Taking the Waters

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Cold Drinks, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Savories, Sweets, Wellness

Here in Southern California, we’re on the tail end of yet another summer heat wave. It feels like we’ve been pummeled with them this year, barely having time to enjoy a week of “cooler” temps (90s instead of 100s) before the next one rolls in. This latest wave brought some dreaded humidity that made going outside feel like stepping into a wet sauna. Ugh. We’re only midway through the season, so to keep my cool and freshen up when there’s no time for taking a bath, I’ve been taking the waters.

I discovered the culinary delights of rose water and orange blossom water when I got to know my Persian co-workers many years ago. They explained that Middle Eastern cooks use these floral waters in cooking and baking the way that most Americans use vanilla. I quickly learned that the waters also make fragrant and refreshing toners and tonics. During the summer, my favorite cooling trick is to pour them into spray bottles and keep them in the fridge for sweetly-scented spritzing throughout the day.

For years, I could only find Indo-European brand rose and orange blossom waters at Whole Foods and the ethnic foods aisle of some chain grocery stores, but then a large Middle Eastern market opened a few miles from my house and introduced me to a whole new world of culinary waters. There were familiar ingredients, like dillweed, cumin seed, and licorice, alongside less common ones, such as borage, sweetbriar, and willow, but some of the names were unrecognizable to me. What the heck is hedysarum? And fumitary water sounds like a treatment you’d be given on the road to wellville.

I bought them all.

Since I’m more of a baker than a cook, the dillweed and cumin have languished on a shelf, but orange blossom continues to be a favorite scent, and a rose by any other name—whether Naab or Ghamsar Kashan—smells as sweet. A whiff of willow holds hints of violet and rose, while fumitary emits the unexpected essence of peppermint. On sweltering summer nights, nothing beats a mist of mint water on sheets, pillows, and overheated skin, especially under the cooling currents of a fan.

Many of the descriptions online recommend taking these waters as a tonic beverage with plain water and sugar added. According to one, chicory water can “refine the blood,” promoting skin and liver health. Another claims that fenugreek water helps lower blood sugar and strengthen hair. Willow is said to stimulate the appetite, while fumitary (sometimes called fumitory) is beneficial for treating eczema and psoriasis. Hedysarum, which has a flavor completely unfamiliar to my American palate, tastes slightly medicinal, with a sharp earthiness and a trace of fruit that is both strange and exotic … and, apparently, useful for whooping cough.

In addition to Indo-European, I have found culinary waters from Cortas, Al Wadi, and Sadaf, but the largest selection is produced by Golchin. Most of them are only $3-5 a bottle, so stock up this summer and hydrate liberally, inside and out, because taking the waters is (almost) as therapeutic as a trip to the spa.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Culinary Waters

 

If you don’t live near a Middle Eastern market and can’t find these culinary waters at your local grocery store or gourmet food shop, many are available online from Persian Basket.

 

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Fleur Crazy

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

There are places around the country where winter is still holding on with an icy fist (My Crazy Friend Marianne™ said it snowed in her small town just a couple of weeks ago), and while many people are going stir crazy, we at The Swoon Society are going fleur crazy! As our readers know, we love foods—particularly sweets—with a floral twist, which is why we look forward each spring to the arrival of Les Fleurs du Chocolat, a limited-time collection of truffles from Vosges featuring exotic flowers and spices.

Kirsti and I discovered Vosges Haut-Chocolat (pronounced vohj o-sho-colah) in the late 1990s when the company had a single store in Chicago. We managed to catch founder Katrina Markoff on television talking about her unusual truffles with combinations like coconut/curry and wasabi/ginger—flavors that were unheard-of in the chocosphere at that time. When we saw her complete collection, which included an Absinthe truffle and one topped with a candied violet, it was swoon at first sight.

