Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part II)

In Part I of this series, I talked about Mandy Aftel‘s Chef Essences, and focused on the Ginger, Basil, Blood Orange, Rose Absolute and Pear. Now, I’d like to look at six more: Pink PepperCepes (Porcini Mushrooms), Cognac, Coriander Leaf (Cilantro), Tarragon, and Chocolate, before ending on a personal note about why I think these Chef Essences are so significant.




According to the Aftelier website, the Pink Pepper Essential Spray is composed of berries from Kenya and its aroma is described as “fresh wood and warm-peppery.” I found its spiciness to be piquant, fruity, and a bit tart as well. It also made me realise something: I do not like pink peppercorns. I’ve always had issues with its fruity, gooey, jammy aroma in perfume, but I never really thought about how I avoid cooking with them, or how I actually pick out the pink peppercorns in any pepper mix. (Same with the green ones, actually.) I will put up with the lightest, barest sprinkling, but not much more. Which is why the intensity of the Aftelier Chef Essence came as a little bit of a shock to my system.

It is just like the real berries, with layers of nuance and, yes, the woodiness mentioned on the Aftelier website. I’d previously been told by a few people that the Black Pepper Chef Essence was astonishingly good on ice-cream, so I thought that the same thing would apply to the Pink Pepper one. To my surprise, it really was decent on vanilla ice-cream, though it took me a minute to wrap my head around the flavour combination. It’s certainly different, and captures your attention in the same way that sea salt does on things like cookies, chocolate, or other seemingly inapposite items.

Yet, I have to say, the vanilla ice-cream was the extent of my appreciation. In all honesty, the flavour left me feeling a little queasy when I cooked with it or sprayed it on other dishes, though that occasionally occurs with the real, actual pink peppercorns as well. I think there is something about the woody aspect of the spiciness which doesn’t sit well with me in general. There are obviously few thing more dependent on personal tastes than actual food (or spices), so this is my own quirk. If you are a fan of cooking with pink peppercorns in general, you should check out its bionic version in the Aftelier sprays or oil.




Cepes are a French name for porcini mushrooms, and the Aftelier website describes the Essence as: “(Absolute from France) — from the wild porcini mushroom. Earthy, wet moss, intense and delicious.”

I had quite a bit of difficulty with the Cepes at first because it has an enormously meaty, earthy, almost dirty and leathery funk to it. The last time I was in France was during the cepes season, so I cooked them for a friend with whom I was staying (a saffron, sherry, and cepes risotto), and the flavour was never as rawly intense as this Absolute.

Cepes or Porcini. Source:

Cepes or Porcini. Source:

Given my prior Aftelier adventures, I might be forgiven for thinking that almost everything would work with ice-cream. Even the Cepes. So, that is actually where I starting. It turns out that I was in error: ice-cream does not have magical, transformative qualities, and the Cepes Absolute most certainly does not work with it! (I cannot repeat that enough: do not try the Cepes with ice-cream!) After that, I turned to applying a drop of the oil in a cream-based soup. That was another miscalculation. The earthiness was simply discordant, and the funk over-powered everything else in a way that I didn’t enjoy at all.

So, I wrote to Ms. Aftel in desperation, seeking for guidance, and she said to sautée a drop in some butter with… duh…. mushrooms. Presto, we had lift-off! It was tasty. The oil enriched the butter, turning it to something like nutty brown butter. In turn, the butter smoothened out the Cepes’ funk. Both of them enriched the common, generic, white mushrooms, elevating them to something more luxurious, decadent, and complex. I suspect that the Absolute would work in a similar fashion for other sort of sautée or stir-fry dishes, and it may be ideal for vegetarians who want a meat-like taste without actually using a protein.

Photo: my own.

My Cajun-style stew with Andouille, Tomato, Dirty Rice, and more. Photo: my own.

After that, I tried the Cepes in a few other things, always focusing on dark or heavy dishes. I tried it with beef in a red-wine sauce (Beef Bourguignon), and in a quasi-Cajun stew with Andouille sausage, tomato, smoked red-peppers, dirty rice, and beans. If I do say so myself, I rather hit the jackpot on that last one. I would give you a recipe if I ever used such things when I cooked and didn’t go freestyle, but let me tell you, when the Cepes works well, it works well.

Lest my experiences have not made it perfectly clear, the Cepes Essential Absolute involves a definite learning curve. It’s not merely the quantity of drops that one needs to figure out, but the actual sort of dishes with which it will work and, even then, it will take some tinkering. If, however, you’re patient and enjoy cooking for the process of exploration as much as for the actual end-result, you may like the challenge posed by the Cepes Chef Essence.


Source: Aftelier.

Source: Aftelier.

The Cognac Essential Oil was another exercise in experimentation, but it was an easier product to use than the Cepes once I figure out that it is absolutely requires a very sugar accompaniment, the cooking process, or both. This is not an item that I recommend just dripping onto food and then tasting. That will not go well, as my (never-ending) first test with ice-cream proved. The simple reason is that the Cognac really does not taste like the namesake product when left untreated.

In fact, I was quite bewildered at first. My adorable, little mini came filled with mint-green liquid, and its taste was slightly medicinal, bitter, and almost like peppermint. I’m sure the colour had something to do with that last impression, but I can tell you that it did not look, smell, or taste like cognac to me at all. On the Aftelier website, the oil is described as having a “clean, light and fruity” flavour, but not to me. So, I sent off another email to Ms. Aftel who suggested putting a drop on ice-cream.

Source: Live Simply at (Direct website link embedded within.)

Source: Live Simply at (Direct website link embedded within.)

Well, that hadn’t worked out well for me, so I thought about my experience with the Cepes Essence and decided that heating or cooking would be required. I sautéed slices of Anjou pears in a bit of butter, added two tiny drops of the Cognac Chef Essence, and waited for the result. The softened, heated pear brought out the fruit’s sweet juices which worked wonders for the Cognac. And, yes, it now actually and finally tasted more like the actual product! Cognac-cooked Pears is a delicious, quick, easy treat that I recommend, but it also taught me something else: this is one of the Chef Essences that, in my personal opinion, can be helped by the heating process.

I also think it has to be in a dish which has some sort of sugar or sweetness to it, whether natural or added. As you will see in the Chocolate section below, I used some of the Cognac Essential Oil in a cookie batter with the Blood Orange and Chocolate. It was good by itself, but the Cognac took everything to the next level. No, really, WOW! The Blood Orange already enhanced the cookie batter, but something about the Cognac really gave it a refined, more complex finishing touch by adding depth and richness, along with subtle nuances of nuttiness and golden sweetness. The other elements, in turn, impacted the cognac as well. Its flavour was no longer thin, green, slightly medicinal fruitiness but something different, even in its uncooked, pre-treated state. It was now, finally, like cognac.



It makes sense if you think about it from a chemistry and fermentation standpoint. Cognac or brandy is really just fruit that goes through a chemical, transformation process with sugar. The Aftelier Chef Essence conjures up images of what cognac must be like in its infancy when it’s merely a thin, green, fruity liquid. It requires time and for the fruits’ natural sugars to seep out in order for the baby to grow and become ready for its birth into the world as a full-blown liqueur.

