From an alarm clock that wakes you up with the smell of coffee to a sorbet inspired by a Calvin Klein fragrance, there's a growing awareness of the power of scent. Here, a primer for the aroma-obsessed.
The New Aromatic Cuisine
"I never thought I'd get excited about ingredients in a perfumer's studio," says chef Daniel Patterson of San Francisco's Frisson, an F&W Best New Chef 1997. That changed when he met Mandy Aftel, of Aftelier, who creates natural scents for people like Kate Hudson. The two have just published Aroma: Cooking with Essential Oils, possibly the first cookbook for both kitchen and spa. Chamomile oil, for instance, is not only the base for a moisturizer (chamomile facial elixir), but it also figures in a meat dish (chamomile-scented veal). "Using an essential oil shows a new facet of that ingredient," says Patterson. "It's almost like a different food." Aroma also offers tips for cooking with the oils, many of which can be found in health food stores: sprinkling a little rosemary oil on pasta, say, or adding a few drops of cinnamon oil to French toast. "Cinnamon oil has a more piercing scent than the spice. Really, it's changed the way I cook," he says. Has Aroma changed the way Aftel makes perfumes? "I definitely find myself hungrier," she says.
DETAILS Frisson, 244 Jackson St.; 415-956-3004. Aftelier; 510-841-2111 or aftelier.com.
"Sweet aromasfresh bread and biscuits anything applesell houses almost by themselves."
Doug Heddings, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
JACK AND LULU STATIONERY "As a kid, I loved my scratch-'n'-sniff books so much that I scratched holes in the pages," says Julie Murphy, cofounder of Jack and Lulu stationery. She's turned her passion into whimsical cards infused with scents like spicy peppermint and a fruity strawberry ice cream you might even consider lickingbut save that for the envelope. DETAILS $4.25 per card; 949-716-0410.
Sweet Smell of Dessert
Pastry chef Jordi Roca is obsessed with perfume. When he isn't cooking at El Celler de Can Roca, the Michelin two-star in the Spanish Catalan town of Girona, the 26-year-old is hanging out in the fragrance aisle of his local Sephora; when he returns to Celler, he reproduces the aromas of popular fragrances in his desserts. His dish of plumlike Japanese loquats with warm peach cream and apricot sorbet, with its notes of rose, vanilla and honey, uncannily replicates Lancôme Trésor (diners are handed a scent stick to compare). To mimic Calvin Klein Eternity, Jordi layers sorbet made with the orange-scented herb bergamot, basil gelée, vanilla cream and a mandarin orange granita. "Perfume has so many edible ingredientsflowers, herbs, spices," he explains, "so the food connection is natural." Not surprisingly, Jordi's preference is for fruity perfumes.
Jordi is not the only member of the family fascinated with fragrance. His older brother Joan, the chef at Celler, creates dishes based on sensory memorieshis tiny clams with fennel cream and seaweed gelée remind him of time he spent on the Costa Brava as a child. Now, with their brother Josep, one of Spain's best-known sommeliers, Jordi and Joan are applying their extraordinary noses to food and wine pairings at their new restaurant, Moo, in Barcelona's Hotel Omm.
DETAILS El Celler de Can Roca: Crta. Taiala 40, Girona; 011-34-972-22-21-57. Moo: Rosellón 265, Barcelona; 011-34-93-445-4000.
Anya von Bremzen
Most people think of perfumes as floral or spicy. But one of the best-selling categories is culinary, and natural ingredients like vanilla and coffee scent many great fragrances.
SHALIMAR BY GUERLAIN
The original culinary fragrance, Shalimar was created in 1925, and perfumers honor it as the "reference vanilla." Guerlain's genius, perfume critic Luca Turin has said, is to make women literally mouthwatering.
NARCISO RODRIGUEZ FOR HER BY NARCISO RODRIGUEZ
Released late last year, the popular designer's first fragrance smells of ripe plums.
NEW HAARLEM BY BOND NO. 9
This small, niche perfume house, named for its downtown New York City address, has created a sophisticated coffee scent with hints of chocolate and burnt sugar.
J'ADORE BY DIOR
J'Adore mimics the scent of one of Christian Dior's favorite desserts, from the south of France: plums simmered in Banyuls, a sweet wine that has traces of wild cherry and almond.
AMOR AMOR BY CACHAREL
Just out from Cacharel, this fragrance evokes Europe's Old World sweets like crème brûlée and hard fruit candy, but the finishing scent is, surprisingly, apple.
Smell the Coffee and Wake Up
Instead of sounding an alarm, HAMMACHER SCHLEMMER'S PROGRESSION WAKE UP CLOCK wafts the smell of coffee or another aroma. DETAILS $50; 800-321-1484 or hammacher.com.
Of over 4,000 wine-grape varieties, these have the most distinct scents.
Lychee and rose; the most distinctive-smelling wines come from Alsace.
From herbs to citrus; New Zealand examples can have a "cat pee" nose.
From spice and smoke in Rhône wines to cherries in Australian ones.
Red and black berries and cherry; older French Pinots can have an earthy aroma.
Stone fruit like apricot is discernible in all types, minerality in drier wines.
"It shouldn't have been called wine tasting; it's really wine smelling."
Kevin Zraly, wine educator
Sniffing Out Great Wine
Kevin Zraly has spent 28 years at his Windows on the World Wine School teaching sold-out classes to oenophiles in Manhattan. Recently, the preeminent wine educator gave his curriculum, as well as his updated wine-course book, a new focus: aroma. "The average person can detect over 2,000 smells; experts estimate there are over 200 smells in a wine," he says. "Compare that to only four tastesbitter, sour, sweet and saltyand you can see wine tasting is all in the nose." Here are Zraly's top tips for getting the most aroma from wine.
1 Cover your glass when you swirl
Swirling wine, says Zraly, causes the esters, ethers, aldehydes and alcohols that make up aroma to intensify as they become exposed to air. Cover your glass with one hand as you swirl, then uncover and smell.
2 Take more than one sniff
Each nostril, says Zraly, picks up different aromas; tilt your head to each side and sniff to perceive as many scents as possible.
3 Explore aromas around you
Exercise your sense of smell even when your nose isn't in a wine glass. Focus on all aromasfood, flowers, smokeand memorize them.
DETAILS $895 for an 8-week Windows on the World course; 845-255-1456 or wowws.com.
On the Home Front
Dan Philips, founder of the mail-order company Grateful Palate (and an F&W contributor), loves bacon so much that he sells BLT-inspired candles: smoky bacon, sweet lettuce and floral tomato.
DETAILS $40; 888-472-5283.
Antica Farmacista's Home Ambiance Collection includes fragrances like spicy Coriander & Lime and fruity Pomegranate. Graceful clear apothecary bottles hold reeds that disperse the scent.
DETAILS From $58; 888-547-8099.
Demeter Fragrance Library's new Home Atmosphere Sprays are available in over 80 food-themed scents. Cocktails, such as citrusy Gin & Tonic and minty Mojito, are some of the best sellers.
DETAILS $13 for 4 oz; 866-592-1154.