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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Angel, Angel, Down We Go: Profumum Arso and Battito d'Ali

By Tom

Profumum is a line that the reviewers here at PST seem to have issues with. Looking back at the reviews on here, there seems to be a these of "we like them, but.." having mostly to do with the price. Two new ones have popped up at ScentBar/Luckscent so I stopped in for a sample.

I can't say that I am moved.

Arso I immediately liked. Leather, incense and smoke; what's not to love? It's just that I can think of three scents I already have that are treading the same ground. Is it really worth $65 more than Annick Goutals very similar Encense Flamboyant? Not when I have a bottle of the AG at home.

Battito d'Ali apparently means "the beating of wings" and is meant to evoke a feeling or peace and protection. As far as I can tell it does so by lifting whole its opening from Lostmarc'H Laan-Ael and adding in a bit of cocao. If Lann-Ael is Apple Jacks, then Battito d'Ali is Count Chockula. Nice, but not at 3 times the price of Lann-Ael.

Now, you, dear reader are going to have to take this with a grain of salt. These are of course my opinions, and are perhaps colored by the fact that A) I practically live at ScentBar so every new thing they get I'm there to try and B) I'm cheap. I may be at the point in my sniffage that I don't need to have the latest and newest simply because it's the latest or newest. These days it has to knock my socks off to get my money, and while both of these are perfectly nice, at $240 for 100ML my socks are still firmly attached to my feet.

At Luckyscent, where I cadged the samples.

(10 points to anyone who's seen the movie the title of this review references)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

La Belle Helene by Parfums MDCI

By Marina

As the song goes, "the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t." La Belle Helene, whom, if I were to anthropomorphize her, I would place in the "29 to infinity" age bracket, is undecided about what to do with her life. The fragrance, created for Parfums MDCI by Bertrand Duchaufour, seems to be vacillating whether to become a joyful fruity, pear-centered scent, to focus her attention on leathery osmanthus or to perhaps turn into a very vaguely loukhoum-like rosy-orrisy blend...

And most significantly, I am not even entirely sure I should call La Belle Helene a She. For a perfume that is supposed to be inspired by a dessert and is full of such traditionally feminine and even girly notes, Helene smells rather masculine. Right from the start, the aldehydes are sparkling darkly, not brightly, and that sets the tone for the subsequent stages of the development. The fruits and flowers are sweet but strangely dry at the same time, the gourmand aspect is abstract at most...And the base, well, that is where La Belle Helene is all man. The mossy, earthy, leathery, sharply-woody drydown is mucho macho on my skin. The overall impressions is that of a porcelain-skinned, seemingly very feminine beauty on whom somebody drew a mustache...

Some of the most interesting people I know are the ones who decided to accept the fact that they still don't know what to do with their lives; their eclectic tastes and vast albeit sometimes random knowledge are what makes them exciting. The same applies to La Belle Helene. Yes, you can't figure her out because she hasn't figured herself out, but that's what's keeping you coming back.

Available from MDCI and Luckyscent, $250.00-$375.00, depending upon the fanciness of the bottle.

Image by Matt Ewrin.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Madness by Chopard

Madness is a discontinued gem by Christine Nagel, which, were it to be born into a different brand and market, could have thrived as a niche favorite. It has all the markings of one.

A woody oriental with an interesting, oddly sweaty yet dry, fruity top and a sueded rose woven throughout the composition, it has a beautiful incense accord that lends the blend an atmosphere of darkness, which is neither sensual nor sinister. Rather, the presence of the smooth, polished, warm rosewood note and the crystalline, musky hibiscus makes the fragrance serene.

Serene doesn't seem like the right description for a perfume called Madness, but the only crazy thing about the scent is its name, the ugly color scheme of its packaging and its fate, which treated it so badly by placing in where it had. Simultaneously very "human" (what with that sweaty lychee note and a leathery feel) and thus familiar, yet comfortingly detached, this is a great contemplative fragrance, which to me inhabits the same realm of softer incensey/woody comfort scents as Costes, 10 Corso Como and Eau Egyptienne.

Madness can be found fairly easily online. I see it for as little as $18.64 for 2.5oz on Amazon.

Image, Jiang Guo Fang's Palace Gate, is from


Monday, March 28, 2011

The Perfume That Always Makes Me Cry

By Marla

Do you have one perfume that carries such special memories, you can’t help but cry when you smell it (or for the stoic among us, want to cry without actually doing it)? During my recent, very complex move from Europe back to the United States, I have become much more intimate with my extensive perfume collection. I’ve been giving away bottles to friends, decanting others, donating some to senior centers, and wearing some long-forgotten beauties, too. It’s a lot of fun, but yesterday, I came to a small black hatbox at the back of my closet. Inside was a light blue suede pouch with a star-shaped flacon inside, filled with…Angel! And this is my favorite, most treasured bottle, and here’s why.

When my family first moved to Europe, my youngest son suffered from severe respiratory problems. He’d always been the fragile one, yet the most spirited of my children as well. One night, he woke up cyanotic, blue-grey in the face, unable to breathe. In the middle of an Alpine blizzard, the Mountain EMTs carried him away to hospital. He survived, just, and spent quite a long time in hospital recovering. Since I am a nurse, I was allowed to tend to him, and I was by his side most of that time. A side effect of the strong medications he had to take was anosmia. He could barely smell an onion!

Now how does Angel fit into this? When I first smelled it, I hated it. YUCK! But then a good friend of mine, a beautiful Scandinavian Amazon, began wearing it, and it was so right on her, I changed my mind. As a petite, freckled redhead, I can ‘t carry off Angel the way my Wagnerian friend can, and I didn’t try. But when she gave me a small bottle, exclaiming, “I’ll bet he can smell THIS!” I couldn’t help but wear it to the hospital. It was comforting to me and reminded me of my friend’s strength and warm presence. And yup, it cut through the anosmia, and my son said it was beautiful. (And for all you nurses out there, Angel may be the only perfume that, sprayed on the wrist, can last through a double shift and 200 hand-washings!!)

Finally, my son recovered his health, and we all took a trip to London to celebrate. It was our best holiday ever, and I gave each child several tenners to buy themselves each a present at Harrod’s. My youngest whispered something to my husband, grabbed his hand, and they headed off together, in the opposite direction from the toy department. An hour later, we all got together for lunch, and my youngest presented me with a small black hatbox. Inside was a light blue, suede pouch with a small, star-shaped flacon of perfume. He said, “I wanted to give you this, instead of getting a toy, because you’re my Angel.”

I've donated $100 to the Red Cross Japan Fund thanks to your comments! Woot Woot!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Foodie Sunday: “The Return of the Birds... My constant love affair with Food, Cimbalom and a fabulous giveaway!

By Beth

The first time that I smelled Cimbalom , that glorious Jasmine soaked perfume created by the incomparably darling Roxana Villa, I was still in my beloved California, surrounded by packing boxes, filled with bittersweet confusion because our son was moving home and although I was very happy at the thought of having him in Cleveland again, I’d loved the space we’d shared as family while he was going to school out west. It was a time when we had him to ourselves, when we could be a family together in a gorgeous tranquil space and I’d come to depend on it for my own bit of zen.