That said, I’d like to stress that the Chef Essence never tasted particularly boozy to me. It’s certainly not overpoweringly alcoholic. What it does, it seems to accomplish more through the power of suggestion and through fragrance. When handled properly (ie, used with something sugar and perhaps cooked), it tastes like sweetened fruit with golden warmth and a touch of nuttiness — which is what actual cognac really comes down to, if you ignore the alcohol content issue. That flavour profile is underscored here by a very subtle, fruity, cognac-like aroma, but neither of them screams “BOOZE!” Not even remotely.

What was interesting, though, is that both the Cognac and the Chocolate essences in my baking experiment seemed weakened by the cooking process, while the Blood Orange was almost the same and only a hair less vibrant. I’m one of those people who loves raw, frozen cookie dough, and I found the taste of the first two Essences to be much more noticeable before the batter was cooked. So, if you want a really strong cognac taste in the final product, perhaps for a Christmas Plum Pudding or sauces to accompany dark proteins, then my suggestion is to make the uncooked version doubly strong. Still, it’s all going to come down to personal tastes, so experiment to the point you enjoy. Keep in mind, though, that the use of a few tiny drops of Chef Essence in lieu of any liquid that your recipe may normally call will impact the overall wet-dry ratios, its moistness or its density, so you may have to make other adjustments accordingly.



With the holiday season is drawing close, I think that the Cognac holds so many possibilities to really elevate your celebrations. From hot mulled wine to Christmas plum puddings, cookies, eggnog, stuffings, a Christmas goose, and more, I think the Cognac Chef Essence may be one to consider. It’s only $20 for a 5 ml bottle, but a little goes a long way. No, it’s not idiot-proof and, yes, you may need to play around with it a little, but follow some of the guidelines I’ve set here and it won’t be hard. Plus, half the fun of cooking comes from the process, no?


Cilantro or fresh coriander leaves in a bunch. Source:

Cilantro or fresh coriander leaves in a bunch. Source:

Fresh coriander or cilantro seems to be a hugely polarizing thing, a true source of aversion for some people. The main reason why is that they find cilantro to taste like soap.

I’ve never had that problem and I love fresh cilantro, but I’m afraid I didn’t like the Aftelier Chef Essence. On the company’s website, the Coriander Leaf (which I received in the spray version) and its flavour is described as follows:

(CO2 Essential Oil from India) — gorgeous green color and aroma — even more aromatic than fresh cilantro leaves — warm, rich, with a hint of sweetness.



I’m afraid it didn’t taste like the fresh cilantro bunches that I frequently buy and it actually did taste like soap, both when sprayed directly on my tongue and, on several occasions, when I used it in cooking. The soapiness was slightly less prominent when the dish was heated or cooked, but the other difficulty that I had is that the cilantro or coriander leaf taste itself wasn’t noticeable as a whole unless I sprayed on quite a bit. So, in other words, either the flavour was present and felt soapy, or it wasn’t really detectable in a substantial way.

I tried the Coriander Leaf in a few different dishes. First, I tried it in a Middle Eastern dish, but the other spices completely obliterated or over-whelmed the taste. So then, I tried it on roasted potatoes with a garlic, parsley mix and it was better, but then I used a lot of garlic and the coriander wasn’t particularly noticeable, perhaps because I only applied two small sprays from my sample atomizer. (I think my minis generated a small amount than what you’d get from a regular Aftelier spray bottle.) It was the same story with a pre-prepared Wonton Soup that I had from Trader Joe’s.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

I became determined to try something that really let the Coriander Leaf stand out on its own, so I could see what it tasted like properly. So, I made a raw fennel salad with pomegranates and asparagus. I gave the fennel three or four tiny sprays of the Chef Essence, spritzed the vinaigrette sauce lightly as well, added the other ingredients, and then tossed the whole thing. I found that the Coriander Leaf imparted an odd medicinal taste at first, then soapiness, a subtle lemony nuance, and an unexpected, hard to pinpoint, aromatic whiff that was almost floral in a way, but not quite.

I have to be honest, I really did not like the coriander’s flavour. At all. (And I wasn’t particularly keen on the mystery aroma, either.) After my raw fennel salad, I tried the Chef Essence in the cooking method and sprayed it on some raw salmon that I later steamed. It was the same taste combination. Sautéing the fish didn’t help matters, either. At no point did it taste (or smell) like the fresh cilantro that I buy from the supermarket.

In a New York Times article on the Aftelier Chef Essences, the journalist specifically mentioned how the Coriander Leaf (in the non-spray, drop form) added a fragrant touch to a crab salad with pomelo citruses. She seemed to really like it, so perhaps its taste is one of those things that will appear differently to others.

In 2012, it was discovered that people’s aversion to cilantro stemmed from a gene for smell. Actually, it may be three specific genes at play, and a good number of Europeans supposedly have two copies of gene OR6A2, “which is very sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that give cilantro its distinctive flavor.” In my case, however, I have never once — until now — thought that cilantro tasted soapy. My only explanation for what happened here is the fact that the Chef Essences really magnify an ingredient’s natural flavour to intense, super-saturated degrees. Then again, the NYT journalist seemed fine, so it must be an individual thing.




Tarragon is in the anise family and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I really love it in small doses. It was my maiden step into using Chef Essences in a non-spray form, so it initially required a little more of a learning curve for me.

I started by using a single drop, shaking it out onto a spoon before adding it to a Blanquette de Veau recipe. That’s a creamy, white-based French stew, but since I don’t eat veal for ethical, animal-abuse reasons, I tend to use chicken instead. In this case, I had rather a large pot of Blanquette de… er… Poulet, so I worked my way up in terms of the quantity of Tarragon. Four drops (as little as roughly 1/4 of a teaspoon) ended up being as the perfect balance, such that it didn’t overpower the rest of the flavours but was still a very strong presence.

In contrast, a similarly large-sized dish of salad for a family lunch only required two tiny drops of the Tarragon for the oil-based sauce. The simple reason why: salads (and vinaigrette sauces) are lighter, less rich or heavy, so you will want to use only a tiny quantity. In general, my favourite use for the Aftelier drops has been in sauces, like a tarragon cream sauce for fish, chicken, or potatoes, or in vinaigrettes for salads.

In all cases, none of the tarragon that I’ve ever used before — either fresh bunches or dried flakes — has ever risen to the taste level of the Chef Essence. There is such an intensity to the flavour that it almost felt as though I were experiencing something new. As a whole, tarragon can be quite a bitter taste, so I don’t think this Essence is as versatile as the Basil, and definitely not as much as the Ginger, but I’m really glad to have a bottle in my pantry.




Aftelier’s Chocolate Chef Essence is an absolute made with French chocolate, and it should probably be a staple in any baker’s pantry. I had mixed results with this one, depending on how I used it. The simple reason why is that the Chef Essence tastes like raw cocoa nibs, the sort of unrefined chocolate that has no innate sweetness whatsoever.

