Food & Fragrance: 160 posts

Articles about the gourmand pleasures, flavorful cooking, scent and taste experiments and tested recipe ideas

Laurent Gerbaud: The Chocolate Treasure of Brussels

Brussels is a city renowned for its chocolate, but even so, the creations of Laurent Gerbaud stand out. Their flavors are exquisite, their quality is impeccable and the presentation is beautiful. The boutique on Rue Ravenstein, located close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts–another one of the city’s treasures–is a place I return often to taste chocolates or linger over a glass of wine.

In my recent FT Magazine article, Laurent Gerbaud, I talk about this enigmatic confectioner and his craft. The range of flavors is seasonal–fig and apricot in the summer and yuzu in the winter. One of my favorite discoveries has been milk chocolate with salt and green cumin, a combination that seems unexpected and tastes addictive.

The boutique itself is a destination–charming and serene.

When I’m finally ready to step back into the real world, I leave with a couple of chocolate bars or perhaps a Mondrian set, a box divided into squares and rectangles reminiscent of the Dutch painter’s compositions. Gerbaud’s is edible art at its best. The flavors range from delicate to intense, but the experience is invariably of pure delight. To continue reading, please click here.

 

Elderflower Cordial

Sugar to flavors is like amber to butterflies. It captures even the most delicate of nuances of flowers like roses, violets or acacia. I don’t have a particularly strong sweet tooth, and yet you can tell by the number of articles I’ve written about making candied flowers and searching for Persian sugared jasmine or Provencal glazed mimosa, how much this topic fascinates me.  Now that the elderflowers are in bloom, I want to capture the effervescent ballet of their aromas in something. A candy. A jam. Or perhaps, a cordial.

Elderflower cordial is a popular drink in Belgium, where it’s sold diluted as a soft drink, but growing up in Ukraine, I’ve never associated elderblossoms with anything but tisane. My great-grandmother occasionally used the berries to make cough syrups, but I don’t remember them tasting appealing. I liked their intense violet color and once tried to use them as fountain pen ink. That didn’t go over well. The aroma of elderblossoms in early summer, however, was one of my vivid childhood memories.

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Roses and Honey

Poltava, in central Ukraine, is famous for its honey. Every year the city and its environs host fairs celebrating honey in all its forms, and whenever I visit my grandmother, who is a Poltava native, I enjoy this sweet treat in gingerbreads, cakes, drinks and even savory dishes. One of the most beloved local pairings is first-of-the-season honey drizzled over cucumbers.

On a recent visit, I discovered yet another way to eat honey – infused with roses. It was heaven. So, for my recent FT column, The Fragrance of Honey and Roses, I’ve decided to recreate this combination and to find fragrances that are build around the rose-honey accord.

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Tonka Bean, Chocolate Salt and Three Perfumes

Several years ago, a friend gave me a jar of chocolate and tonka salt from a Viennese outfit called Zum Schwarzen Kameel. It’s a delicatessen and a culinary complex famous for its unique interpretation of classical Austrian specialties. The salt was a mix of coarse salt crystals, black pepper, pieces of cacao beans and tonka. Only a small quantity of the latter was present, but its cherry-almond scent made the salt a heady, fragrant mixture. I’ve used it on grilled meat and fish, but it shone best on winter vegetables like cabbage, turnips, swedes, potatoes, and parsnips. I’ve since made my own version, using equal amounts of black pepper and cacao beans and a smidgen of tonka shavings for perfume. The recipe is at the end of the article.

The reason I was stingy with tonka bean in my blend is because it’s a potent ingredient.  The scent of toasted almonds, amarena cherries, sun-warmed hay and vanilla custard lingers well, and tonka bean’s is one of the most luscious and seductive aromas in a perfumer’s palette. It was also responsible for a revolution in modern perfumery.

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Persian Flower Delights

In time for Nowruz, which falls on March 20 or 21 in 2019, depending on where in the world you are, I wanted to share with you my favorite Persian floral delights. Flowers don’t only bloom in Persian gardens and adorn Qajar art and textiles, they’re also used in cuisine. Rosewater adds a bright note to savory and sweet dishes. Willow flowers flavor sugar and candy. Orange blossom accents tea blends. As good as flowers smell, their flavors are equally beautiful.

So I took a walk through my local Iranian store and came home with a whole treasure trove of floral delicacies.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Debby in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2019: Sounds like he might enjoy the legendary Creed Aventus, or one of the many clones if that’s a bit spendy. My husband actually said it has a BBQd meaty quality! August 21, 2019 at 6:44pm

  • Debby in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2019: Lily perfumes are my holy grail, too. You might enjoy Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily, didn’t work for me as most TF’s don’t for some reason, but it’s definitely complex. I… August 21, 2019 at 6:41pm

  • Kaitlin in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2019: Hello, all! I’m trying to think of a good fragrance for my fiancé. He likes the smell of grass, most fruits (especially pineapple and lemon), BBQ pork, neroli, and clean… August 21, 2019 at 5:15pm

  • KatieAnn in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2019: You, know, I was thinking you could try eBay for some vintage BaV. There are plenty of listings for it. Sorry the suggestions didn’t work out. I wish you luck… August 21, 2019 at 4:33pm

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