Cheers to Change!

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MixologyYes, I realize we’ve had a brief interlude, but I’ve been a bit tied up working on this.  You’ll also notice that in addition to launching the new biz, the blog was also rebranded to have a similar look and feel. Please don’t be alarmed by that – the content here will still reflect my own personal musings. I’ve additionally been pulling artwork and creating some items for an upcoming Etsy shop, so stay tuned because it will eventually be linked under “Retail Therapy.” As far as food and drink interests go, I’ve once again signed up for my Good Food Collective summer share which will start in June. I’m sure my bags o’ farm market goodness will contain some obscure vegetables for further kitchen experimentation.  I’ve also submitted a few of my vegan recipes for a local event called Veg Out taking place at the end of May. Amidst all things “cray,” I’ve conjured up some new soups, cookies, and cocktails. I figure I’ll start with the booze since we should probably toast to new endeavors and I’ve declared it officially gin season. So if you’re thirsty for a new tipple, give these a whirl since they’ve certainly had a few quality control runs.

Let’s start with a drink based on Hendrick’s Gin with a few interesting additives.  I came up with this one a couple of months ago after a liqueur called Parfait d’ Amour piqued my interest.  Parfait d’Amour is a deep violet color and typically has a flavor profile of orange, vanilla, and floral notes. There are other brands available but I picked the Marie Brizard (link above) brand because it also boasts notes of orange blossom, almond, and rose (I’m also detecting a hint of violet) which I thought would complement the Hendrick’s well. It’s fun going to the liquor store and asking for it. No one knows what the hell it is, so you can certainly amuse yourself with expressions of general confusion from the staff. I decided to name this beauty after a classic perfume from the house of Guerlain due to the similar citrus, vanilla, and powdery floral notes and of course, its distinctive color.

Lady Sensory’s L’Heure Bleue Cocktail L'Heure Bleue

1.5 oz Hendrick’s gin

.5 oz of each:  Blue Curaçao (I use this, procured on my trip to Curaçao),

Parfait d’Amour, and freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dry Champagne (or any dry white sparkling wine)

Sparkling water, seltzer, or club soda

Lemon twist (garnish)

Chill a tall flute or large wine glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, Hendrick’s, Blue Curaçao, Parfait d’Amour, and lemon juice. Shake and strain into chilled glass. Top with equal parts dry Champagne and sparkling water and garnish with a twist. This is simple, pretty, and very refreshing.

The next beverage evolved after researching several different gins I had yet to try. I decided to pick up some Plymouth Gin this past week, which is dry, aromatic, and very well-rounded. It makes for an excellent gin and tonic. In fact, I’m drinking one as I type this, and I’ll be experimenting with a Plymouth martini once I pick up some dry vermouth. Much like Champagne, Plymouth is both a style of gin and protected geographical location for gins produced in Plymouth, England. The only distillery producing it is Black Friars (owned by Pernod Ricard) and there is an image of a small friar on the back of the bottle. I really like this gin and find it to be very versatile. I whipped this one up with some ingredients I had handy and it’s both simple and amazing. This recipe will make two cocktails in rocks glasses.

Lady Sensory’s Oran Juice Jones Cocktail Oran Juice Jones

1.5 oz Plymouth Gin

.5 oz Grand Marnier

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp honey

2 slices and juice from one medium orange (I used a Valencia orange)

Sparkling water, seltzer or club soda

Angostura bitters

Fill two rocks glasses with ice, cut an orange in half and cut two wheels. Over a cocktail shaker, juice the remaining orange, the lemon, and mix in 1 tsp of honey. Add ice to the shaker, the Plymouth Gin and Grand Marnier. Shake and strain into the rocks glasses. Top with bitters and sparkling water. Garnish with an orange wheel.

Yep. I totally named it after this guy. What can I say? We’ve had a lot of rain lately and this tasted just like orange juice. This makes for an excellent brunch or day drink. Cheers to change and happy sipping!

 

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Share My Stench

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Serge Lutens and L'Artisan booty!

Serge Lutens and L’Artisan booty!

