Monday, October 1, 2012

My Scent Dinner with Andre

For each dinner, he works with a noted chef to develop a menu that can be dissected down to the bare essences of a known gourmand perfume, like Hermès’s Un Jardin sur le Nil, which unbeknownst to many has a culinary alter ego that tastes like marinated shrimp with a mango gelatin, puréed carrots, and tuna with peach carpaccio. 
[Barbie Latza Nadeau writing in Newsweek, October 1, 2012]
I first met Andre on the Hoboken platform of the PATH train. Our unlikely acquaintance began with a simple question: “Man, what stinks in here?” Fifteen minutes later, as we left the train in New Jersey, I was in thrall to a remarkable individual, a sensory guide to a world I hadn’t known existed. Andre Blur opened my mind to the intimate connection of scent and food.

The revelations began on the PATH platform. Andre described how its fermented urine smell was produced by bacteria that also create the superb retronasal nuances of Epoisses, the fromage magnifique de France. As this stunning juxtaposition of science and cuisine began to sink in, Andre told me the same aroma had inspired Sueur de mes Couilles, the audacious new perfume by Jean-Claude Ellena.

In Andre’s company, every aromatic moment in the Garden State became a learning experience. As we stood side by side in the station’s restroom, he drew my attention to a cloying note wafting up from the swirling yellow maelstrom of the urinal.

“What does it remind you of?”, he asked.

“It’s sweet, a bit fruity maybe,” I said.

“Think harder—be specific,” he urged, while zipping up his fly.

“Well, it reminds me of a cherry-flavored Jolly Rancher,” I replied.

“Exactly!” He was almost shouting with excitement. “It’s benzaldehyde, a gourmand note. It’s the same molecule in the flambéed black cherry compote that Jean-Georges Vongerichten dabs on top of his ginger-infused limpet puree appetizer.”

I was speechless. Partly because of this amazing link between a Swisher urinal screen and a $43 appetizer, but also because Andre in his excitement had dribbled urine down his entire pants leg.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “Maybe you’d like to buy me dinner.”

I jumped at the opportunity. I’d had a taste of sensory enlightenment and I wanted more.

*    *    *

Andre Blur will host his next Scent Dinner at Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey. Among the food and fragrance pairings will be Rippers with isobornyl cyclohexanol and Guerlain’s Samsara; and Hamburger (with gravy), tonka bean, and Datura Noir by Serge Lutens. Be sure to reserve your place early as parking’s a bitch after the Jets game.

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