Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Xmas Eve Lunch at Inamo, London

Christmas Eve was mild but still chilly and rainy in London, so we had the pleasure of stopping in at Inamo on London's West End, a trendy restaurant featuring Pan-Asian cuisine and friendly staff. It's also a fun way to dine - especially as the menu is provided via an interactive format. Instead of being offered a traditional print menu, we chose our dishes by selecting from a touchscreen menu which was projected onto our table:

Despite my feeling cold initially and yearning for something hot to drink, I couldn't resist ordering the Tropical Storm, a sweet and iced blend of passion-fruit, pineapple and guava juice with a hint of cinnamon.
Then we ordered the creamy chicken satay for starters:
Our main courses were Black Bean Pork Fillet - succulent pork immersed in chilli, garlic, black bean with peppers and bok choi....

...and Miso & Yuzu Salmon - fillet of salmon marinated in fragrant yuzu and wasabi-spiced miso, and served on pickled salad (I liked this the best):
Their selection of wines included albino armani pinot grigio - inviting notes of baked apples, ripe pears, honey and white flowers with a hint of spiciness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flight Reading

For my eight-hour flight abroad this year, here's what I'll be carrying on the plane to read:
Olive Oil: A Guide to Selecting & Using the World's Most Versatile Super Food, by Tina Lofhouse.

And......this one, recommended by Lisa of The Blossoming Tree who also heads the Perfumer's Book Club over on Facebook:-)

Celia Lyttleton's The Scent Trail: How One Woman's Quest for the Perfect Perfume Took Her Around the World which promises to be the "ultimate olfactory odyssey". In order to create her perfect signature perfume, Lyttleton arms herself with a list of ingredients, and travels the world - including Tuscany, India, Sri Lanka - searching for "each component of her scent, tracing its origins, history, and culture."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Sweet & Summery': Fortnum & Mason's Black Tea with Strawberry

This is my first time tasting strawberry-flavoured black tea. I followed the guide of "one teaspoon for each person and one for the pot" and a brewing time of one to two minutes for full enjoyment and this worked fine for me. Along with strawberry flavouring it also contains real strawberry pieces.....
The very authentic smell and taste of natural strawberries are beautifully tempered by the rich and refreshing black tea base; I added a spoonful of sugar (with no milk) as recommended to help bring out the strawberry even more. Enjoying it hot, but would like to experiment with it as an iced tea as well, and hopefully I can post the recipe here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For Tea Lovers: Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Tea at Fortnum & Mason (TAFM) is a beautiful little pocket book which, in only 128 pages, captures the style and essence of the celebrated store in London's Picadilly: Among other things, the book's cover and design come complete with the classic pale green-blue and gold colour scheme of the actual store). If you are never able to visit this iconic luxury store, reading their book may well be the next best thing!
TAFM starts by providing a brief but concise overview of the history of tea - from the many myths and legends of China which surround the early origins of the beverage, to the cultural significance of Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, to tea's early associations with Fortnum & Mason nearly three hundred years ago, to how it became the UK's 'beverage of choice', a passion and tradition which continue to this day.

We also are given an insight into the infamous Boston Tea Party of 1773 (which saw many Americans turn to coffee in protest), and the advent of the Clipper tea ships which greatly reduced the amount of time it took to transport tea and cargo from China to London. (NB: prior to the tea clippers, it could take more than a year).

But Tea at Fortnum & Masonis more than a history book. It's a perfect blend of tea history, recipes, tea etiquette and education. We are given an insight into the expertise behind the grading of tea leaves (grading indicates the size of the leaf, not the quality), and the more than 45 elegant recipes including Macadamia & White Chocolate Brownies, Citrus Sponge Cake, Smoked Salmon Sandwiches, and Honey & Lavender Loaf Cake are a sumptuous tribute to the time-honoured Afternoon Tea tradition served at the store's St. James's Restaurant.

Avid tea drinkers (like myself) will also appreciate the sections on Matching Teas & Cakes, Creating The Perfect Brew, and the charts outlining the grades and characteristics of various tea leaves.
And lovers of vintage will adore the old photos of the Fortnum & Mason storefront throughout the ages, as well as the vintage tea flyers and adverts to be found throughout the book.

As stated in the book's introduction, "The world of tea and Fortnum & Mason have been intertwined for over three centuries." This short compendium will teach you exactly how and why, and will also allow you to indulge in the tea-time tradition in the comfort of your home.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Simple Syrup with Sorrel or Hibiscus

