s

SmellyBlog

Lavender-Violet-Cassis Cupcakes

Lavender, Blueberry & Violet Cupcakes

Lavender-Violet-Cassis Cupcakes were an invention of a moment a few summers ago that got a hold in my baking repertoire as an exotic yet easy to whip-up pastry that looks pretty and impressive. The decoration is so simple: flowering tops of lavender (preferably fresh), and crystallized violets. Both are fancy, yet keep for a long time and create a memorable impression, both visually and on your guests palate. I've served them since in bridal stagettes and baby showers, and always got many complements!

If you can't get a hold of black currants (cassis), blueberries make a fine and delicious substitute. Keep in mind that the smaller the berries - the more flavourful they are, as most of the flavour is actually in their skin. The violet glazing is not what's going to make or break this recipe, so use it only if you have it - so if you can't find it, don't let that stop you from baking and enjoying these cupcakes .

Batter:
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. dried lavender buds
1 stick butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs Créme de Cassis liquor
½ cup fresh or frozen blackcurrants (or blueberries, if you can’t find blackcurrants)

Glazing:
Violet jelly (optional)

Icing:
5oz cream cheese
2/3 cup icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste

For decoration:
Lavender springs and/or Candied Violet Petals

- Preheat the oven to 350F (180c)
- Make the batter by creaming together the butter, sugar and lavender buds.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
- Sift together flour and baking powder, and add to the batter.
- Add the milk and liquor
- Add the berries, and stir gently just until incorporated (avoid bruising the berries!)
- Bake in paper-lined muffin tins for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the middle cupcake comes out clean.
- Place the cupcakes and wait till they have cooled completely
- Meanwhile (as they are baking and cooling), whip up the cream cheese icing, blending all ingredients until smooth.
- To decorate, brush each cupcake with the violet jelly, once it's absorbed into the dough a little bit, place a generous dollop of the icing (or pipe it if you like it to be more precise-looking).
- Right before serving: Top each cupcake with one blooming top of lavender, and one candied violet petal.

Jasmine & Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

When visiting Grasse in spring 2009, I was intrigued by Salade de melon et jambon de Parme
 (AKA Prosciutto e Melone - a simple carpaccio dish that seemed rather alluring even to my eternal vegetarian-born-and-raised palate. Thin slices of cured ham were layered flat on a plate, and wedges of cantaloupe arranged on top. It seemed so odd to me to pair something so meaty and brown with something so vividly orange and juicy. But, living vicariously through the carnivore boyfriend I had at the time, I gathered that the magic lay in the contrast between the saltiness of the prosciutto and the fragrant sweetness of cantaloupe - not unlike the Balkan signature pairing of crispy sweet watermelon with creamy and heavily brined feta cheese.

Later research into the matter also informed me that pork has a coconut, peach and apricot-like notes to it from lactones, which makes it so suitable for pairing with fruit as well as certain fruity white wines or lightly oaked reds. Vegetarians may enjoy a somewhat similar experience by savouring tiny cubes of well-aged Pecorino Romano with abovementioned cantaloupe; or if you want to go overboard, find yourself a coconut-gouda and watch out for exploding tastebuds. And since we are on the topic of coconut, vegans can also enjoy the coconut and cantaloupe contrast by sprinkling fine coconut flakes on their melon; or toasted coconut curls for an even more decadent experience.

Prosciutto e melone

While in Grasse, I had the pleasure and honour to meet with Michel Roudnistka - a multi sensory and visual artist (photographer, perfumer and filmmaker who combined his videos into a film that is accompanied by five difference ambient fragrances, each for a different indigenous culture around the world), and that is when I firs experienced his magnificent perfume Emotionelle, which he created for Parfums DelRae in San Francisco. How does Emotionelle smell?

Picture this in ripe, juicy, room-temperatured cantaloupe in your mouth, with a full-bodied flavour filling your entire palate:

Crisp Cantaloupe
Suddenlly and immediately, you are interrupted by more than a whiff of this indolic jasmine:
Grasse jasmine
That is the basis for Emotiomelle, the main structure upon a complete, original and unusual perfume is built. One could argue the source for this pairing is in Le Parfum de Thérèse (which the perfumer's father created for his mother), or Diorella. However, the other two had melon, not cantaloupe. And that is a huge difference. As far as influence goes, I would suspect that a new cantaloupe molecule or base was invented that year in one of the Grasse houses, because both Emotionelle and Un Jardin Après la Mousson (which pairs this very cantaloupe note with more bracing, chilled spice notes and cooling vetiver) were released the year prior (2008).