I had exquisite small gardens there, containers filled with beautiful herbs that I cooked with, plentiful pots of fresh basil, strawberries and sage that always greeted me upon my arrival and a jasmine plant that was so fragrant that I can still smell it now as I type this. I loved to cook in my little kitchen there and because the farmers markets are so plentiful all year round our table was always filled with the freshest vegetables prepared as simply as possible. The cheeses were the stuff that dreams are made of ; fresh burrata drizzled with the local olive oil, nestled on a soft bed of my homegrown Genovese basil and garnished with heirloom tomatoes that were as fork tender as butter.

I made so many good friends out west, Roxana and her darling husband Greg among them and I was feeling sad because I didn’t know when I would return. It was October and I knew just by the way that my horses coats were filling out at home that it was going to be a long cold winter. If you’ve ever spent anytime in a Cleveland winter you know that while we have culture and plenty of it, we do lack sunshine. We have root vegetables galore, but the tomatoes taste like cardboard until summer and there is no spring corn! It’s only towards the end of March when you can begin to find shoots of wild things…..a bit of watercress here , a shoot of a wild leek or two poking it’s head through the leftover crusty bits of icy snow and dirt.

So sadly, Cimbalom became quickly intertwined with the leaving of that home because Cimbalom IS the scent of Southern California and it’s rampantly wild abundance of orange blossoms, patchouli, gingery spice and sun. The sultry sweetness it contains was for months a reminder that my address in the West is presently a storage unit where all of our belongings are living and patiently awaiting our return. Sadly I put the little vial and pot in my perfume cupboard because I couldn’t bear the feelings that it provoked every time I smelled it. Buttery burrata and slices of juicy, gorgeously perfumed Cavaillon melon wrapped with locally made prosciutto became just a cherished memory! I still dream at least once a week that Jim and I are sitting at the top of the La Jolla Cove eating meals of fresh mussels and California spiny lobsters roasted in butter, eaten with crusty French bread and washed down with a chilled and lemony local Viognier.

But reality has a way of settling in when you want it least and for many of us here in the Northeast the winter of 2011 has been the stuff of legends, with snow piling up by the foot, no sun and bitter temperatures that were icy to the marrow. One day when I couldn’t stand it anymore I grabbed the little pot of Cimbalom solid perfume that Roxana had given me and opened it. If you’ve never worn her solid perfumes they are all buttery sweetness, filled with beeswax and the botanicals that she lovingly crafts herself. Dipping my fingers into that little pot of perfume I remembered the first time that I met the beautiful Greenwitch of the California canyons who coaxes the honey from the bees and the nectar from all the flowers and herbs that grow in her lovely gardens.

Although we’d become fast friends through email and many wonderful phone conversations we’d never met face to face. One day about a year and a half ago Jim and I made the gorgeous drive up the coast to Los Angeles. We wound round the beautiful canyon roads until we finally came to a most magical little place, a bright and peaceful home filled with gardens and surrounded by the coastal oak trees that Roxana loves.

We got out of the car and in that instant my experience of what perfume could be changed forever. The meal that I ate that day began with the sharing of beautiful goblets filled with branch water and perfumed with a true jasmine hydrosol that she offered with the gift of a wish for a beautiful day. I had never smelled nor drunk anything as delightful as this before. It was the true, clear essence of the enchanting jasmine flower and it was at once instantly relaxing, transformative and refreshing. She and her delightful husband Greg then served us homemade cumin scented, buttery chicken empanadas and delicious almond macarons that had been lovingly crafted by Roxana’s daughter Eve. I spent the afternoon in the best company, enjoying a home that IS the essence of what the art of perfume has the potential to be. It is that very energy that infuses Roxana’s Illuminated Perfumes with a spirit and energy that is alchemy in its truest and most personal form.

So Cimbalom and I have begun a torrid springtime love affair and my silly sadness is gone, replaced by the knowledge that my Ohio gardens will soon be planted and my California eagerly awaits our return. I am grateful to have the best of both worlds and as I type, there are stacks of seed catalogs piled up by my side. When I look outside I can finally see my vegetable garden where the leftover leeks have survived the winter and the vibrant shoots of my fraise de Bois are shaking themselves out happily and threatening to take over the whole garden bed! The anise hyssop that I planted last year to seduce the honeybees and provide me with pots of deliciously relaxing tea is beginning stir and so is the asparagus!

The very essence of this scent lies in it’s sweet breath of fresh air, of the sun warmed earth as it begins to slowly break free of the cold, sending up green shoots that bear in their souls the promise of a fruitful harvest. I have sprinkled each corner of my garden with a few precious drops, my own spell, a wish for an abundant spring and for the safe return of the bees. It is the breath of California that lives on in my heart and is teaching me to create a bit of heaven on earth wherever I am. Dinner tonight? Garlicky Mussels and Viognier. I may be stubborn but I can be taught!

I have a little springtime present for one of you…a precious vial of Cimbalom liquid and a delightful little pot of the golden solid. If you want it, all you have to do is tell me what you are planting in your gardens this spring and I’ll enter you in the drawing!

You can purchase Cimbalom at Illuminated Perfume

Photograph of Cimbalom by Roxana Villa. The picture with the Jasmine is my California garden and the one with the bee skep is my Cleveland garden.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Brand Spotlight - The Organic Pharmacy

I was lucky enough recently to receive generous samples of four of the five perfumes of the Organic Glam line the all-natural brand The Organic Pharmacy offers. There is a lovely boutique in Vienna that carries the line. I will write more about this boutique on Olfactoria’s Travels next week.

The inspiration behind our fragrances was to create a 100% natural and organic fragrance line that matched the strict ethos of the organic pharmacy: No artificial fragrances, No artificial colours, No phalates, No animal ingredients. But at the same time gave the sophisticated woman a range of luxury fine fragrances in beautiful packaging that she would wear firstly as a fragrance she loved and secondly as an organic fragrance. Three years in the making our five fragrances use the finest and rarest extracts, expertly blended to create unique scents that are modern classics.- from the website of The Organic Pharmacy

All five perfumes are available in 100ml bottles of Eau de Parfum for 220$. I wish they would make smaller sizes. I don’t need 100ml of anything. Give me a 30ml bottle or even smaller and I will be way more interested. That particular rant bears repeating, maybe some day it’ll go through.

This is my least favorite of the four I got to test. It is said to be inspired by the Southern Italian Riviera. Unfortunately it reminds me more of air freshener, insect repellent and Citronella candles. Notes include Sicilian Lemon and Bergamot, Moroccan Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli and Neroli. From the start there is a very artificial (ironic in a 100% natural fragrance) and sharp lemon note that dominates everything else into the ground. It relents a little later in the development and the orange blossom makes a short, sweet and rather lovely appearance, but the fragrance soon veers off again into a metallic and grating patchouli base that – again – smells strangely artificial. I know natural fragrances like Aftelier, DSH and Anya’s Garden, so I am really perplexed at the artifice of this one. But maybe that is just my perception.

