I am wondering if I'll ever get my garden back for it's by invaded by the brightest cast of characters that I've ever seen. There are fairies everywhere and even if I hadn't seen them twinkling brightly out of the corners of my eyes I would have known that they were there by the madly intoxicating aromas that are wafting from every corner, every branch every bough....Midsummers Magic is definitely alive and afoot and I have the feeling that my life which is never quite ordinary is about to become very interesting in unimaginable ways for we all know that when the fairy folk are around that one never knows when the next prank will arise...
When I started writing about fine fragrances it was mostly out of my love for the beautiful perfumes that I had worn all of my life. Gorgeous grand things like Shalimar and Joy and my beloved Magie Noire which has always made me so happy. But then I began to notice something. My fragrances didn't smell the same anymore. Reformulations and crass regulations subjected my beauties to the whims of something unnatural and to my mind almost evil. The list of aromas that are not allowed to be used in fine perfumery is mindboggling, but we can of course continuously douse ourselves with chemicals that make us sick and are not even remotely recognizable.
Enter the outlaws to the rescue!....
It's been my pleasure then to discover that there was a group of mavericks....men and women who have devoted themselves to the passionate crafting of outrageous natural and botanical perfumes. I love getting samples from them because they're always beautifully packaged, carefully and lovingly wrapped with a soul that's simply not found in mass marketed merchandised. Best of all, the perfumes are gorgeous.
For the next few days I'm devoting myself to reviewing 14 luscious natural perfumes that have been created to honor the Summer Solstice and crafted in the fun and frolicsome spirit of Shakespeare's Midsummer Nights Dream. This is going to take a bit because this is the most distracting and disarming group of perfumes that I've come across in awhile and the fairies keep overwhelming me by blowing sweet kisses on the nape of my neck and this morning I woke up next to the brambles to find myself fairly naked and covered in jam....trust me and definitely try them all!
"Out of this wood do not desire to go.
Thou shalt remain here whether thou wilt or no.
I am a spirit of no common rate.
The summer still doth tend upon my state.
And I do love thee. Therefore go with me.
I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee.
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
And sing while thou on pressèd flowers dost sleep.
Enter Titania, Queen of the fairies by Bellatrix perfumes. I immediately loved this ode to Titania the fairie queen, because of its delightful spiciness which to my awareness had everything to do with the initial blast of pink peppercorn and neroli. I adore PInk Peppercorn; it reminds of my other life in Southern California so anytime I smell it I'm instantly filled with happiness! The lovely Ankica Milic has created a beautiful perfume that speaks to my sense of whimsy but is ultimately a very passionate caress of a fragrance.
She calls herself a newcomer to the field of perfumery but I think that she has an incredibly fine future. She's combined rose and mint and tuberose in a way that's truly exciting to my senses and she's used labdanum so skillfully that instead of being cloying is refreshing and bright. It lasted for a long time and the drydown was wonderful, leaving the soft fragrance of angelica, orris, oakmoss and patchouli which brushed my senses like a butterfly who just alighted on my hand for a moment but left her gossamer touch forever.....
I simply adore Charna's perfumes.I first made her acquaintance during the "Outlaw Project" put on by the Natural Perfumers Guild when she sent me "Gypsy" which was one of the loveliest fougere's that I'd ever met. She's captivated me again with "Eva Luna" which she has created for this project and describes as "Verdant carrot kisses, spring green flowers, joyful lovers and a moonlit dance.." I love Charna's style because it's sophisticated and just a little bit wicked like me..not in the witch of the west sense but a very sexy naughty ephemeralness that seems to run through her creations.
I adore Eva Luna and it's burlesque sensibilities. From the very beginning I'm captivated by the Russian Carrot which surprises and confuses me and then the mimosa and fresh mint that disarms me even more, but soon I'm bewitched by an emerging heart of tuberose, frangipani and jasmine. By the time we get to the lusty drydown of Orris , frankincense and ambrette it's all over.... I can imagine applying Eva Luna all over my naked body; Anais Nin wrapped in fur and giving myself over to an almost stranger at midnight somewhere deep in the heart of Paris...
