Tempted by a white onion & Oud soup? How about a Bergamot & rosemary cured salmon? Maybe you are not an avid food connoisseur, but as your palate matures with age and experience it’s time to be more adventurous with food trying new recipes to stimulate your palate. If you are ready for a new olfactory journey at the table, then scent dinners are for you: an intersection of fragrance and fine dining in which chefs playing with natural essential oils, absolutes and essences.
The olfactory dinner is an idea and concept developed by Chandler Burr founder and ex-curator of the department of Olfactory art in the Museum of Art and Design in NYC who teamed up with renowned chefs (such as Vito Mollica, Paul Liebrandt, Samuel Benne, Jimmy Sakatos, Lawrence Klang, Fabio Trabocchi, Fabrice Guisset) in order to create edible courses with the help of gourmand perfumes.
For his scent dinners, he likes guiding his guests, first by the nostril and then by the palate, to gastronomic ecstasy. He combines professional-grade gourmand perfumery raw materials (such as essences and absolutes of French mint, Brazilian cacao, Peruvian pink peppercorn, Indian saffron), and the great culinary perfumes that began with Guerlain’s 1925 Shalimar (whose heart is vanilla), Angel (its key molecule is ethyl maltol, the molecule you taste when you eat cotton candy), Tom Ford’s Black Orchid (powered with a chewy, dirty absolute of rum), and the great chocolate-floral Missoni.
In London, the concept has been boosted by That Hungry Chef, Pratap Chahal, in the form of a pop-up dining club. The chef likes explaining each course by the merit of fragrance notes and his “Edible Scent Dinners” are always fully booked (next ones are scheduled for the 9th and the 16th of May. Tickets still available on his website). His menu is a real feast for the senses: from lamb marinated with frankincense to beetroot with rose; including a magnolia mustard or feta fritters with tuberose-scented honey.
We have been curating our Edible Scent dinners for 4 years now – Chahal said to CrunchyTales- working closely with The Perfume Society and the American perfumer Mandy Aftel. We use essential oils, concretes, distillation as well as spices. During our dinner, we also talk about the history of these perfumes and include a sensory course, such as a walk in the wood, where sounds are accompanied by a scent. The idea is to take diners into the heart of a forest before being served an inspired course.
Feeling intrigued? The book “Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent” by Mandy Aftel, will help you to understand the essentials of scent literacy. It also includes recipes for easy-to-make fragrances and edible, drinkable, and useful concoctions that reveal the imaginative possibilities of creating with – and revelling in—aroma.
Even the bespoke perfumer, Louise Bloor, has been delving deeply into olfactory dining. She has decided to combine her love of fine fragrance with delicious food in The Fragrant Supper Club (FSC). Using her knowledge and experience of all things olfactory, she opened up her kitchen and her home to create a place for people to come together and enjoy food enhanced by natural essential oils. Through five courses, Louise pairs seasonal ingredients with oils more commonly found in perfumes to create intense and delicious taste and smell experiences. Her food, whether it be a geranium ice cream, a basil salad dressing or a tobacco cream, encourages people to talk about a sense that is often overlooked, and recognise its importance and its beauty.
Not convinced, yet? Why not try edible fragrances to spray on your skin, in your cocktail or even to lick it off? We don’t guarantee the same result but at least you can easily put yourself to the test and check how comfortable you feel when mixing taste and smell. Smith And Sinclair (which also makes very good alcoholic sweets) has delivered three interesting scents: Pear and Vanilla, Watermelon & Citrus, Cherry Blossom and Mandarin. All of the fragrances retail for £19.99 each, but you must be over 18 to buy these as the fragrances DO contain alcohol.