Monday, March 16, 2015

Capturing the Fragrance and Flavor of Winter

Nut Extracts
The spring thaw is upon us.  The icebergs are melting, the sidewalks are passable again and the smell of thawing earth and sap rising are in the air. This time of year is always a little melancholy for me. I love winter, no matter the cold and snow, I love it. I'm a big fan of warm and cozy.  I love the holidays, love snow days, thick blankets, warm stews and soft cashmere sweaters (and socks, cashmere socks are the best). I'm going to miss it in the long warm, muggy, glaring, big, fat summer ahead.  Most people talk about capturing the flavors of summer to be used during the cold, lean months.  I do my share of that, mostly so that I can enjoy the winter that much more, but just to turn things on their ear I've been trying to capture the flavors and fragrance of winter to be enjoyed during the summer.

What are the flavors I love most in winter?  That's easy.  Juicy, fresh citrus fruits, roasted nuts, and cups and cups and cups of milky black tea.  So that's what I've attempted to capture. I've made extracts of tangerine, blood orange, meyer lemon, vanilla/orange, toasted almond, hazelnut and pistachio and peach, blackcurrant and vanilla black tea.  Thinking ahead to chocolate ice cream with blood orange extract, or pistachio ice cream amped up with a bit of extract and glasses of cold seltzer with carbonated bubbles popping peach tea extract.

Drying orange zest
I've also started zesting my citrus before I peel them and drying the zest.  It's nice to have home cured rinds for recipes.  You can zest any type of orange, lemon or lime - or anything else you can get your hands on like yuzu or buddah's hand.  I lay them on parchment covered wicker trays but even laid out evenly on a dinner plate works. Leave them at least a week, depending on humidity, before you put them in a jar to keep. Make sure they're absolutely dry before you do, any hidden moisture could cause your rinds to mold.  On the other hand don't leave them out too long or they'll lose their potency. Don't forget to label them, you'll want to remember which is tangerine and which is blood orange, especially as they dry and their flavor concentrates.

Straining Meyer Lemon Extract
So, while it's still winter take advantage of the fruits of the season and keep them for the warm seasons to come.  If preparing them seems too mind-boggling and time consuming check out the selection of extracts in my Etsy store.  Everything is made in small batches so there is a limited supply. I love to tinker and experiment so expect some new arrivals.

To read more about making extracts at home look here.

Tea Extracts
Nut Extracts Sample Set
Tangerine Extract


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Perfume! Foret de la Mer, a Fougere for Men

Fougere's have been my passion for the past couple of years and the last time I was in California I was inspired to create one based on the expansive coastline rimmed with forests. This is a bolder and more voluptuous fragrance than I normally create but I was so moved by the drama of the natural surroundings that I wanted to try to capture it in a bottle. I became haunted by the smokey, maritime essence of choya nak, a destructive distillation of roasted seashells, and was compelled to use it in the base which gave it a definite masculine feel. I personally love men's fragrances and have been wanting to make one for some time. The result, Foret de la Mer (Forest of the Sea) is a mossy, maritime fragrance with luscious florals and fresh citruses.  It's more bracing than what I normally go for, and sometimes the smokey seashell seems nearly too much, but I'm always glad I stayed with it.  It really changes in the drydown and that smokiness turns sweeter.  It's weird, and that's partly what appeals to me about it.

The traditional fougere ingredients, tonka and oakmoss, sit at the bottom with ambrette seed and choya nak. Champaca absolute and orange blossom concrete mingle with French lavender absolute to create a sumptuous floral heart. Wild lavender essential oil blends beautifully with bergamot and wild sweet lavender to greet the nose in a tangy floral welcome.  It's bracing at first but gives way to sexy champaca and a surprisingly sweet dry down.


Foret de la Mer

Top notes: bergamot, wild sweet orange, wild lavender

Heart notes: champaca absolute, orange blossom concrete, lavender absolute
Base notes: tonka bean, oakmoss, ambrette, choya nak
5ml, 1/4 ounce, 15ml and sample sizes available.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview in the Park Slope Food Coop's Linewaiter's Gazette

Laugh if you want but my food coop is badass.  We have 16,000 members working cooperatively to run a store based on good politics, good value and great food.  We members of the Park Slope Food Coop all work a two and a half hour shift every four weeks and with the help of our paid staff we run the coop. We are a model for cooperation and sustainability.

The coop has its share of critics.  There are people who think there are too many rules and find it punitive.  There are only two rules I'm aware of.  One is to show up for your assigned shift, or at least call and let them know you're not coming.  That seems reasonable considering we're trying to run a store.  If you don't call in you have to do a second make-up shift.  This is also reasonable - there has to be a deterrent to not showing up or finding someone to cover your shift.  The other rule is don't shop in line. That just seems like common courtesy.

Every time someone from The New York Times writes about us they always make fun of our organic food and "all of those rules" and the way we check out or the long lines.  Every article is the same, let's make fun of the vegan hippies.  I'm waiting for someone to write an article about what a miracle it is that 16,000 people can work cooperatively to provide ourselves with sustainable organic food at reasonable prices.  There's the real story.

Poet and playwrite Pat Smith was kind enough to invite me to be interviewed, I'm chuffed by his kind words.  Check out page four of the March 5th, 2015 Linewaiter's Gazette to read the full article.

Friday, February 27, 2015

March Studio Classes

Natural Perfume Blending Workshops 

Coming in March 

I've been thoroughly enjoying teaching out of my home studio. The classes are more intimate and I have all of my materials at hand for every need.  


