Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rose Pleasures in Food, Drink & Beauty

The nature of sensory pleasures is fleeting, but the essence of something, its individual “spirit” if you will, moves beyond the ephemeral and is fixed in eternity. Outstanding applications of florals exist in artisan foods and luxury beauty products, but access to them is limited based on cost, availability and knowledge. If one desires to dally with a variety of fragrant temptations, there is no better place to start than the rose.

Rose is the oldest domesticated flower known to mankind. Highly cultivated it is one of the first flowers humans recognize by sight and scent. Red roses symbolize love and we have the Victorians to thank for cultivating a language of flowers based on color and floral arrangement. The Romans adored roses and petals were customarily strewn at weddings and celebrations (the Emperor Nero allegedly slept on rose petals and had his floors carpeted with them as well). In ancient Rome, a door marked with a rose was a sign that confidential matters were being discussed inside. This practice led to the Latin term sub rosa (meaning “under the rose") which was applied to exchanges requiring secrecy. On an historic note, the culinary introduction of Southern Europe's Gallic Rose to Britain was likely Roman in origin. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Gallic Rose was cultivated by Benedictine monks and became an emblem of Christianity.

In the 17th century the Dominican monks of Santa Maria Novella developed Elisir di Rose (Rose Elixir), a delightful cordial made with Gallic Rose which is still made today. The Italian liquor possesses a soft blush and is tenderly sweet on the palate. The Elisir is best drank neat, but weaves an enchanting spell when mixed with chilled Nivole, a Moscato D’ Asti from Michele Chiarlo of Italy. A single shot of Elisir mixed with half a glass of Nivole achieves the perfect balance of fruity floral flavors. The effervescence of the Asti melds seamlessly with Elisir di Rose and creates a refreshing sensation that rises above the delicate bubbles in the wine, bringing to mind the sights and scents of a rose garden. Champagne may also be used in combination with Elisir di Rose, a delirious combination dubbed the “Rosa Novella.”

Rose and sugar are eager bedfellows so it is not surprising to find them flagrantly Rose candy that brilliantly surpasses expectations. For the inexperienced, fear of the cloying taste of potpourri dissipates as a miniscule dusting of powdered sugar gives way to a hint of true Rose Maroc, balanced with an ethereal trace of ripe berries.
commingling in jams and hard candies. The Apothecary’s Garden™ by Sweet Botanicals™ manufactures a

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano Conserva di Petale di Rosa (Rose Petal Preserves) is a more decadent choice and frankly, an unexpected surprise. Many rose preserves are thin, contain more pectin than rose, and possess a crass sugar bite. Made without pectin, Italy's Conserva di Petale di Rosa is overflowing with rose petals and makes up for a lack of pectin with a sugar and water reduction. When refrigerated the preserves become thick—a texture that is perfect for spreading. For a memorable experience, try a bit of the preserves on a piece of Valbreso French Feta (purchased from a cheese block versus the packaged version, which is too salty). Valbreso French Feta is made with sheep’s milk and is a by-product of the Roquefort cheese making process. It possesses a soothing creaminess and slight tang that marry well with the sweet floralcy of the jam--a combination vaguely reminiscent of strawberry cream cheese.

Caron perfumes are rich expressions of glamour and pedigree, but Caron La Poudre face powder captures the sensual boudoir character of rose in ways that its Or et Noir and Rose perfumes cannot. La Poudre not only contains treasured Bulgarian rose oil (which is distilled by Caron and used in its perfumes) but the talc is finely milled to create a flawless finish on skin. If this were not heavenly enough, an optional ostrich feather powder puff adds a soft element of touch to the experience, ensuring perfect application. Indulging in La Poudre invokes poise, femininity and grace—characteristics not unlike the rose herself.

La Prairie is no stranger to the virtues of rose in skincare. The rose in Cellular Treatment Rose Illusion Line Filler is portrayed as a color, scent and tactile fantasy—as opposed to an active ingredient in the formulation. The pink gel was one of the first silicone-based makeup primers available at haute beauty counters. Cellular Treatment Rose Illusion Line Filler surpasses performance of competing silicone-based primers, many of which feel slippery or unctuous. The enriched, oil-free gel is flecked with a dreamy opalescence and imparts a petal-like smoothness to skin. There are no garish scent aspects to speak of as the fragrance in this skin primer possesses a fresh character that gracefully exits after application.

There are many ways to enjoy the majestic beauty of rose—those catalogued here only scratch the surface. Abundant sensory choices await those who venture beyond the comfort zone of prescribed applications and known territories. Where will your journeys take you?


Elisir di Rose is sold at Santa Maria Novella in New York City. It is available for purchase in-person and cannot be shipped. Price: $75.00. The store is located at 285 Lafayette Street. 1-800-362-3677.

Novaclutch locates the esteemed Elisir di Rose and falls in love. Photo of the Elisir from Novaclutch.

The Apothecary’s Garden™ Rose candy is manufactured by Sweet Botanicals™ of England. Price: $7.00. The confection is available in select stores and at Artisan Sweets.

Pietro Romanego fu Stefano Conserva di Petale di Rosa is also available at Artisan Sweets. Price: $18.00.

The suggested combination of Valbreso French Feta and rose petal preserves comes from Armen Benlian, proprietor of Yaranush, a Mediterranean food store in Westchester. The store is located at 322 White Plains Avenue, in White Plains, New York. 914-682-8449.

Caron La Poudre may be ordered by phone at 1-877-88CARON. It can also be purchased at the Caron boutique, located at 715 Lexington Avenue (at the corner of 58th Street) in New York City. Price: $45.00. A regular cosmetic puff comes with the powder, but an ostrich feather powder puff is available at an additional price of $45.00. To make an appointment at the boutique, call 212-308-0270.

La Prairie Cellular Treatment Rose Illusion Line Filler is available for purchase online or at luxury department stores. Price: $100.

Bill Yosses, White House Executive Pastry Chef, created sugar rose blossoms for a State Dinner in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh (May of 2007). The picture, featured in the first paragraph of this post, was taken by Lynden Steele.