Before I begin, I have two announcements to make: First of all, I want to thank the generous Joanna for sharing a decant of vintage Diorella with me. This review is based on my subsequent wearings of this beautiful rendition, prior to the oakmoss banning days. My second confession is that some ten or so years ago, when Diorella was quite widely available (and before oakmoss was so ridiculously restricted) and it did not quite capture my heart. While I liked its freshness and similarity to the brilliant Eau Sauvage, here was something about it that I disliked - a combination of the heaady floral note of honeysuckle, and the soapy aldehydes at the opening. Time perhaps has been kind with Diorella, because she has aged gracefully. Or perhaps it is an even earlier formulation of the same one. But it is certainly different from the scrubbed and lathered version you’ll find on the Dior counters nowadays.

Way before its time, Roudnitska was at ease incorporating fruit salad elements in his fragrances in a most refreshing, light-weight manner... created in 1972, Roudnitska’s fruit has thankfully no affinity with the syrupy, unbearably sweet fruity-gourmand florals of the new millenia; but rather posessed a cheerful lightness paired with complex substance from more earthy and floral notes of natural raw materials. So again, these are far superior to the light, watery fruity-florals of the 90‘s, though these were strongly influenced by the asthetics that Roudnitska developed with the creation of Eau Sauvage, which introduced the concept of space and expansion to modern perfumery.

Diorella is munching on a honeydew melon (or is it a cantaloupe?). It is ripe, juicy yet somehow still crisp, as it is brilliantly paired with citrusy notes of lemon and bergamot and a touch of spicy-sweet green basil. Her peach-toned skin emanates a scent that is similar to white peach’s delicate, milky and slightly nutty aroma, due to the use of peach aldehyde and peach lactone. These unique fruity notes were both brilliantly used in a non-edible way (as Edmound Roudnitska explains beautifully in Michael Edward’s book, Perfume Legends - French Feminine Fragrances). Rather, it brings freshness and a unique texture to the jus. It is brilliantly paired with effervescent, ethereal and soapy honeysuckle, crushed basil leaves and a tad of the oily aldehydic notes backed with ionones, that simultaneously give the clean impression of triple-milled soap, and the dirty allusion to hosiery that’s been worn and sweated in for at least half a day. That dichotomy between anti-bacterial herbs and animal/human secretion seems to be at the core of Diorella.

The oily aldheyde and peach notes fades rather quickly, allowing the basil and citrus notes more breathing room. Orris butter is present yet very subtle, giving a soft-focus background to the composition, and making it somehow smell more feminine. What truly moves to the forefront is jasmine. Pure, unadulterated, indole-rich jasmine at its best. And it is that indole that will accompany Diorella throughout her strut on the skin and the surrounding air - first an ethereal jasmine, and later on a full, unabridged indolic jasmine, with its fruity, jammy peach-like and earthy and animalic character beautifully showcasing this gorgeous phenomenon. The similarity to Le Parfum de Thérèse as well as Eau Sauvage are striking; but what surprised me what the affinity I discovered with Eau d’Hermes. Also a perfume that is all about jasmine, yet from a very different point of view - more warm, sweet-earthy and spicy. It is probably the juxtaposition of jasmine with ionones that creates that olfactory connection for me.

Last but not least, it’s time to talk about the base notes, the foundation of Diorella. No matter how much Roudnitska denies any connection to Eau Sauvage, the similarity is striking, despite the differences. There is definitely oakmoss, but not nearly as much as in Eau Sauvage, which gives it more of a green, dry and woody character rather than a dense, brown-earthy and musky feel. Vetiver also supports it in this direction. Even the patchouli, which appears in both, seems to be toned down and instead of the big-warm-oily patchouli hug you get in some feminine Chypres such as Miss Dior - there is just a single brush stroke of it, done in aquarelle. Last but not least, where Eau Sauvage has a generous dose of hay, which gives it an almost-fougere quality, Diorella has a subtle sprinkle of tonka bean (or perhaps just pure synthetic coumarin - in reality there is a very small difference between the two), giving it a slightly bitter finish, but with that feminine soft-focus that reflects the orris from earlier on.

