As I was enjoying the toasty sandalwood of Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau recently, it reminded me of the burnt, caramelized notes we enjoy in food such as coffee, freshly baked bread, chocolate and pralines. These flavors oscillate between languid sweetness and smoky bitterness, yet all facets add up to an irresistible mélange. In food, as in fragrance, the judicious use of charred notes can convey a savory, mouthwatering sensation. One of my favorite ways to experience this is a simple buckwheat pilaf. Accented with the dark, piney notes of mushrooms and sweet caramelized onions, this traditional Russian dish is very satisfying. In the spring, it takes well to morels and white field mushrooms, while in the winter, it can be made with smoky and savory dried porcini.
When zeera, or black cumin, hits hot oil, the scent that rises up is complex and rich. It hovers above the sizzling pan as a warm cloud, woody, crisp, with sweet clove and leather undertones. Bunium persicum or black cumin is a plant in the same wonderful family, the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae, that gives us carrot, parsley, cumin, coriander, dill, caraway, fennel, parsnip, celery, and Queen anne's lace among others. Its black slender crescents are similar to both carraway and cumin, but the flavor bears only a slight resemblance to either. Lacking the intense animalic note of regular white cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and the musty darkness of caraway (Carum carvi), black cumin has an elegant flavor, possessing a hot sweetness and mineral chill. It has a natural affinity for meat, cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, and acidic vegetable-fruit like eggplant and tomato. It is able to refine their flavors, while retaining its own unique character. Black cumin in widely used in Afghani, Pakistani and North Indian cooking, but it is Uzbek cuisine that truly extols black cumin. The Uzbek palette of flavors is bold, yet streamlined, which makes their dishes very memorable. In perfumery, black cumin can be found in fragrances such as Idole de Lubin, Cerruti 1881 Black and Kiss Him by Kiss.
Describing the taste of shirin plov, an exquisite rice dish originating from Azerbaidjan’s capital Baku, is not unlike talking about a fine perfume. It has a bright top fruity note of apricots and raisins, a warm heart of rosewater and saffron, while the milky-popcorn notes of basmati rice and butter provide a sensual and lingering backdrop. It is a memorable combination that gives one a full taste of Azerbaidjan—the country on the Caspian Sea coast, whose history is a tapestry of influences. Indeed, shirin plov is not simply a delicious dish—its interesting manner of preparation and elaborate flavorings with Persian accents provide a glimpse into the rich mélange that is Azeri culture.
Vibrant green scents are indelibly associated with spring—the sticky sap covering young buds, the first green blades of grass, the delicate fragrance of spring flowers. In perfumery, the family of green notes is extensive, ranging from the essences of galbanum, petitgrain, basil, and violet leaf to the recreations of fig leaves, ivy, fresh cut grass and cucumber skin. The classical green grand parfums like Balmain Vent Vert, Estee Lauder Alliage and Chanel No 19 rely on the vegetal verdancy of galbanum for an explosive green effect, while Bond no 9 Gramercy Park, Chanel Bel Respiro and Marc Jacobs Grass are accented with the new generation of aroma-materials that give them a more subtle green facet. Admittedly, I find the modern green compositions too tame for my taste, especially when my spring scent explorations lead to such intense discoveries on the market stands as bitterly green dandelion leaves, spicy kale and my absolute favorite—broccoli rabe (also known as broccoletti, broccoli di rape, cime di rapa, raab or rapini.)
In fragrance as in fashion, there are waves of trends not only in terms of the style of a composition but also for certain ingredients. Pink pepper (often referred to as baies rose) is one such example. Its bright, resinous fragrance with an effervescent fruity sweetness lends itself to various arrangements, from the citrusy-woody elegance of Ormonde Jayne Isfahan (Isfarkand) to the animalic roses of The Different Company Rose Poivrée, among others. While I was familiar with pink pepper oil, I have never cooked with the peppercorns themselves. Unable to resist the temptation of something shiny and pink, I purchased a small packet and started to experiment. ...