The Bloom of Health

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

Kombucha—that tart and trendy fermented tea beloved by hipsters and health nuts alike—can be an acquired taste, but it’s one I acquired long ago when “going raw” was all the rage and the only bottles of this beneficial elixir one could find on the shelves of natural foods stores were brewed by GT Dave.

At the time, I worked at an alternative healthcare center and had to pass by Whole Foods on my way home, so I’d frequently stop in for a bottle of GT’s Kombucha and enjoy a brief buzz from the fermentation. This was before most brands were recalled from store shelves in 2010 for reformulation to comply with alcohol limits. When they returned later that year, they had the same acetic zing and healthful probiotic cultures, but weren’t quite as fun anymore.

Until, that is, I caught the bouquet of this Bloom Spring Edition Kombucha from GT’s Living Foods. The blend of raw, organic kombucha with elderflower, jasmine, and violet hits all the right notes* while combining to create a unique floral flavor all its own. If you’ve been wary of trying kombucha or haven’t developed a taste for it—yet—Bloom might just grow on you.

While I feel a sense of well-being whenever I drink kombucha, the health benefits of this beverage are still being debated, but you can benefit Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation every time you post a selfie on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with your bottle of @GTsKombucha and the hashtag #InFullBloom. GT’s Living Foods will donate $5 to the organization for each post through the end of June, so drink up and help this flower empower youth while putting you #InFullSwoon.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

GT’s Bloom Spring Edition Kombucha

 

GT’s Kombucha can be found in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and most major supermarkets and natural foods stores.

 

*If they’d also added rose, I might not be able to calm down.

 

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Brew Love

Author: Kirsten K., Coffee, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks

As I’ve written before, I wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until a few years ago. Even then, I’d only indulge a couple of times a week and would often take a break from coffee altogether for a month or more, but over the past year my boss has developed an addiction to Starbucks’ Chai Tea Latte—and addicts don’t like to drink alone.

She began bribing me to pick up her tea by offering to buy me a coffee, so each time I went I’d order whatever was featured on the board that day. Eventually, I moved through most of the menu (recently finding a favorite in their seasonal Juniper Latte), so when my mother informed me that she’d read about Starbucks’ new Rose Hazelnut Latte, I jumped at the chance to try it…only to discover that it’s actually available from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (mothers, amirite?).

Most people have taken sides in the Battle of the Brew, with SEAL* Team Starbucks in one camp and the “Bean” Berets in another, but I see myself as a sip-lomat—able to reconcile both. Since there’s a Coffee Bean location less than one mile from my house, I raced right over and HOLY HAZELNUT, THIS LATTE IS DELICIOUS!

Rose and hazelnut is not an obvious pairing, and I had been dubious about this duo, but it was like magic in my mouth. The rose dominates, while the hazelnut provides a subtle note of warmth. A common complaint with floral flavors is that they can taste like soap or perfume, but this rose is strong and sweet without being cloying. My mother, who doesn’t typically enjoy florals, declared this drink to be the best latte she’s ever tasted. Kirsti gave it an A+.

I have since tried both the iced and Ice Blended® versions (although I prefer it hot) and gained name recognition among the baristas, who informed me yesterday that this is a seasonal flavor—presumably for Valentine’s Day—which will only stick around for another week! Once I picked myself up off the floor, I began to gear up for a campaign to rescue Rose Hazelnut from retirement, because this is BREW LOVE, and brew love is supposed to last forever.

So get your latte while it’s hotte (or iced) and join me in contacting the company before this delightful drink becomes a has-bean.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Rose Hazelnut Latte

 

“Stellar” Espresso And Lattes

 

Awesome Floss

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

Happy New Year, Swooners! Unfortunately, I spent much of my time over Christmas and New Year’s recovering from illness, so I wasn’t able to schedule our annual holiday posts, but I found comfort in sipping my new favorite drink: the Juniper Latte. I swoon over the scent of evergreen, but never thought it would grace my Grande until I saw this seasonal brew on Starbucks’ menu. Once I experienced the flavor of winter foliage, I wanted MORE of this “treet,” but adding pumps of the juniper syrup to my coffee order also meant adding unwanted sweetness, so I began to look online for a juniper extract to jazz up my java. That’s when I discovered Nature’s Flavors.

