This week, all the gardenias in my garden and neighborhood seem to have popped open, and the air is full of their fragrance. The flowers themselves are, of course, lovely — some are like perfect little waxy white roses, others more like simple daisies, with fewer petals. So I thought I should look out a gardenia fragrance for a post this weekend.
The one that came to hand is Maria Candida Gentile’s Lady Day, which was named for the singer Billie Holiday, who regularly wore gardenias in her hair. I bought it some time ago when there was a big sale. It comes in extrait de parfum concentration. I like it, but for the life of me, I don’t smell gardenia!
The only notes listed are galbanum, gardenia absolute, and Peru balsam. I do smell galbanum, but it’s not the note I’m used to calling “galbanum.” Here, it is less green and more — I don’t know! There’s a strong herbal tone, but it doesn’t “read” as green to my nose. I guess the absence of what I think of as gardenia could be caused by the fact that the perfumer used gardenia absolute, not an accord meant to suggest gardenia.
I don’t know what to think about this one! Its overall scent reminds me of something but I just can’t remember what. Do you have any favorite gardenia scents? I keep seeing Elizabeth Taylor’s Gardenia at places like T.J. Maxx, but I’ve never tried it. Lady Day is nice, to my nose, but it doesn’t seem like a true gardenia. I’m stumped!
Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass asked if I had a favorite recipe for lamb stifado, which I had mentioned in a comment on one of her posts as the meal my family traditionally has on Christmas Eve. I do, and here it is!
I should note that my family does not have Greek roots (although I love Greece), but we started making this our Christmas Eve meal because 1) it is so delicious and fragrant, it makes the whole house smell wonderful; and 2) you can make it in a slow cooker, which was important for several years because all three of our kids sang in our church’s children’s and youth choirs, which meant we spent several hours at church every Christmas Eve, from about 1 pm to 7 pm, and dinner HAD to be ready the minute we got home, to feed the starving choristers.
The basic recipe I use comes from Sarah Leah Chase‘s Year Around Cookbook, which combined two of her earlier works, Cold Weather Cooking and Nantucket Open House Cookbook. Ms. Chase also co-authored The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, for those in my generation who learned how to upgrade our cooking from The Silver Palate series of cookbooks.
Sarah Leah Chase’s Lamb Stifado
1/4 cup olive oil
3 lbs. lean lamb (or beef) stew meat, in cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (about 2 in. each)
1/2 cup dried currants
2 strips orange zest (about 3″ by 1″)
2 lbs. small white onions
Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat and sear lamb in batches until browned all over. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add onion and garlic to pot and cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add wine, vinegar, brown sugar, and tomato paste; stir until smooth. Add cumin, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Return lamb to pot with currants and orange zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring stew to a simmer, cover, and let cook over medium-low heat for one hour. (Slow cooker option: cook on low heat for about 3 hours).
While stew simmers, blanch white onions in boiling water to cover, 5 minutes. Drain, let cool, and peel. After stew has cooked for 1 hour, add onions and simmer, covered, for 1 hour more. (Slow cooker option: add onions after stew has cooked on low for 3-4 hours; cook on low for 3 more hours. You can also add the onions at the start if you’ll be away from the slow cooker). At this point, the stew can be refrigerated for 1-2 days before reheating and serving.
Serve stew hot over dumplings or other starch; I like to use whole wheat couscous. Fregola sarda would also work well. Top with crumbled feta or goat cheese if you like; you can also top with toasted pine nuts.
We also like to serve this with a crusty bread and more of the dry red wine that went into the stifado. It is very filling, so you probably won’t want more than that and maybe a green salad on the side. Honestly, there’s nothing like coming home on Christmas Eve after a long afternoon and evening away, and opening the door to the marvelous smells coming from this stifado. I hope some of you try this!
Following on from Black Friday, and my custom perfume purchase for my friend during 4160 Tuesdays’ Hot Pink Weekend, I decided to invent a new cyber sale colour of my own – or rather, a multi-coloured one, to reflect the nature of the items on offer. And they are not merely multi-coloured on aggregate, but…
I’m a fan of Jeffrey Dame and his fragrances; they are well-crafted, high-quality, and reasonably priced. I love Duality and Black Flower Mexican Vanilla. I really like Vanille Farfelue. The JD fragrances are created with perfumer Hugh Spencer, a longtime collaborator of Jeffrey Dame’s. The JD website lists Mimosa Mixte’s notes as mandarin, basil, bergamot, mimosa, violet, ylang ylang, heliotrope, sandalwood, vanilla and musk. Fragrantica classes it as a “floral woody musk”; a number of commenters refer to it as a “yellow floral”, and I agree with that, given the prominence of mimosa and ylang ylang.
My Valentine’s Day gift to myself was a subscription to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Heirloom Elixir subscription for this year, all six releases. Dawn describes the origins of the idea:
Over the past few years we’ve had multiple requests for a “Subscription Service”… one that would automatically introduce you to a new DSH Perfume on a regular basis, filled with surprise and excitement. With our creative new collection of Limited Editions, Heirloom Elixir, we felt that this was the perfect pairing of ideas to make that request a reality.
At the end of 2019, I took advantage of her end-of-year sale and bought the 2019 Complete Collection of six fragrances she released that year. They are, in order: Continue reading →
I wanted to post a quick update to let people know that Sonoma Scent Studio has new ownership and that the scents will be available again after the business is up and running. Please see my post on The Artisan Insider for more details.