Diorella is a very Mediterranean perfume, and truly reminds me of Grasse and the surrounding area, including the perfumer’s home and garden (which I visited in 2009). It also reminds me of a perfume that his son, Michel Roudnitska created way into the future - Eau Emotionelle - also playing on the cantaloupe-jasmine-ionone theme, but in oil-pain strokes rather than the sheer aquarelle of his father's. The culture in that area is greatly influenced by Italy and Spain, and there is something very Italian about it, especially in the opening notes. If Diorella was a woman, she would be one with a very outgoing, young spirit. A woman that loves to laugh and enjoy life’s pleasures, and just goes with the flow - but isn’t audacious or dominant by any means, and is very kind, generous and open but without ever being vulgar in the least. There is something truly carefree, open, fun, bursting with life and joie de vivre about it. In case you didn’t know already - it’s a true masterpiece. It has been relatively recently re-introduced along with the other classic retro Dior-fumes: Diorling, Dioressence, Diorama... I’m sure the new version pales in comparison but I’m nevertheless intrigued to find out what they’ve done to it to overcome the restrictions on jasmine levels and the industry’s new (low) standard of avoiding oakmoss at all costs (even though it is still allowed - the washed-down version of atranol-free absolute, and at only very low percentage).

Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Basil, Melon, Aldehydes, Peach
Heart notes: Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Hedione, Orris, Violet
Base notes: Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver, Coumarin

Soba, Eggplant & Mango Heaven

This soba noodle salad recipe is an adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe from his book "Plenty" (which I highly recommend). I've been obsessed with fruit & herb combinations this summer, and this salad shows that the possibilities are limitless, and being creative leads to much excitement for the taste buds (as well as one's nose).

The author dissects the charm of this dish as "the sweet sharpness of the dressing and the muskiness of mango that makes it so pleasing". I couldn't agree with him more; but I think the true secret here is the contrast between lime zest, which has a slightly coconut-like effect, harmonizing with the almost floral aspect of mango in a way very similar to that of jasmine and lime; and to top it off - basil and cilantro goes amazingly well with both the lime and the mango!

It is also very appealing texture-wise, with the soggy fried eggplants, crunchy onions, slippery noodles and mango, and bits of herbs and spices and heat from the chile. Delicious is not good enough to describe it...

My adaptations or variations on the original recipe are in the method of cooking the eggplant (to reduce the amount of grease involved without compromising taste) as well as substituting sugar and rice vinegar with agave syrup and apple cider vinegar (my personal preferences). I also feel that the recipes always go overboard with some of the ingredients (herbs, vinegars and spices) so mine is toned down quite a bit, including omitting the garlic (which I think is overboard with all that red onion in there) - and I like it best this way - and hope you do too! It's full of flavour and like all the recipes I'm sharing today (see below) to celebrate the end of summer - it's a perfect picnic food and actually can be a meal all on its own! Especially if you add a bit of pan-roasted tofu - see comment below.

To prepare the eggplant:
2 eggplants, diced to about 3/4"
1 Tbs coarse sea salt

Sprinkle with salt and set aside to drain for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hrs. Pat dry with a towel, or squeeze additional excess moisture over the sink. Fry the drained eggplant pieces in about 3 Tbs or more (no more than 1/4cup) vegetable oil. You can do this in a large saucepan or a wok. Sautee and stir until slightly browned and fully cooked (but the pieces still hold their shape). Set aside to cool off.

For the soba noodles:
Cook 2 bundles of soba noodles (preferably wheat free and yam flour free - I even found a brand that is organic and 100% buckwheat flour!) according to the manufacturer's directions, until they are "al dente". Rinse off with plenty of cool water and leave to drain over a sieve. Once completely drained - coat the noodles with:
2-3 Tbs olive oil
2-3 Tbs soy sauce or tamari

Add the cooled off eggplant, and:
1 ripe yet firm mango (I prefer Ataulfo mango), diced
1 generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 generous handful of torn basil leaves
1 red shallot, thinly sliced (or 1/2 red onion).

For the dressing:
1 Tbs dark roasted sesame oil
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice from 1 ripe lime (pick the one that is as more yellow rather than the dark green ones)
1 tsp agave syrup
1 tsp chile flakes (or 1 fresh red chile)
Combine all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. If serving the next day, add an extra garnish of fresh basil and cilantro for an extra burst of flavour!

