Food and I have a very strong and loving relationship. Perhaps too loving in fact, and I’ll be the first to admit that our relationship can be a little unhealthy at times. But at those times when I don’t feel that I should exercise a good degree of self control to keep my weight down I thoroughly enjoy going out for dinner and experimenting with new food.
Our senses of taste and smell are inextricably linked and when going out for dinner it makes sense, and it’s also good fun, to match our fragrance to the style of cuisine we will be devouring. Only the other night I was heading out for dinner with friends and was having a SOTE (Scent of the Evening) dilemma, I asked my Twitter followers for help and they came back with some interesting suggestions based on the type of food (Mexican F.Y.I.) I would be eating, which got me thinking – which fragrances would be best suited for other cuisines?
To explore the relationship between fragrance and food I cordially invite you to dinner, during which I, along with the help of my partner-in-crime and budding-foodie Nigel, will pair some of the most popular cuisines with fragrant counterparts that will leave you complimenting your food and smelling wonderful simultaneously. Get your passports out because we’re going to be touring the restaurants of the world…
Nigel says: “Mexican food is all about contrast, mixing heat with refreshing herbs, citruses and greens. It’s about the rich flavours of street food, it’s on-the-go and you can get by with only a few ingredients, key ones being; chilli, coriander (cilantro), tomato, avocado and lime.”
Whether you’re going out for a blazing hot chilli, spicy burrito/enchilada/chimichanga or smoky fish tacos you are going to need a fragrance that either opts to compliment the rich, spiciness of the cuisine or the mouthwatering freshness.
For the spiciness I would recommend Thierry Mugler’s A*Men Le Goût du Parfum, a bizarre yet captivating mixture of dark chocolate and red chilli, both of which are key ingredients in the Mexican staple dish of Chilli.
For the freshness you will want something dripping with lime, the olfactory-Mojito of Guerlain Homme or tropical lime cocktail of Creed’s Virgin Island Water would both be perfect pieces of juicy, fragrant-freshness to balance the warm flavours of those heavy Mexican meals.
Nigel says: “The base of Chinese food relies on spring onion (scallions), ginger and garlic but on the whole it its a wide-ranging cuisine with a multitude of flavours; sweet and sour, spice, citrus and umami. Chinese food has very complex flavours but tends to be relatively quick to make and encompasses a multitude of ingredients from vegetables, rice, noodles, meats and fish.”
One mention of the word “ginger” and my mind instantly plucks out Etat Libre d’Orange’s ode to Tilda Swinton, ‘Like This’, but that’s perhaps a bit too sweet and cosy for this style of cuisine.
With such complex flavours, whether savour or sweet, I can imagine a bright, diffusive floral could work well. For a light, fresh and green floral I would recommend Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower and for something a little bit fruitier I would recommend the peachy-fun of Ormonde Jayne’s Osmanthus.
Nigel says: “For me, Indian food is all about the harmony of spices and the complex flavours a good blend can bring. To lump Indian food under one heading is probably a little bit unfair seeing as the cuisine varies significantly from region to region in India, with each having their own way of doing things and completely different blends of spices.”
As Nigel says, Indian cuisine is all about spice, be it mild and creamy or hot and dry. Neela Vermeire’s Trayee is a really interesting fragrance that is reminiscent of Indian desserts with its notes of blackcurrant, cardamom, incense and woods.
Failing that, one could opt for L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Traversée du Bosphore (incidentally another Bertrand Duchaufour creation), a compelling foody blend of sweet, nutty turkish delight, apple hookah and suede. Complex blends for a style of food that is all about harmony.
Nigel says: “Thai food is about the juxtaposition between the warmth of spices and the sweetness of ingredients like lemongrass, lime and coconut. It’s not a style of cuisine that I’m overly familiar with cooking, but it is definitely one I like to eat.”
Thai food you say? Well, there may be many fragrances that compliment the sweet, spicy flavours of thai food but there is just one hits the nail on the head, one that takes an olfactory picture of a green thai curry and presents it in an effortlessly wearable fragrance: Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fils de Dieu.
Nothing can top Fils de Dieu in the Thai-stakes and if you haven’t tried it yet I implore you to do so as soon as you can, it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Nigel says: “Proper Italian food is rustic, it encompasses the Mediterranean way of life with ingredients that all grow under the hot sun. When I think of italian food I think of; pasta, tomatoes, basil, olives, light cheeses such as mozzarella and ricotta, wine and olive oil. It is by far the most satisfying cuisine to cook, and more importantly, to eat.”
The idea of rustic food with lots of herbs and green vegetables is harder to translate into fragrance, mainly because most gourmand fragrances err on the sweeter side of things rather than the savoury. Bond No. 9’s Little Italy is a fantastic blend of orange and Italian herbs, but unfortunately it smells great for 10 minutes before fermenting into a nightmare of fruit, civet and god-knows-what.
A more successful fragrance is Atelier Cologne’s Trèfle Pur which pairs bitter orange with basil and is a long-lasting cologne that really conjures up the smell of an Italian kitchen. It’s pricey but I love it!
Nigel says: “French food can be incredibly rich and heavy. It tends to be really buttery and utilises rich red meats, wine and very strong flavours. A classic style of cuisine that is utterly delicious despite its richness.”
When thinking of French food, specifically french desserts I cannot help but think of Guerlain. Both Shalimar and L’Heure Bleue are foody Guerlains that would make perfect accompaniments to any French dinner, the former being an amazing vanilla dessert and the latter being a delicious after-dinner pastry.
If you didn’t fancy heading down the Guerlain-route you could always opt for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Une Rose, a wonderful earthy rose with notes of red wine “dregs”. Une Rose is rich and tannic enough to stand up against the robust nature of French cuisine but it is also such a beautiful rose that it will add a new layer of beauty to the dinner table.
Join the Discussion
What is your favourite type of cuisine?
Do you tailor your fragrance to match your food when you go out?
What would your suggestions be?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below!
Image 1 skyehotel.co.uk. Image 2 favorite-salad-recipes.com. Image 3 cuisine.co.nz. Image 4 turbantandoori.com. Image 5 wongeats.wordpress.com. Image 6 cleaneatingmag.com. Image 7 theyearinfood.com.