I love a cryptic game, a treasure hunt of any kind so receiving this note from the gorgeous Ayala was a total treat..."The note's chosen are unusual and I prefer not to disclose them until after you've formed your own impression". I was intrigued and I must say that even after I'd sniffed this many times and during many different phases I still couldn't tell you what's in it. I'm actually not that kind of reviewer and I prefer to let my imagination wander around what I'm experiencing in the scent and wander it did. Smiling Country is just that; a vast wide open breath of fresh air with a bit of sun warmed hay, almost overripe fruit and freshly turned earth. I could instantly smell the mountains and I was immediately taken back to a trip that I made to the Tetons in Wyoming.
I was given the opportunity to ride an amazing horse bareback through the government lands that bordered on the foothills of those grand mountains. As my horse and I wound our way along the roaring Snake river I remember thinking that I could die there happily. The white sage that grew wild along with the flint and rose quartz smell of the mountains were all that I could ever have needed. Later that night my husband and I watched as a beautiful pair of golden Eagles mated in the skies above the porch where we were resting. I will never forget that trip. I don't need to know what's in Smiling Country although I am curious. Ayala's perfume is a powerful talisman and a touchstone of a moment in time that was for me completely and utterly perfect.
I was not familiar with the beautiful perfumes of Yuko Fukami, but one sniff of her lovely "Dreams" and I was smitten. Dreams is a very pretty perfume and has a very spicy, solid green quality that I love in a perfume probably because of the coriander and violet leaf that become immediately apparent upon first sniff. Dreams is a light fragrance, green and very sheer yet it is strangely narcotic and reminded me instantly of a solid perfume that I loved as a child called "Newly mown hay". I really want to smell Dreams as an eau de cologne. I have the distinct feeling that it would be very refreshing that way, something that I'd thoroughly enjoy on a warm summers day. It reminded me a bit of my current favorite Herme's lovely Un Jardin Sur le toit without the fruity apple and pear but with a flourish of yummy tuberose and a delightfully musky little bit of ambrette.
I was taken back immediately to a time decades ago, on a very warm and breezy day at our local hunt club. I was wearing a lovely white linen dress as I presented a fluttering championship ribbon to a gallant gentlemen dressed in full fox hunting attire. A hint of something flashed between us as I stroked his horses beautiful flaxen mane and I smiled. He was gallant, gorgeous and his horse was exquisite. Whether the moment we shared was the result of the heat of the day or the icy gin and tonic with freshly squeezed lime I'll never know.....but there were most definitely passionate and exquisite Dreams.
More sweetly scented stories to come......
For more impressions of all the incredible perfumes in this project, please visit these participating blogs:
I have no idea of the origins of these paintings but I love them. I obviously didn't paint them and make no claims that they are mine . The lovely Midsummer Nights Perfume Event drawing is the property of Amanda Feeley.
I came home from New York CIty to find my gardens humming with the sweet sound and smell of some unusually lovely fey folk. They were really up to all kinds of mischief...hiding the dog's bones and filling his bowl with ripe raspberries.....Making my roses smell like the lilies and then making the lilies smell like lavender! Now, they've tied garlands of mint and nasturtiums around my little dogs head and he's lolling around on his back in the grass like one of the cats.....They obviously were trying to get me to notice them and this I did....12 bright and beautiful fairies all smelling bewitchingly of flora and fauna, beckoning me with secrets...tempting me with promises of delight. Queen Titania is here as well as her entire court and now they're festooning me with bright garlands of poppies, yarrow and thyme. I'm feeling woozy...I have no defenses against them. Would I want to? I'm having way too much fun to say no......
My gardens contain many herbs....and I love to use them all as medicines, tonics, wonderful accents for my food and definitely in a spell or two. Most often I'm asked about potions for seduction, which in my opinion are very fun to make. All you need is an appropriate intention...and an object of APPROPRIATE desire. By this I mean the obvious. Don't try to steal someones significant other...if you do it will backfire in some way and generally cause a great deal of havoc in your life for a good long while.
But...if the stress of the daily grinds has got you tethered and you're wanting a bit more playfulness in your life this is the potion that you should stir up for your intended! It's never failed me or anyone that I've made it for...it's got quite a lively punch. Trust me...it will heat things up very quickly...be prepared!