Oriental Blossom:
The second scent I tested was more to my liking. Oriental Blossom is touted as a journey through the Orient. Notes of Sicilian Bergamot, Lemon and Mandarin, Cinnamon, Clove, Rose, Neroli, Oakmoss, Vetiver, Pepper, Vanilla and Ylang Ylang. After a few minutes the dense citrus top notes give way to a heart of spicy rose. The cinnamon and clove give a lot of heat to the rose-ylang-ylang accord that dominates the perfume. It finally gives way to a softly sweet and mossy dry down. It smells more like a chypre than an oriental. This is not a light fragrance; it seems rather dense and opaque. It would be well suited for the cold season and would certainly be too much in the heat of summer. Also a little goes a loooong way with these. One more point in case for smaller bottles!

The name says it all – Jasmin smells of jasmine. A fairly naturalistic rendition too, this soliflore segues from the freshly dew covered blossoms to the fully opened flowers at night. Notes include Egyptian Jasmine and Ylang Ylang, Sicilian Bergamot and Sandalwood. The fresh top notes are lovely and depict the not yet fully opened jasmine blossoms nicely. The perfume moves on to open up to a heady, a little indolic jasmine in full bloom and settles into a comfortable sandalwood base. It has greater than average sillage and impressive staying power. For jasmine lovers this is as close as you get to the actual flower. For me it is a bit overwhelming, since I am not a huge jasmine fan on the best of days, and this makes me feel like I am wearing a whole tree full of it on my back.

Saved the best for last…wait a minute: Oud turns out to be my favorite? Sign and miracles! I had yet to find an oud I like and the proliferation of that note to appearing in every second new release did nothing to endear it to me.
Oud depicts the “journey through the Arabian Souk”. Notes include Moroccan Cedarwood, Indian Oud , Black Pepper, Cardamon, Rose, Sandalwood,Vetiver and Tonka Bean. What I love about this fragrance is its mildness. The oud note is clearly there, but it is soft, balanced, smooth, round and has a wonderful depth and multi-faceted richness. Neither harsh nor sharp, not medicinal or screechy, this oud is singing in lovely harmony with the other spices present (I smell cardamom, pepper and a teeny bit of saffron). The woody backdrop is there from the beginning to provide solid scaffolding upon which the rose can climb safely and shine. The late dry down is warm and sweet thanks to the tonka bean. Oud is the most balanced and interesting perfume of the four. It is perfectly gender neutral, lasts for six hours on me and projects well, without being intimidating.

The bottles the Organic Glam scents come in look very well-made and beautiful. The perfumes are available from the Organic Pharmacy website and several brick and mortar stores, a list of which can be found here.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Sparkling Cyanide: Datura Noir by Serge Lutens

By Marina

In my imagination, the delicate, passive Farnesiana has an alter ego...because there is only so much a sweet-natured girl can take... push her to the limit and we'll be looking at your necrologue in The NY Times. If you make her really, really angry, Farnesiana turns into Datura Noir, which is anything but delicate or passive. What unites the two for me is the bitter almond quality presented on a creamy floral background. And it is that quality that also makes them oh so different.

In Farnesiana, the almond-heliotrope accord is a soft, if melancholy embrace. In Datura Noir, it is a soupçon of cyanide in your champagne. Lutens and Cheldrake cleverly used various gourmand notes to enhance the sweet allure of brugmansia/angel's trumpet/datura...A little bit of juicy mandarin and peachy osmanthus in the top, vanilla, coconut and apricot in the base, and almond throughout the composition turn Datura Noir into an irresistible temptation....better to pull you in, my dear.

The tuberose, the presence of which lends the composition a languid, tropical feel, is wonderfully creamy, and makes a perfect seductive accomplice to the evil almond. “Very few of us are what we seem,” warns Agatha Christie. That certainly describes Datura Noir. Delicious but poisonous, beautiful but lethal, creamy-white but with the heart of darkness, it will kill you, but softly...if that's any consolation.

Available somewhat more readily than cyanide, wherever Serge Lutens fragrances are sold.

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Winner of Scents and The City Giveaway Tammy. Please forward your address using the contact me link on the right.

Thank you everybody for playing and guessing correctly :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In The Bag: Terre d’Hermès

By Tom

Well, I have an excuse for being really lazy today. It's the LA Marathon and I'm cut off from my usual sources of fumes by hordes of runners. It's also raining cats and dogs. So much so that as I type my building manager is chain-sawing the smallish tree that fall over in the courtyard and is blocking the stairs to my place.

And the dog ate my homework..

But I did get some samples when I purchased that bottle of Cravache at Neimans, so...

Terre d’Hermès was created by Jean Claude Ellena in 2006, according to Now Smell This as a companion to Eau de Merveilles. I don't know about that, but I do know this is a brilliant scent. It opens with citrus and a mineral note that happily reminds me of Miller Harris Fleur de Sel, which since it's not available in the States anymore is a very good thing. Pepper and cedar join in along with a delightfully earthy vetiver. Like Marina, I don't get a lot of development here, but that's no bad thing since what is here is so wonderful.

Trying it next to the Miller Harris, the Hermès is the much smoother, which I suppose should be expected from both Hermès and Ellena. Miller Harris takes that Sel and vetiver and rubs it in. Terre d’Hermès is far more polished. I also think that this one is something that a lady could wear very easily, so ladies, if you're looking for a birthday gift that gives you poaching opportunities, here's an excellent one for your consideration.

$110 for 3.4oz at or at Neiman Marcus (oddly, only by phone or in person, not online)

My sample is from Neiman Marcus and was received with a purchase.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


By Marina

La Chamade is an old military expression to which Francoise Sagan gave new life by using it in her novel. In its original meaning, la chamade is a signal by drum or trumpet signaling capitulation. In the book and in the copy for the eponymous fragrance by Guerlain, it "symbolizes a surrender to love." First of all, I have to say that I have always been jealous of Guerlain, because they got to make a perfume inspired by Sagan's book. If I had a perfume line, quite possibly each scent there would have been an homage to one of her works. Secondly, I am in two minds in regards to the suitability of this particular scent to this particular book

Chamade, heavy on hyacinth, is a perfume that does not give up or surrender. Besides (and that might just be the reflection of my very subjective impression of hyacinth as a note) neither does it strike me as particularly romantic. The buttery bitterness of hyacinth is the strongest in the beginning of Chamade's development, but it is very evident on my skin in the heart of the composition, where it is actually aided by another uncompromising and unbending green note, galbanum... Without them, the heart would have been all starry-eyed, heavy-lidded and honeyed thanks to the presence of jasmine, rose and ylang ylang. The unyielding, sharp greenness persists as far as in the drydown. Hyacinth and galbanum are fighting the typical velvetiness of Guerlain's base as if it is against their ideology, they will not relent..

None of the above is meant as a criticism! Quite to the contrary. I  love Chamade for the tough, sharp fighter it is. When I need strength and dare I say bitchiness to not give up, that is what I wear. I love how it is so very Guerlain, because somehow even the sharp greenness smells lush in the hands of Jean-Paul...and yet stands out as a little bit of an alien in the line up. It doesn't quite belong there  and doesn't want to. Chamade is an elegant non-comformist.

This is the kind of perfume that would never surrender, be it to love, to circumstances, or to pressure...In that respect, it is wrong for La Chamade the book. But only if we condense all the content and meaning of it into one piece about the heartbeat signaling capitulation. As Wikipedia cleverly summarizes, however, the heroine "wants to be with the one who doesn't ask her to change", and thus the book is actually about NOT surrendering: now that is the philosophy to which Chamade by Guerlain can subscribe. Wear it and don't change for anybody. And never, never, never give up.