I first tried a drop on vanilla ice-cream, but I wasn’t hugely enthused. It was just okay. Ms. Aftel told me that she uses it with all kinds of beef. She added that it doesn’t impart a chocolate taste at all, but simply makes the beef richer, almost “like magic.” I liked the idea at first, but later hesitated. The combination of beef with chocolate seemed a little strange to me, even with Ms. Aftel’s explanation about the taste, and it definitely was outside of my comfort zone. I really do not cook with chocolate in any shape, size, or form.

I didn’t know what to do but, since I wanted to give the Chef Essence a proper, fair testing, it seemed necessary to brave the baking territory. Have I mentioned yet how I normally avoid baking at all costs? Or my deep-seated fear of numbers, maths, and chemistry? Have I talked about how I hate following recipes with the sort of precision that baking requires (nay, demands), or how I can screw up even the simplest one when it comes to sweet things? It’s all true. Baking is not my friend, which is why my first attempt to use the Chocolate Essence did not go well. At all. Yet, somehow, the end result ended up being utterly delicious in terms of taste. Wholly unphotographable (and looking like a hot mess from hell which is why I’ve used a professional photo below), but my goodness, chocolate, blood orange, and cognac are a truly stunning flavour combination when done with the concentrated Chef Essences.

Photo and source: Abel & Co.

What my cookies *SHOULD* have looked like, but most definitely did not. Photo and source: Abel & Co.

I tried to follow Wilton’s recipe for Chewy Dark Chocolate and Orange Cookies. However, it called for 2/3rd of a cup of unsweetened chocolate, and I only had some lousy, stale Hershey’s Cocoa. It seemed best to skip that. Plus, being an idiot, I thought the Aftelier drops would compensate. The problem was, I had no clue what 2/3rds of a cup would translate to in terms of tiny Aftelier drops. So, I tossed in about 6 drops, as well as about 4 tiny spritzes of my mini Blood Orange, and 4 drops of the Cognac Chef Essence.

I suddenly realised another complication which was that I only had Baking Powder, not Baking Soda, or possibly it’s the reverse. I forget which since they both seem like the same damn thing to me but, apparently, there is a significant difference between the two that is critical for baking. Turning to the Internet, I learnt that one can make one’s own Baking Soda if one adds something acidic, like lemon juice, so I thought, “Hey, Orange and Chocolate Cookies. I can use orange juice! That’s acidic and citric. It should work, right?” (Are you seeing where this is heading?) So, I added a chug of Tropicana’s pulpy orange juice to the batter, tasted it, added a few more spritzes of the Aftelier Blood Orange, and some more drops of both the Chocolate and Cognac for good measure as well.

I mean it quite sincerely when I say that it was the absolute best, tastiest, and most delicious cookie dough I’ve ever had! I kept thinking that someone should bottle the smell, too, for it was far better than Jo Malone‘s Bitter Orange and Chocolate fragrance from her Sugar & Spice collection last year. In fact, my cookie dough smelt better than a number of gourmand fragrances that I’ve tried.

But baking is a precise art, and one of my several screw-ups along the way badly affected the delicate chemistry ratios and end result. My baked “cookies” ended up as a smear of … thin goo. Very tasty goo, I grant you, but the whole thing had merged into one, spread across the baking sheet, and was thin as paper. I found myself in a kitchen that looked like a war zone, sitting huddled on the floor in a corner next to a flour-dusted Hairy German, eating frozen Chocolate, Blood Orange, and Cognac frozen cookie dough out of the bowl, and wondering why I needed to cook the damn thing at all.

I’m not quite sure what happened next. Frustration, hatred of the baking gods, and a sugar high has made it all a bit of blur. Time passed in some sort of fugue state and, somehow, I came up with something like holiday Chocolate, Orange, and Cognac Balls. I think I made some sort of variation of a Chocolate Bourbon Balls recipe, combined with the other one for the cookies, but don’t ask me how because I haven’t the foggiest notion. Still, I must emphasize that, once again, the end result was really tasty and it’s due entirely to the Chef Essences.

My.... Something or Another.... Dessert Balls.

My…. Something or Another…. Balls.

What my (mis)adventures showed me is that the Chocolate Chef Essence would be amazing in the hands of someone who knows how to bake, but that it may take some playing around to figure out the quantities. I think it might work best as an addition to recipes which don’t already call for a substantial, actual chocolate presence, because the fact that you’re adding only a few drops won’t subsequently impact the ratios. In other words, it’s not as though you’re adding real liquid to upset the dry-wet balance. I also think sugar is necessary in some way to bring out the flavour, though Ms. Aftelier’s use of the product on beef dishes seems to belie that point. Finally, I noticed that the cooking process seemed to weaken the taste of the chocolate, so you may want to compensate by adding a little more if you want a really robust, strong chocolate presence.

Balsamic vinegar reduction. Photo: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. (Website link embedded within.)

Balsamic vinegar reduction. Photo: Jenna at Eat, Live, Run. (Website link embedded within.)

I haven’t experimented further with the Chocolate Absolute, but I do have some plans that don’t involve the traumatizing baking realm. I think it would probably make a killer Hot Chocolate by adding extra-depth without any extra sweetness. It would probably go well with fruit smoothies or cocktails like White Russians as well. More than anything else, though, I plan to use it to amplify the natural chocolate undertones of a balsamic vinegar reduction which is one of my favorite sauces for strawberries, peaches, bananas and, most of all, filet mignon. (Take balsamic vinegar, and reduce it down while adding small pats of unsalted butter throughout. You can add a dash of port if you like, as well. It should turn into a sticky, dense glaze which is simply stellar with filet mignon and has a tart, tangy cherry, chocolate, almost port-like taste. Superb, and the Aftelier Chocolate Absolute should amplify all the basic, delicious goodness to sonic levels.)

All in all, I think this is a really good Chef Essence, and I would recommend it. As some of my examples above should show, you don’t have to be a baker to use it, but you must have patience to learn its quirks because it’s definitely not idiot-proof. I’m a prime example of that. Yet, even in my hands, the result was tasty, so give it a try for yourself.


Grant Achatz, Alinea restaurant. Source:

Grant Achatz, Alinea restaurant. Source:

There is a reason why I think the Chef Essences are so hugely significant, but I can’t really explain it properly without putting it in a personal context. I rarely talk about myself, but this detour may be a slightly lengthy one, so I hope you will bear with me.