I ordered juniper in the form of an organic flavor concentrate (which works like a charm in my latte), but fell down the rabbit hole while exploring the many extracts, oils, syrups, powders, and other natural and organic flavors offered by the company. There were so many to choose from in such a variety of forms that I had to create a spreadsheet to make sense of them all! In addition to evergreen essences like juniper and pine, they have an endless assortment of fruit, vegetable, herb, spice, floral, liquor, and baking flavors, as well as surprising options running the gamut from acorn to zabaglione.

I wanted to try them ALL, but before I broke the bank buying up bottles, I found that they offered many of their flavors in the form of “floss.” Cotton candy may be referred to as candy floss or fairy floss in some parts of the world, but it’s still the same fairground staple we know and love, and it provides a light and (f)airy vehicle for sampling all types of tastes (Alfredo, anyone?). Naturally, I gravitated to the florals: jasmine, lavender, orange blossom, rose, violet…and one I’d never tried before—apple blossom. Awesome!

Nature’s Flavors also carries juniper cotton candy floss, but next time I might try something more daring, like dragon fruit, or bold, like bay. With their slew of selections, I won’t need a reminder to floss daily.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Nature’s Flavors Cotton Candy Floss

 

For the do-it-yourselfers, Nature’s Flavors offers all natural and organic cotton candy sugars. Click here for some more fun ways to floss.

 

Fantastical Botanicals

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits

I’ve always been a gin girl. My parents are gin people and their parents were gin people. To me, there is nothing more perfect than a well made G&T. Friends say they drink vodka because they don’t like the taste of alcohol, and that is precisely why I don’t care for the stuff—it doesn’t taste like anything. The spicy juniper notes of gin tickle my nose and make my taste buds sing. But vodka…it’s just a tasteless way to get a buzz. Vodka has been largely left out of the craft cocktail craze, but move over aged sherry and Aperol, because Ketel One is trying to change that.

Enter Ketel One Botanical, a trio of new vodkas distilled with real botanicals and infused with natural fruit essences. The triumvirate includes Grapefruit & Rose, Peach & Orange Blossom, and Cucumber & Mint. As anyone who reads this blog knows, this is classic Swoon Society territory, so Kirsten and I set out immediately to see if there was any swooning to be done.

Kirsten surprised me one night by coming over with the Grapefruit & Rose vodka. The label is so pretty, you would not recognize this as a brand that is available in your local CVS. What separates Ketel One Botanical vodkas from other flavored vodkas is that fruit essences and herbs are distilled into the spirit, giving the vodka a clean taste that isn’t sugary or artificial (think La Croix or Spindrift avec alcohol). It’s refreshing and delicate—a perfect foil for tonic or, if you are looking for a lower calorie drink, a splash of soda water. There are no carbs, and only non-GMO grains are used. And, at only 73 calories a serving, it’s a skinny drink too.

We made our first cocktail. The rose flavor was not too forward, so don’t be afraid to try it, even if you aren’t a person who loves the taste of roses in your food (like we do!). Put lots of ice in a goblet or lowball glass, garnish with a wedge of grapefruit and an organic rose petal, and then charge your guests $16, since you are now a purveyor of craft cocktails!

We soon purchased the other flavors. The Peach & Orange Blossom was the favorite among our friends who tried them. It was the most accessible, flavor-wise, and the essence of peach is quite lovely. I really love the Cucumber & Mint because this summer was a hot one and it was so nice to have an ice-filled cocktail with a long slice of cucumber and some mint sprigs outside in the evening. To be honest, the Grapefruit & Rose is probably my least favorite,* only because the rose flavor is almost too subtle to be detected. I will be keeping all three flavors in my home bar, though. They are a big hit!

Step away from your rosé, folks! Back away from that bourbon! Cast aside your Campari! Vodka is back, Baby! I never thought I would say that. I hope I don’t read that they are going to re-launch Tequiza next week. Some things, like Bruce Willis singing the praises of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers, Zima, or even my ’80s hair need to remain a distant high school memory.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Ketel One Botanical Vodkas

 

Ketel One vodkas are available at BevMo and most supermarkets and liquor stores.