Chamade can be found wherever Guerlain is sold, including online discouners.

Which book would you turn into perfume?


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Jean Patou Ma Collection - Chaldée

By Marina

Hyacinth is a paradoxical note. It is simultaneously leaf-like, at times herbal and vegetal - and floral. Its greenness can appear, in the same breath, airy, fresh - and fleshy, thick. It is both sharply dry and husky-sweet, like bitter, smoky honey. Its powerful, seemingly earth-bound aroma, somehow soars as light as a feather.

Chaldée, an inexcusably discontinued Patou scents dating to 1927, which features hyacinth throughout two-thirds of its development, is a paradoxical perfume. First introduced as a suntan oil, Huile de Chaldée, the fragrance seems to promise, to a contemporary tester, a sweet, tropical quality. It delivers, in fact, a traditional and, despite the Babylonian inspiration behind the name,  "European", floral-oriental composition with the proper structure of the fresh top notes, floral heart and rich, ambery drydown. The composition in which, the floral notes (orange blossom, lilac, jasmine) lead by hyacinth balance the velvety, fleshy, honeyed base with their airy, at times sharp fragrance. The flowers make the intense, seemingly earth-bound Chaldée soar as light as a feather.

Perhaps the perfume only seems to me paradoxical in the context of our very different time, where suntan equals coconut, and the new fragrance structures, spirals, octagons, pentagrams, what have you, have been gradually replacing the time-honored pyramid. Chaldée is in fact not paradoxical. It is classic.

It can be found on ebay and some discounters. I am still hoping that one day Patou will bring back the discontinued scents from "Ma Collection".


Monday, March 21, 2011

Scents and the City ...and a prize draw

By Garry Bradshaw

My buddies Charles Lott, Sam Anther and Mr. Randa and I set about to discover the true smells of New York City. First we had to decide what is New York City?

To anyone not from New York, it is only Manhattan. Tourists very rarely venture to Staten Island for example, and with good reason. The smells of Staten Island are more North Jersey factory than pleasant Fifth Avenue olfactory. So for our purposed, scents in the city would be limited to Manhattan.

That night, Charles and Mr. Randa were downtown at a sports-themed eatery called “Jimmy Chews”. They were debating whether to starts with the smells of the Meat Packing district – where they no longer pack meat -or near massage parlors of China Town where they still do.

So the decided to start at the very bottom … Battery Park, where the East River and the Hudson Rivers meet blending into an almost seaside smell, even with suntan lotion mixed in on warmer days when sunbathers flock to the park.

The rivers themselves have distinct smells and blindfolded, I’m convinced I could tell the difference. The Hudson (which separates Manhattan from New Jersey to the west) has more toxic pollutant smell. While the East River (to the east, duh) separates Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens. It has less dumped pollutant smell, and more dumped Mafiosi smell.

Meanwhile, Uptown, Sam Anther and I were waiting my friend, Mr. Brigg. The scintillating smells of street vendor fair wafted our way. There was the greasy meat smells of bratwurst and halal gyros. Competing for nose space was the aromatic nirvana of roasting nuts.

The alluring smells of dishwater dogs and soft pretzels competed with Philly cheese steaks and lamb on a stick.

Occasionally I’d even smell the semi-sweet, semi diesel aroma of an ice cream trucked, parked and ready to sprinkle jimmies.

Mr. Brigg was late and didn’t call as usual, so Sam Anther and I wandered.

The old smells of New York, bus fumes and taxi fumes have gradually given way to more sterile smells of rainy sidewalks and brewing coffee, thanks mostly to the growing use of electric buses, hybrid taxis and a Starbucks on every corner.

The sterilization of Manhattan started with Mayor Giulianni I think. You really have to be lucky and in the right flow of wind in Central Park even to get a whiff of marijuana these days … not like the old days of Mayor Koch when Central Park smelled like Tommy Chong’s movie set trailer.

Sam Anther went off for a little while to have sex with a random stranger so I headed to midtown. The homeless have a special smell of course, but most of them smell better than the tourists. And of course there’s quite a funk near the peep shows around Port Authority Bus Terminal.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’d much rather be on a crowded subway with someone with body odor than with someone who’s covered their body odor with way way way too much perfume … and it’s always the cheap perfume, the kind on sale at Duane Reade or from Perfumania or the knock-off stuff from the sidewalk sales on 14th Street.

Later that night I caught up with Mr. Anda and Charles outside the Garden. We agreed that spending an evening exploring smells had left us feeling a bit too metrosexual so we decided to catch the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Champion) match and hope the smell of blood would restore our testosterone level.

Over the years, the normal arena hot dog and peanuts fair has given way to a more suit-and-tie friendly cuisine of London broil and crepes Suzette. I was amused that my cup of Chinese Noodles from the concession stand was embossed with the letters, “M-S-G”. Later I realized it stood for Madison Square Garden.

I wondered … could the smells of Manhattan really be captured or rather do the smells capture us?

Take a guess on who is "Garry Bradshow". Those who guess correctly will be entered into a giveaway of a 100ml bottle of Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soleil.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pancakes in the Hills

By Tom

Last weeks excellent post by Beth made me think about the state of pancakes in my hood. I love pancakes, whether at the Retro coffee shop at the Beverly Hills hotel (I'd eat first) or at Jan's restaurant on Beverly in West Hollywood (bring your own maple syrup). Further west on Beverly is BLD about which no less than Andy Tauer raved and on Pico in West LA is John O'Groats which you'd better get to before 9 if you don't to face a line.

I'm going to let you in on what might be the best and worst kept secret breakfast spot in Los Angeles: the Village Coffee Shop in Beachwood Canyon, just beyond the Hollywoodland Gates. The canyon is the home of the Hollywood sign, and on any given Sunday you will find people standing in the streets taking photos. Be kind, don't honk. The city has set it up that there isn't a place to get a better picture really, with gates and motion detectors to keep people from getting too close, so a picture from the drive is best.

The area was one of the first developments in LA, back when the sign read "Hollywoodland". Years later the last four letters and the illumination was lost but the neighborhood remained, including the cafe and the shops and grocery store just inside the stone gates. Noted architect John Lautner redid that grocery store years ago; you can buy books about the area along with Dinty Moore Beef Stew. As for the Coffee Shop, I don't think anything but the prices have changed from the 50's (and for LA it's really quite reasonable) and that's a good thing. The coffee is real, the iced tea is fresh brewed, the portions are large and there's an admirable lack of irony in the place. The waitresses call you "hon" and mean it. I hope you tip them well.

I want to loop in some esoteric foodie related smell here so I can seem clever but here isn't one. The best I can think to type is that perhaps this is a modern day version of a James M Cain novel; one could imagine Mildred Pierce learning her trade here, footsore from the long walk from Franklin Avenue or later her pies in the display case. It smells of of Mildred's, and there's no better portrait of LA than that.

Image source,

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Addiction Or Love Affair – Why We Can’t Get Enough Of Perfume

There was a time when I did not care for perfume.

As inconceivable as this seems to me now, whether I remembered to apply a spritz or two of whatever happened to grace my vanity at the time, or not, was not a matter of concern.