All you need is:
1.5 bottle of Pinot Grigio
1 bottle of naturally flavored sangria
About 4 cups of assorted diced fruits: I use strawberries, peaches and raspberries
1 diced ancho chili (With the seeds!)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root
1/2 a cup of agave nectar
Now for the fun....walk into your (hopefully pesticide free!) garden and start clipping. You'll need about 4 cups of fresh herbs and roses...and the best time to collect these for this particular recipe is after a thunderstorm when they're wet. Today I used fresh basil (3 types!) , marjoram, lemon verbena (all for passion!) , dianthus (sensuality) and loads of fresh roses (love) with sprigs of peppery nasturtium for added fire! While you're doing this have some fun and visualize your intended result!
Bring in your herbs and flowers and layer everything into a beautiful bottle. Give it a shake or two and leave it alone for a few days in a cool, dark place, if you've got room in the refrigerator that's fine! You'll just know when it's ready, the scent will be sublime. When you're ready to serve , decant and pour into lovely large clear wine glasses! Serve this chilled! I know you won't want to but don't serve the fruit because by then it will be a mess! Add several freshly sliced peaches, or some berries...what ever you'd like to be feeding to each other. Then go back into the garden with your glasses and a plate of runny oozy fresh brie and a baguette (or a vegan cheese and a baguette if you're so inclined!), sit back, relax and enjoy....
My only disclaimer.....I am not responsible for any unintended blossoming fits of passion or love children that may occur as the result of an evening spent in the company of this cocktail and a very sexy someone. I will however claim total Auntie privileges to any and all aforementioned love children! This means that I get to feed them, spoil them and send them home as often as I want......I am also not responsible if you serve this to the wrong someone and you spend the next 6 months in heart-wrenching, gut twisting agony....Love magic is very potent stuff so please remember that you have been warned. It's always your choice.... so choose wisely!
l loved Mother’s Day as a child….It always meant that I got to get up early to make my mother breakfast in bed, which was her absolutely most favorite thing in the world to enjoy and something that she never did because she worked obsessively full time in the family business. My mother was raised in the town of Champaign Urbana, Illinois and came from a European family that had been extremely wealthy for centuries, that is until they lost all of their money in The Great Depression and she never got over the feeling that the next shoe was about to drop. Sadly , as comfortable as my parents were she was never able to indulge herself easily.
Luckily for us though whenever we were sick out would come her white wicker bed tray and the lovely Limoge bed tray set, complete with a teapot of its own and a covered plate. She made us the loveliest foods, tea, soup and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off and we’d lay in bed feeling like princesses and hoping for at least two more days of the flu so that the “treatment” could continue!
So every year starting from a very early age, Mothers Day would find me up and prowling about, first to find the bed tray and the precious porcelain set and then into the kitchen where I’d make her favorite meal of buttered toast points with the crusts removed, fresh asparagus spears and scrambled eggs with tons of hot dogs stirred into them , diced onions and lots of American cheese. First I’d bring her the Sunday paper with instructions to “NOT EVEN DARE GO OUT OF THE ROOM, MOTHER” and then I’d make her a pot of jasmine tea, which was another pleasure that she totally loved yet didn’t allow herself often.
I loved making that meal all by myself in her kitchen and I always made enough so that I could have some too! The asparagus and toast points were easy enough but the most fun were the eggs! It was a wonderful dish….first you browned the onions and hot dogs (always Kosher!) and if that didn’t smell wonderful enough then you added a bit of minced fresh garlic. Then I would add the eggs that were gently beaten with tons of fresh chives from her garden and let the whole mess cook for a bit. Then I would add the cheese…huge glorious gobs of it …so much that the whole thing became a huge melting mess! Fortunately for me I taught my husband and son to make this very early on!
I’d assemble the bed tray complete with her Grandmothers linen and then the last part was a quick run into the garden where holding my breath I’d search for her favorite bluebells. I never checked the day before to see if they had bloomed, that was all part of the fun. There was one little fragrant patch of them, darling little dancing pink and blue flowers that had been given to her by her dear friend Louise, who sadly departed this Earth long before she ever should have. For some reason they always bloomed on Mother’s day regardless of the weather!
