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.

 

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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.

 

Scentuary

Author: Kirsten K., Fragrance, Wellness

olo-violet-leather-perfume-1Kirsti’s recent post about Jasmin et Cigarette perfume prompted recollections of the time she introduced me to a similarly surprising combination of scents, which has played an unexpected role in my life ever since.

Several years ago, I was struggling with some personal issues in the weeks leading up to my birthday and had fallen into depression. Kirsti and her husband Aaron, unaware of my distress, had arranged to take me out to dinner on my birthday. I was not in a mood to celebrate and secretly hoped for an excuse to get out of it, but none presented itself, so I resolved to get on with it.

I arrived at the restaurant to find that Kirsti and Aaron were already seated with a bottle of champagne on ice. They greeted me enthusiastically and had the server fill our glasses to toast the occasion. Over a delicious meal, we shared stories and camaraderie in a cozy, candlelit setting.

After we’d eaten, Kirsti produced gift bags and a beribboned black hatbox filled with presents, including a small bottle of Violet/Leather fragrance from OLO. Perpetually on the lookout for all things violet, she’d come across this blend by perfumer Heather Sielaff in Portland, Oregon, and thought it was curious enough to warrant purchasing a bottle, scent unsmelled.

olo-violet-leather-perfume-2I dabbed the perfume on my wrist and breathed it in. The violet was there, softly lingering around the edges, but the leather was front and center. Having been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, it was not the type of scent I would have chosen for myself, but it suited me at that time. Clean and straightforward, it was both edgy and old-fashioned without a trace of cloying sweetness. I kept returning my nose to my wrist to see how the fragrance evolved.

As I sat there enveloped in violet and leather, I observed diners enjoying their food and each other’s company. There was a tangible sense of fellowship in the dimly lit room. Sated with dinner, pleasantly relaxed from the wine, and basking in the warmth of good friends, I felt a profound shift occur within me. Suddenly, I thought, “You are loved. Life is beautiful. All is well.” And like that, the mood that had been dogging me for weeks dissolved completely.

Studies have shown that scent triggers memories and emotions more than any other sense, so whenever I find myself going through a rough patch, I reach for my bottle of Violet/Leather perfume and inhale. The fragrance instantly transports me back to that birthday dinner and the feeling of absolute well-being I experienced.

While I can’t necessarily credit the perfumer with this transformation, OLO sells a number of intriguing scents with names like Victory Wolf, Dark Wave, and Lightning Paw that are worthy of a whiff. Perhaps one of them will turn out to be the special fragrance that becomes entwined with your own happy memories and creates a “scentuary” that you can return to whenever you need a reminder that all is well.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

OLO Fragrances

 

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

 

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.

 

Join the Popsicle Revolution!

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

Popsicle 1Popsicle. A happy little word that conjures memories from childhood summers, when there wasn’t anything else to do but sit on the porch with the neighborhood kids and fight over who got the last cherry one. We didn’t care that we were sticky or that it was blazing hot outside. Give a kid a popsicle and all is right in her world.

Today, popsicles have been enjoying a renaissance. I first encountered this Popsicle Revolution when People’s Pops took Brooklyn by storm with their handmade pops made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. With flavors like Raspberry & Basil, Blueberry & Buttermilk, and Apricot & Lavender, I was on board with this Frozen Confection Train.

Popsicle 2Shortly after that, I heard of a place tantalizingly named Suck It Sweets in Studio City.* Oh, my. I could drive there. And I did. And it was Awesome.

I had their Cherry Cobbler pop and, may I say, it was not disappointing. SO not disappointing.

Sometime later, while cruising the frozen section at Whole Foods, I stumbled upon paletas. These are Mexican ice pops made from Mangoes and Chilies and Hibiscus and Coconut and a myriad of other wonderful, regional ingredients. ¡Muy deliciosos!

The signs were unmistakable. My mission became clear. I promptly ordered the following gear: pop molds, sticks, and the bible of frozen confections—the People’s Pops recipe book. I started out classic…trying out Straight-Up Raspberry for a visiting relative. Then I attempted their Blackberry & Rose. Both were Crazy Good.

Popsicle 3

Monin Violet Syrup

My latest fave is Cucumber & Violet. When I saw that recipe in the book, I gasped out loud.** It was serendipitous, because I had just bought some Monin Violet Syrup and was itching to try it. This violet syrup has the truest violet flavor I’ve tried. I can’t wait to experiment with it more. And I have always loved cucumber in spa water and cocktails—I couldn’t wait to try these pops!

They are super easy to make. The only ingredients are:

cucumbers
simple syrup
lemon juice
violet syrup

Popsicle 7

Simple. The taste? Fresh Floral Deliciousness. Neither flavor is overpowering, and they aren’t overly sweet, just really refreshing—perfect on a hot afternoon or even as a palate cleanser during a dinner party. Seriously, friends, who would not be absolutely delighted by a Cucumber & Violet frozen pop between courses on a summer night? Anyone who wouldn’t is not invited to my dinner parties! Even my husband Aaron, who is continually barraged by my floral flavored food, loved them.

I admire the gang from People’s Pops for taking a common treat and turning it into something unexpected and innovative. I’m happily working my way through their recipe book—Vive la Révolution!

 

CUCUMBER & VIOLET POPS (adapted from People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop)

Popsicle 41 ¼ lbs cucumbers (about 2 or 3), peeled
2/3 cup simple syrup (see recipe below)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
¼ cup violet syrup (preferably Monin), or to taste

SIMPLE SYRUP

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Simmer sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 1 cup.

Purée the cucumbers in a food processor and add to a medium-sized bowl with a pouring spout. Add the lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the violet syrup, tasting as you go, until you reach delicious violet goodness.