I used to drool over their beautiful paper catalogs like a teenage girl with a copy of Tiger Beat, and I started setting aside a monthly allowance to indulge in their latest offerings (including four flavors of Vosges ice cream, no longer available). On a trip to New York City in 2003, I made a beeline for their newly-opened store in SoHo to sip drinking chocolates at the bar and shop for bars of chocolate on the side. I left in a purple haze.

Katrina is endlessly inventive, and her Les Fleurs du Chocolat collection has evolved over the years to offer new surprises each spring. In addition to floral toppings like purple orchid, marigold, nasturtium, and candied violets, this year’s collection features fruit flavors (caramelized banana, Mirabelle plum, blueberry) paired with surprising superfoods, spices, and herbs (bee pollen, turmeric, lemongrass). My favorites were the Orange Coriander and Siam Citron, which left a strong “aromatic impression” of flowers from essences of orange blossom water and jasmine tea, respectively.

While we’re in a fleurry, let’s not forget the less flashy, but no less flavorful Cardamom Rose Caramels from Vosges’ Exotic Caramel Collection. Rose water and cardamom powder are added to soft, creamy caramels, then enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with bits of crystallized rose. There’s a reason Vosges refers to the flavors in this collection as parfums. They unfurl with each bite, blooming on the palate the way a fine fragrance opens in the nose.

It may be too late to slip these bouquets into a holiday basket for someone special, but I doubt anyone will mind a rain check from the Easter bunny when the IOU is for VHC. Just remember that Les Fleurs du Chocolat is only available for a short time, so hop over to the Vosges website and place your order before this garden of floral chocolates goes dormant until next spring.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Les Fleurs du Chocolat
Cardamom Rose Caramels

 

Vosges has a full collection of sweets and treats for Easter, which will remain available while supplies last. A rep I spoke with said that items may still be in stock after they’ve been removed from the website, so call to place your order and ask about availability.

 

A Faint Whiff

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Fragrance

Grab the smelling salts, because The Swoon Society is proud to introduce a Scent Worthy Of Our Noses: SWOON Perfume! Reflecting our signature bouquet, this bespoke fragrance unveils sweet scents of rose and violet…with a twist. Due to the skills of our master chemist, SWOON Perfume contains special aldehydes and esters that will actually make you feel lightheaded. The effect only lasts for a few minutes, but some users have gone weak at the knees, so make sure you spritz while sitting down and never drink in this “eau de sprawlette” before you drive.

SWOON Perfume is the first fragrance on the market designed to literally overcome your senses, so prepare to fall head over heels when you get a faint whiff of our intoxicating new scent.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

SWOON Perfume

 

If something about this post smells fishy, you’re nobody’s fool. Happy April 1st!

 

Floral Dose

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits, Wellness

This post is guaranteed to raise your spirits, because we’ve found the cure for the common cocktail. Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I swoon over floral flavorings, so we almost slipped into a coma when we discovered this bouquet of botanical drink mixers from Floral Elixir Company. With flavors ranging from Orchid and Orange Blossom to Lemon Verbena and Lavender, these sweet syrups will breathe new life into your libations.

Floral Elixir Company handcrafts its line of 13 drink mixers using only natural herbs and flowers. This includes its rainbow of vibrant colors, which is created from a blend of botanicals. The syrups can be mixed with sparkling water to make singular sodas, or used to sweeten lemonade and iced tea. Behind the bar, these elixirs transform mixed drinks into magical potions with palliative properties.

Years ago, Kirsti hosted a cocktail party with a self-serve bar where guests could mix floral and herbal liqueurs (like St. Germain, Crème de Violette, and Canton) with sparkling wine. It was a huge hit, but these botanical syrups from Floral Elixir Company offer even more variety and control for amateur and master mixologists alike. Get started with these recipes and grow your repertoire.