Simple syrups are fun, economical and easy to make, they are basically just equal parts sugar and water boiled together. But you can make different variations and they can be used in endless ways – as an infusion in cold beverages and cocktails, added to club soda, or poured over fruit salads, desserts, sno-cones or sorbets, or to moisten sponge cakes…....
This is my recipe for a simple syrup using sorrel. It’s a slightly different way to use sorrel this Christmas from the traditional sorrel punch. If sorrel leaves are unavailable, you may be able to find dried hibiscus leaves instead. Just make sure they are a food-grade variety, preferably organic.
Simple Syrup with Sorrel:
Here’s what you will need:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 to 4 teaspoons dried sorrel leaves (or dried hibiscus leaves)
Approx. one teaspoon lime juice (or lemon juice)
Medium-sized saucepan
Clean, air-tight container with well-sealed lid.
Combine the water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the lime juice. Stir and bring to a boil. Then simmer on a reduced heat for about two minutes or until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has a slightly syrupy texture. . (Note: Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will become too thick.) Add the sorrel leaves, allow to simmer about one minute more while stirring gently with a wooden spoon.
Remove from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain into a clean glass bottle or jar with a well-sealed lid, discard the sorrel leaves. If you don’t have a bottle or jar, then any clean air-tight container should do.
Refrigerate for up to one week. You can also add one tablespoon of rum or vodka to help preserve the syrup even longer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Books, Scent and Memories

A while ago I was lucky enough to take a course in African American literature which was conducted by a visiting lecturer from the US.
Sadly these days I seldom have time to read novels like before, so this course and in particular the books we studied, have always remained a special – and all too short - experience for me.
Some of the books we studied are widely read international classics but there are other fine works of African American fiction which might not have been as widely read, but can still be considered iconic in their own right: (Cane by Jean Toomer, A Gathering of Old Men, The Living is Easy, The Wake of the Wind by J California Cooper.)
Some of the books I had packed away for years (others I lent to friends) and I came across them recently while tidying up. Just seeing the covers immediately brought back a flood of pleasant memories. Not only of the actual enjoyment I derived from reading the books, but of that special time and place in life when I could truly get lost in beautiful, life-changing fiction.

If the sight of long-lost books can raise such powerful and pleasant memories, how should one go about creating a perfume inspired by them?
What is the best way to capture the essence of a novel’s most memorable character through scent? Or would you instead be inspired by a particular chapter, the description of a scent or a meal, or perhaps the actual time period of the novel’s setting?

Incidentally, the actual smell of old books is believed to be caused by a large number of volatile chemical compounds including lignin (derived from the ground wood used to make the papers) which is said to contribute to the distinct vanilla-like odour that some old books emit. This and other fragrant compounds from old books – glue, resins, ink – would be interesting to incorporate into the overall perfume as well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Scent of Tobacco

A little over a year ago I posted about some wild tobacco flowers that I found by chance growing in my grandmother's garden.
Well since then while researching perfume ingredients, again by chance I came across an old formula for a 'Tobacco Flowers Perfume'. This particular formula dated from a 1940's book on botanicals and most of the ingredients, like bergamot, that were used in this formula are very familiar and still very much in existence today. The recipe described the aroma of tobacco flowers as being "reminiscent of clary sage, tonka, rose, carnation and honey."

It inspired me to do some more research on tobacco flower perfumes and to set about re-creating the scent of tobacco flowers either as a stand-alone perfume or as an accord that can then be incorporated into another perfume. I also hope to use only or mostly all-natural ingredients for this project.

It is a painstaking, but fun and interesting challenge to go over these vintage perfume books and learn about the ingredients used back then, and then try to modernize or substitute them with modern-day raw materials and present them in a way that can appeal to people today.

Oh, and the tobacco flowers that I took from my grandmother's garden? Well, I never did manage to get them to grow, unfortunately. But hopefully I will have more success in re-creating their scent.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Caribbean Fine Cocoa & Chocolate Expo

Caribbean Chocolate Giclee Print, Copyright Amanda Jones Aromatics

The second annual Caribbean Chocolate Expo is scheduled to take place this June in Tobago. Countries in the Caribbean which make up the cocoa sector are Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Jamaica, Dominica, Grenada, Belize, St Vincent, Dominican Republic & Costa Rica. For more info on the upcoming conference and expo, see:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rare Coral Tree Re-discovered In Tanzania

Two tree species once feared extinct have been discovered in a threatened coastal forest in the African country of Tanzania. The two species have made reappearances before, but both trees, one a legume, the other a member of the mint family, were thought to have finally been obliterated in recent years.

Botantists rediscovered the trees in the southeastern African nation in 2011. The country has offered up another, perhaps more striking, discovery in recent months: a colorful new snake species.

"Both trees are still in critical danger of extinction, given that fewer than 50 individuals of each species are known," Roy Gereau, a botanist with the Missouri Botanical Garden's Africa and Madagascar Department, said in a statement.

The species, Erythrina schliebenii, a type of coral tree, has spectacular red flowers and vicious spines along its trunk. The tree was collected only twice, in the 1930s, from an area later cleared for a cashew plantation.

It was listed as "Extinct" on the IUCN Red List in 1998, but was rediscovered in a small patch of unprotected forest in 2001. When that forest was cleared for a biofuel plantation in 2008, it was again feared the thorny tree had gone extinct.

The other tree species, Karomia gigas, was known from only a single specimen cut down a few years after it was first discovered in coastal Kenya in 1977. Another specimen was discovered in 1993 nearly 400 miles (600 kilometers) away in a tiny fragment of forest in Tanzania, but a more recent search at the same site didn't uncover any of the trees.

(By Our Amazing Planet)