I’d find them and pick a few stems and go dancing into the house where I’d put them into a little Waterford bud vase. Then I’d have my father pick up the tray and we’d carry it in to their bedroom where she’d always gasp with delight and surprise! She’d eat the whole thing happily , while all the while nestled in her bed with it’s huge white embroidered duvet and fluffy down pillows. If it was terrible she never told me because I guess that’s what mother’s do! She’d finish, take a long leisurely bath (in all of the years that I knew her I do not think that she ever took a shower) and then off we’d go to the Cleveland Museum of Art or the Botanical Gardens and have a wonderful day. When my son was born the tradition changed a little bit and my family would make the same breakfast for me and then I’d quickly rush over to cook it for her! Eventually, we settled on dinner together and a lovely trip to the garden center where I’d buy her lots of flowers for her gardens and share just a lovely day enjoying her company!
Sadly, as most of you know a terrible stroke took her from us several years ago. I miss her terribly but we shared a fabulous life together and every year since on Mothers Day I wear Penhaligon’s beautiful “BlueBell”. Today I am going to the nursery to find my own little patch of bluebells to plant in a wooded corner of my new garden . Wherever today finds you, hug your mother and keep her close. If yours is gone like mine, find some way to honor her and like she did, enjoy your children and grandchildren madly!
When she died we scattered her ashes along the bend of the beautiful River Road, in the shade of a willow tree that sings continuously in the wind with her favorite silver bell and her Barack Obama button. That’s where I get to visit her…at Solstice we bring her eggnog and in a few hours I’ll bring her fresh asparagus from my new garden!
So how will you spend your Mother’s Day? My mother’s most passionate cause was Planned Parenthood, because she felt that every family deserved the right to safe and affordable health care. She was vigilant and in the end when she was living on a fixed income that was the one organization that she refused to stop donating to. In her honor and yours, please leave me a comment letting me know what you’re doing today and for every one I’ll donate a dollar !
Happy Mother’s Day to you all and wherever today finds you I hope that it’s filled with joy, fabulous perfume and lots of feasting!
To be part of the movement and part of the growing,
part of beginning to understand,
Aye Calypso the places you've been to,
the things that you've shown us,
the stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit,
the men who have served you so long and so well
Like the dolphin who guides you, you bring us beside you
To light up the darkness and show us the way
For though we are strangers in your silent world
To live on the land we must learn from the sea
To be true as the tide and free as a wind swell
Joyful and loving in letting it be
Aye Calypso the places you've been to,
the things that you've shown us,
the stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit,
the men who have served you so long and so well”
Calypso by John Denver
Lucky me, for I have become enchanted by the Greenwitch. I’m not resisting her magic….. her sirens song brings back luscious memories and blinds me to my own primal fear. She carries within her soul the most precious knowledge of the sea…. That it is our first home and no matter what, no matter where we spend our final resting day that it is to the sea that we always will somehow , some little piece of what’s left of us return. Our tears are made of the same blood as hers.
When I opened the beautifully wrapped parcel that I received from Roxana Villa of her Greenwitch solid perfume and smoothed some of the buttery unguent into the hollow of my throat I was instantly mesmerized. I became acquainted with the Greenwitch last year in it’s ethereal liquid formulation and the solid perfume is equally as enchanting! Roxana’s Greenwitch is a groundbreaking Sea Chypre and it IS for me the long walks on the beach that I crave, that beacon that shines from the lighthouse straight into my soul. It smells at once of the deepest part of the sea AND the sea-spray, of male passion and amber. It is the scent of musky womb water and deep forest flowers. This witch is all of those things and even more that I have not yet begun to fathom. Her song is the song of the whales AND the eagles. She is at once whole and disarming all at the very same time …she is the very truest essence of Gaia distilled into a magically fragrant form.