Floral elixirs are the Rx for refreshment, so we prescribe an oral dose several times per day, or as needed, to restore well-being.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Floral Elixir Company Botanical Drink Mixers

 

In their online shop, Floral Elixir Company offers a Mini Elixir Master Set , which includes sample sizes of all their flavors, as well as cocktail kits for Champagne Lovers, Tea Lovers, and everything in between.

 

Order of the Purple Hearts

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

sjaaks-lavender-heartsFebruary 14th is still a week away, but I’ve already received my order of purple hearts from Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates. These foil-wrapped confections put the “V” in Valentine’s Day with a vegan truffle center that’s infused with lavender.

I’ve written before about the fact that Kirsti and I don’t do subtle when it comes to flavorings, particularly floral ones, and these chocolates don’t disappoint. The lavender is distinct and tastes like the true essence of the herb. Blended with a creamy ganache made from all organic ingredients, including dark chocolate, cashews, almonds, and coconut oil, these dairy-free delights make a thoughtful gift for animal lovers, organic-vegan-chocolate-lavender-heartpeople with dietary restrictions, and those who simply enjoy singular sweets.

Sjaak (Dutch for Jacob) is pronounced like Jacques, the name of the company’s Netherlands-born owner, who is committed to compassion and sustainability through the family’s organic, fair trade, vegan products. Their variety of Valentine offerings includes both Cherry and Raspberry Hearts, but it’s the Lavender that will have you writing purple prose to its flowery flavor. So if you want to give a gift from the heart, don’t just pay it lip service. Order today and stock the Sjaak’s.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Sjaak’s Lavender Hearts

 

Lavender Hearts can also be purchased in bulk.

 

Kom Down

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Food & Drink

búcha Verbena Rose KombuchaWhen my favorite flavor of Wonder Drink was out of stock recently, I decided to experiment with something new. Among the sea of kombucha choices—featuring typical additions of ginger, fruit, or greens—one blend stood out: Verbena Rose from búcha® Live Kombucha. With a floral essence and no SCOBY in sight, I should have snapped it up immediately, but I hesitated over…the name?

Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I share a passion for anything rose-flavored, but we also share an aversion to certain words and quirks of language. Setting aside the issue of proper names with lowercase letters for the moment, I bristle at the practice of dropping the first part of a word to create a shortened slang term (i.e. ’sode for episode or ’verse for universe—sorry, Browncoats!), but even though this drink is a “kom” down*, I elected to calm down and buy it.

With just a hint of sweet rose balanced by the citrus notes of lemon verbena, this flavor is a winning combo. The fermented black tea contains live kombucha culture (think probiotics), and all of the ingredients, including Damask rose petals and blackcurrant color, are certified organic. It also has a softer, less acetic bite than many other brands of kombucha. Not to get too flowery, but this floral sparkling tea is, to quote the bottle’s own label, “Enchanting.”

A Verbena Rose by any other name would taste as sweet, but I’ve been bewitched by búcha® and declare this libation to be ’licious.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

búcha® Live Kombucha Verbena Rose

 

Use the company’s store finder to locate a búcha® retailer near you.

 

*To read a brief history of búcha®, including a connection to the actual city of—yes—Bucha, click here.

 

A Taste of Your Own Medicine Flower

Author: Kirsten K., Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Fragrance, Recipes, Sweets

Violet Flavor ExtractBoth Kirsti and I have written about our love for floral flavorings and the disappointing search for a true violet culinary extract following our swoon-worthy taste of violet ice cream in the South of France. It can be difficult to find a natural violet extract, since the blossoms only produce a small amount of essential oils. For this reason, violet was one of the first perfume essences to be synthesized, and this extends to the kitchen, where artificial violet extracts are the norm. While they might smell and taste like violet, there’s usually a chemical undertone that tells you this flower was “grown” in a lab.

Violet CupcakeI have purchased a number of extracts that claim to be natural flavors or to taste just like violet, but they invariably turn out to be either analogs (i.e. synthetics) or made from orris root, a member of the iris family that is commonly used as a fixative in perfumes and is reputed to smell and taste like violet. While there is a violet-like quality to the fragrance, it is nothing that a true violetesse would mistake.

