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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Foodie Thursday: Persimmons

By Tom

I have never had a persimmon in my life.

Until today.

I was having some painting done and the painter, a very nice man in his early 60's came in at the end of his work and offered me what I took to be an almost criminally over-ripe tomato. Being my mother's child I happily accepted it, thanking him thinking I'd just toss it in the disposal if I could get it to the kitchen without it exploding in my hand. Then he mentioned that he and his wife have a tree in the backyard that produces them. Now, my horticultural experience is limited, bur even I know that tomatoes grow on vines and while vines can grow on a trellis, they aren't going to be confused anytime with a tree. That's when it hit me- it's persimmon colored. It must be a persimmon.

So upstairs I went and ate it. It was interesting- sweet and pulpy, almost gooey.

Looking at Wikipedia, there are several varieties. I believe mine was the Hachiya, which is apparently the most common. While I don't think this will be elbowing apples and blackberries out of the way for the #1 top spot in my personal pantheon of Fruit That I Love, I'll certainly be trying them again.

Do you like persimmons? Have any recipes you'd like to share? Please leave a comment.

Image: Wikipedia

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Foodie Sunday: A home where art imitates life ~ The Incredible, Fabulous and Fantastical World of Laurie Stern and Velvet and Sweet Pea's Purrfumery

By Beth Schreibman Gehring

Several weeks ago I was in California for an extended period of time celebrating my nephews wedding. We were to be there for two weeks and for the last weekend we decided to take a trip up to San Francisco, literally one of my favorite cities on the planet. We made plans to meet Jim's brothers and my fabulous sister in laws in Napa and we couldn't wait for what I knew was going to be a wonderful time.  

But first we need to go back to San Francisco.  Many of you who have read my perfumed musings know that regular trips to San Francisco were part of my wonderfully misspent youth and one of the first times that I realized that a city could indeed have a scent template as well as a palpable heat and energy.

San Francisco to me is one of the  sexiest cities on the planet. Where else can you experience a 5 star hotel such as I did on one visit where I was served wine and cheese every afternoon in a wonderful parlor accompanied by a mysterious psychic whose skill at reading Tarot is as of yet unsurpassed. Where else after the wine and the Tarot can you get a fabulous Sazerac cocktail , long before Absinthe was once again legal in this country. New Orleans maybe?  Although I do love that dripping, wicked part of the south, I am more drawn to San Francisco as Anne Rices immortal vampires were. San Francisco at night comes alive with provocative hum. It's a dark and sensual city; I love to prowl its streets simply observing it's passionate rhythms. I love to wander through its alleys just looking for a glimpse of The Vampire Lestat. San Francisco IS the city where my hedonistic heart feels free to roam and just be....

Regular trips to the Haight in the 70's provided me with more opium dreams, sandalwood and patchouli oil than my indulgent teenage senses could handle. Mix those aromas together with some of the most incredible Indian food that I've ever eaten to this day, the loveliest red wines and some of the most wonderful marijuana that I was ever to smoke and you begin to understand how I became completely enamored with sensual aromas and decadent tastes. 

Flying into San Francisco from San Diego always provides a thrill as you land on the runway with inches to spare...a hairs breath from slipping into the Bay. This time it was no different and I felt my heart quicken as I realized that I was back, this time not for business but strictly to play for the weekend with my darling husband. By this time starving, we drove to the Ferry Market building for lunch and to buy some supplies for the evening. I was truly excited as I chose freshly baked bread, wine and the most wonderfully aromatic truffle infused cheese for the evening. The truffles seemed fitting as I was going to finally get to spend some time with one of my favorite natural perfumers of all time - the utterly inimitable Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery. 

