I was delighted when Vera Wang brought out Truly Pink, surely made with me in mind, with its top note of pink rose. If I’m not sporting roses in my hair, or on a hat, I’m wearing them elsewhere. But my obsession with roses didn’t stop at fragrance; I discovered I also adore the taste of them too, which was a revelation when it happened. I had no idea there was anything rose flavored in the world!
The year was 1985. Some people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot – typically, I remember where I was when I first tasted roses. Roy and me were en route to Venice by car and had stopped for a few nights in Milan on the way down. We were recommended a restaurant, Gualtiero Marchesi, by a friend. The owner chef, then unknown to us, is considered to be the father of modern Italian cuisine and was the first Italian to receive a Michelin Star. The restaurant, his first solo venture, was nothing special particularly, quite plain and modern inside, but the food was incredible. As coffee was served after dinner, Signore Marchesi, who luckily had taken a bit of a shine to me, came to the table and presented me with a liqueur. In a tiny glass, and delicately pale pink, it prompted me to ask what it was. He explained it was called Rosolio and was a traditional, home made liqueur brewed in houses in Northern Italy. It tasted of alcoholic roses and was absolute paradise. I asked for more. Although on subsequent visits to Italy I always enquired after it, nobody ever seemed to have heard of it. I longed to have some again.
Cut to 1993, Los Angeles. I am in the cocktail bar of the Sunset Towers, my favorite Art Deco bar in the world. I can’t decide what to have and I scan the shelves for inspiration when suddenly I see a bottle marked Gualtiero Marchesi and forget to breathe. Could it be? The barman confirmed it was a rose liqueur and said he occasionally added a dash of it to liven up a glass of champagne. Sacrilege! The bottle was only half full. I told him I didn’t care what price he named, I had to leave with that bottle and whatever remained in it. He caved and I exited triumphantly with my prize, spending the next few months rationing it out in thimble sized shots to make it last.
My next obsession became Fortnum & Mason Rose and Violet Creams – dark chocolates with cream centers of either rose of violet flavor and topped with a fragment of crystallised petal. I’ve tried all kinds, but those who know me well understand that these particular ones are the utmost of quality and my personal crack. They don’t get offered around. Oh no. Nobody gets any but me, I bogart them like Gollum with a ring. I would trample old ladies and babies without the slightest qualm to get to a box. If I was pressed I’d have to admit that for me, it’s actually better than having sex.
Of course, in the Middle East, they have used it’s flavor for centuries. To my joy I discovered rose jam and rose soda when I lived there, and of course, the standard Turkish delight was plentiful. I even tried rose flavored Shisha (my spell check is alarmed at Shisha and bossily suggests correcting me to Hamish). For those of you that don’t know, Shisha is a form of tobacco that comes in a lump and is placed, burning like incense, atop an elaborate water pipe called a Hookah. Just like in Alice in Wonderland, bringing me neatly to remembering that when I lived off Wonderland Avenue in LA, Boy George’s nickname for me was Malice-on Wonderland. But I digress. Unfortunately, despite being quite the champion smoker, a Hookah was always too strong for me and I’d cough like an amateur at each toke. I tried valiantly though.
These days, if out walking and serendipitously passing a rose bush, that cliché never fails to run through my mind – stop and smell the roses – and literally, I do. To date my luck has held and I remain unarrested for suspiciously lurking in the gardens of strangers. Now back in the UK, I have to content myself with an annual pilgrimage to Fortnum & Mason’s hallowed food hall to treat myself to the legendary chocolate, jam and even rose and violet cookies, but the secret is out. I can be bribed laughably easily to do practically anything, if you know how, oops! Alison Louise Hay.
Jewels: NOW I know how to get you back to LA more often, madame! How about some Pink Grapefruit & Rose Scented Cupcakes? BTW, If you’re interested in my secrets and tools to turning your dinner impossible into Dinner Accomplished (and hundreds more of my easy but scrumptious, healthy recipes) please join here.
Pink Grapefruit & Rose Scented Cupcakes
High tea happens to be one of my favorite services that I offer my clients. It’s perfect for wedding and baby showers, and these light airy clouds of fragrant rose and pink grapefruit angel food cupcakes look so beautifully feminine on a platter with the colorful edible flowers on top.