Pomegranate? Passé. Lavender? So last year. What is 2008’s hottest flavour? Rose.
It’s true. A rose by any other name would be delicious. Rose essence and rosewater, both distillates of rose petals, are turning up in swishy cocktails at your favourite watering holes and in desserts at upscale restaurants.
Middle Eastern sweets like Turkish delight (also known as lokum, and dating back to the Ottoman Empire) are popular again, as foodie crowds are discovering the powdered, sugar-dusted, rosewater-kissed chewy candy for the first time. Marzipan, a paste of ground almonds flavoured with rosewater, has made a comeback too, although the Germans and the Persians are still debating who thought of it first.
“Rose has been a key element in Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian cuisines for centuries, and has become increasingly popular recently thanks to its versatile application, wonderful fragrance and subtle sweet flavour,” says Kristine Ford, marketing director for Stirrings, a brand of bottled cocktail mixes for those who insist on natural ingredients playing nice with their premium vodka, thank you very much. Stirrings’ 60 Petals Rose Martini Essence creates a lovely, pale-pink-hued cocktail that is surprisingly neither sickly sweet nor strongly scented. Ladies love it.
Speaking of ladies who love rose, iconic New York fashion designer Norma Kamali has launched her own brand of foods, teas and olive oils, called Norma Kamali Wellness. She’s a big fan of all things rose-flavoured, evidenced by products like Lovely Bubbly, an all-natural soft drink, and tidy bags of candied rose petals, as well as her beautifully bottled rose syrup, bonbons and tea bags. Talk about everything coming up roses: the stuff is flying off the shelves.
France’s finest purveyor of tea, Mariage Frères, offers a heavenly cuppa called Darjeeling Rose Camélia, in which rose petals roll in your teapot upon adding fresh boiling water, releasing their heady scent while steeping. Lingering over the pot during the wait is essential, especially during a stressful afternoon, as the scent of rose is naturally calming. Add even more rose to your cheeks—and to your tea-time experience—by nibbling on a couple of France’s famous shell-shaped cookies, known as madeleines, also traditionally made with rosewater.
Just a girl thing? Not necessarily. At a recent dinner party, I plied both my male and female guests with the aforementioned rosewater-infused goodies, and all enjoyed them tremendously. Only one gentleman suggested that the pink and crunchy candied rose petals tasted “like eating perfume”.
The secret to using rosewater or rose essence as a food flavouring at home is to cook and create with a light touch, using just a few drops of the sweet nectar in any recipe; otherwise, you may well think you’re tasting Grandma’s soap dish. In this case, less is more—way more. But when you have the balance just right, you’ll fall in love with this floral flavour.