I meant it when I said in Part I that food and, in particular, gastronomy are incredibly important to me. Significantly more than anything to do with perfume, which is mid-way on my lists of interests. As I noted in Part I, it all began with the French film L’Aile ou La Cuisse when I was 6-years old, and gastronomy instantly turned into an obsession. I’m not trying to boast but simply to provide a context when I say that I went to numerous Michelin three-star restaurants as a small child, and the most famous chefs would come out to the dining area to see who was this tiny creature who was grilling waiters about the dishes and how they were made. When I was nine, far before Zagat’s was ever invented, I had a journal with a detailed ranking system covering and analysing all the restaurants that I’d gone to with my parents. And I would pour over each new Michelin Guide until the red cover fell off. Now, as an adult, I read about the lives of chefs the way a normal person reads about politics, history, or celebrities. I care more about the Bocuse d’Or than the Olympics. And the names Grant Achatz, Eleven Madison Park, El Celler de Can Roca, El Bulli, or Noma hold a wealth of significance for me that makes me sit up and quiver. Frederic Malle? Eh. Jean-Georges? Now I care. The names may not mean much to some of you (which is why I’ve provided links), but they are truly my gods and it’s at their altar that I worship:

Pork belly at Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park, NY. Source:

Pork belly at Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, NY. Source:

Grant Achatz's Dungeness Crab, Squash Blossom, Cardamom, Saffron at Alinea, Chicago. Source: Alinea at

Grant Achatz’s Dungeness Crab, Squash Blossom, Cardamom, Saffron at Alinea, Chicago. Source: Alinea at

Jean-Georges (V.) dish for his JG Tokyo. Source:

Jean-Georges (V.) dish for his JG Tokyo. Source:

A dish at El Celler de Can Roca. Source:

A dish at El Celler de Can Roca. Source:

Molecular gastronomy chocolate sphere. Source:

Molecular gastronomy chocolate sphere. Source:

You must be wondering what all of this has to do with the Aftelier Chef Essences but, if you will bear with me a little longer, I’ll get to the point soon enough. Food — really good food — is something that holds monumental power for me, even if I can’t make it myself. And I can’t, you know. I may be a good home cook, but I couldn’t compete with the left toenail of the lowliest line cook at The French Laundry, and let’s forget about anything in the same galaxy as the food in the photos here.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichtens creation for Jo Jo in NY. Source: Jo Jo website.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s creation for Jo Jo in NY. Source: Jo Jo website.

Yet, Mandy Aftel’s Chef Essences make me feel as though I had a small chance of making a dish whose taste might — perhaps, by some huge miracle, and if I were really lucky — be at least tolerable and one galaxy closer. It’s the first time I’ve ever come across a product that creates that possibility, no matter how foolish or illusory.

And that is why I think the Chef Essences are so important. Read any chef bio — from “Prune” to “Heat“(which is a hilarious, entertaining, and absorbing book that I highly recommend, by the way) — or listen to anything ever said by Eric Ripert or Thomas Keller, and the same point is made time and time again: the first and most important consideration in making good food is the freshness of the ingredients. But it’s often not enough just to have fresh tomatoes or free-range chicken; you need to amplify flavours, layer them, and make them really pop.

Grant Achatz. Source:

Grant Achatz. Source:

The Chef Essences are a way for an ordinary home cook to achieve that goal. It makes everything come alive in a way that you or I might not otherwise achieve. It gives us a fighting chance and an expert’s arsenal (at reasonable prices) to make something that actually might be closer to the level of the food put out by my culinary gods. Two of those gods, by the way, use the Chef Essences themselves in their Michelin three-star, world-famous restaurants: Grant Achatz and Thomas Keller.

The New York Times said that the Chef Essences can’t make bad food good, but that they can make good food extraordinary. I think they’re correct but I also think that the Chef Essences can elevate “bad” food, even if it’s merely to the realm of “okay.” And there is truly something magical about them when they work right, an alchemical transformation that occurs when everything clicks and you take that first bite that is like nothing else ever produced in your kitchen. It makes you think that you may eventually achieve something of which Thomas Keller himself would approve.

I’ve never encountered anything that holds such a promise, not with any of the extracts, concentrated pastes, or flavoured oils that I’ve tried, and certainly not with anything dried. Nothing can come close to the purity of the taste, or the affordable, practical, and time-saving convenience aspects of the Essences, either. One or two simple drops… that’s all it requires. How can anyone beat that? It seems like such a common-sense idea now to use essences in food, and such a simple invention, but it’s not. Not with this level of flavour purity, lack of additives, cleanness of taste, richness, or potency. It was pure genius on the part of Ms. Aftel and Chef Patterson, I really believe that.

I’d be the first to tell you that it can take work, experimentation, patience, and, yes, making simply “okay” food before you find the right fit or balance. The Chef Essences aren’t a magical bullet all by themselves. You have to play with them, find the perfect ratios, and experience a few funky miscalculations until you figure out their little quirks. But that’s the whole fun of cooking, isn’t it? And don’t you want the chance to make dishes that taste (not necessarily look, but merely taste) a tiny bit like something that Daniel Humm might have whipped up in his spare time away from Eleven Madison Park? (I’ve been dying to eat there, more any other place in America except Alinea, but have never managed to get a reservation on those occasions when I’ve gone back to New York. The wait-list is endless.)

None of these cooking feats may ever actually occur in your or my kitchen, but the Chef Essences give you the illusion and dream that perhaps you might achieve that sort of greatness. Just as perfume holds a certain transformative promise, so, too, do these potions. If you have absolutely any interest at all in good food or cooking, you really should really try them for yourself.

Disclosure: My samples or bottles were kindly provided by Aftelier Perfumes. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: The Chef Essences are exclusive to Ms. Aftel and her website. She ships worldwide. Prices depends on the particular ingredient, and whether you’re buying the spray version or the drops. The Chef Essence drops come in 5 ml bottles in over 50 flavours, with each bottle containing roughly 150 drops. Prices generally range between $12 and $25, with some exceptions. For example, the Chocolate or Cognac are $18 each, but the Cepes is $35. The Chef Essence Sprays are 30 ml in size, and each one has about 230+ sprays per bottle. There are 15 different kinds, with their price varying from $14 to $24. The Pink Pepper is $22, while the Tarragon is $20. There are also several Chef Essence Kits in different sizes which would save you money over buying the same essences individually. The kits vary in price from $80 for a basic set, to $145 for the Exotic Set (full value of $161) or $179 for the full set of the original 12 essences (full value $191). There is also a 6-pack of the most popular ones used with ice-cream. It costs $90, but is a $102 value.

54 thoughts on “Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part II)

  1. Pingback: Aftelier Perfumes: Cooking with Fragrant Essences (Part I) - Kafkaesque

  2. How about the chocolate in a mexican black bean soup? I am now tempted to get that one too and attempt holiday cookie baking. Or black bean soup 🙂

    • Oh, definitely something like Mexican Black Bean soup, Vicki. Wow, excellent thought! You know what would probably be good as well, now that you mention it? Using it in a mole! A super dark, rich Mexican mole. But your bean idea is super smart. Let me know when I should come over for dinner…. 😉

  3. Several thoughts in no particular order:
    1. This pair of reviews is brilliant.
    2. I loved the thought of your “quasi” Cajun dish. As someone who grew up in Louisiana, eating enthusiastically the whole time, I think the true spirit of Cajun cooking is practical and radically inclusive. See what you have, embrace it, and make it into something good. It isn’t supposed to taste just like anybody else ‘s, and there is no code to adhere to.
    3. I am disappointed to hear your take on the cilantro spray. I had hoped it would amp up dishes containing fresh cilantro, but sounds like it won’t. The only way I have found to amp up that flavor is the Southeast Asian technique of including some cleaned, pounded coriander root in the sautéed base, and this involves growing one’s own coriander so it is both seasonal and a lot of work. Damn, why couldn’t the spray simplify matters?
    4. I will be ordering some Chef’s Essences that I never considered, such as the tarragon.
    5. Did I mention that these reviews are brilliant? Thanks!