In a cast-iron pan, roast 1 package of extra firm organic tofu that is cut into 3/4 dice. This is simply done by warming the tofu inside soy sauce or tamari until the tofu is brown and crispy on the outside. Add more sauce during the process to prevent scorching the tofu and the pan prematurely...

Watermelon and Heirloom Tomatoes Salad

Thanks to Alyssa Harad's inspiration, I've been enjoying this salad repeatedly this summer. Also one of those salads that holds shape; therefore making it a perfect picnic food that won't wilt by the time you hit the beach!

This salad is so easy to make it's almost ridiculous - but the results are mind-blowing spectacular. It will make an impressive appetizer or salad course.

To make it you will need very few and simply ingredients. It's a great example for a recipe where the result is far greater than the sum of its parts. If you are already a lover of the classic Balkan & Mediterannean combination of salty feta cheese and sweet-juicy watermelon, the rest will come natural to you. Unlike most of my salads, this calls for no acidic component (lemon, lime or vinegar). There is enough juiciness coming from the watermelon and split tomatoes. And plenty of complementary flavour from the feta and olive oil. Make sure you use the best ingredients for truly stunning results!

1/4 ripe yet firm watermelon
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes, of varying shapes and colours
2 scallions, or 1/4 onion (sweet or red Spanish - depending on how spicy you want your salad to be!), thinly sliced
150-200gr diced Macedonian feta cheese (or look for another kind that is creamy and full of flavour - you don't want it to be too dry in texture)
Black Nicoise olives
Handful of hand-torn basil leaves
2 Tbs top-quality olive oil (unfortunate, most of the Italian olive oil that comes to Canada is poor quality; try to find olive oil from Greece or Lebanon as it has much more body and the desired olive fruit flavour)

Cut the watermelon into large cubes or small wedges. Quarter the tomatoes. toss with the sliced onions and torn basil. Top with olives and diced feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and toss just before you serve into each diner's plate.

Aphrodisiac of the Day: Basil

Is there any herb more refreshing, simple yet intriguing than basil?

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a plant native to India that have spread all around Asia and Europe and is one of the most popular herbs in many cuisines - North East Asian cuisine, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian in Asia - and in Europe it is most popular in Italian and French cuisine.

Basil is a stimulant and an aphrodisiac. It has such an uplifting, cheerful scent and is used in aromatherapy to combat depression and anxiety (both are probably two of the most potent anti-aphrodisiacs). So if you suffer the winter blues, take advantage of the benefit of this domestic, easy to find, grow and use little herb. You can find it fresh in most supermarkets, and even better – you can get your own plant and keep it by a sunlit window (if you have a kitchen window – all the better).

In herbal medicine, ayurveda and aromatherapy, sweet basil is used for relieving headaches (including migraines), earaches, cold and flu symptoms, sinus congestion, depression, anxiety and fatigue. Its essential oil has antioxidants as well as antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It also aids in digestion and is used to treat various conditions related to the stomach. It also has a balancing effect on the nervous system and is considered an excellent nerve tonic. Sweet basil is said to have the ability to give the mind strength and clarity and as such is regarded as a useful studying-aid to assist in focus, memory and concentration.

There are many types and cultivars of basil. Generally speaking, in warmer countries, Exotic Basil - or the chemotype methyl chavicol is dominant (70-88%), resulting in a spicier, more pungent aroma that is closer to tarragon, fennel or anise in fragrance and flavour, and with the eugenol more dominant as well. In cooler countries, "Sweet Basil" or "French Basil" or else known as the linalol type (with 40-45% linalol) will still have a significant amount of methyl chavicol (over 20%) and will produce a fresher aroma that is more green and light, perceived citrusy by some (due to the limonene and citronellol molecules coming through better). Think about the difference of flavours of basil when you eat it in a Thai curry or in a pho noodle soup; versus in pesto or in Italian dishes.

Other components of basil oil include 1,8-cineole which accounts for its respiratory benefits (this is also present in eucalyptus and rosemary), and eugenol, which gives it spicy, clove-like nuances, methyl cinnamate, which gives it a robust, fruity-spicy character, reminiscent of strawberry and cinnamon in both flavour and scent, and also attracts certain insects. And the limonene (the terpene that characterizes all citrus oils and has a lemon-orange scent) and citronellol (that gives lemongrass, citronella and geranium a fruity-citrusy-rosy personality) we mentioned earlier - which give basil it's uplifting, fresh and light charm reminiscent of citrus.