Greenwitch is a completely natural fragrance with many different notes including hand blended accords of green floral essences, oakmoss , vetiver , patchouli and seaweed. The only exception to the all botanical formulation is a little bit of musky Africa stone which is the fossilized excretion of the Cape Hyrax and thousands of years old that creates an alchemy with the other sweet essences to cause a silky fusion of savory, salty and sweet. As the heat of my skin melted the jojoba and the soft creamy beeswax from Roxana’s own hives the fragrance was unleashed and I was flooded by a million memories of the sea , of surfing the big waves of off the black sandy beaches of Hawaii and playing with the rays, of kayaking in La Jolla and having sharks swim underneath and dolphins playing alongside me in the waves. I’m reminded of the sweetest times spent with my son and nephew when they were very young, building forts of drift wood , splashing at the waters edge and feeding white bread to the greedy gulls.
When Alex was a young boy we’d take the whale watching boats that sail off the San Diego coast into the deeper waters to watch for the gray whales that migrate from Mexico all of the way back to their summer feeding ground in the deep waters of the Bering Sea. I will never forget those moments. The extraordinary power, majesty and beauty of those magnificent creatures can’t be truly known until you’re in the water with them watching them swim, breach and dive. The sight of the flukes of a gray whale who has just begun a deep dive is breathtaking and a reminder of who we really are.….My son who has since become a diver tells me of interactions with creatures once unfathomable to him, diving with sharks and barracudas in their mysterious realms and facing the fear that distracts us everyday from really living. Surfing in the waters off of San Diego he became intimately acquainted with communities of harbor seals and dolphins who frequently came close to him when he was paddling out to the big waves.
One day when we flew out to visit him in San Diego, I looked in the back of his truck and saw a trident shaped fishing spear alongside his surf board and wetsuit. When I asked him if he was fishing he told that he was indeed, but for garbage not fish. Everyday he and many of the other surfers would go out and clean the kelp beds of as much paper and plastic as they could find, put it in their trucks and take it to the trash bins. Way too much debris from our lives here on earth is ending up in the vast beautiful ocean spaces. It is as if because we cannot really see what is living within it’s depths that we are ignorant of the devastation we are causing and as we destroy our oceans, we slowly destroy ourselves. Spend one afternoon paddling the seas in an insignificant plastic kayak and have a pod of dolphins surf the waves with you and your life will change forever. Trust me...the desire to protect and nurture that which you previously hadn’t been able to see will instantly overwhelm you.
Our beautiful planet is mostly covered by these ancient swirling , living seas and we will never be able to live within them as the sea creatures can although we are constantly trying , incessantly searching . It is hard work to look beneath the surface of anything, whether it be of the sea or your soul. Beckoning and frightening us at the same time , we ignore the sirens song at our peril sometimes until it’s almost too late. The beautiful scent of Roxana’s Greenwitch solid perfume is a magical spell of hope and rebirth …a reminder to look within, to find the joyful wildness that lurks inside our hearts …to become undomesticated at last. In doing so perhaps we will finally discover that we are the only ones who can save ourselves before it's too late.
Roxana has generously given a sample of her new Greenwitch Solid perfume for me to give to one of you lucky readers! It is beautiful! If you'd like to be entered please leave me a comment and some of your thoughts or tips about preserving our beautiful environment and I'll put your name in my cauldron for the prize draw!
I am honored to be reviewing the new Greenwitch Solid Perfume today with several other very talented bloggers! Please go to their sites, read their musings and show them some love!
Fresh off of the presses from this months issue of Sniffapalooza Magazine! Don't miss this wonderful offer to win a free bottle of Histoires de Parfums fabulous new scent ; DEFILE NEW YORK! This is a photograph so the links don't work. Click Here to be taken directly the magazine where you'll find the entry form!
Cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant is one of the most loved or reviled herbs that I've ever eaten. I adore it now, but I really had never loved it much myself until about 20 years ago when I walked into my kitchen and found a dear old friend making me a fabulous bowl of guacamole for our dinner that evening. Until that night I'd thought of Cilantro as a very musky, moldy substitute for fresh parsley and I didn't have much use for it. But upon tasting Haas's absolutely scrumptious guacamole I became convinced that I'd been completely wrong about the stuff and set about learning to use it in as many ways as possible. Fresh chutneys, Pico de Gallo, pesto, fruit and tomato salsa's...all of these brighten when a bit of fresh Cilantro is added to the mix! Last weekend I made a fresh Chimichurri sauce to serve over a grilled sirloin steak. It could just as easily be served over chicken or even a marinated and barbecued tofu, but with the medium rare steak it was absolutely wonderful. Just take a handful of Cilantro, fresh green onions, garlic , spinach , fresh rosemary, basil, bell pepper, a tomato and an ancho chili and throw the whole mess into a vitamix with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend until fairly smooth and pour over a freshly grilled steak before you slice it. If you slice the meat on the grain each slice will have a bit of the sauce and will taste absolutely wonderful!