Saturday, March 7th
1 - 4pm
In this first workshop we will take a closer look at the artisanal art of natural perfumery. Students will gain a basic understanding of the sense of smell, the history of perfume, the advent of synthetic ingredients and the return to naturals.  Perfume ingredients and formulation will be explored and each participant will leave with two bottles of their own bespoke perfume.


Saturday, March 14th
1 - 4pm
For those students who have taken the first Natural Perfume Blending course and would like to study further I'm now offering Perfume Blending, Part Two. The original kit of 50 or so oils will be added to with some rare and precious oils such as hay absolute, magnolia flower, yuzu and pink pepper. A more in depth look at formulation and structure and becoming more intimate with your materials will be explored and there will be specific assignments to deepen your understanding of blending and perfume creation, as well as sharpen your sense of smell. 

To register visit herbalalchemy.net


Fougere Workshop

There has been some interest from a small group of students in doing another Fougere Workshop. You'll be choosing from tonka bean, sweet clover, concretes of lavender, geranium and clary sage, several lavender absolutes and essential oils, cedar moss, cassia and ho wood.  I also have samples of many perfumes in that category, including the original Fougere Royale and Jicky, along with many samples from some of the best natural perfumers working today.  We'll discuss the genre and explore the new materials and you'll create two perfumes.  $25 extra to make a third, time considering.

If you're interested email me at info@herbalalchemy.net.  The price will be $150.  If there's enough of us we can pick a date that works for everyone.  I could do it either Saturday, the 21st or 28th of March.  I hope it comes together, it's such a fun class.  Smells amazing, too.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Etsy Store Gets a Scripted French Facelift

I've seen other Etsy stores using vintage letters as a backdrop for their products and I always thought they were really beautiful.  I've been wanting to change up my product photos so I went searching on Etsy for some antique letters.  I found two stores that sell letters from France from the turn of the last century.  One was Oscar Naylor in Canada.  The letter came gorgeously wrapped in vintage letters, the most beautiful package my mailbox has seen in a long time.  I struggled to open it and keep it intact so I could save it.  The other store was French Manufacture in France.  From them I bought two packages of several letters.  They're all written out in script with pen and ink, a harkening back to a a time when quite a lot more effort went into correspondence



MIDNIGHT GARDEN



Samples of Eau Who and Noir










                        





Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nice Write Up in Crain's New York

I've been remiss in posting this lovely article about myself and my perfume business in Crain's New York.  I was lucky enough to be contacted by the magazine for the interview.  They sent over a photographer with more equipment than I thought would fit into my studio or that he and his assistant could possibly use.  They used every bit of it!

Making Extracts from Nuts, Citrus and Teas

I am fascinated by the extractive properties of alcohol.  Whatever it comes in contact with is transferred to it.  My friend Nata of Nata's Cocktails once referred to vodka as "the chicken of liquors". The same technique used to make herbal medicine, bitters, tinctures, colognes and flavored vodka also make extracts.

This winter has been a cold one, one of the coldest on record.  I'm not the happiest cook in the world but lately I've been cooking up all kinds of warming soups and stews.  But what actually makes me happy is baking and so I've turned my attention to creating extracts.

I started with vanilla, naturally.  I consume more vanilla than your average person, I add it to everything.  I did a lot of research and discovered that most homemade vanilla extract is quite weak. To legally be called extract it has to have six beans per cup of alcohol, otherwise you're just making vanilla flavored vodka.  Sliced, seeded and chopped up I let the six beans macerate for three months until it was a dark opaque and extraordnarily flavorful brew.

That got me started, once I hit on a good thing I want more.  I adore toasted hazelnuts so that was my next venture.  And why do only one nut when you can do three?  Toasted almond and pistachio made sense and I'm considering pecan.  I toasted the nuts, let them cool, chopped them up, put them in a clean jar and covered them with vodka.  The hazelnuts are a bit more complicated in that once you've toasted them you have to let them cool and rub off the skins.  It's a bit time consuming but totally worth it as the skins leave a bitter taste.  Leave to macerate for one to three months and then filter and clarify.

This winter I've discovered the joy of making my own nut milks.  It's so easy when you know how and there are instructions all over the internet.  I started with almond but gradually expanded into hazelnut, pistachio, cashew and coconut.  To the almond, hazelnut and pistachio I added their respective extract to bump up the flavor (and usually a bit of vanilla, too!).

Now that citrus season is in full swing I've turned my attention to citrus extracts. When they first came in season I couldn't get enough tangerines so that was the first extract I created.  I've got meyer lemon, blood orange and vanilla orange brewing. When I was a kid I adored creamsicles and still go crazy for that creamy orange and vanilla combination.  Simply zest whatever fruit you choose, place in a clean jar and cover with vodka.  Leave to macerate one to three months, strain and clarify.

I love tea so created some extracts out of my favorites.  I drink a delicious all naturally flavored peach tea in the wintertime so created Peach Tea Extract.  I love it in seltzer.  As the bubbly glass approaches your nose the bubbles pop with perfumed tea fragrance.  It's truly sublime.  I've added Blackcurrant Tea as well.  Attempts at Jasmine and Russian Caravan were less successful but I'm still willing to try working those out.

I also have an abundance of chocolate mint growing in my garden.  I've flavored vodka with it in the past and was delighted by the results.  Tissane brewed of the mint is nice, minty with a bit of chocolate flavor, but when extracted in alcohol the chocolate flavor really comes through.  I have just a couple of bottles left, I'll have to wait until summer to create more.

Extracts are, of course, delicious in baked goods but the possibilities for other deserts are endless.  Ice cream comes to mind (but that's for a warmer season).  And whatever confection you decide to create don't forget to spike your whipped cream with some extra extracted kick.

To experiment with some of my flavorings check out my Etsy store.  Some of them are bottled in vintage extract bottles found on the beach.