Basil has interesting folklore and myths associated with it - it was considered holy, protective, seductive and even associated with evil! Here are a few examples: In India, Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum, aka Holy Basil, which is a different species of basil and is a perennial shrub) is grown on its very own altar in the temples and in every home, and is worshiped and offered to deities Vishnu and Krishna. Sweet basil is added to the holy water in the Greek Orthodox church as it was believed that this plant was found on Jesus grave. African traditions believe basil to protect against scorpions; and both in Europe and India basil leaves are given to the dead to protect them on their journey and even help them to reach God (in Ancient Egypt and Greece). In Ancient Rome it was said to be the only plant that could fight the lethal gaze and fire of the Basilisk; and yet, some European tales associate it with Satan himself.

But back to our topic - there are many customs around basil and love, such as giving basil twigs as token of love in Italy and seal an engagement in Romania; presenting a pot of basil decorated with pompoms to a loved one along with a love poem on Saint John and Saint Anthony Days in Portugal; keeping basil leaves in one's pockets to ensure that their loved one will return their love forever in Mexico. But the most touching legend involving basil is in Decameron and in the poem adapted from it by John Keats titled Isabella and the Pot of Basil.

Basil essential oil happily pairs with jasmine and citrus to create very uplifting, mood enhancing, refreshing scents that act as stimulating aphrodisiac – especially if you like the scent of basil. Burn an ArbitRary candle to bring on this happy mood. Or if you have your own little collection of essential oil, a drop of each basil, lime and jasmine in a diffuser or in the bath will lift your spirit and make you feel sexy and refreshed.

RG Tests by Giuseppe Bognanni
RG Tests, a photo by Giuseppe Bognanni on Flickr.

For those of you who prefer basil only in their food – here are two recipe ideas, one savoury and one sweet. That’s right - you can use savoury herbs in desserts to create a surprising, special effect. And there is no better time than now to experiments with such innovative combinations to spice up your life and change an otherwise mundane and familiar flavour into an extraordinary affair!

Savoury Recipe: Polenta with Basil, Tomatoes & Balsamic Reduction
This simple, tried-and-true classic can be assembled in no time, and tomatoes are also an aphrodisiac, due to their bright red and curvy, suggestive shape. I like to this gluten-free alternative to bruchetta as it’s just as delicious and feels much lighter. It will literally 2 minutes to assemble, given that you have all the ingredients on hand.

1 log of polenta (you can get these in most grocery stores and supermarkets – they look like a big yellow sausage), sliced about ¼” (about 1/2 cm) thick2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch basil leaves (I usually get organic ones and don’t wash them at all, as this can take away from the flavour; if not organic – rinse and dry using a salad spinner or gently wipe dry with a towel)
Balsamic reduction
Bocconcini cheese, sliced

Top each polenta slice with a slice of bocconcini cheese. Put a tiny bit of balsamic reduction, top with tomato and garnish with a basil leaf.

I love basil in desserts - especially in the summer in a sorbetto, which can be a wonderful palate cleanser in between courses in a fancy meal. This recipe, however, is for Lime & Basil Macarons. I saw the idea first in Ottolenghi's cookbook and immediately thought it is so brilliant I have to at least bring it up here - even before I try making them myself!

Lavender-Basil, Sahleb and Other Stock Updates

Lovender-Basil One-of-a-Kind perfume is taken!
It was adopted by a Susan, a British Colmubian island-dweller and is now officially her signature perfume.
To view other one-of-a-kind perfumes available for adoption as your own signature perfume, vist my Etsy shop.

A few more news about what's in and what's out of stock:

The last bottle of Sahleb was sold today. A new batch, however, with a new crop of orris butter 15% irone was prepared recently and will be available in a few weeks' time once it is matured. Although the orris is not the same as the original batch, Sahleb maintains its buttery, milky smoothness, which is what it's all about.

On another note, it's time to bid farewell to Magnolia Petal. From now on it will be only produced on-demand and will no longer be available in sample sizes.

Tirzah and Gaucho teas are out of stock and will not be produced again in the foreseeable future. We do, however, have a new beautiful floral-green-tea coming up this spring to accompany Charisma - which is going to be very exciting. I will be posting more about it in the near future.
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