Oct 26, 2013

I have known Laurie for several years now, but until that weekend we had never met in person. When I told her that I was coming , she  generously asked us to come across the Bay to Berkeley to stay with her and her husband Gary. To say that I jumped at the chance is an understatement. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to stay with someone whose laugh is as enormous as their personality. I had been dying to see her Purrfumery and gardens for years , but I must admit that I wasn't prepared for the generosity of it. The minute we arrived Jim and I were assaulted by the most amazing scents and visions. From the largesse of the blooming Jasmine as you pull into the driveway to the Russian sage and roses that are at least twice the size of what we see back home it is indeed the most fabulously perfumed garden that I've ever been privileged to wander. Even the pictures that I've posted here cannot possibly do it justice. Laurie's garden is the foundation of Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery. 

 Quite frankly her garden is heaven on earth and is lovingly tended to by Laurie's husband Gary who is a landscape designer and simply amazing plantsman. The man literally oozes juicy green energy from his fingertips. My husband wandered around just shaking his head ...when we were alone that evening in their cottage he said to me that he'd never experienced anything so magical. It is a place filled with all of the best things in life; gorgeous plants , magical cats, cooing birds, lots of velvet and most importantly more love than I'd experienced anywhere outside of my family in a long time. Trust me - If I could have stayed forever I would have. 

That evening we laughed, relaxed together and enjoyed the wine with cheese slathered on the fresh yeasty bread and fragrant honey that came from Laurie and Gary's own honeybees.  After dinner we said goodnight and I went back to the cottage to feast on some of her homemade Jasmine scented bittersweet chocolate truffles.  The next morning we were greeted by the sun rising and a breathtaking view of the San Francisco Bay. I made a pot of fragrant French press coffee sweetened with the same honey and  we reluctantly got into our  car  to drive to Napa for the day. 

Oct 26, 2013

The next morning we said goodbye to the beautiful Calistoga Valley and quickly drove back to Berkeley because I had been invited to experience the Purrfumery first hand! I have loved Laurie's perfumes from the moment that I first sniffed her amazing Honey fragrance, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience. Laurie Sterns Purrfumery is filled with such intimacy and a beauty that is timeless, whimsical and distinct. Hers is the lair of the consummate artist and filled with everything needed to create her delicious perfumes from start to finish.The space itself is absolutely intoxicating, filled with lace , vintage bottles, embroidery and plenty of color ,velvet and inspiration, but it was the scent of it stopped me in my tracks. I have always said that I could know everything about you by the fragrances that you surround yourself with. Walking into Laurie's studio sent me spiraling to exotic places that only my imagination has ever been. One sniff and I was literally wandering the Spice Roads or the gardens of Versailles. 

Oct 26, 2013

For the next hour I was treated to an adventure of discovery with some of the most amazing natural, botanical scents that I have ever experienced, a vast collection of ancient and beautifully aged oils as well as some things new and delightful. Laurie's knowledge of her oils, distillations and accords is masterful and she knows how to blend them...she is an alchemist of the highest degree. She is a natural and botanical perfumer whose fragrances and beauty products are layered ,complex and infused with not only the scent but the energy of the wonderful aromatics that she uses.  She is passionate about animal rights and has written an entire manifesto about the use of musk and civet in perfumery,  products used for centuries but not obtained without total cruelty and torture.   She notices everything about her customer and how they respond to each scent that she entices them with.  I have no doubt that when I am able I will commission her to create the bespoke perfume that I've always wanted to call my own, a fragrance that is part abandoned Scottish castle, vast flowery mead,unicorn tapestry, kilted male and  spirited sorrel stallion.