Fresh Cilantro has a wonderful flavor that's a cross somewhere between celery, mint and mate' and it brings a bit of a refreshing bittersweetness (is there such a word?) to any dish that you use it in. The key with Cilantro is to use it raw in cold salads and salsas, because like parsley it loses it's punch when its been heated. The contrast between Cilantro's intensity and the rich creamy sweetness of a perfectly ripe avocado is exactly what your looking for to stay cool on these hot summer evening. My friends guacamole is a true work of art. Just take several perfectly ripe Haas avocados and mash them with chopped and dried seedless cucumber,chopped fresh red onion, a couple of minced FRESH garlic cloves, the juice of a fresh orange and fresh lime, salt and pepper and at least a cup of torn cilantro leaves. Forget fancy designer versions with blue cheese, bacon, sage and other such affectations....this is what you want guacamole to taste like! Serve it with fresh corn chips and a pitcher of Patron margaritas and you'll find yourself licking the bowl!
I discovered the other night that fresh Cilantro brightens up the saltiness of feta cheese and mixed with small chunks of fresh watermelon, cucumber, red onion, mint, raw pecans and feta makes a superb cold salad that you simply need to dress with a bit of rice vinegar and a touch of walnut oil.
After enjoying the salad I thought to myself...well, how about a martini? Watermelon and Cilantro in a cocktail? Why not! Take several chunks of fresh sweet watermelon and muddle them in the bottom of a shaker with a bit of fresh Cilantro, mint , a pink peppercorn or two and some agave nectar. Add a generous jigger of Hendricks Gin, a tablespoon or two of organic limeade and a bit of branch water and pour the whole thing over some cracked ice in a cocktail glass and Ahhhhh. Perfect for these drenching summer days. You could also use your favorite vodka, but the Hendricks is a completely wonderful brew, infused with cucumber and rose which creates a luscious love spell when mixed with the sweet juicy melon! Just go to http://www.hendricksgin.com/ to learn more! Roxana Vila has woven a wonderfully fragrant Cilantro spell at her gorgeous illuminated journaI. I know that you'll enjoy her luscious fragrant wisdom!
Now for a little British wit from our friends at Hendricks Gin!
Photograph of Cilantro courtesy of: http://www.foodshareregistry.org
Last night I tasted the best cocktail! We decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner , a place called "Red" which is a pretty fabulous steakhouse with French onion soup that is so good that it can reduce me to tears! It was a lovely evening so we decided to dine alfresco. "Red" has a great cocktail menu and I was in the mood for something refreshing so I decided to try something called "The Storm Chaser" which our waiter said that he'd never tried. It promised muddled fresh strawberries and lime juice so how bad could it be?
When he brought them to us and we took our first sips we were completely bewitched. "The Storm Chaser" is a fabulously refreshing and seductive vodka cocktail with all of the right components to make it more than just a wee bit sexy. I knew that you'd want to try them too so I went home and mixed them up! Warning....these cocktails go down way too easily. Warning number 2...Make sure that you're drinking them with someone that you're comfortable bringing to your bed. Something about the mixture of strawberries, ginger and lime will cause you to quickly feel very hot all over....
To make a Storm Chaser you will need:
A lovely tall glass
Three ripe juicy strawberries
A jigger of very good vodka
The juice of half of a fresh lime
One and a half tablespoons of Simple syrup
several mint leaves
1/2 cup of ginger beer
1/2 cup of branch water
1 dash of Cointreau
Place the Strawberries in the bottom of the glass and add the mint leaves and the simple syrup and muddle them with either a "muddler" or the back of a spoon. Add lots of cracked ice and pour the lime juice, ginger beer, branch water, Cointreau and vodka over the ice, stirring gently. Enjoy!
