Every year I go and see family on the Cote d’Azur, and I love it – the light, the colours, the lazy villas and the turquoise pools. This year I couldn’t go, sadly. But funnily enough the South of France came to me in various forms over the last few days. So here is a date idea, of sorts, to share with someone you love…
First of all, you need to obtain some edible dried lavender. I planted mine back in spring, and so was able to harvest it especially for the dish, which added to the sensuousness of the day. Lavender angustifolia is apparently the edible version. Don’t use too much as it can be a bit astringent.
On Friday my journey began when I happened to cycle over to funky Spitalfields, where there is a new parfumier by the name of Bloom. I’m in search of a perfume at the moment, my own favourite, Clive Christian’s 1782, having oxidised. At Bloom, as luck would have it, Monsieur Parfumerie Generale, Pierre Guillaume, a handsome French man, happened to be visiting. This was lucky because PG make the best perfumes in the world. I fell in to a strange little perfume testing with a man wearing red lipstick, his boyfriend, a French Nigerian man and me. I learnt so much about perfume from Guillaume – it was amazing. Did you know lavender is the base note for most male aftershaves? Who’d have thunk! Visiting a perfumier such as Bloom or Les Senseurs is a date in itself.
This chemist turned genius perfumer talked me through his sensuous perfumes. My favourite is Corps et Ame (Body and Soul), but he also introduced me to a fig based perfume called Pure Azure. Both are chypres perfumes, which means that they smell a bit like Cyprus apparently – with oak moss, musk, citrus and floral notes.
Here is the description for ‘Pure Azure’;
“This giddy balancing act of a scent carries us high above the cliffs of the Aegean Sea, where azure skies contrast with the blinding whiteness of fishermen’s villages… The fragrance of fig trees and orange blossom, the warmth of vanilla and spices, the sensuousness of jasmine rise from the shores of the Mediterranean. In the base notes, the mouth-watering warmth of tonka bean is brought out by a delicately salty note. A “Mediterranean Oriental” hovering between the radian and the animal…”
Personally I think it smells of white horses on the sea shore, of sunshine, of lavender and sunflowers, of St Tropez…
OK, no one is going to employ me as a nose…
The following day on my South of France visits London odyssey I headed over to the Monets at the National Gallery with my friend Ewen. We were lucky enough to catch the Barber Collection exhibition http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/birth-of-a-collection which had Monet’s ‘Eglise de Varengeville’ http://www.repro-tableaux.com/a/claude-monet/eglise-de-varengeville.html in it. Seeing Monet’s work is always like going on holiday, and especially this painting. It evokes the dramatic hills around Gassin for me, with the brilliant purplish horizons.
When I got home, I picked up an evocative French white wine called Don David. I’m sure there are even more evocative wines of the South of France, but this was what I could find. Islington Wines recommended it (Liverpool Road). I love that shop. You have to lip read the wine seller, but he gives the best recommendations I have ever found.
Then, my David and I made Honey, Lemon and Lavender Marinated Roasted Chicken, from My LIttle Expat Kitchen blog http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/a-touch-of-lavender.html. Tasting this truly divine dish made me feel so much like I was in St Tropez that I almost preferred it to the real thing.
All I need now is for Monsieur to create a Pure Azure bath oil and body lotion and I can immerse myself in the Mediterranean without ever getting on a plane.
ps Perfumerie Generale are launching a very exciting new fragrance in February. Watch out for it!
pps Bloom gave me a sample of a bridal perfume, Vive La Mariee, which I shall be trialling next week. I’ll keep you posted.