    • The cilantro was a disappointment to me, too. Is the SE Asian trick really to include some cleaned, pounded coriander root? FASCINATING! I know so little about how to properly cook Asian food, though I did take a cooking class for a few hours in China. (The main thing that I took away from that class is that the Chinese use gas flames at *such* a high heat that I could never properly replicate any of the dishes back home. lol) So, explain more about this coriander trick and why powdered coriander root would not — theoretically — work in the same way? Or, does it, except nowhere to the same degree and quality? I’m really fascinated.

      As for my “Cajun” food, it’s a bit of a toss-off thing, but I do make a stunningly good crawfish bisque, if I do say so myself. It’s more Frenchified than Cajun, but I think that’s why I like it. Some of the spices (or style of spiciness) in Cajun food is hard for me.

      Are you really considering the Tarragon Chef Essence, among others? If so, then Cool!! My job here is done. lol 😉

      • I learned about the root first when I was studying Thai cooking in David Thompson’s huge and addictive book Thai Food. The roots are used in Thai curry pastes, pounded with the other ingredients in your trusty mortar and pestle. The depth of flavor is beautiful, and no amount of throwing leaves on top will replicate it. I have found the same use of them in many authentic Indonesian cookbooks. However, coriander roots are small and hard to clean, you need rather a lot of them, and since cilantro is seldom sold with the roots, you have to grow your own. So often I do what many Thai people in America do, and pound chopped cilantro stems with no leaves into my curry paste, which weakly approximates the effect of the roots. I have tried drying the roots, and that’s a no-go to my palate. I plan to grow a big bed of coriander next summer and try freezing the roots to see if that works better.
        BTW, you would love David Thompson. A Westerner who was hired by the Thai royal family to teach classic Thai cooking techniques, which they feared were being lost? Can’t write a better story than that. Also, the recipes are fantastic.
        And yes, I am obsessively making an order list for Aftelier, which swells with my enthusiasm, shrinks as I consider financial realities, and swells again each time I reread your reviews. So, soon, I will order somewhere between three bottles and everything.

        • I’m glad you mentioned how the roots are rarely sold, because that is what I was wondering about. I’ve never seen them in any store — that I can recall, at least. But what on earth do all the Thai restaurants in this country do? I can’t see some small place in NYC being able to grow huge quantities for themselves in that urban jungle, and if the roots have to be fresh… then….??? How on earth do they manage? Surely there must be some sort of specialty place that all these Asian restaurants buy their stuff from, or perhaps Asian markets? I don’t go to the China Town section of my city all that often, but the next time I go, I shall try to check out one of the markets to see if they sell coriander roots. I’m really fascinated by this whole thing.

          David Thompson’s background sounds fascinating. What a cool story. “The King & I” — only with a chef instead of a governness. 😀

          Re. your Aftelier list, I so, so, SOOOOOOOOO wish she’d sell mini-samples, so people could try things out first and get a sense of whether a particular flavour is for them or not. It sounds to me like you and Julie have an overlap in your lists in terms of things that would work well with Asian food, like the Thai Lime for example. Why not split some of the 30 ml bottles? Trust me, 30 ml would last you a good 2 years, so perhaps 15 ml would be enough for now? Splitting wouldn’t really be an *easy* option for the oils, but my minis must have had 0.5 perhaps of liquid, and it did give me quite a few uses each. So perhaps half of 5 ml would be possible with some juggling? The problem with that would be applying it from a vial in small enough doses. But at least the sprays could be split! 🙂

      • Also, agree with you about Chinese food. At home you can easily do better than most takeout, but will never duplicate the really good stuff because the heat levels required aren’t achievable in most American kitchens. My dear husband has bought me an outdoor gas contraption called the Monster Burner that makes a truly scary column of flame, and when I feel braver and stronger I will try it.

        • You can get a pro stove for home, but a friend of mine whose parents own a Chinese restaurant had her husband “break” my gas stove so the burners can be turned up higher. This was THE thing to make perfect fried rice, for instance. Without that heat, it was close, but always missed the mark.

          • I don’t have a gas stove, period. 🙁 Gas ranges are rare here, and something about the pipes which were laid here originally makes it basically impossible (or financially ridiculous) to change over. I mourn that fact to no end. So while some of you mourn your lack of gas being high enough, think of me with no gas options at all. Honestly, I really don’t know why I own a wok at all, since using it properly is pretty much hopeless under the circumstances. 🙁

          • Right now I’m actually cooking with an electric range again because of some impossible to explain situation after renovations. With the electric, I found my wok wouldn’t heat up well enough and switched to using the largest flat bottomed ceramic coated fry pan I could find. It works well enough. Not the same taste of a wok, but it’s not bad.

  4. Very much enjoyed both parts of your Aftelier Chef’s Essences reviews, Kafka. Part One inspired more lemmings for me than Part Two, but Part Two made me wish for your recipe for the fennel salad with pomegranates and asparagus. (I love fennel and will now be attempting to duplicate your dish.) 🙂 And reading about the chocolate essence, I found myself nodding in agreement with your assessment that it could work well in a glaze for meats, such as a balsamic or port wine glaze.

    Oh, and those photos from the chefs you idolize: Out-of-this-world!!

    • Yeah, Part I had more of the ones that I enjoyed or loved, myself. 🙂 Do you think you’ll get the Ginger, Frankincense, and Tolu Balsam? May I urge you to possibly contemplate the Blood Orange, if budgeting constraints allow. The Blood Orange is seriously one of the best thing I’ve ever tried, from smell to taste!

      As for the food photos, I’m so glad you thought them cool, too! You have no idea how much effort it took to restrain myself and to limit the number to only the ones I posted. I can look at photos like that for hours and hours because, for me, it’s actually Art than food. Glorious, glorious art that merely happens to make you drool on yourself. LOL.

      As for a recipe for my fennel salad, I don’t really have one. My cooking is rarely the same, exact, precise dish twice because I don’t follow recipes. The thing is, cooking is one of those cathartic, artistic, creative expression things for me — like painting is for others. I will get ideas from a recipe all the time, but following it to a “T” is rare. For the salad, though, generally I slice the raw fennel thinly, and then the rest is wholly dependent on what I have in my fridge. I do like to use either nuts, pomegranates when in season, or just simple fresh herbs. Toss in an oil sauce with either some tarragon or drops of balsamic vinegar, season, and voila!

      The thing for me, personally, is never to shave the fennel into translucent slivers as everyone else does. I like the crunch, so I keep my slices much thicker than what the majority of people do. And I absolutely never cook fennel if I can help it. Caramelized, broiled fennel is okay on a rare occasion, but raw fennel is so much better, imo!

