On October 2nd 2011 I hosted a very special tea party at my studio - bridal showers for my friend and intern (graduate student of 3 years) Monique Trottier, who just got married to her new beau (of 15 years!) this Sunday... And what better excuse to celebrate and pull out some of the most luxurious fragrant recipes and ideas than a wedding celebration?
As you can guess by her name, Monique is French Canadian, so it was not difficult to go with a mostly-French menu. I decided on a theme of Violets & Leather - because I know Monique likes both notes. And the menu was just born out of that...
I don't have photos of all the savouries (yet) but here are some dessert photos I managed to snap with my iPhone before all the guests arrived...
And the guests, by the way, were the sweetest crowd imaginable, including Gwendoline from Patent and the Pantry, whose blog I followed for a while, and with whom I enjoyed exchanging baking tips and recipes with, and the gifted artist Rachael Ashe who took proper photos of all the baking which I hope to post here later.
The cherry on the top: Viola truffles (dark chocoalte with violet leaf absolute and orris butter) and Sahleb truffles (white chocolate with orris butter, coconut milk and a hint of rose).
Violet shortbreads - true decadence! Perfectly flaky and flavoured with orris butter and alpha ionone natural isolate, decorated with crystalized violets, of course.
Pumpkin scones! Monique is a pumpkin lover, not surprising for someone who is obsessed with the Harry Potter septology... I almost left them out for black current scones, but these seemed perfect especially it being autumn.
Something spicy and smoky was in order!
And of course - we had to have some madelienes! The are flavoured with honey, and Earl Grey Cream tea leaves.
The menu signs - all the menu items were revolving around the delicate tea-like violet and ionone aromas, and leather-like smoky accents.
Brie + Pear Mini Croissants (with cassis mustard)
Smoked Cheddar + Honeycrisp Apple Tea Sandwiches on Rye Bread
Classic Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
Chevre + Wine Jelly Baguette Open Sandwiches
Mini Mushroom Quiches
Pumpkin Scones, served with creme fraiche and local fig confiture
Sweets & Desserts:
Madeleines au The Earl Grey
Sables au Violette (violet shortbreads)
Chipotle Brownies (spicy and smoky!!!)
Sahleb Truffles (white chocolate with coconut, orris and rose)
Viola Truffles (dark chocolate with violet leaf and rose)
Teas & Libations:
French Earl Grey
Cream Earl Grey
Violets for my Furs - the perfume that seemed the perfect match for this party, as it has both of the notes (violet and leather) that were the theme; and served as an example for various violet-like and leather-like notes, but most importantly - the aphrodisiac properties of perfume, which is what Monique wanted to be featured in the presentation part of the event. The ingredients in this perfume were what the presentation revolved around: the story of Napoleon and Josephine (she liked violets above all scents, and before his exile, Napoleon picked some of the violets on her grave, and kept them with him until his own death); violets' seductiveness with its ionones, which seduce and tease the nostrils by fading in and out of the olfactory bulb's perception... The connections were drawn between ionone-rich essences (violet, iris, boronia, cassie, osmanthus...) and leathery notes. Interestingly, ionone is present in teas. And so are tannins, which are important in curing leather (and are what give leather its "leathery" aroma in the curing process). Cassie, for example, is one of the plants that is used for curing leather and also has a very violet-like scent. Osmanthus, another ionone-rich absolute, has a scent reminiscent of apricots and... you guessed it! Leather!
Monique is a famous book worm, so it was only natural to end the presentation with spraying black lambskin leather bookmarks (courtesy of Jola V. Designs) with the Violets For My Furs perfume.
The intricate connections between botanicals and essences, their healing powers, folkloric and symbolic meanings are all fascinating and add another layer of understanding and appreciation of perfume that none of the guests would have expected. Not even the aunt who never wears perfume and never thought she would be in the least interested in it :-)
From left to right: Monique, Ayala, Jolanta, Anita (who graduated with Monique as well) and in the very background - Tamya.