Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Flower power was definitely in the air thanks to this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
And it seems as though some of London’s top chefs have created a whole range of floral treats – from entire menus to afternoon teas and cocktails, no doubt inspired by the horticultural atmosphere of this annual event.
Florally inspired dishes are nothing new, but usually they involve fragrant bouquets on tables or culinary staples that have been cleverly re-invented with a floral twist.
This time, London’s restaurants have taken it to much more creative heights - from gently incorporating floral essences to serving up the real thing – petals, stamens and all.
The head chef of Roussillon has created a seven-course Flower Show Menu. At seventy pounds a head, you can feast on pink royale of rose petals with caramelized beet leaves and light prawn consommé, cannelloni of tender petals with sautéed lovage (an English herb), and honey-glazed sweetbread with queen of the field tempura - a Japanese-inspired dish utilizing garlic flowers for their concentrated flavour. To round things off? Chrysanthemum soufflé crescendo.
At Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, afternoon tea for two features violet-flavoured fairy cakes decorated with edibles, and scones with rose petal and strawberry jam. If you order champagne it will arrive at your table with a wild hibiscus flower in raspberry and rhubarb syrup nestling in its base.
The floral theme continues at Le Cercle, where head chef Thierry Beyris declares that edible flowers are “utterly delicious in the right hands” and very fashionable among certain culinary circles. His creations there consist of floral tapas, wild rocket sorbet with daisy, spring salad with violet dressing and sea bass tartare with peppery nasturtium.
At The Cinnamon Club Chef Vivek Singh’s five-course Garden Menu, running for the entire month of May, starts with rose petal-infused bellini aperitif, followed by essence of tomato with morels, marigold and edible gold leaf, stir-fried asparagus spears with banana flower, and is rounded off with jasmine and bergamot pana cotta.
And to celebrate the opening of their bar-restaurant The Botanist, brothers Tom and Ed Martin concocted some fragrant new cocktails. Rose Square - a pink rose petal vodka with lychees, rosebud syrup and champagne – and the Lavender Bloom which is made of gin, fresh lavender, honey and apple juice.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
"Take eight grains of musk and put in rose-water eight spoonfuls, three spoonfuls of Damask-water, and a quarter of an ounce of sugar. Boil for five hours and strain it...."
This is the original recipe for a perfume created for Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century, and the inspiration for The Perfume Garden, which won the ‘Most Creative’ award at this year's Chelsea Flower Show in London. The garden was designed by architect Laurie Chetwood and landscape designer Patrick Collins.
In keeping with the historic theme, the garden included several rose types (Mme Hardy, Tuscany Superba and Gertrude Jekyll) iris, three varieties of geranium (Spessart, Ingwersens and Bevan’s Variety), silver posies, lilies, narcissus and violets. Fragrant plants such as French lavender, sage, thyme, fennel, and sweet flag, along with clipped Western red cedar and mugo pines, were also featured. Of the collection, Collins said, “The plants within it have been carefully selected for their scent, color and association with the perfume industry … In the 16th century global exploration and new trading links led to an influx of new and exciting species. Many of these can be seen in the Perfume Garden, including Thuja occidentalis, Hyacinthium orientalis, Geranium macorrhizum and Acorus calamus".
The concept for the garden first began in Grasse, south east France, where Elizabeth’s perfume was recreated with the help of Jean Patou, one of France’s oldest and best-known perfume houses.
Clipped conifers form the backbone of the garden, which sweep up and around a stainless steel shroud. This is the perfumery, where visitors can see the perfume distillation process and try samples of the Elizabeth I perfume, produced especially for the Chelsea Flower Show.
Every plant in the garden has a function in the creation of scent. Some are familiar, like Lavandula stoechas, but there are unexpected ingredients too, like the male fern, Dryopteris felix-mas, whose rhizomes yield an oil used in earthy, masculine fougère scents.
In addition, a modern interpretation of Queen Elizabeth’s original rosewater-infused perfume is to be created by Procter & Gamble’s Prestige Products.
The photos above show 1. A model in neo-Elizabethan Costume in the Perfume Garden at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show in London (Photo courtesy Stuart Freedman).
2. The stainless steel perfumery at night and 3. The conifers surrounding the stainless steel perfumery of the Perfume Garden.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
(Photo of tropical garden at this year's Chelsea Flower Show by Phillip Banks).
The Chelsea Flower Show, or the Great Spring Show as it is also known, is held annually in May on the Royal Hospital Grounds in Chelsea, England. It is one of the biggest and maybe the most prestigious horticultural events in the world.
This year, the Barbados contingent won two Silvergilt awards - one in the Great Pavillion category and the other in the Flower Arranging category, with a combination of tropical flowers and foliage.
Grenada won a gold medal in the same Flower Arranging category with tropical floral of Grenada, while the Cayman islands contingent won a gold medal in the President's Most Creative Awards. Jamaica won a Silvergilt and Trinidad and Tobago was also awarded a Silvergilt Grenfell.
The origins of the Chelsea Flower Show go back to 1862 when the first Royal Horticultural Society Great Spring Show was held in Kensington. The event has been through a variety of homes and incarnations, eventually settling in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea in 1913.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
At long last the final ingredients for the scents I have been working on have arrived. Besides the rose perfume which I talked about before, I will also be introducing Nofret - a green, earthy fragrance made with nearly all natural ingredients. I used some lavender absolute which has a deep, rich scent, so hopefully this will not be a typical lavender-smelling perfume. It also has notes of linden blossom and Haitian vetiver. Nofret is an ancient Kemetic name meaning "Beautiful Woman". I hope to have it listed in my Etsy shop in a few days. Thanks so much to all of you who have expressed an interest in my perfumes and have been waiting so patiently.