      • Just placed my order! Purchased the fir absolute, the fresh ginger spray and the blood orange spray. Yes, you make the blood orange sound sublime – thanks for the recommendation. Now off to write you the email I spoke of earlier, just to catch up. 🙂

        • HURRAH about the Fir Absolute! It so totally sounds like part of Fille en Aiguilles has been captured in a food-safe bottle! I can’t wait to hear what you think about the other two as well, and about your cooking adventures with all three. It’s going to even more exciting for me than for you perhaps. lol

  5. I enjoyed part two even more than part one because we learned more about you. I am thrilled to discover your love of these chefs! I enjoyed the photographs tremendously. I had an epiphany about my own art after seeing the film about Paul Liebrandt and watching him plating. René Redzepi has inspired me beyond measure. I could list more, but that’s not necessary – you know them! They’ve inspired my art work (I’ve included a link to my new website) and one critic did see the connection (check the “News” section if you’re interested). It does fascinate me why there’s so much “anti-aesthetic” in fine art for walls and so much pure aesthetics for food that’s gone in a flash. My artwork is such that many people say they want to touch, eat and smell it. Sorry – this does sound like a plug!

    What is exciting is that these essences can help the home cook. There’s no substitute for absolute freshness but one can’t always get that, and I’m sure El Bulli’s entire staff would disagree with their fascinating scientific but artful approach to food! I might agree more with the NYT’s assessment that the essences can’t make bad food good, but hey, if they can at least help, it’s fantastic. And people ought to learn more about using herbs and spices – fragrance, in fact – in cooking. To make it easier? Bravo!

    Anyway, this is all very exciting to me. Your review and especially the glimpse into your lifelong appreciation for fine food was fantastic! I think I enjoyed this more than any perfume review! Perfume only goes so far, imho. Food satisfies all the senses! And the high level of culinary arts that we are seeing these days puts all the other arts to shame, imho.

    So, thanks, Kafka! The tidbit about cilantro and genes is fascinating. I’ve never been sure if I hated or liked that herb. I do use it – fresh in guacamole and dried in Thai food, but now I’m not sure about the essence, but I will try it!

    Sorry I could not be brief. Another day home ill, too, makes me a chatty Kathy (as they say). Cheers! 🙂

    • I’m so glad you included the link to your new site. I will look at it the first chance I get, because I’m really looking forward to seeing your work, now more than even since you mention the influence of Liebrandt and René Redzepi on you! And how absolutely awesome that a critic saw the connection. AWE_SOME!!!! I’m so happy for you, because it sounds like the critic meant it as a big compliment. (If he didn’t, then he’s an idiot.)

      Re. Art — I agree heartily with you on so many of your points, but especially on the bewildering paradox that Art which is put on walls seems to have an anti-aesthetic these days, while food (which is SHAMEFULLY *not* considered actual Art but should be) is more and more about the visual aesthetics. Sure, there is Modernist technique as a backlash, sure things are very avant-garde in some places, but it’s always meant to LOOK as good as it tastes. Art, however…. Hmph. I remember a relative telling me about some famous, famous ultra-modern artist whose “work” was a mere white toilet that he did basically nothing whatsoever to, nothing at all. Yet, apparently, it is worth a huge fortune and was put in the Met, as a statement of… something. (???!!) Okay, I do get the philosophical point behind it. And, yes, Art is often in the eye of the beholder and a question of personal taste, but really…. the extent to which things are taken today is completely and ABSOLUTELY an anti-aesthetic. It seems more about giving a middle finger to expectations than about visual beauty. But perhaps I’m merely too shallow and stupid to “get it.”

      Going back to food, though, I totally agree that “the high level of culinary arts that we are seeing these days puts all the other arts to shame.” Why on earth is gastronomy NOT considered one of the Seven Arts??! There is no way you’re going to tell me that what Grant Achatz puts out at Alinea is not Art!

      Plus, unlike something that sits on a wall or on the floor, food appeals to so many more of the senses. Taste, Sight, Smell, and, often (especially at Cellar de Can Roca in Spain), sound as well! Did you know, either that place, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, or both use music to go with certain dishes, as they give you headphones with sounds that parallel the ingredients, like waves hitting a seashore? Also, El Cellar de Can Roca does quite a bit with food and perfume. Starting in 2011, one of the brothers (the dessert one) made dishes inspired by things like Calvin Klein’s Eternity or Guerlain’s Shalimar, then he later made perfume inspired by the reverse, one of his dishes!,8599,2091586,00.html

      On a slightly related note and because I think you in particular out of everyone will enjoy it, may I beg for you to watch this video called Le Chocolat? It involves one of the greatest of the great French chefs, Alain Ducasse, and the authentic, hardcore, true, more historical way of making chocolate. I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long, long time and my head just about exploded by the end from both euphoria, awe, giddiness, and admiration:

  6. chocolate, tarragon, cognac, pink pepper, rose, ginger, all is fine with me with the exception of cilantro. I have the triple gene I think. I cannot stand the smell and the flavor. I can only eat cilantro when it has been masked and macerated with tomato, onions, lemons, vinegar and other strong flavors. To me it also has a citric acid thing going on which I cant, just cannot.
    I think that Mandy Aftel is exceptional. I admire that woman.

    • You have my huge sympathy re. the cilantro issue. You know, until about 5 or 6 years ago, I had absolutely no idea that there were millions of people who hated cilantro or that it was such hugely problematic ingredient. It came as an enormous surprise to me to learn just how widespread the aversion was, and that the issue in question was soapiness. “I was like, Soap?! Cilantro tastes of soap??” Now, however, I really, really get it on a personal level. The Coriander Leaf Chef’s Essence did taste that way to me, it had that citric acid thing going on as well, and something about the smell was almost as difficult for me as the flavour. I have to say, it was quite bewildering to experience all that after a lifetime of having cilantro taste a another way entirely to me.

      Do any of the other Chef Essences tempt you at all? It’s okay if they don’t. I promise I won’t take it personally at all. 🙂

  7. Another great review. What I wouldn’t give to have seen you baking those cookies. Cognac and chocolate sound interesting. I think there’s a learning curve with most of these. I’m sure the more you use them the easier it gets. I’m glad you had success with the chocolate cognac balls after the cookie disaster.

    • You know, baking is so counter-intuitive to me. To my cooking style, the very reasons why I like to cook in the first place, my entire personality (no numbers! Ever!), and so much more. I can completely understand why people love it, and I have the greatest, greatest respect for those who do it, but I will stick to the Savory side of the aisle. LOL.

      I would love to hear about any adventures you have if you decide to get an Essence or two for yourself. 🙂

      • I hate numbers too. I like baking because I have a sweet tooth. I hardly ever bake though because I end up eating most of the things myself. Hubband will have a piece or two and that’s it.

  8. What a great and wonderfully inspiring article, Kafka ! I really enjoyed reading part 2 as well and will order some essences to try. Especially the cognac and chocolate sound delicious for baking. I am fantazing how I can use these essences. Maybe in a chocolate sauce with chicken ? The tarragon sounds amazing as Well with chicken. Does Mandy Aftel have a saffron essence ? It would work Well with Paella Valenciana or ice Cream 😉 The recepe for the balsamic vinager sauce sounds really good, Thank you for sharing it. Loved your writing about your love for chefs as Well. Very, very inspiring. Did you see the documentary about El Bulli ?

