture.

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Rhubarb Rose Sherbet

Let it be spring! Nowruz, or “new day” in Persian, falls on the spring equinox and is celebrated for the thirteen following days. This year it fell on March 20th, and now we’re in the Persian year of 1393. While Nowruz is a major festival in Iran, the holiday is also celebrated in other countries, where ancient Persian culture left its mark, such as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, India, and Turkey. The festivities came into our family with my Azeri stepmother, and along with Easter, Nowruz is one of my favorite holidays for its rich symbolism of renewal and hope. It’s also a reminder that winter’s grasp is weakening and that warm days are around the corner.

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In every home, the centerpiece of Nowruz celebrations would be a table decorated with seven items, haftseen or the seven S’s. Seven is considered a lucky number, and each item on the table beginning with the letter seen (s) in Persian has its unique meaning. For instance, seeb (apple) represents beauty, seer (garlic)–good health, serkeh (vinegar)–patience, and sekeh (coins)–prosperity. The arrangement is ornate and colorful, and people make rounds admiring each other’s haftseen tables, sharing good wishes and delicious food.

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Olfactive Studio Flashback : Perfume Review

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Olfactive Studio Flashback, a salty vetiver and rhubarb blend, is one of those rare fragrances that not only smell good but feel poignant. Olfactive Studio’s concept marries fragrances with visuals, and in the image that accompanies Flashback, a frame from a video shot by Laurent Segretier of his long-distance girlfriend, you see very few details–the delicate tilt of a girl’s head and a thick fringe framing the face. This photograph was the brief to perfumer Olivier Cresp, who tapped into his childhood memories to create Flashback. For my part, when I smell Flashback, I’m reminded of collecting shells along the beach and helping my grandmother make rhubarb jelly.

Laurent Segretier

While childhood memories are often saccharine, there is nothing cloying or precious about Flashback. When I was collecting notes for my article about salty perfumes, it quickly turned out to be one of the best recent examples of salty vetivers. It’s also polished and elegant, suited for both men and women.

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Belgian Strawberry Capital and Russian Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

My ideal weekend would be spent reading or watching my favorite movies, but since we moved to Belgium my routine has been completely upended. Our apartment is so tiny that even the most minimalist notions of privacy are compromised–this is further compounded by the transparent bathroom door. To escape our weird living situation we’re taking lots of weekend trips. Belgium is a small country, but its size belies its impressive diversity. The travel distances are ridiculously short, especially by American standards, and if you are here as a tourist, I highly recommend renting a car and seeing the country this way.

A couple of weeks ago we were once again on the road going south. Belgium is divided into two regions; the Dutch-speaking Flanders spread out to the north, and the French-speaking Wallonia to the south. The line that bisects the country at Brussels may be imaginary, but it’s easy enough to get your bearings. Once the street signs start appearing shorter you’ll know that you’re in French-speaking Wallonia. Dutch, like German, has a tendency to fuse several words together in a string that looks unpronounceable to me.

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Rhubarb Strawberry Fool with Orange and Vanilla

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My first introduction to fool, a classical English dessert dating back to the 16th century, was through Elizabeth David’s wonderful book Summer Cooking. David’s characteristically laconic recipe could not have been more appealing. “ 1lb. of strawberries, 3 oz. sugar, 5oz. double cream. Sieve the hulled strawberries. Stir in the sugar. Add this purée gradually to the whipped cream, so that it is quite smooth. Turn into a shallow crystal or silver dish, and put in the refrigerator for several hours, if possible underneath the ice-trays, so that the fools gets as cold as possible without actually freezing. It is important to cover the bowl, or everything else in the refrigerator will smell of strawberries.”

I love the airy texture of the mousse, the strong fragrance of strawberries and the refreshing sensation on the palate. Although fool (or foole as it used to be spelled) is traditionally made with gooseberries, it offers nearly limitless opportunities for experimens with different fruit pairings. Cream, as any fat based substance, picks up the aroma molecules beautifully, and it provides an excellent canvas on which to paint with flavors.

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