I always had a bottle or two in my possession since it was like getting dressed or brushing my hair, just a gesture that was necessary to make myself presentable to the world. If I forgot, well, it would have been worse had I forgotten to put on trousers, wouldn’t it?

Then, sometime – I bet you all have a story of how it happened for you – I saw things differently. All of a sudden perfume took on a new meaning, a new importance and a new, almost magical pull.

My sense of smell awakened, smells all around got a new and vastly enlarged priority in my conscious mind. It was as if I had grown a new nose over night.

Perfume became a way of living. It started to seep into everything, permeate my life with its wonderful sillage.

What am I wearing today? Why am I wearing it? How does that make me feel? When can I try this new perfume? When can I buy a bottle of this old classic?

Do I need this? Should I save up for that? Do I start a collection of vintage perfumes as long as I have the chance? Do I get a decant or a full bottle? Do I need a backup of this beloved limited edition?

As time progresses, the questions get more and more complicated. More and more details have to be considered. As our collections grow along with our tastes and experiences, perfume rules a part of our lives.

We spend significant amounts of time researching it, we spend time testing and experiencing it in stores and we spend time trying to imagine it. We seek out opinions of others, we talk about it, we connect with other like minded individuals about it - we have a hobby.

Do we?

Or is what we experience an addiction?

Of course it can be. But not necessarily so.

The hallmark of addiction is the abuse of something (or someone) to fill an emptiness that is otherwise unbearable. In most cases this addiction is detrimental to the person having it. The abused substance can be bad for you in itself, like drugs and alcohol or it can be turned into something bad, like food or shopping.

All addictions have the loss of a correct idea of the right measure in common. The urge to fill the emptiness is stronger than any other, healthier impulse.

This is a serious disease, a severe disturbance affecting the whole personality.

There are certainly instances where this passion we all share can get out of hand.

When it is abused for something else. When we use buying and acquiring more and more of the beloved item, to fill the emptiness, when we lose control and spend more than we can afford and still not stop, when we prioritize it above all else, even something as beautiful as perfume can become a drug of sorts.

So why am I writing this?

I have been asked several times by a lot of people whether such a passionate affection for what is essentially just a thing, is normal. Whether it is healthy to feel delighted or frustrated, happy or sad all because of perfume. Whether it is normal to spend so much time and effort on it. Whether it is normal to take such satisfaction out of an inanimate object.

Everything is a question of the degree, the extent of involvement as well as the intended purpose, to what end the “substance” is used or abused.

We all have a deep connection to perfume as a way of self-expression. We use perfumes, we appreciate them, we do not abuse them generally. Of course there can be exceptions; every lust can turn into a must, but only on the ground of an underlying problem.

I do not believe perfume is ever the first problem. Addiction is always an attempt to self-medicate, to regulate what is perceived as wrong or missing. Even perfume can be instrumentalized for that effort, but to collect and wear more than twenty, fifty or five hundred perfumes is certainly not in and of itself a sign of addiction.

It is okay to be passionate about something. It enriches our lives, it helps us in all kinds of situations, it helps us deal with life’s vagaries, it enriches our sensual perceptions, it broadens our horizons, it makes us appreciate art and artisanal craftsmanship, it delights, saddens, angers, empowers, calms, brings us down or lifts us up.

Perfume is a mood altering device at worst and at best.

Let us use it as such and be happy we have found it.

Image Credit,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Xerjoff Modoc Perfume Review

By Marina

After I encountered Xerjoff's iris fragrance, Irisss, I decided that, along with Iris Silver Mist, it might be the most beautiful iris scent out there. Modoc gives Irisss run for its money. It is not a rival for Iris Silver Mist, because, to me, they come from two different iris "families". The family inhabited by Irisss, Modoc and scents like Delrae Mythique, Attrape-Coeur and Iris Poudre is "buttery" or "velvety" iris. The family of Iris Silver Mist, Hiris, Iris Pallida and Infusion d'Iris is "drier" and "silky". The first group speaks in hushed, husky tones, the second sings like silver bells. The "velvety" irises are, to me, what Luxury and Expensive smell like. The "silky" ones are what elves wear in Rivendale... Generally speaking, the velvety group is stylized, "perfumey", while the silky ones strike me as more "realistic". There are also woody irises, earthy and a couple of other types, but those are sub-groups. As you can see, I am ever so "scientific" about my irises.

On that note, I am going to evaluate Modoc according to the criteria I came up with before:

1. How strongly/recognizably orrisy does it smell? - Very. Modoc is built on the interplay of two rooty ingredients, iris and vetiver, with their harmonious interaction taking place on the plush background of amber and vanilla. It is the latter two accords that keep the rootiness/earthiness of the  star notes to a minimum, making them instead creamy, slightly powdery and extremely luxurious. Nothing wild about either vetiver or iris here, both are tres recherche. Vanilla, musk and amber highlight the buttery quality of orris. In comparison, vetiver is rather subdued, although it certainly contributes a certain "nutty" verdancy to the blend, keeping the opulent creaminess somewhat in check.
2. Is it more iris-orrisy or violet-orrisy? - Definitely iris-orrisy and should delight iris purists.
3. Is it woody or floral? - Leaning towards woody, but, again, not in any sort of "found in nature" manner.
4. Is it powdery? - Moderately so. Just enough to emphasize the fact that it is a Pefume, not a Smell, an elegantly executed interpretation of an iris, not a photographic image.
5. How expensive does it smell? - Not just profanely, but really offensively expensive. As it should, considering its cost.
Conclusion: Sublime. Rich. Quite original, due to the interesting interaction between orris and vetiver. There is something in its golden orrisiness that vaguely remindes me of Attrape-Coeur. And since, inexplicably and inexcusably, Guerlain discontinued the latter, Modoc might possibly become a welcome if costly consolation for the fans like me. I also have to mention that although Modoc is a part of the masculine Shooting Stars collection, there is nothing non-feminine about it. Despite being of the conviction that everything is unisex, I'd even venture to say that Modoc is for ladies if not only then mostly.

Available at Luckyscent, $295.00-$470.00, depending on the fanciness of the bottle.

Image source, Elle Canada.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Keiko Mecheri at Scent Bar

By Tom

This last weekend in February I braved the the LA version of freezing cold to meet Keiko Mercheri at ScentBar. You'll know her from her Loukhoum, arguably the loveliest take on Turkish delight or Mulholland, her fizzy citrussy ode to Laurel Canyon in a fantasy summer of love.

There were four new scents that were being showcased: Attar de Roses, Isles Lointaines, Les Zazous, and Tuberose.

I liked them, but Tuberose was the one that really did it for me. It sort of had a bit of Tubereuse Criminelle in the slightly camphorous aspect to the tuberose and jasmine, with a touch of vanilla and benzoin to keep it from being too BIG. There's something Emma Peel about this one: it's tuberose with a decided wink. I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

Keiko Mercheri perfumes are available at LuckScent, Kuhl Linscomb in Houston and at Four Seasons Beauty in Del Rey Beach, Florida. It is not available at Aedes de Venustas and I suggest that the East Coasters call and suggest they remedy that situation. 

Image, Tom's own.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Etat Libre de Ricci Delice de Baker

Josephine Baker is a new offering from Etat Libre d'Orange, inspired, as the name suggests, by the legendary dancer, singer and actress. The thing is, it is not really new. It smells exactly, and I mean, exactly like...