    • I loved the El Bulli documentary, though it always makes me sad that I will never have the opportunity to eat there myself. Not that it would have been an easy thing to do before, given both the cost, location and difficulty of getting reservations, but at least the mere theoretical possibility was there, you know? Now, it’s gone forever. 🙁

      It will probably be the same thing soon with Jiro in Japan. Have you seen that documentary, Esperanza? If not, it’s really fascinating. It’s about one of the top sushi places in the world, if not the very top one of them all. Few people had ever heard of it before the documentary, but insiders and sushi aficionados kept it a well-kept secret that is now out. What the documentary shows is the degree of work involved in making what they see as pure Art but, most of all, that the whole process of sushi-making is almost a Zen path of mastery and a way of life. The amount of work that goes into learning just how to do the sushi rice — YEARS!!! — just boggled my mind. I mean, it took one apprentice something like two years nonstop merely to master the basic egg omelet! The degree of perfectionism involved with all of it completely blew my mind.

      The documentary is called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and here is more information on it if you (or someone else) is curious:

      Anyway, going back to Aftelier’s Chef Essences, she doesn’t have a saffron, probably because it would be too, too insanely expensive. Still, I’m with you: if she ever got a saffron one, I’d be on it in a heartbeat. Paella, absolutely, but also mussels, Middle Eastern food, rice, rice pudding, risotto, and, yes, ice-cream! 😉 😀 God, I love cooking with saffron. I use it A LOT, more than any other spice perhaps.

      The Tarragon is great with chicken. Poulet à l’estragon is the french dish for that which uses a cream sauce, and I’ve made it with the Aftelier essence. It’s really delicious. As for the Chocolate Chef Essence, you know, Mexican cuisine has a sort of chocolate sauce to go with chicken or other proteins called Mole and it’s very tasty. Whichever ones you buy, I have no doubt that *whatever* you choose to make will be absolutely fantastic. My only hope is that you will come back one day to tell me all about your experiences with them. I’d really love to know what happens, okay? 🙂

  9. Hello my dear Kafka. I don’t cook unless you consider heating up stuff in the microwave. In any case, I thought the Chef Essences can also be added to mixed drinks, in addition to ice cream and baked/cooked sweet or savory food. I also wonder if any of these can be combined with perfumers’ alcohol to make perfume?

    By the way, I love your story about being the object of wonder at Michelin starred restaurants!

    And…I’ve been to brunch at Eleven Madison Park. Perhaps it’s easier to get in for an early brunch on a Saturday or Sunday rather than dinner on any day of the week.

    • Yes, the Chef Essences can absolutely be used in drinks and I covered all that in Part I, but now I’m fixated solely and completely on you at Eleven Madison Park. WHAT DID YOU EAT??!?! 😀 Tell me ALL, in detail! As for going for Brunch, I will try that next time I know I’ll be in NY if that is the sole option left to me, but generally, I avoid brunches and don’t even really eat lunch either. Somehow, in my mind, going to one of these places is such an hallowed, sacred, rare, special experience, that it requires a dinner. Does that make sense? Still, you’re absolutely right: beggars can’t be choosers, and I no longer live in NY such that I could afford to be choosy about the times available to me. LOL.

      With regard to the Chef Essences and your lifestyle limitations or lack of time to cook, you don’t really have to use them for cooking, you know. You can put them in teas, smoothies, mixed in with yoghurt, ON ICE CREAM (please, please, read Part I!!! Half of it seems to involve ice-cream. lol), spritz some in your glass for white wine (see Part I), spray it on pizzas, and more.

      I don’t always have the time to cook, either, and I use some of the sprays in dishes that I microwave. Or in sauces for food that I microwave. For example, I buy frozen Shu Mai from Trader Joes and eat them at least 3 times a week. I make a dipping sauce with the Ginger Essence, and use that for my Shu Mai, among the many other things that I microwave up when I have no time. lol And I’ve sprayed the Basil on frozen pizza, as well. Now, I *know* you have the time to do that! 😉

      • Ugh, I’m behind in my reading. I also don’t mix drinks at home either…so I can imagine myself toting along a bunch of the Chef Essences and surreptitiously adding drops to my food 🙂

        I should try it on ice cream! Not on pizza..I have to turn on the oven and watch it. Microwave is easiest.

        As to Eleven Madison Park, I don’t even remember when it was that I went but as far as the brunch, I recall having ceviche and some kind of chef’s salad (I know it doesn’t sound like brunch food!). I don’t think they do brunch anymore but hey, perhaps it’s an unadvertised special? Anyway, it’s my turn (amongst my friends) to research and arrange for a private dining experience for early next year. While Eleven Madison Park sounds like the ideal venue, my friends will probably kill me for what will probably cost an arm and a leg!

        • Yeah, I doubt it would be cheap (to put it mildly!) for a private dining room. If your friends aren’t hardcore foodies, then I’d opt for a more reasonable alternative and save Eleven Madison Park for someone who would truly appreciate its splendiferousness. (Yes, not a word, but it suits EMP very well, in my biased opinion. lol) Can’t wait to hear where you end up, though! 🙂

    • I’m so excited for you to get these things, but even more excited for your MOTHER! She’s the one whose reaction and response I’m really curious about, so I can’t wait for her to receive her present and for you to tell me all about it. As for your own order, I was sad for you that there was no orange blossom Chef Essence, but I do think you’ll love the Rose Absolute!

        • What did you get? Do share! 🙂 BTW, I had thought that perhaps you and FeralJasmine might be able to split some of the 30 ml spray bottles if there are any that you’re both interested in but hesitant to get, perhaps because other ones seemed more pressing, interesting, etc., but since you’ve placed your order… I’ll see if she’s interested perhaps in splitting with me instead. 🙂

          • I did not get the sprays. I’ll make some myself and also want to experiment with mixing them together and with tinctures I made over the winter. I’m always up for splitting perfume, but not this, lol!

            I ordered the oils: Sweet basil, lemongrass, cilantro leaf (yes indeed!), Makrud lime leaf, and ginger. I’ve been cooking quite a bit of Thai food lately and these will all be quite useful in keeping the food tasting bright and fresh. I’m not quite sure why I got the ginger, because we’ve got local ginger here and it’s awesome, but hey, I LOVE ginger!

            I also ordered some geraniol and myrrh to put into a scent diffuser and/or to play around with. I had to really stop myself from ordering more as I both want to use the Chef’s Essences in food and have been hankering to make some tiny batches of scent.

    • Heh, I thought someone was a little disappointed initially that my first post back was on cooking and not a perfume review….? *sticks tongue out* I’m sorry, I simply couldn’t resist teasing you, and I hope you know how much I’m grinning right now.

      BTW, something I had wanted to mention to you but forgot: I’m assuming you’ve seen “Jiro Loves Sushi”? Given your background with the Japanese stuff, you must have, but I thought I’d ask anyway. Also, would it be too rude if I sent you an email? I have the address from which you once wrote me, but I didn’t want to write without asking as I didn’t want you to take it as stalkerish. 🙂

      • Go ahead and tease me all you want!! I deserve a teasing for that comment! I should have expected that when you got “off topic” it would be totally interesting and right up my alley, instead of being about, say, nail polish (not that there’s anything wrong with it, as they said on Seinfeld).