I’d almost given up the perennial search when I came across Medicine Flower, an “aromatic apothecary” that sells essential oils, massage and body care products, and genuine, 100% natural flavor extracts…including a violet that is “made from the material named on the label.” Wary, but excited, I purchased a small dropper bottle. When it arrived, I could detect the essence of violets before I’d even opened the package. Here it was at last: a natural, culinary extract that smelled and tasted like true violet.

Rose Flavor ExtractAccording to their website, Medicine Flower’s extracts have a flavor potency that is 30-70 times higher than other products on the market. I have no trouble believing this, because I’ve used my violet extract in chocolate, baked goods, hot drinks, ice cream, and anything else that might benefit from a floral fix for the past couple of years and there’s still some of the precious essence left in the original bottle that I purchased.

True to its name, Medicine Flower also makes jasmine and Bulgarian rose flavor extracts that are as swoon-inducing as the violet. Undiluted rose and jasmine absolutes can run in the hundreds of dollars per ounce, but these natural flavor extracts are only $22 for 15 ml (½ oz.) and can perfume your cooking and baking with just a drop or two, making them a phenomenal value.

Jasmine Flavor ExtractFloral extracts particularly enhance desserts. Add a couple of drops to the batter and/or frosting when making cakes and cupcakes, then garnish with fresh or candied blossoms. The rose is intense and intoxicating, like burying your face in a bouquet of velvety blooms. I like to put a single drop in a glass of lemonade or pink champagne and float a couple of petals on the surface. The jasmine is even more concentrated and has a fruitier aroma than most jasmine flowers I’ve encountered. Mix a drop into vanilla ice cream for a treat unlike any you’ve tasted.

These are only a small sampling of the 65 culinary extracts that Medicine Flower produces, which include flavors as diverse as butterscotch, cucumber, dark chocolate, fig, wildflower honey, and cabernet sauvignon grape. With so many to choose from, write yourself a prescription for several bottles and get a taste of your own Medicine Flower.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Medicine Flower Genuine Flavor Extracts

 

Medicine Flower flavor extracts can also be dabbed on wrists as a light perfume or added to massage oils, soaps, and other body care products (great for birthday or holiday gift giving). Mix and match to create your own culinary mixture or signature scent.

 

Update 3/22/17:

Medicine Flower is ushering in a Spring Worthy Of Our Noses (and our palates) with discounted prices on select floral flavors and absolutes, plus 13% off your entire order when you use the code SPRING17, so stock up and enjoy a scent-sational season.

The following items are on sale:

Bulgarian Rose Flavor
Jasmine Flavor
Violet Flavor

Agarwood (Oud) Absolute
Frangipani Absolute
Jasmine auriculatum Absolute
Linden Blossom Absolute
Orange Blossom Absolute

 

My Lover’s Cup Runneth Over

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Tea

Lover's Cup 1I enjoy a variety of teas throughout the year, but every February 14th I brew myself a pot of Valentine Tea. I’ve been monogamous for years, but, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I find myself in a quandary, because I’ve recently taken a new “Lover.”

When my friend Stephanie treated me to afternoon tea at Chado in Pasadena a few months ago, it took us at least 20 minutes to peruse the dizzying array of choices on their extensive menu. Everything from white, green, and black teas to original blends and herbal tisanes was represented. I’m terrible at making decisions, but I’m drawn to anything floral, so I opted for the Lover’s Cup: a blend of white tea, rose petals, rose buds, safflowers, and raspberry flavor. I hesitated a bit over that last ingredient, because I’m not generally a fan of fruit teas, but I’m glad I made a date with this blend, because it has blossomed into a passionate relationship.