After a wonderful feast at a local tapas restaurant in Berkeley,we said goodbye to Laurie and Gary and settled back into their cottage to have one last relaxing last evening in paradise. I opened up all of the windows , looked towards the Bay and ate the last of the jasmine scented truffles. I took a deep sniff and I thanked the muses for the generous gift of my dear friend. Hers is a world where the art imitates her is definitely not the other way around. Everything about Laurie Stern is authentic and that is why her perfumes make so much sense  because she's created a home for herself and her craft that inspires her everyday. If you want to give yourself a magnificent treat, gift yourself with one of her Purrfumery adventures. Regardless of what you know about scent, you will never again look at fragrance in the same way that you did before you stumbled into her magical, sensual world. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Radar Love: Puredistance Black

By Donna

Let me say right from the start that I am a fan of the Puredistance fragrances. The new one, Puredistance Black, which is being launched in December 2013, was said to be somewhat of a departure from the aesthetic of the preceding scents, and as with the first four, the company is not revealing its major notes, just enticing us with the artistic concept behind it. I decided to do something similar for my take on Black – I did not read any other reviews before writing of my impressions of this imposing perfume, or even all of the company's official publicity, and just went with my own unadorned feelings about it. (I actually try my best to do that most of the time, but in the case of perfumes that have been around for awhile, it's almost impossible to avoid reading others' opinions before actually smelling the fragrance.)

The hallmark of Puredistance as a brand is refinement combined with abstraction, using the finest materials, and it's not shy about the judicious use of synthetics to achieve its goals; indeed, Puredistance 1 is as seamless as a watercolor painting and a textbook demonstration of how to use aldehydes, modern musks and other aroma chemicals the right way in contemporary perfumery. Black, the first fragrance from the house composed by the talented Antoine Lie (of Comme des Garçons and Etat Libre d'Orange fame), is just as streamlined but instead of being about diffused light and soft, misty beauty, it is about tone-on-tone warmth and depth, and like its predecessors it is nearly impossible to separate any one note from the overall effect. It wears close to the skin but still emits a steady force field, just enough to create an intimate aura. If I had to make a guess I would say that it will be more popular with men than women, since it has a certain austerity; not severe, but restrained, and the understated sweetness is reined in and never allowed to dominate the whole. That said, I know many women including myself who would wear and love it, as long as the men in our lives agreed to wear it for us too. Its reach is like radar; quiet and unobtrusive, but capable of pinpoint accuracy from which there is no escape once you are within its range.

So what does it smell like? I have to say that it reminds me of a smoothed-out, urbane version of L'Artisan's Timbuktu, since I get a good amount of cumin from it along with other “masculine” spice notes, but that is a compliment, since I love Timbuktu. However, it can be a little bit loud at times because of its spicy exuberance, and Black is something that can be worn for any occasion. I also smell notes of incense, labdanum, glove leather and maybe a touch of oud from Black, but only as brief glimpses before they are folded into the whole again. It has no edges other than the briefest glimmer of sharpness from the cumin when first applied to skin, when there is a momentary impression that it is a conventional masculine fragrance, but that goes away very quickly. Its subtle changes during development provide interest, but one must pay close attention, since the sillage is minimal, so much pressing of the nose against skin is required. Longevity is very good, and you will wake up the next morning still smelling of Black if you put it on the night before, although it will have softened somewhat by then. It never ends up with the vanillic/sweet far drydown that is the usual fate of so many fragrances that might be broadly classified as Orientals, but like the rest of the Puredistance family, and I think of Opardu in particular, its structure is impressively stable, allowing for only small variations throughout its life. This means that if you like it on your skin immediately, you will also like it eight hours later, or for as long as you have it on – and I think you will want to wear it as often as possible.

The Puredistance line is available at Luckyscent in the USA where Black can be pre-ordered now, and at select boutiques in Europe. The parfum extrait formulation is an extravagance, so testing a sample before purchasing is strongly recommended.

Image credit: Abstract Radar art from with added color effects by me.
Disclosure: I received my test sample directly from the Puredistance company.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Yet another winner....

Hopefully the third time is the charm - the first two names that were drawn to win a full bottle of The Perfume And Skincare Company's Linden Leaf perfume never responded, so I have drawn another name, and that person is Tama!  Please hit the "Contact Me" button to the right so we can send you your prize!

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Foodie Sunday : I left my heart in Napa valley!