Pour into ice pop molds, leaving a bit of room at the top, since the mixture expands as it freezes. Insert sticks and freeze for at least 4 to 5 hours.

Popsicle 5

Unmold the pops by running warm water over the mold until they release easily. Give an adult a popsicle and all is right in their world.

Popsicle 6

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

People’s Pops

 

Monin Violet Syrup is available from the company’s website. You can purchase pop moldswooden popsicle sticks, and the People’s Pops recipe book from Amazon.

 

* This location has unfortunately closed. Come back to me!

**For more violet goodness, see previous posts on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur and Kusmi Violette tea.

 

‘SKusmi While I Drink My Tea

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

SKusmi 1Shortly after Kirsti and I had our life-changing brush with culinary violet on a trip to France several years ago, I was scouring the Internet in my never-ending quest for the perfect violet flavor when I came across Kusmi Violette tea. I had never heard of Kusmi, but as a regular tea drinker and newly-minted violet enthusiast, I immediately ordered a large canister. I was a little wary after the number of disappointments I’d had in my search for a true violet extract, but the contents of this tin did not let me down. The floral scent is delicate beneath the robust aroma of black tea, but it smells and tastes like real violets. The brew instantly became my favorite and has remained so to this day.

Based in Paris since 1917, the Kousmichoff company—shortened to Kusmi—was founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1867 and achieved success with its special tea blends, including one that became a favorite with the tsar. Even today, their gilded and vibrantly-colored packaging evokes the Baroque interiors of the Winter Palace and brings to mind steaming samovars and White Nights.

SKusmi 2Kusmi is known for its Russian tea blends, and when my friend Mika returned from a recent visit to the South of France, she surprised me with a sampler containing some of their most popular varieties: Anastasia, Bouquet of Flowers N˚108 (Kusmi’s oldest recipe and the choice of tsars), Christmas Tea, Imperial Label, Kashmir Tchai, Prince Vladimir, and St. Petersburg (both black and green versions). While I normally prefer loose tea, all of the blends are uniquely delicious and fresh in their individual muslin bags. I particularly enjoyed the Bouquet of Flowers N˚108, which combines Earl Grey with citrus fruits and flowers. If it’s good enough for the ruler of Imperial Russia…

Knowing that Kusmi’s Violette tea wasn’t just a one-hit wonder, and having eight other tempting varieties on hand to sip and savor, I hope you’ll ‘sKusmi while I drink my tea.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Kusmi Tea

 

Kusmi teas are available in the States from the company’s U.S. website and can also be purchased at Amazon and a variety of online retailers.

 

Violet Liqueur – The Bitter Truth Is Sweet

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes, Spirits, Travel
Violet Liqueur 1

Swooning over the ice cream in Provence.

When Kirsten and I were in the South of France several years ago, we both had the same defining food moment. We were in Les Baux and ordered violet ice cream from a perfect shop on a perfect cobblestone street. We had tasted rose ice cream before, and on the previous day in Aix-en-Provence we had tried lavender ice cream for the first time. But the moment the first glorious spoonful of violet ice cream hit our lips, we truly and completely swooned. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby defends Millicent at school (awesomely played by Melissa Sue Anderson). She kisses him in thanks and fireworks go off in his head and he is happily dazed by the experience. France is, of course, one of the best places on earth…the food, the wine, the country…but my greatest memory of that trip was the singular, purple-hued cup of violet ice cream. Both Kirsten and I agreed that it was the greatest thing we had ever tasted. Loving food the way we do, that is saying something. Our violet obsession had begun.

When we got back to the States, we spent years trying to find a violet extract that would allow us to relive that violet-infused moment, but, despite spending a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of money on violet flavorings, we haven’t been able to replicate that firework-inducing moment of bliss, particularly when it comes to cocktails.Violet Liqueur 2

I always love using floral flavors in cocktails. When St. Germain, the celebrated elderflower liqueur came out, I was over the moon with delight. When Shakers released rose-flavored vodka, I was making vodka tonics several times a week (it is sadly not available anymore). I have purchased about four different violet liqueurs, but none really had that true violet scent and flavor (although some of the bottles are super dreamy). And then I stumbled on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. The moment I read about it, I felt panic that I might not be able to find it, but Hi-Time Wine Cellars shipped it to me within three days of my order.

The first thing I noticed about it was the deeply purple color. My other violet liqueurs are varying shades of purple, but none has the color the website describes as “reminiscent of a full moon reflected on a river in the twilight.” That is some damn poetry! I opened the bottle and the scent brought me right back to that cobblestone street in Les Baux. I needed to mix this with some stuff and pour it into a fancy coup, stat!

Violet Liqueur 3My friend Melissa was coming over that weekend and I decided to make the classic Aviation cocktail. The first thing I noticed was the incredible color—it was like a goth dream. The second thing I noticed was that it smelled just like violets! Some floral flavorings can be so sickeningly sweet and overpowering, but this was just right. And then the taste…all I can say is—fireworks. Melissa doesn’t drink very often, but I think she enjoyed her fancy cocktail. I ended up having two drinks (it would have been a crime to let that boozy goodness go to waste) and floated in a delicious violet haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I guess we’ll never know if Bobby Brady would have seen fireworks if he tried The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. I’m sure Alice or maybe cousin Oliver would have saved him from the degenerate horror of underage drinking. But I bet that Greg would have dug it, surreptitiously sipping from Mrs. Brady’s martini glass in his fringed vest up in his groovy attic room, maybe even with a few of those cigarettes he was so fond of. Queue the laugh track while I pour myself another…Violet Liqueur 4

AVIATION COCKTAIL (courtesy of The Bitter Truth)

2 oz dry gin
¾ oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
⅓ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

 

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur can be purchased from Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Maraschino liqueur and dry gin are available at BevMo and most liquor stores.