...Délice d'Épices, the 1999 creation in the Les Belles de Ricci series by Nina Ricci. And I would know, since I have worn and adored this indeed delightfully spicy, delicately gourmand number for several years.

Reading about Jospehine Baker, we discover that it was created by Cecile Matton who has also created Délice d'Épices. Notes for Josephine Baker: grapefruit, cardamom, champagne accord, jasmine, black pepper, curry jungle essence, sandalwood, cistus, labdanum, lorenox, gourmand accord. Notes for Délice d'Épices: grapefruit, bitter orange, red apple, jasmine, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, pepper, cedarwood, musk, benzoin, tonka bean, vanilla, toffee.

If I still had some Délice d'Épices to do a comparison, perhaps I could have talked about the differences between the two. Going by my fond memory, the scents share the sparkly spiciness of the top notes, the honeyed fruity-floral accord of the heart and the rich, delicious and longlasting creamy, woody-ambery, subtly foodie base. Délice d'Épices has been discontinued and I have always thought it was shame to do so. Well, now it is back, reincarnated in a bottle with dancing Josephine.

Josephine Baker is available at French Sephora, 39,50€. Although Sephora declares it to be an exclusive, one can also find it at Les Senteurs, £52.50. I see Délice d'Épices on Amazon, $21.99-$44.95.

Image source, Les Senteurs,

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ineke's Dashing Duo: Derring-Do and Field Notes From Paris

By Donna

I recently reviewed two Ineke perfumes which I found to be the most “feminine” of the line. I find two others to have more of a masculine or unisex vibe to them, Derring-Do and Field Notes From Paris. They are not similar in style at all, but they both have what I now think of as the Ineke signature; vibrant, clear and full of personality.

Derring-Do is a modern citrus blend, and what comes to mind at first sniff is that it is done in a very popular style similar to CK One or its many acolytes, a fresh, slightly sweet rainy citrus with florals, light woods and musk. The difference is that while the (usually) pleasant opening that sells so many of those department store clone scents often goes wrong after a few minutes, turning into scratchy metallic tones or just fading away completely, this one actually wears well on skin and stays true to the original impression. It is quite linear and does not change much over time, at least on me, but that's just fine because it is very likeable. It is firmly in what we have come to think of as the unisex category because of the ubiquity of these light but soft citrus fragrances. It has a light-hearted, breezy jauntiness that’s a perfect fit with its name.

I have never been a big fan of this genre, probably because there are so very many mediocre examples of it out there. Some of them are very nice and others are instantly forgettable, and a lot of them are close kin to the dreaded category of sport fragrance which seems to be marketing shorthand for piling on the aquatic/ozone notes, highly pitched “fresh” notes and synthetic woody-ambers to headache levels. Thankfully, Derring-Do never gets anywhere near this territory; it has a watery feel but no harsh marine notes, just a generally cool, wet quality. Testing this in winter is not ideal, since it begs for a hot and humid summer swelter to bring out its real virtues. The first time I wore it I was not sure what I thought, but on the second try it clicked; I think I had been bracing myself for it to make a wrong turn on the first try, but it never did. If you like the idea of this style of scent but fear the mall, then fear no more, for this is a delightfully fresh take on the style, made to be splashed on with abandon, and it beats anything else in the mainstream offerings of this kind of fragrance for my money, whether it’s worn by a dashing hero or a fair lady. Notes include citrus blend, rain notes, cyclamen, magnolia, fougère accents, Gaiac, cedar and musk.

Field Notes from Paris is more my style and I was captivated immediately by its originality and the rush of memories it brought back, which I was not expecting. Not memories of Paris, as I have never been there; but of an unforgettable episode in my life when I was teenager that left an impression on me that lingers still. When I was a very innocent sixteen year old girl from a small town, my family had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go to Europe for a deeply discounted fare on a charter flight, and so my mother, my aunt, my younger sister and I all flew to Amsterdam, where we promptly fell in love with that wonderful city, and the whole country too. We tramped all around on foot, explored everything via streetcars and buses, and then took off to see some other countries by train, including Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, before coming back to Amsterdam for a few days. (On one of the trains there was a very attractive dark-haired older man in a trench coat, and we decided that he must be a spy; we flirted and whispered and giggled, and I think he must have been just as amused as we were ridiculous.)

One of the stops we made in The Netherlands was Rotterdam, where we arrived after a magical boat cruise on the Rhine from Koblenz. (Of course, there was an adorable and muscular young deck hand to keep my sister and I entertained when we weren't looking at all the ruined castles on the hillsides.) I did not really like Rotterdam at first; rebuilt almost entirely from the ground up after being devastated by war, it was modern and cold and a bit scary, unlike the picturesque charm of Amsterdam's historic central city. There did not seem to be much to do for tourists like us, without a lot of money and lost in the metropolis. Fortunately we landed at a decent hotel, a small quiet place with a nearby canal where people would come to feed the ducks. There we met a most unexpected person; he may or may not have been an expatriate American, I never did get his story straight, but he called himself Mississippi, looked like Frank Zappa and smelled of cannabis. Before we knew it, my sister and I were invited out for a night on the town with this raffish character. My poor mother gave her permission after much persuasion, I can't imagine why, but somehow we always felt safe on that trip; sadly most of Europe seemed a lot nicer than any large American city I have ever been in, before or since. 

Off we went to paint the town red, and our new pal brought a friend, a German man named George who looked to be in his thirties, who spoke not a single word of English and seemed very shy, though also disarmingly sweet. What a pair they were, Mississippi in ragged jeans with long hair and a Wild West mustache and George in a gray business suit, with short hair and formal manners; how they ever got together is anyone's guess. Anyway, the first thing we did was hit a private speakeasy club – yes, there was actually a little sliding panel in the door that opened and you had to give the password! (Our Bohemian friend knew it, of course.) I think there was illegal gambling going on, but we were “only” drinking – it was legal for minors over there, sort of, and no one asked for our I.D. cards. Then we went to a very large, very loud disco, modern in the worst sense, all sharp edges and strobe lights and hard chairs and ugly cubes that passed for edgy architecture. Everyone seemed to be smoking. We managed to get a table and tried to talk, but it was well nigh impossible. Meanwhile, Mississippi was enthralled with my little sister, who was all of fifteen, and George and I were making eyes at each other even though we could not communicate verbally. (I don't think we ever did give my mother all the details of that evening.)

Finally it got very late and we are all pretty tipsy, so we called it a night. George and I sat in the back of the car on the way home, and that's when it happened; sweet, shy buttoned-up George turned to me in the dark and kissed me, a knowing kiss, delicious and smoky, the kind that usually leads to more kissing and beyond, but something in it managed to convey that he knew I was much too young and also that he wished it were not so. (For the record, so did I.) To this day I can close my eyes and remember just how it felt.