Foodie Sunday~ My Napa Valley WeekendBy Beth Schreibman Gehring

Hello to all! It's been awhile since I've been here, but trust me, I've missed you all so much! I've been traveling quite a bit this fall, first to Las Vegas which was a week long food and fun fest. Of course there was plenty of time for shopping and I came home with two new favorites; Tom Fords unbelievably tempting "Shanghai Lily", which is  literally what you'd smell if you distilled 500 stargazer lilies. Next was Balenciaga's absolutely lovely "Paris", a beautiful Violet scent that just captured my husbands heart so much that he wouldn't leave me alone until I went back and bought the bottle! (What a guy!) If you haven't been to  Las Vegas for awhile, I promise that you ARE missing a lot when it comes to amazing food to enjoy and you owe it to yourself to spend a weekend there enjoying the world class restaurants. I was pretty blown away by the wonderful meals that I ate but the most memorable was a romantic dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower in the Paris hotel. A perfect blue cheese souffle, a remarkable unconstructed Caesar salad, pan seared scallops with sage and browned butter and champagne (which my husband ordered before I ever got a chance to think about it!) was eclipsed only by the amazing sunset view of the Bellagio fountains. Magnificent!

Fast forward two weeks which found me aboard a plane bound for San Diego to act as the Officiant at my nephews wedding which was absolutely beautiful AND made even more complete by the pod of about 30 whales that were migrating off the Del Mar coast and entertaining us. The whole weekend beginning with the sunset Champagne toast at the Salk Institute , an amazing black tie rehearsal dinner and ending with an English brunch at his uncles house set on beautiful cliffs overlooking the Pacific was incredible~ an absolutely unforgettable moment in time.  

Foodie Sunday~ My Napa Valley Weekend

After the wedding we decided to stick around and play in the ocean for a few days and then go to Napa Valley for the weekend. We flew into San francisco, spent an amazing few hours in the Ferry Market Building eating the most delicious grass fed roasted garlic cheeseburger ever and a free range Chili dog. Then it was off to spend the evening with the fabulous Laurie Stern of Velvet and Sweet Peas Purrfumery(more about that visit later!) and the next day we were off to Napa and Sonoma! 

Foodie Sunday~ My Napa Valley Weekend

Late September is harvest season in Napa valley and the intoxicating smell of crushed grapes was present everywhere from the moment that I got out of my car. To say that it was beautiful is an understatement, it is autumn there right now and although the colors aren't as vibrant as the fall colors back east you could smell the seasons change. I spent hours roaming the Oxbow Market, eating fresh tamales,  sweetly briny oysters and sampling strawberries, tomatoes and fresh figs. 

Jim's brothers and their wives met us  a few hours later and  we spent the rest of the day eating wonderful food and drinking some pretty incredible wine as we went from vineyard to vineyard. The next day we spent our time at Castelo di Amarosa which is one of the most amazing places that I've ever seen. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a Medievalist and Castelo di Amarosa is a perfect replica of a 13th century Tuscan castle replete with drawbridge, dungeon and great room and the dining room of my dreams. It is also a working farm with chickens that wander the vineyard and lots of goats and sheep. We spent hours there drinking wonderful wine and just enjoying the magnificent views of the Calistoga Valley from every angle of the castle. It was like stepping back in time and we enjoyed every minute of it. 

31 Days of Halloween: Scenes from Castelo de Amarosa Vineyards

Our last stop before going back to Berkeley that evening was in downtown Napa for a scoop of gelato to feed my husbands never-ending sweet tooth! Flavor of the day? A fragrant blend of Blackberry, Sage and Cabernet which was a perfect ending to an absolutely magnificent day! To say that I was sure that I'd fallen into a bit of heaven was an understatement. If you've never been I can promise you that Napa Valley is all that they say it is and more. I didn't see enough of it and I want to go back as soon as possible!

Have you been anywhere recently that stole your heart?