To drink a glass of Mead on a warm summers eve is one of romantic things that I know and to drink it under the spell of the Mead moon is one of the most magical rituals that you can share with a lover. I am completely in love with the taste of fresh mead which in its simplest form is a delectable wine made of honey, water or juice, spices and yeast that have been allowed to mingle with absolutely unbridled passion. A true gift from our friends the honeybees, the discovery of mead had to have been a happy accident because no doubt some lucky farmer stumbled upon a jar of honey that had perhaps been filled with rainwater and forgotten. Wild yeasts would have found their way into mixture and impolitely had their way with it and voila', the first taste of Mead would have been enjoyed!
You can usually find commercially made mead (I quite enjoy Chaucer's!) at any good wine store or you can attempt to make it at home which I've found to be quite alot of fun and often better than what you can buy! If you have a home-schooled child like mine was, you'll find the making of any sort of wine or brew to be a wonderful lesson in organic chemistry! Alex and I spent one entire autumn making beer and wine and I'll never forget my husband coming home to our farm to find huge carboys sitting on the kitchen counters filled with the yeasty beginnings of cidre' and mead. I think that he thought we'd gone mad, at least until he tasted the fruits of our labors! Every day Alex and I would check the fermentation locks and then the time came to siphon it into bottles. We made fancy Windesphere Witch labels and gave it all away as Yuletide gifts , given that he was was way to young to drink more than a wee dram of any of it. It was very good and seriously potent and came with the satisfaction of knowing that we had created it ourselves using simple and good organic ingredients combined with alot of love and patience.
You can go through the process of making you own mead like we did, or you can cheat and create a simple mead type beverage blend which is what I've done for the 7 or so years that I've been an apartment dweller. Just take a room temperature bottle of May Wine or a delightful Reisling and decant it into a carafe. Add at least 3/4's of a cup of raw honey and stir until infused. Strain and pour the wine back into a clean carafe, adding any spices that you enjoy and let the whole thing steep for a day or two. I love to add fresh berries and basil flowers in the spring and sweet windfall apples and cinnamon sticks in the fall. Eaten with with a sharp Manchego or Cheddar cheese, a loaf of bread, sweet sausage and thou, it turns into the most romantic of feasts. In the fall with a hearty soup made from cheese and ale, a glass of mead is a wonderful accompaniment alongside a crackling fire. I think that you'll find this recipe to be a suitable substitute and perhaps even better than any mead that you can buy with the exception of what's served at your local Renaissance Faire! However, now that I own a house again with a wonderful old basement that my husband has promised to turn into a stillroom , the huge glass bottles and locks will be coming back out and my friends and family will be getting gifts of delicious mead and ale this Christmas. I can't wait!
This weeks Perfume Illuminated features the delicate and fragrant Mimosa and though for my end of things there is no real flavor connection, there are many wonderful memories and some truly delicious cocktails that come along with them! When you're done here, make sure that you float on your long stemmed glass of bubbly over to Roxana's Illuminated Journal to read what she has to say about the Mimosa : Fragrance! I know that you'll love
It's Mothers Day and what better cocktail to enjoy on such a day than a delicious mimosa! Ever since I was a little girl I've loved them ( yes, my fabulous and very worldly mother let me enjoy a little one even then!) and from my first sip at my brothers graduation brunch at Brennans in New Orleans I was hooked on that combination of fresh juice and great champagne. To this day there is nothing that says celebration to me quite as much as a Mimosa, not even a Bellini, that luscious combination of peach juice and champagne which I love but doesn't conjure up the same lovely gardenia soaked memories! My mother and I traveled together several times a year for business and often we'd start the day with a Grand Mimosa at the Ritz Carlton or sometimes if the day was too busy we'd wait until tea. She loved the Mimosas with Chambord served at the restaurant on the 7th floor of Bergdorf Goodman and she adored drinking them at breakfast while sitting by the window in the Park Lane Hotel restaurant. She really was so much fun to travel with! I'll never forget the time that we were in Atlanta and she hired a carriage driver to take us from our hotel to the restaurant where we were having our dinner simply because she thought that it would be so much fun! She loved to enjoy her life, even in the later years when it all got a bit tougher and she never missed an opportunity to enjoy a party or a glass of wonderful champagne!