Field Notes From Paris is the distillation of that whole European experience to me; the pungent smoke of Gauloise cigarettes, the smell of George's cologne, the strong coffee of the famous Dutch breakfasts mingled with the wafting aromas from the innumerable patisseries, the patchouli aura of the American hippies hanging out in the public squares, the polished wood and wax of hotel dining rooms and art museums, the handsome stranger on the train, and the exhilaration of adventure, even of danger, on a dark summer night in Rotterdam when a young girl had just a taste of forbidden fruit. The listed notes include coriander seed, orange blossom, bergamot, tobacco leaf and flower, patchouli, cedar, Tonka bean, leather, beeswax and vanilla. Its structure is traditionally masculine on the surface, but after it warms up on skin it gives off all sorts of interesting signals, with the sweeter notes coming up and surprising the nose; the beeswax really makes it sing and provides a bridge between the sharp cedar and coriander, the pungent patchouli and the softer notes of tobacco flower, Tonka and vanilla. I can recommend this fragrance very highly to anyone; who knows what memories it will evoke for you?

Ineke perfumes are surprisingly affordable, at $88 for 75 ml (2.5 oz.) of Eau de Parfum. In today's perfume dollars, it's an incredible bargain for the quality you are getting. The line is in a limited number of boutiques in the U.S.A. and Europe but you can buy them directly from the Web site too. A deluxe set of generous 1.5 ml samples of all seven fragrances is available for $25. (If you buy a full bottle via the Web site after buying the sample set, they will give you a discount of $25 off the bottle purchase!)

Image credit: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of The Caribbean© films from, original source unknown. Rotterdam at night from

Disclosure: My sample set was sent to me gratis by the Ineke Company for testing.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

My Favorite Japanese Perfumes (And a Perfumista Way to Help Japan)

by Marla

While watching the horrendous footage of the tragedy currently unfolding in Japan, I realized how much of my love of perfumery stems from Japanese perfume. Kenzo, Miyake, Hanae Mori, Shoyeido, even Serge Lutens (a child of Shiseido) are all integral to my perfume collection and love of perfume in general. So today, I thought I’d take another look at my favorite Japanese perfumes, and give perfumistas around the globe a chance to help Japan.

Shiseido began marketing its products to the west in the 1960s, and perfume history was made when they appointed Serge Lutens their international image creator in 1980. My favorite Shiseido is, of course, Feminite du Bois, an ode to cedarwood, but I have yet to try a Serge Lutens I do not want to wear, at least once in a while! Shiseido makes too many perfumes to recount here, but most are available only in Japan. They have some exquisite florals, like Vocalise and Murasaki, and my favorite for men, the spicy and intense Basala. And their original, aldehydic chypre, Zen, is a long-standing cult favorite in the west.

Kenzo Takada was born in 1939. He didn’t speak French, but he moved to France after he graduated university, and made his name in the 1970s. His wild, colorful clothes with Asian motifs fit the European 70s perfectly, and his first perfume was the infamous banana scent, King Kong, which has, perhaps mercifully, disappeared from the shelves. Yet we all know Flower, Amour, and their many interesting flankers. I’ve worn both for years now, and have worked my way through several of the flankers as well.

Haute couture designer Hanae Mori was born in 1926. She became famous for incorporating traditional Japanese motifs and textiles in her line, which debuted in 1955. With a $500-million fashion empire, she’s the only Japanese member of France’s haute couture syndicate, and she designed the wedding gown of Japan’s Princess Masako. Magical Moon has been my HG since it appeared several years ago. I own it in every concentration, and have backup bottles of them all! Scary, but I think it’s that good.

My husband’s first cologne was Issey Miyake’s L’Eau d’Issey, and the original, conical bottle is one of the best perfume bottles designed, ever.

And for when I don’t want to wear perfume, I go to my Shoyeido and Baieido incense powders, finely ground medicinal-grade herbs, spices, and woods that are rubbed into the skin. The use of these powders probably began in India for health purposes and to aid meditation; as Buddhism spread, so did the powders. I use them for yoga and running to give me a mental and emotional boost.

Now for how you, fellow perfumista, can help Japan. Please leave a comment about your favorite Japanese perfume or incense. I'll donate one dollar fore every comment, up to $500, to the Red Cross Japan Fund, during the month of March. I thank you in advance for your comments!


Winners of Jane Cate Giveaway

Elizabeth C for Laughter and lexfordrose for Lark.

Please email us your mailing addresses using the contact me link on the right.

Redefined: Byredo Accord Oud

By Tamara

I believe we can redefine ourselves with a scent. Maybe I just take myself too seriously. Maybe I long for variety more than the average woman. But a few weeks ago, I wanted to become someone else -- someone more sophisticated than the baby toting, Barney song singing, bottle preparing, make-up-less Mommy that I am of late. I wanted to feel different. I knew I needed a scent to inspire this virtual transformation.

I found it. I found the one that makes me want to paint my lips, tousle my hair, speak a little slower, bare some shoulder skin and bat my eyelashes. I found the one that helps me forget the tedious tasks of the day and instead focus on sensation, emotion, tenderness. I found the one that highlights my wise, determined nature. Finally, I found the one that takes me to dimly lit rooms, crackling fires, velvety rugs and blankets. It is Byredo Accord Oud.

Founded by Indian creative Ben Gorham, Byredo is a Stockholm based house that believes in limiting raw materials and focusing on quality of craftsmanship. Accord Oud is one of fourteen in the catalog, along with various high quality candles, soaps and body washes.

The scent begins fresh, with notes like clean clary sage and tender blond woods accented by dry leather which initially demands all olfactory attention. As it evolves on the skin, Accord Oud takes on a simultaneously rich, smoky, nutty quality. Juicy blackberry and plum, rich, intoxicating rum with spicy saffron and cinnamon develop as the scent adheres and grounds itself to the skin. Surprisingly, the effect is neither sweet nor wet but rather dry, elegant, meaty, almost edible. Like L’Artisan Traversée du Bosphore’s wise, clean, intellectual mentor, Accord Oud is startlingly refined and exceptionally interesting. In its entirety, Accord Oud resembles nothing I have previously experienced. The oud craze passed me by as too heady and the revival of leather-based scents appeared trendy. However, I declare Byredo Accord Oud the quiet, sophisticated leather oud – for those who previously dismissed these notes.

Here is where the scent redefines me: no flowers. This former opulent white floral lover has embraced a scent that completely lacks blooms. In so doing, I instantly reveal my new identity: grown up sophisticate. (I am definitely taking myself too seriously!) In all sincerity, I am a different woman than I was before bearing children. Byredo Accord Oud’s classy, interesting, unique aura lends an extra edge and elegance to my long, maternal days.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Foodie Sunday- “Maple Madness” , Pancake Breakfasts and a very delicious giveaway!

By Beth

In Northeast Ohio where I live, there is a beautiful little town called Burton. When I was a child, my sister and I used to drive there on beautiful fall days to see the maple leaves turn and in the early spring we’d go to the maple sugar cabin to by fresh syrup and pieces of yummy maple cream and sugary maple leaves that were so sticky and delightful that your teeth would ache from the eating of them. Then we’d take our syrup home to our mother who would heat it up and give it to us in little bowls so that we could take our spoons, stir it really fast and make our own maple cream that we then eat as fast as we could. To me, the flavor of fresh maple rivals any other taste that I know. My horses adore it too..they’re always bugging me for a piece of the naturally delicious sugar!