I’ve been a ‘stinky’ blogger lately. I’m not quite sure where January went, but one of the high points of the month was that this recipe was named a runner-up in the 5th Annual St. Germain Can Can Classic!  Ironically, I won a fancy St. Germain cruiser bicycle (it’s on the way) and a bottle of the delicious elderflower liqueur from France.  I guess I’ll have to teach myself how to ride a bike again after all (see previous post about my failed bicycle attempts in Mexico).

So while we are on the subject of French liqueur, I’ve realized I neglected to cover many of France trip highlights, including one I like to refer to as my ‘Passport to Fragrance.’  I’ve decided that we’re going to do something about that right now.  In junior high, I listened to alternative bands like The Dead Milkmen and used to get a kick out of an obnoxious track called, “My Many Smells,” and the line: “Won’t you come and smell me? Won’t you share my stench?”  I don’t think I envisioned my perfume affinity at the ripe age of 12 or 13. But after twenty years and more flacons than I can recall, I think this song had a rather profound effect on me – even if their idea of stench was more like a college fraternity house or what my hair smells like after several days of hitting the dry shampoo.  So without further ado, I’m going to share my stench with you.

I went to Paris with a very clear agenda: go to the Les Salons Dus Palais Royal Shiseido and buy what is known as a bell jar (and no, not the Sylvia Plath variety – see the pic above).  The apothecary-styled bell jar is generally filled with some exclusive Serge Lutens scent that we poor bastards in the states can’t enjoy unless Monsieur Lutens decides to release it as a limited edition 50 ml spray export.  Since my trip to France, they’ve decided to allow exclusive bell jar purchases to ship to the U.S. Go figure! At any rate, the store looks exactly like it appears on the website, which is great considering I didn’t take a picture.  The doors were open and the sales associates were looking at me like I was some crazy American tourist so I put my camera away (busted!) and got down to business: retail therapy.  I had been pathetically coveting a bell jar for over five years.  I hadn’t had the chance to sniff Sarassins, which has seen described as an “inky jasmine.” I also sampled Fourreau Noir, a lavender-tonka concoction that on the right person (i.e. the sales associate) would smell great but ultimately that wasn’t the one for me.   I liked Sarassins immediately. I’d describe it as a true jasmine with fruity top notes and a lovely base of musk and leather.  The fruity notes remind me of apricots or Osmanthus tea.  The leather note is more suede-like, and similar to the suede note in Daim Blonde. The jasmine is tempered by the fruit, musk and leather which keeps it from going overboard (as in A La Nuit).  It smells gorgeous in the cold January air in New York.  I think frigid weather really does wonders for tropical white florals.  It’s like having a spray vacation.

So after purchasing Sarassins, I had the sales associate dab some Un Lys on me  (my all-time favorite) and I proceeded to exit the store.  I meandered back to the hotel with my purchase and while strolling and successfully avoiding the Jimmy Choo windows (my wallet just couldn’t take that beating), I soon realized that I would have to return to Palais Royal before departing Paris. While the sales associate did me proper in selling me the Sarassins, I just had to have my beloved bell jar of Un Lys. I’m hard pressed to find a better fragrance on my person.  It’s a gorgeous white lily underpinned with greens, vanilla, and musk. It’s simple. Elegant. Classy. Hey, that’s how I roll.  I’ve worn this one from early spring until the tail end of summer. It’s a stunner. Some adjustments had to be made within the travel spending budget to accommodate the extra perfume purchases, but not before I embraced my inner museum nerd.  I sweated and got elbowed by many an Asian tourist while documenting the Mona Lisa.  Can I just say that the Louvre was the most unpleasant museum experience I’ve ever had? No, not the Louvre itself – there are a lot of fine works there.  It was just way too crowded for anyone’s actual enjoyment.  I much preferred the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay,  Musée de l’Orangerie, l’Espace Dalí, and Musée Matisse.