Although my mother died in August of 2008 my taste for Mimosa's did not, because for the last two years my niece Kacy and I have gone to New York City in October for the Food Network Food and Wine Festival. I'll never forget when she called me.....I was sitting in my mother's hospital room where she lay in a deep coma and my cell phone rang. "Aunt Bethie .....guess what! I know what we should do.There's this food festival in New York in October and after Grandma dies you're going to need something to look forward too, so we're going!" I couldn't say no...not with my mother laying there! She would have never passed it up!
That weekend turned out to be a dream come true...one my favorite cities enjoyed with one of my favorite people, in fact possibly the only other person that I know who loves the glamourous aspects of New York City as much as my mother and I did ! It's a wonderfully madcap weekend , filled with fabulous New York Parties, incredible food and more alcohol, wine and champagne than anyone should ever drink. There's a million opportunities to meet your favorite Food Network stars (and aren't they the only ones that count these days!) and last year Paula Deen even invited the two of us to be her honorary daughter and grand daughter. Nigella was there , Ina and Anthony too and Kacy and I just have the best time experiencing it all together. We act like ridiculous food groupies and since my mother died it's become our favorite time to spend together! We spend the entire weekend shopping and eating, flirting,drinking and bonding. We exercise every food demon that we are possessed by and thank goodness for those darling yellow cabs.....
My niece and I share the sensibility that there is absolutely no excuse deny oneself an extraordinary glass of Champagne! Last year we discovered the Mimosa's at Sarabeth's, the delightful brunch restaurant three steps away from our door at The Park Lane. They were absolutely delicious in the traditional sense, made with champagne and freshly squeezed orange and blood orange juices and absolutely perfect with my Eggs Benedict and her eggs with smoked salmon. The whole feast was made even better by the fact that we were sitting outside practically on the street right next to the Central Park watching the carriages come and go and enjoying the NYC fashion parade on their way up to 5th. We ate and drank and then of course we went shopping to exercise the whole thing off! That evening was the Grande Dessert Party sponsored by Duff of the Ace of Cakes , Perrier Jouet and Gilbeys Gin. What a feast...freeflowing Champagne and desserts everywhere from the finest pastry chefs in the city. Kacy's boyfriend joined us and we ate, drank and laughed until the early hours when I took my cab back happily to my hotel and fell into bed, but not without first a bit of room service to nullify the effects of all of that
The next day was Sunday so I spent wandering the streets of the the city just taking it all in. Before I flew out, I stopped at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza to have one final Champagne cocktail. The Champagne Bar at the Plaza is a gorgeous, intimate affair, with a marvelous menu of bubbly by the glass and divine green velvet "affaire de coeur" chairs to sip it in. As I sat there truly relaxed and enjoying myself after such a satisfying weekend, I felt the presence of my mother sitting across from me, smiling and just drinking it all in.
A perfectly mixed, traditional Mimosa generally consists of freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne. Actually if you want to be precise, it's about 2 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice in a flute champagne glass and then you'll fill the rest of the glass with Champagne. But if you want to drink my mother's favorite, here is the recipe. I love giving away her secrets because she was so much fun! If she was still with us today, I'd have brought this to her already with one of the Bluebells from her garden that she loved so much.
You'll need one perfect long stemmed flute champagne, a bottle of well chilled Taittinger and some freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably a mixture of blood orange and navel oranges.
Pour about 1 and a half ounces of the juice into the glass and add a dash of orange flower water, a dash of Chambord and a couple of tablespoons of Grand Marnier into which you've muddled some very fresh, juicy raspberries. Fill the rest of the glass with the champagne (be careful not to overfill!) and enjoy.
Happy Mothers Day Mom! I always miss you, but today I miss you more .......
All photographs belong to Beth Schreibman Gehring except for the Plaza Hotel, which is courtesy of The Champagne Bar at The Plaza Hotel!