 

*Note from Kirsten: The Grapefruit & Rose is my favorite. 😋

 

A Rose-Flavored Holiday Story

Author: Kirsti Kay, Dessert, Food & Drink, Holidays, Recipes, Sweets

I did a crazy thing this year. I entered the Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off. I never enter contests. I hate competition. I remember being in school and getting chosen last for sports teams. I hated sports. I still do. To this day, the only sport I can play with any kind of confidence is ping pong. But I always hated competition, because there has to be a loser. I know what it feels like to be chosen last, or not at all, and I don’t want anyone to feel that lonely feeling, so I have avoided competition my whole life.

A few weeks ago, I saw the ad for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off and thought, “I CAN DO THAT!” I have some recipes that are twists on classics! I have some skills! I can bring something unexpected, yet nostalgic, to the holiday table! So I entered. I entered with a cookie I have been making for many years: rose petal shortbread. I tweaked the decorations to add holiday-colored sugar and red rose petals so the cookies would have Christmas flair, and I entered with pride.

After hitting “submit,” I realized I would have to ask my friends to vote for me. The only thing worse than competition is asking everyone I know to do me a HUGE favor. I hemmed and hawed, I sweated, I wrung my hands, I whined to my husband Aaron, but I asked. And people responded. Not only did they vote for me—some every day—they shared my post on their own pages and sent me encouraging notes of support. I was blown away by the collective kindness.

Well, I did not win, but I’m totally OK with that. The fact is, the contest was more of a popularity vote than how good your cookie is. I still feel great about my recipe, which I think reflects the zeitgeist of what is happening in baking and is really delicious and easy to make. But most of all, I felt the holiday spirit in all of my friends who voted and reposted and encouraged me. I felt humbled by the friends of friends who voted and said they thought my recipe sounded amazing and they couldn’t wait to try it.

Of course, it would have been a fancy brag to have won (there wasn’t even a prize, just bragging rights), but I got what I needed out of the contest—I felt loved and supported by so many people, even people who don’t know me. I probably won’t be entering any more contests, but I’ll keep baking and I’ll keep sharing and I’ll keep appreciating my friends and family and my new friends of friends who believed in me enough to vote for a cookie they haven’t tasted, made by a gal some of them didn’t even know. You picked me first. And that means more to me than any bragging right.

Happy Holidays, Wonderful Friends!!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

HOLIDAY ROSE PETAL SHORTBREAD
Makes about 24 cookies

Cookies:
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon rose extract*
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon crushed dried rose petals (optional)
2 cups all purpose flour

Icing:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
sparkling holiday sugar and fresh (organic, non-pesticide) torn rose petals for garnish (chopping makes them dark around the edges)

Combine butter and confectioners’ sugar in a stand mixer fitted with paddle and mix until combined with no lumps, 2-3 minutes. Add the rose and vanilla extracts and the crushed rose petals (if using) and mix until incorporated. Add flour in two stages until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a gallon-size Ziploc bag, leaving a small hole at the top so air can escape, and roll out with a rolling pin until dough has fully and evenly filled the shape of the bag. Refrigerate on a flat surface at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment. Cut the sides of the Ziploc bag and peel back the top layer. Use a ruler and nick each side of the dough at 2-inch intervals with a pizza cutter or knife. Gently cut out your squares and transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheets. Use a fork to make traditional tine marks in the dough.

Put one cookie sheet in the refrigerator while the first batch bakes, 18-20 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end. You want the cookies very slightly browned at the edges only. Cool cookies completely on wire racks.

To make icing, combine confectioners’ sugar with milk and mix with a small whisk until smooth. To decorate, drizzle icing over cookies with a fork and, while icing is still wet, sprinkle with sparkling sugar and rose petals.

 

*Rose extract is available at many grocery stores and at Amazon.

Organic dried rose petals are available at Amazon or World Market (in the spice section).

 

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 shelves. 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.

 

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.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
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.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
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