Upon exiting the Louvre, I spotted the L’Artisan boutique directly across the street. I needed to spray something on myself after feeling as crammed as a sardine in a can.  Plus, I couldn’t risk opening my new bell jars and having them spill all over in transit. Samples of the L’Artisan line could be enjoyed outside without even entering the store, but I was definitely going in. It took all of five hot seconds to know that their summer release of Séville à l’Aube was coming home with Lady Sensory.  No one does an orange blossom like L’Artisan.  They managed to unseat the highly regarded Serge Lutens Fleurs d’Oranger as my top pick for orange blossom in a matter of minutes.  If you haven’t heard the story behind the fragrance, please visit this blog written by the woman whose story inspired it and this blog for a lovely review.  The top notes will hit you with a dose of greens (petitgrain) and then the orange blossom develops and lingers throughout the drydown which is all honeyed lavender and benzoin on me.  This was the fragrance I wore for the remainder of the trip as I moved toward the south of France. I also wore it upon my return and throughout the fall months.  While one might not recommend this for summer due to the drydown, I don’t really find it heavy or cloying. In fact, I find it very clean (not in that boring laundry-musk way) and I get tons of compliments on it.  I wore it yesterday because it hit 60 degrees here and even got some compliments standing in line for some soup at the deli.  The lavender seems to temper the honey and incense notes and the orange blossom keeps the whole thing from tipping into that ambery-oriental/gourmand zone.  I really, truly love this and will always associate it with my brief summer stint on the Mediterranean.  I’ve already used half of my bottle and never want to be without it and yet (of course), it’s in limited production.

While on my visit, I also hit the Fragonard perfume museum (I warned you that I’m a museum nerd) which is kind of near the Opera House in Paris.  I wanted to go to the Fragonard in Eze, but the driver prioritized a Monte Carlo run for all the gamblers on the bus. While some scents were nice at Fragonard, I didn’t find anything that really spoke to me and said, “Take me home!”  But hey, I managed to land three gorgeous bottles of perfume that are unusual enough where I  know I won’t smell them on anyone I know.  I also snagged some amazing high-quality bar soaps from the market in Nice, a lifetime of memories, and some quality pics. So, no complaints here!

Now, some of you might be reading this thinking, “Whoa, crazy lady. You flew across the ocean for perfume?”  Well the answer is both yes and no. I travel because I enjoy experiencing the culture, food, and art in a new place, but olfactory memories are very powerful and if you can capture the essence of that place and time, or a feeling in a bottle (as in Séville à l’Aube) well, why wouldn’t you buy it? And France has a long history of perfumery.  It seemed that perfume would be the perfect souvenir.  And now, some thoughts to ponder when selecting your own personal stench:

1) Don’t buy something because it smells good on someone else without trying it on your own skin.  It will smell different on you because of your chemistry.  Research and try before you buy. Plenty of websites offer reviews of perfume and samples for purchase or swapping (from niche to mainstream).Please reference my breakup with Thierry Mugler’s Angel for more elaboration on that.

2) You don’t HAVE to have a signature scent.  It’s wonderful if you do, but sometimes a seven-year itch is a good thing (again, refer to the Angel breakup).  I went from wearing the same scent every day (a very heavy gourmand) to having a nice collection composed of what I would describe as three distinct fragrance seasons. Experiment! Like food, you’ll be surprised how much your taste can change when exposed to new things.  For every new celebrity fruity-floral, there are several far more interesting fragrances to counteract it. If I hadn’t strayed I would never have smelled all the amazing stuff going on out there in the fragrance industry.

3) Most importantly, wear what YOU like. I wear fragrance for myself. If I get a compliment, well, that’s just a bonus because I’m already in the mindset that I smell great. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Whether it’s a $10 drugstore spray or a fancy flacon nearing $200 – when it works, it just works.  Now run along and put your best stench forward…and enjoy a few pics from the parade of museums and perfumeries.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness But It Can Buy You Ninjas