Lover's Cup 2Lover’s Cup has a similar perfume to Valentine Tea, but its rose flavor is noticeably different. The raspberry is so subtle that, if I hadn’t known it was in the blend, I never would have suspected it, yet there’s a sweetness and intensity to the floral notes that I attribute to the fruit. Valentine Tea is earthier (though no less delicious), but the raspberry in Lover’s Cup seems to enhance the flavor of rose the way that coffee can add depth to chocolate. As a white tea, Lover’s Cup has little caffeine, so my racing heart can only be due to my love for this brew.

Now, the question remains: will my Valentine be mine, or do I drink from my Lover’s Cup? Since I’m sips-positive, I think I’ll choose both this Valentine’s Day and engage in a ménage à thé. It might not be your cup of tea, but that’s what I call a pot party.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Chado Lover’s Cup White Tea

 

The only version of Lover’s Cup currently available on the Chado website is a rooibos blend including rose and jasmine. To purchase the white tea version featured in this post, visit a Chado Tea Room or call one of their locations to place an order.

Creams of the Crop

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

Creams of the Crop 1Valentine’s Day is almost a week away. Like many people, I tend to view the Feast of St. Valentine as just another commercial holiday devised to sell cards, candy, and flowers, but if it nets me a box of chocolates and a dozen long-stemmed roses, I’m in. I prefer to purchase my own lingerie and jewelry, and I’m not sure I could keep a straight face if someone read me love poetry, but bonbons and bouquets are the way to my heart. Whether from a lover, mother, sister, or friend, I embrace the cliché, so I swooned when I discovered these fondant creams in Fragrant Rose and Classic Violet from Mr. Stanley’s.

Creams of the Crop 2Readers of this blog know of Kirsti’s and my fascination with floral flavorings, particularly rose and violet. In searching online over the years for confections made with these perfumed essences, I’ve repeatedly come across rose and violet creams sold by companies based in the U.K. These fondant centers enrobed in chocolate are popular across the pond, but can be difficult to find stateside, so I had to do a double take when I spied the lavender and pink gingham boxes on a shelf at my local Lolli and Pops.

The presentation is no-frills—10 plain chocolate discs nestled in a plastic tray—but the flavors of rose and violet are pronounced, blossoming on the tongue with each bite. Brits familiar with such tastes might be blasé about these nostalgic treats, but to this Yank they were bloomin’ delicious. And, despite the word “creams” in the name, they are suitable for vegans.

These old-fashioned floral fondants make a happy couple, so if you’re planning to give your sweetie flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day, I propose you marry the two and deliver a pair of boxes from Mr. Stanley.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Mr. Stanley’s Fragrant Rose and Classic Violet Old Fashioned Fondant Creams

 

Lolli and Pops is a candy store that collects “unique sweets from all over the world.” They have a limited number of locations scattered across the U.S. Mr. Stanley’s Famous Sweets can also be purchased in the states from Amazon.

 

A Sup-herb Tea

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Tea, Wellness

A Sup-herb TeaEver on the lookout for all things elderflower, I spotted a familiar cluster of creamy white blossoms in the tea aisle of Whole Foods the other day. This organic blend from The Republic of Tea contains elderflowers, green rooibos, and natural elderberry flavor. It has the bright, floral essence of elderflower that I love with just a hint of sweet elderberry. The astringent properties of the flower make this an herbal brew that is best enjoyed on its own or with a little sweetener.

Elderflower is one of five blends in The Republic of Tea’s line of SuperHerb® teas. Apparently, elderflowers have long been used as a folk remedy to promote easy breathing. Who knew? As we prepare to leave summer behind and head into cold and flu season, this is good information to have. And for those avoiding stimulants, the blend is naturally caffeine-free, so stock up on canisters of this “super” herb and you can breathe easy this fall and winter.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Republic of Tea Organic Elderflower SuperHerb® Tea

 

In addition to Whole Foods, The Republic of Tea can be found at World Market and many supermarkets and health food stores.