P comme Parfums/savours, watercolor, 9" x 11"
Everyone wants to know where to eat in Paris, the best places, bla bla bla. But what's the point if your tastebuds aren't up to it?
Getting a reservation at Frenchies can be difficult. But will you appreciate the multi-layering of flavors when you get there? This dish is composed of caille + betterave + navet + groseille.
This weekend surfing through Amazon.fr I discovered a book with the answers and guidence to educate your palate and open your mind. The Flavor Thesaurus by British Niki Segnit.
Subtitled: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook (really this is an eye-opener for anyone who adores food). Out for 2 years in the UK, it's just been published in France with rave reviews.
A completely different kind of food combining, Segnit explains with wit and science why combinations of flavors work/play well together. Segnit takes 99 basic flavours (mint, coriander, basil, strawberry etc) and researches 980 pairings of them. Part recipe-book, part food memoir, part flavour compendium.
Much like mixing watercolors or layering paint, flavors compliment and enhance one another or do the opposite.
Roasted flavors like chocolate get a big segment in the books. Naturally with the Paris Salon du Chocolat opening next week I was enticed. Chocolate is gets along well with many other flavors. To quote Segnit:
The untreated cocoa beans are astringent and bitter but fermentation gives rise to fruity, wine-like or sherry flavors, and the roasting process can introduce a nearly infinite variety of nutty, earthy, woody, flowery and spicy notes.
The flavor of good-quality chocolate is best appreciated by pushing a piece to the roof of your mouth and letting it melt. The more sweetened the chocolate, the quicker it will reveal its flavor.
As you work your way up the cocoa percentages you’ll notice that it takes longer for the flavor to develop, and that there’s an increase in bitterness and length—the time the flavor lingers in your mouth.
When you get to 99 or 100% cocoa content, you may also note that the experience is like running your tongue along the main London–Edinburgh railway.
The great fun of this book is Segnit's endlessly witty metaphors.
On chocolate and hazelnut:
We have the scarcity of cocoa in late-nineteenth-century Piedmont to thank for the popularity of this heavenly combination. The bulking out of chocolate with ground hazelnuts led (eventually) to the invention of Nutella, although it was originally sold as a solid loaf and called pasta gianduja.
In 1951 a technique was developed to soften the mixture, and the product was renamed Supercrema Gianduja and sold by the jar. Finally, in 1964, its name was changed to the more internationally pronounceable Nutella, and today it outsells peanut butter worldwide.
If you find Nutella too sweet, you might like to get your gianduja fix from a Ferrero Rocher or from Baci—or, if you prefer something a little more unusual, try Valrhona’s Caraibe Noisettes or Amedei’s milk chocolate with Piedmont hazelnuts.
Recipes are embedded among the flavor combinations for any home cook can play with.
The absolute master of flavor combinations in macarons has to be Pierre Herme.
I admit to being at times hesitant to taste some of Herme's concoctions, but when I take the plunge I'm happily surprised.
carrote + orange + canelle de Ceylon = Metisse
peche + abricot +safran = Eden
figue + foie gras = Eglantine
Rose + litchi + framboise = Ispahan
Chocolate au lait + fruit de al passion = Mogador
Orange+Campari+pamplemousse confit+Americano Pamplemousse
Chocolat au lait + noix du coco = Mutine
Pistache + compote de framboise = Montebello
Vanilles de Tahiti + du Mexique +Madagascar+Infiniment Vanille
Try em! You'll like em plentitude.
Segnit's book is divided up thusly. It makes wonderfully fun reading and will open your senses. You'll certainly be ready for anything Paris throws at you. I'm taking along the Kindle version for the chocolate salon.