Emotionelle opens with a big, ripe, juicy cantaloupe note and is paired with sultry jasmine and sweet violets. It’s hard to believe these will get along, but they sure do. The key is in the balancing of the animalic indole in the jasmine with softly-blended, oily violet, musk and cedar notes, almost like pastel crayons smeared with a persistent finger to create a bold picture with loud colours yet with very soft texture.

The result is magical, even if a little disturbing, like striking the right chord in the right time. After all, we are talking about pairing something very edible, with something very floral and animalic. To me Emotionelle is very sexy, sensual. I like the fact that it's a distinctive tricolour - with cantaloupe, jasmine and violet being in the centre at all times. There is a complexity and tension that all three bring to the composition, but there are also other subtle layers underneath that keep it from being too simplistic and ordinary. Those who yell "cantaloupe" and dismiss it (most of the reviews I read, actually) miss the entire point. There are many composition styles, and Michel Roudnitska's is one that takes a theme and goes all the way with it. It's also what I smell in Noir Epices: it's very bold combination of geranium, cloves, orange and cinnamon. But it's brining a new, modern meaning to the ages-old pomander scent (the root of all Oriental-Spicy scents, if you ask me) - by not trying to play it quieter, but rather amplifying the seeming dissonance between those notes. Those who pay attention will find it actually humorous, playful and at the same time sophisticated. In the case of Emotionelle this is achieved with low dosage of musk to offset the animalic indole; cedar wood to substantiate the ionones; and warm, sweet notes of honey, amber and labdanum to deepen the sweetness of the cantaloup, with tiny sparkling of spices (cloves, cinnamon) for a bit of warmth and dimension.

Cantaloupe

To me this perfume will forever remind of Southern France and in particular Grasse, and the visit to Michel's studio and home in Cabris where I first smelled Emotionelle. There was an osmo-art (multi sensory film) projected in one of the room of the MIP (Musée International de la Parfumerie, AKA International Perfume Museum) of which an image of a ladybug crawling along a split cantaloupe was the olfactory if not visual highlight. And lastly, the cantaloupe in the above photo is one I bought and ate there, in its entirety, one afternoon. I didn't have a big enough refrigerator in my hotel room there, so I had to eat most of it room-temperature (which is actually delicious, by the way: it makes the fragrance more apparent than when chilled). It is the perfume of a hot spring day up on the mountainous Alpes-Maritimes-Cote d'Azur, where the sun shines generously, people are warm and hospitable, life is slowly savoured with the people you love, lunch breaks span over two hours minimum, and an afternoon siesta to follow is not a bad idea at all, especially when the room is permeated with a fragrant cantaloupe.



Top notes: Cantalupe, Tangerine, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Prune
Heart notes: Jasmine, Violet Flower, Violet Leaf, Rose, Cinnamon, Honey
Base notes: Vanilla, Cedarwood, Cloves, Patchouli, Musk, Amber, Labdanum

Fragrant Rose Bouquet for Sale

Fragrant rose bouquets for Mother's Day
Most of the roses bred for the cut-flower industry smell anemic and lack character in that arena - in exchange for longer vase-life and easier transport. So imagine my delight at finding real scented roses on Mother's Day! The flower girl's name is Sabrina, and she has a cute dog and pretty roses that are not only affordable ($10 for a bouquet of five roses). Most of them are scented and might look quite ordinary (the pink ones) but smell divine, a little sweet-vanilla-like and violetty, and definitely Tea-Rose-like; very much like Bulgari pour Femme, actually.

I was so dumbstruck that I actually asked Sabrina at first which perfume they sprayed on the roses... It was that extraordinary!
It was not until she showed me their unscented varieties (the green trimmed purple roses below - which actually were so pretty that almost seemed to be worth buying despite their fragrant shortcomings).
Fragrant rose bouquets for Mother's Day
{Fragrant}

Fragrant rose bouquets for Mother's Day

{Not fragrant}

Fragrant rose bouquets for Mother's Day
My daughter bought me a bunch of the fragrant pink ones with her weekly allowance (simply because I had no change in my wallet - I secretly put it back in her piggy bank).



