Friday, November 16, 2007

A Master Class for the Nose

Olivetta S. Michele ~ Côte d' Nez

The circular driveway up to the Mansion on Turtle Creek wasn't crowded. No snaking line of cars waiting for a valet. More like a deserted main street in a Western town, waiting for the gunfight to start. It was a serene evening in the twilight, not unlike one I’d had just days before on a mountaintop on the Italian Riviera. There, wild herbs shimmered, waiting to become an essence for perfumes, some of which we were about to experience.

Inside the newly enhanced entry of the Mansion restaurant, class and luxury oozed from the walls and polished marble floors. Textures of circles and squares distinguished the space, as if one were entering into a three-dimensional checker game. The genial maitre'd, Brian Perry, greeted us as if we were his neighbor. Upstairs, the scent scholar, Chandler Burr, had collaborated on a dinner paired with aromas. A master class for the nose.

This evening had been planned as a feast for the senses, with scent being the headliner. But make no mistake, the Mansion on Turtle Creek is a visual, audible and textual experience as well, reincarnated after divorcing what seems a now-dated Southwestern mode. A few miles away, at another property, folks who want to relive their heyday, along with the requisite cotton candy hair and Goodyear boobs, are welcome to wait in the parking line and take their chances. The Mansion has moved on. A little New York, a touch of Paris, a sense of Milano, but Dallas to the bone. A Class Act.

I hope somewhere Chandler Burr's parents are proud of their child, even if he hasn't become the international economics expert they might have envisioned. And though he might seem to be wound tight, it is a necessary measure. There is so much potential, so much promise in the man, that it must be doled out carefully, like a perfume essence. He has the gift of gab in at least four languages - English, Italian, French and Japanese. And does he know how to sell. Burr is the perfume critic for The New York Times, which he admits is a first. But he also says that if he hadn’t met Luca Turin, a man he calls a genius of smell, he wouldn’t be here tonight. On a Eurostar train from England to France, he sat next to Turin, a Frenchman of Italian origin, and they engaged in an intense conversation all the way to Paris. Along the way, Burr had already decided he would write a book about Turin, and so the journey wasn’t over at the train station. That book, The Emperor of Scent, is a must-read for anyone who is fascinated with the subject of smell. Burr is so damn good at what he does; he has you reading scientific formulas like they were passages in a romance novel. Every writer must envy him for his talent.

As the guests arrived, Roederer Champagne was being poured and light fluffy apps were floating off the trays. Burr was greeting us with an excitement that was contagious. Over in the corner of the room, the scents we were going to guzzle were ready like beauties in line for the bathing suit competition. There were essences of aromas, some very rare. Along with them were famous perfumes to show the final product and scent strips to convey the sensations. All very organized - heads up, chests out. The bathing suits would reveal gorgeous, one-of-a-kind beauties.
The courses, revolving around scents, were:
First course – Salt
Second course – Carrots and Ginger
Cocktail Course- Cedar infused Martini ( absolutely brilliant)
Third Course – Saffron
Fourth Course – Pepper
Fifth Course – Pineapple, Mango and Coconut
Sixth course – Cotton Candy, Vanilla and Chocolate

The fascinating aspect to this dinner was how Chandler Burr assembled individual aromas from their essences, then showed a perfume that corresponded with their comingling. Then Chef John Tesar and staff ingeniously matched them with food and wine. It was as brilliant as the checkered floors and circle paintings downstairs. What seemed, at first impression, to not match appeared as a new expression, a unique pattern.

My favorite course was the dessert, really a brilliant arrangement of perfumes - Missoni by Missoni and Black Orchid by Tom Ford - with a very blue ice cream and cotton candy, select textures of chocolate with vanilla aromatics. To this they added the perfect glass of wine, a Brachetto, Rosa Regale, red and bubbly.

And while the dinner seemed a little long to some, I found the evening magical. Great food and wine with an engaged and charming speaker, mixing up distinct elements to make new arrangements. In the foodies' world, this comes along as rarely as white truffles from Alba. And though I had just gotten off a plane from a time zone seven hours and thousands of years removed, this was captivating stuff. No way was I going to surrender to jet lag.

Let the ritzy rattlesnakes duke it out, down off the mountain top. Pass me a snifter and some Chanel No. 5. I’m staying up and watching the sunrise.

1 comment:

Marco said...

The sense of smell is beyond all our rational footings, tentative as they are.

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