Burton , Ohio is also the home of The Great Geauga County Fair which is Ohio’s oldest county fair and in my opinion the very best. If I were to have to choose my last meal on this earth it would be the dinner that I eat on the first and last nights of the fair. Twice a season and with unabashed passion I’ll enjoy a meal of piping hot cornbread covered meltingly gooey swiss cheese on a stick with mustard, an ear of fire roasted fresh sweet corn dripping with melted butter, cinnamon and maple dusted sweet potato fries, fresh Birch beer and several pieces of maple sugar candy. You can’t even imagine how delicious this is and mingled with the smell of woodsmoke and draft horses, it just doesn’t get any better than this for a girl like me.

So I am sure that it won’t come as any surprise to you that the first home that Jim and I ever bought together was a small gentleman’s farm which we named Windesphere that was situated right around the corner from the Burton Fairgrounds and the old log cabin where they make all of the maple syrup for that part of Geauga County. Burton is a historical old town with a fabulous Century Village, a living bit of pre civil war Americana with war reenactments, seasonal festivals and one of the best antique fairs that I’ve ever had the pleasure of strolling through!

As you can probably imagine, not much happens in Burton except for the comings and goings of daily farm life. There’s not a Starbucks in sight, instead we have a wonderful little place called Coffee Corners, where you can get a really great latte, play a great game of chess or backgammon and just watch the locals go by which can really be fun. It is a community heavily populated by the Amish, so it’s not unusual to see horse drawn buggies interspersed with the cars and hay wagons

pulled by Hafflinger ponies sharing space with a few Harley's at the local diners. We make hay in the summer, apple and pumpkin butter in the fall and maple syrup in the spring. It was an absolutely magical place to raise a child.

Sometime in late February we'd begin to see the tin sap buckets beginning to be hung from the sugar maple trees and that was always my cue that spring was just around the corner. That and the wonderful smell of the woodsmoke that would fill the air every morning along with the fragrance of wet earth and running sap. Suddenly, my sleepy little town would spring back into life and we'd begin to see all of the maple farmers unloading their trucks at the little cabin on the square, where they'd bring their fresh maple sap to be poured into the huge wood fired evaporators. It takes hundreds of gallons of fresh sap to make a few gallons of maple syrup so the process is fairly labor intensive and goes on for about a month.

Every couple of days during the month of March, Alex and I would go to the sugar cabin to sit in the rocking chairs by a warm fire that's always lit in the beautiful fieldstone hearth and eat leaves of fresh maple sugar candy and maple cream with black walnuts. Sundays in March were always reserved for the delicious pancake breakfasts that we'd go to with our next door neighbors, sometimes at the High School, sometimes at the Historic Century Village Church and the Fire Station. Known as Pancake Town USA, Burtonites tend to take their pancakes very seriously, generally making them out of all of the right ingredients and slathering them with gallons of fresh syrup and heaping tablespoons of freshly salted butter. The smell when you walk into any of the places where they are being served is incredible; imagine the aroma of hundreds of sweet freshly cooked flapjacks , sausage, bacon and maple syrup with a hit of percolated coffee. By the time you manage to get through the huge lines you're practically starving which is wonderful because they bring you refills of absolutely everything. Then when you've eaten your fill, you buy some fresh syrup, some maple candy and home you go to slip into the ultimate food coma!

I tend to buy quite a lot of it because maple syrup is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with and also to use for a spring detox. A combination of maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, spring water and a bit of cayenne pepper is mother natures most delicious gift to a sluggish body that’s just waking up from a long dark winter and can be drunk warm or cold several times a day. Those same ingredients sans the water can also be mixed with a bit of bourbon, salt, pepper and onion to make a fabulous marinade and glaze for fresh salmon, pork or chicken. My favorite recipe for baked beans requires at least 2 cups of syrup in place of the more commonly used molasses.

How about an ounce or two of rye or bourbon shaken with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup, some fresh apple cider and poured over ice or simply take the best vanilla ice cream that you can find and serve it with warmed syrup and fresh black walnuts! So tell me….what do you do with maple syrup? Send me your recipes please!

In honor of springtime , this years sap run and also because I love all of you so very much, I’m giving away a gift of a quart of this years finest syrup, a big box of wonderful maple sugar candy and some Geauga County pancake mix from the Burton Chamber of Commerce! Just let me know in your comments if you’d like to be entered in the drawing!

Photo of Burton Log Cabin courtesy of

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slow Blogging – A Labor Of Love

We have all heard about the ideas behind the Slow Food movement.

Back to fresh, unprocessed food, ingredients you know and can pronounce, knowing where your food comes from and knowing it earns a decent wage for the people producing it. The focus is on quality, on ingredients, preparation, provenance and love for the subject in preparation as well as consumption. Putting something healthy and pure inside your body, taking care of yourself and nature, as was intended by nature. I am pretty sure trans-fatty acids came as a surprise even to Mother Nature.

A few weeks back, Marina and I were talking about blogging and its pitfalls, when the phrase Slow Blogging came up. I used it as a metaphor for blogging with your heart, rather than acting like a news paper. Slow blogging is the art of infusing what you write with emotion. Writing with your heart in it makes for a different quality than reporting.

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with reporting, and I am not comparing news blogging to fast food in any way, the last thing I intend here, is to anger anybody. My point is merely to make a case for Slow Blogging as a distinct discipline of blogging, one where the love for what you write about shines through. Where the unique voice and personality of the blogger is as important as the subject he/she writes about.

I love Slow Blogging and I love to read blogs written that way. You quickly get a sense of the style, the purpose and the objective behind a post. If it feels like PR copy, I move on.

In the early stages there was only Slow Blogging, just as there was only slow food to be had. No McDonalds, no Burger King, but a kitchen, a cook, ingredients and a certain amount of time between the craving for a burger and its consumption. In between lay a labor of love or at least of skill.

With this post I want to celebrate the labor of love that is blogging.

No body pays you to do it, nobody even asks you to. In the beginning nobody cares, aside from your spouse or friends, maybe.

But you persist. You do it because you love it. Because you feel the compulsion to do it, to share what you know, or what you feel. To find others who share your feelings and thoughts. Eventually you find kindred souls, like-minded people you learn to appreciate for their knowledge, respect for their skills and begin to love for their personalities. They become friends.

Slow Blogging, the art of blogging with your heart, is more than a new medium (but don’t forget its power too!), it is a way to forge friendships, to broaden your horizon in the subject you are passionate about, as well as in the social dimension of it all. The world gets smaller through thousands of friendships that start over a shared passion, thousands of random acts of kindness that keep the community going, be it an encouraging email, a shared sample or even a meeting in real life of complete strangers, who feel like they have known each other forever.

When I am hungry and pressed for time, I have been known to go to a fast food restaurant and even enjoy what I get there. But it is not what I would want to sustain myself with every day. I love a good home cooked meal (especially when someone else cooks it, I am no genius in the kitchen, but I try). The difference is enormous.

Similarly if I am looking for something specific, I quickly google it, take the fact wherever I find it and be done with it.

But when I want to enjoy reading, when I want to feel enriched, enlightened or entertained, I go to my favorite blogs, written by people who care for what they do and know what they are talking about. This combination is irresistible.

I am so glad that there is a wealth of such blogs out there, many different voices expressing their unique points of view, their personal takes, but nonetheless manage to sing like a perfectly trained choir about the thing we all love so much – perfume.

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