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So this past weekend I needed to run a few basic errands amidst the Black Friday kooks and managed to haphazardly throw myself together for this excursion (you know, showered and stuff). As I was about to get on the expressway I was confronted with the most gorgeous smell and couldn’t quite figure out where it was coming from.  Slightly sweet, honeyed, smoky and spicy, I sniffed my wrist and realized this lovely stink was coming from me.  You see, I have three seasons of fragrance: tropical white florals, green and white florals and this period somewhere between fall and winter where spices run amuck.  As the seasons have changed, I’ve been sporting some L’Artisan Safran Troublant and have recently revisited the house of Hermès, where Jean-Claude Ellena works his magic as house perfumer. Un Jardin en Méditerranée was becoming a fall staple because nothing reminds me more of the south of France (and I promise – I will get to my fragrant adventures in France shortly).  Over the weekend, I happened to reach for the Ambre Narguilé, which is part of the Hermessence line.  I hadn’t worn it in a couple of years but the mood struck me.  The scent is basically a less-gourmand apple pie in a bottle. It doesn’t smell like fruit – but you get wafts of honey, caramel, cinnamon, and incense on a powdery benzoin base.  It’s sweet without being cloying. I can only wear it on rare occasions,  but I have been enjoying the last few days cloaking myself in it. Did it make me want to bake an apple pie? No. But it did make me want to bake something spicy and despite finding no evidence of ginger in the fragrance notes, I decided I wanted to make gingerbread in a very bad way.

I have a slight gingerbread problem. We have established this already.  I had received some Ninjabread cookie cutters for my birthday.  I hadn’t really baked since I made the nerd cookies and I felt it was time to bake and share my creations.  The cookie cutters came with a recipe inside that I ignored and promptly referred to the gold standard, The Gourmet Cookbook. I made a few tiny adjustments and eschewed the frosting recommendations because I had my own ideas. Although in hindsight I would probably make my mother’s traditional white icing and call these Ginger LaRussos (for those of you who are younger than I am, Danny LaRusso is the character Ralph Macchio played in the Karate Kid). At any rate, smelling good is inspiring. I should shower and scent myself before I deal with the Black Friday freakshows every year.

Lady Sensory’s Killer Ninjabread Cookies  (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

2/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap or  robust)

2/3 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)

1 tbsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, sliced into tablespoons

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 3/4 – 4 cups all-purpose flour

Cooking spray or butter

Black sanding sugar, black icing (I found ready-made Wilton variety at the store), dried cranberries & red hots (otherwise known as cinnamon imperials) for decoration. Or, make your own icing.

Rolling pin & cookie cutters – I had the ninjas, but standard ginger or any cutter is acceptable. Change up the decorations to suit your mood.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease two baking sheets (I actually put parchment on mine and spray the parchment lightly).  In a 4-5 qt pan (or fancy pot), heat molasses, brown sugar, spices until boiling, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. The baking soda is going to do this weird thing where it puffs up like a soufflé.  Disregard this phenomenon and keep going, adding butter 2-3 tbsp at a time, allowing each addition to melt in between. Add vanilla and beaten egg and stir until combined. Then add the salt, then flour, reserving about 1/4 cup. Lightly flour a surface and turn the dough onto in and knead for a few seconds to help it come together. If it’s sticky, add a little more flour as you knead. Separate the dough into two parts, wrap one half in wax paper or plastic and set aside (keep at room temp as you work). As a side note, try not to freak out as you make these. I was whipping this up in my fancy pot wondering if I would ever get the caramel off the Le Creuset. Trust the process. The dough comes together nicely in the end.  Roll one half out until about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick. Cut your cookies, place on the sheets and apply sanding sugar, red hots and cranberries if you are using them. I put six cutouts on each tray (about 2 inches in between). They don’t expand too much while cooking. Bake cookies for 12 minutes, rotating the trays at around 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them at the 10 minute mark so they don’t burn. Remove from trays and allow to cool. Repeat steps with remaining dough.  Decorate with frosting and any other cookie accoutrements you desire. Allow to set for a few hours before packing and transporting.  Additionally, you can simply shove your face with any that don’t meet quality control standards while you wait.

Now bring the ninjas to your workplace and enjoy everybody kung-fu fighting over them.