Preparing for Event with Smadar

I met with Smadar yesterday morning to plan our event together for next week. Her space is the old family house, a transplanted Swedish wood cabin, where they lived for many years when they just arrived to the village. Her husband, Yossi, was my 1st grade teacher, and for many years the couple ran a successful business of artisanal goat cheese and yoghurt and I babysat their kids. Once the family built a new home, they transformed their old house, with its 70 years old wood and all the memories it has soaked over the years, into a restaurant where my sister in law worked as a waitress for a while. So doing an event in this space is nostalgic and heartwarming also on a personal level.

Now the space holds many seats, some arranged indoors surrounding rustic wooden tables. There are more on the patio outside, under the grapevines (Smadar means grapevine flowers, by the way). Outside you'll also find Smadar's other creative outlet: mosaic tables that she makes herself from fragments of pretty plates and broken ceramic tiles. We started the morning with smelling some of the liquid treasures I brought with me - oils of wild orange, orange blossom, lavender absolute and more; and I let Smadar smell the simple yet irresistibly wonderful spice essences of cardamom and ginger CO2 and nutmeg absolute which not surprisingly have sparked Smadar's imagination.

And I got to taste her wonderful Earl Grey-infused créme brûlée, which is velvety and caramel-like, and also her wonderful homemade jams: kumquats from her orchard - sliced to perfection and candied with cloves, and a classic strawberry jam with whole strawberries scattered inside a clear red jelly. But what we will serve in the evening we have planned for Thursday, March 19th (5-8pm) is going to be a surprise. All I will say for now is that it will offer a generous flight of homemade desserts paired with wonderful beverages such as organic wines from Lotem Winery, artisan teas (including a freshly made version of my Charisma tea - jasmine tea with herbs from Smadar's garden), and the guests will also experience matching perfumes and learn about the ingredients that all of these extravagant treats have in common - both in the raw form (spices, as well as herbs and flowers from the garden), and their essences (CO2, essential oils and absolutes).

To make reservations, call Smadar 054-8184345.

Bacchus and Pan

This beautiful view is from a vineyard and a winery in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia. I've heard so much about this area but it took me 11 years to actually make it up there, and learn that the "valley" really is a large and long lake, and along its shores, sliding from the slopes of the dry mountaies are scattered orchards, vineyards and ever-growing little towns and and wineries. Orchards are fast being uprooted and replaced by vineyards; apparently Canadians prefer their fruit fermented and boozed up rather than fresh... Personally I'd rather have the fresh fruit: cherries, peaches, pears and apples make the majority - but it is also possible to grow kiwis there! The area is considered to be the northern most desert in the world, although the desert is kind of scattered around... With extreme climate (very cold at night and in the wintertime; very hot and dry in the summer), little rainfall (about 30cm annually) and relatively sparse vegetation.

Turns out I came to the area just in time for the grape and apple harvest as well as the wine festival in the region. I was originally invited to teach a workshop up in Vernon, which unfortunately got canceled (but hopefully postponed to another time). The softness of a full autumn sunshine was magical, as if the sun was kissing goodbye all the orchards and people before taking a little nap for the winter. And the atmosphere was festive, with all the ripe apples on the trees like bright red ornaments, and the odour of fermented grapes like after some kind of ancient fertility ritual for Dionysus.

I've experienced my first wine-tasting there (and the second, certainly too much for one day!) and learned the difference between red and white wines is more than just the colour of the grapes, but also how it is processed. I also learned the winery jargon is something that no matter how great is my olfactory imagination, I will never get it. With due respect to this tradition which is highly connected to the development of perfume (after all, without alcohol and distillation techniques, perfumes would not be very interesting at all) - perfumery is so much interesting. I find the whole notion of describing fermented (and often sour) grape juice as "floral" or with hints of this or that unrelated fruit or spice is a little silly. At least in perfume we use more than one plant and don't need to try to find other things in it that aren't there...

And one of the most fantastic things was discovering Carmelis goat cheese artisan at the very end of Kelowna towards Chute Lake and Naramata - which turns out to be owned by an Israeli woman. They make the best Labaneh (strained yogurt cheese) I've tasted out of the Western Galilee. They also serve ice cream by the scoop (their pistachio was amazing) and their variety of cheeses is more than impressive - soft ripened cheeses, brie, blue cheese, gruyere and even parmesan type but all made from goat cheese. My love for goats has grown even stronger seeing how much variety of cheeses can be made from their milk. Plus, in case you didn't know already, I just love how they smell...
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