        Yes, I have seen Jiro Loves Sushi. I do believe I’ve seen every single food film there is, both documentary and non. . .but there’s no stuff all the time. Love the Mind of a Chef series!

        Did you watch Somm? I have no interest in booze but I enjoyed it unabashedly. So, silly me. I’m interested in most everything if it’s done well and thoroughly (well, not team sports). . .

        I’d be dee-lighted if you emailed! 🙂

        • You may have already seen them, but if not, make sure you add “Eat Drink Man Woman” and “Yum Yum Yum” to your food film collection. The latter may be hard to find, but it’s a suitably rough sort-of-documentary about Cajun home cooking that I think you will love.

  10. I really loved reading your reviews of the essences. I must admit I was initially skeptical about how much use you could get out of them, but I think I have been officially converted. I am very curious about trying them now, and it made me feel better (and entertained sometimes) to read a review from the viewpoint of a layperson/laychef 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Heh, at the entertainment aspect of my layperson experiences. *grin* 😀 I’m glad, Nemo, and I’m smiling quite genuinely because I completely understand. It does help to see how an ordinary, average person fares in using these, as opposed to some elite chef. You and I will have a very different skill set than they do, so it will take more work for us than for them. But the Chef Essences are totally worth it, imo, and I’m really glad I managed to convert you! What are you thinking about possibly getting?

  11. I can’t thank you enough for another stunning post! I am always so inspired by these essences — all my perfumes start with that being my inspiration — and the chef’s essences allow me another way to turn people on to their incredible (and delicious) beauty. I really appreciate how you detailed that some worked and some didn’t, that’s really how it goes, with lots of experimentation and learning. And I loved all your reader comments, such an amazing audience & wonderful community dialog!

    • Ms. Aftel, thanks for joining us! I have a question for you: in my collection of essential oils and absolutes, I find that I have a bottle of Chef’s Essence saffron that my husband got for me a couple of years ago, and which I reserve for almost ceremonial sniffing. I see that it isn’t on your website any more. Will you have the saffron again in the future?
      Thanks for all the wonderful vicarious pleasure we’ve enjoyed in reading about these experiments. Many of us will be enjoying these experiments in our own kitchens in the near future…

      • Thank you FeralJasmine, I loved being here! Yes, I used to sell that Saffron Absolute, which was hard to find, and I haven’t been able to find it again, I might still someday but am not hopeful. I adored the intense orange color of it. Reading Kafkaesque’s writing and the comments here is so rewarding to me – I love to see other people enjoying the essences the way I do (I use them every day). Thanks again,

    • I have wonderful, smart readers, without a doubt! 🙂 I wanted to thank you again, Ms. Aftel, for giving me the opportunity to try more of your range and for taking the time to make up those adorable minis. Most of all, I want to repeat what a brilliant innovation I think they are and what a wonderful addition to the layperson’s arsenal. I simply cannot get over some of those flavours (Blood Orange FOREVER!!), or what they did to food. I have no doubt — no doubt whatsoever — that everyone else who tries them will find them as fantastic as I do.

      • Mandy made the suggestion of putting the essences in olive oil. Blood Orange infused olive oil is STUNNING! If you haven’t tried it, do so asap. Chocolate is lovely and rich in balsamic vinegar, and the pairing is simply fantastic.

        • You received your order already??!! And you ordered the Blood Orange & Chocolate on top of the other things that you had mentioned??! Wow. WOW! That’s fantastic on both levels. But seriously, even if you ordered FedEx on Saturday, how the devil did you manage to infuse olive oil so quickly? Lol. I’m enormously impressed and want to hear all the details, including what you think about each essence that you ordered and about your future creations! 🙂

          Btw, thank you for the olive oil tip. I did get around to the chocolate balsamic vinegar thing, but I would never have thought of blood orange olive oil. I’ll definitely try that.

          • No, I haven’t received my order yet! Wish I had!!! I’ve been purchasing infused oils and vinegar from a local shop for years.

            Try the chocolate, too. I just had a shot of Hojiblanca olive oil with chocolate infused balsamic vinegar. Wow. That stuff is fantastic. Everyone must try it!

            Blood orange infused olive oil is wonderful for many uses: baking, of course, but it’s great starter for a stir fry. Through some little chili peppers in for zing and color. I’m sure you’ll be delighted! Have fun!!

  12. Great reading about your experiments with Aftelier chef’s essences. I have been in love with them for years and they have really changed my way of thinking about the construction of a dish. I now think like a perfumer and often include silent layers that create a flavor but do not overwhelm it. I noticed Mandy talking about that with you when you were having trouble with chocolate and spoke of using it in beef because ” it doesn’t impart a chocolate taste at all, but simply makes the beef richer, almost “like magic.” As I mentioned chatting with Mandy, scents used to be part of the repertoire of great western cuisine but that fell out of fashion 100 years ago and is only now being rediscovered. The great chefs like the heroes you mention are leading the way to that renaissance. Hurrah to have ingredients like Mandy’s to help us find our own paths to glorious deliciousness!

    PS I am mad for the fir too. make a killer cocktail with cherry juice and gin that’s perfect for the holidays.

    • So nice of you to drop by, Deana. I LOVED your Valentine’s duck entry on your blog, and the photos looked beautiful! As for the Essences, I agree with you that scent used to be a significant part of gastronomy, from Roman times to the great Careme who is one of my personal, culinary heroes. (I think Escoffier gets undeserved credit for some things that Careme really came up with first, including the true birth of modern cuisine. Escoffier really just restaurant-fied what Careme pioneered.)(Sorry, I have some irrational Escoffier issues, LOL, but someone with a blog called Lost Past Remembered is bound to understand the significance of Careme!)

      Anyway, I fully agree with you that Ms. Aftel’s Essences really give us the chance to find a deliciousness that we could never achieve through more regular means. They’re truly fantastic. And thank you for the tip on the Fir Absolute with cherry juice. That sounds delicious!

  13. I couldn’t help but laugh at your baking debacle, but the end result sounds good! I have to say, I don’t really mind Hershey’s chocolate in baking, but I’m not really a chocolate connoisseur. I could see the chocolate being good with beef in the same way that mole sauce is good with meat. It works well in the context of the other spices, but I have a hard time envisioning just the chocolate with the beef without the addition of the other spices that would make a mole sauce. I love tarragon, so the Blanquette sounds delightful. But what I *really* want is the quasi-Cajun stew. That looks SO good, and I love any kind of jambalaya or jambalaya-adjacent dish for some reason. Thanks for going so in-depth with these essences and detailing the successes as well as the failures. The cognac with pears sounds good! I know you said ice cream can’t help everything, but I imagine the warm cognac pears heaped atop some vanilla ice cream and it sounds so decadent and wonderful!

    • Are you tempted to get any of the Essences, Kevin? I think you could do so much magic with them, whether in the savory field or the sweet. And yes, my baking experience was rather a comedy of errors. 🙂 I’ll leave that field to you, I think.

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