Vitriol d'œillet



Vitriol d'œillet is not so much about angry carnations, and more about toxic violets. Chemically speaking, vitriol is the archaic name for sulphate (also spelled sulfate), referring to its colourful, glassy-looking crystals, and brings to mind alchemy, magic and medicine (The name originates in Latin (vitrum means glass) and Old French); And œillet simply means carnation in French. Vitriol is also defined as "cruel and bitter criticism" - also an interesting note because this perfume has received such lukewarm reviews at the time (it was launched in 2011) that I didn't even bother procuring a sample.

A few days ago, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find a wide selection of Serge Lutens at Sephora on Robson Strasse. I immediately fell for Vitriol d'œillet's mysterious opening that is at the same time floral, warm, powdery, spicy and mysterious. Pink pepper, mace and a gentle dose of helioitropine, anisaldehyde and a hint of jasmine combined with ionones give both mystery and familiarity that is comforting and intimate. There is hardly any of the characteristic molecules of carnation (iso-eugenol), nor cloves (eugenol); but rather, pink pepper reigns supreme above all the spices here, giving it a bit of a cool edge, rather than the expected spicy heat.



Rather than conjuring up the jagged petals of the clove pinks, Vitriol d'œillet's juxtaposition of heliotrope, jasmine and anise brings to mind angel's trumpet (or datura) and combined with violets it creates a very interesting fragrance.

As Vitriol d'œillet progresses on the skin, it becomes less complex, and more about cedar wood and violets, accentuated by musk, and vaguely references the Lutens-Sheldrake original collaboration on Feminite du Bois, sans the honey, much more toned-down spices, and an additional pencil-shavings note of Virginia cedar wood. It also brings to mind two other favourites of mine - Si Lolita and Ineke's Sweet William, yet is a lot less spicy and vibrant than these two. Another scent it greatly reminds me of is Kisu by Tann Rokka. While these are all lovely perfumes, neither has the same audacity as Tubereuse Criminelle, the other flower for the Lutens collection that Vitriol was meant to emulate.

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Nutmeg, Black Pepper, Anise
Heart notes: Carnation, Iris, Cloves, Jasmine 
Base notes: Atlas Cedar, Virginia Cedarwood, Musk, Heliotropine

More reviews of this perfume can be found on the following perfume fora and blogs:
Basenotes
Bois de Jasmin
Fragrantica
Grains de Musc
MakeUpAlley
Now Smell This
Perfume Shrine
The Non Blonde

Tarnished Silver

Naming has the power of brining our attention to the subtle qualities of a scent. In Tarnished Silver, botanical extract expert Dabney Rose brings forth the metallic qualities of violet. I've been fortunate to experience several of Dabney Rose's innovative botanical enfleurage of hyacinth, which she added to my order of hydrosols, and have also traded a copy of my book for her gorgeous pommades of tuberose breathtaking butterfly ginger which I have recently reviewed here. Tarnished Silver is the first perfume blend I'm experiencing from this talented lady. This time it arrived in my mailbox completely unannounced (though most welcome!) alongside a beautifully assembled collection of handicapped Kyphi incense. They all arrived right before I left for my trip, and I left them behind, knowing I will not have the appropriate conditions for incense burning on my travels.

Tarnished Silver, however, was tucked in my carry-on and I'm enjoying it immensely. I am now riding the train to the north part of Israel - the Western Galilee. Stretches of fields, meadows, orchards, and factories pass by the window, and glimpses of the Mediterranean sea delight the spirit as the train gently rocks and hums its way to our destination. There is wi-fi here (which I won't easily come by when I reach my home village, and off-the-grid hippie haven). So here I am again with a dab of Tarnished Silver on each wrist, enjoying the scenery.

It opens with a melancholy tinge of violets: at once sweet yet also bitter. Sharply green yet soft and diffused, almost powdery. It's amazing that fresh violets can be captured so beautifully with this vegan enfleurage - truly a labour of love. To the sweet ionone facets are added some other notes though subtle: honey, perhaps a tad of hay or flouve as well or something else that gives it a bitter sweet coumarin undertone. A touch of rose and oaks give it a very vintage feel, like Chypre from the turn of the 20th Century.


  • Page 1 of 4
  • Page 1 of 4
Back to the top