Sunday, July 5, 2009

Annick Goutal - Un Matin d'Orage

Un Matin d'Orage is the latest creation by the perfumery house of Annick Goutal, it means 'Stormy Morning'. The perfume was created by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal to depict the scent of a Japanese Garden early in the morning, after an over night thunderstorm; the gardenia, magnolia, champac and jasmine flowers are gleaming with rain drops; the green leaves of shiso and ginger are still dripping with water; the soaked stone pathway and grounds are emitting the raw, sultry smell of nature under the morning light. I have to say, Un Matin d'Orage has painted the scenery pretty faithfully !

May be it is due to the signature perfume bottle, the image of Annick Goutal to me is the quintessential old fashion French perfume, very feminine, simple and lovely. However, those are usually not what I like in perfume, I prefer something edgier, greener, and dryer which gardenia is definitely not like that. So when the sales lady insists me to try this new gardenia perfume from Annick Goutal, I was quite sure I will not like it. After first sniff, I was very surprised that I like it right away! It is definitely gardenia, but not an innocent, quiet and sweet gardenia, but a complicated, agitated and sour gardenia. I think I even saw one review describes it as "angry gardenia". May be the thunderstorm has really upset the flowers !

I think the "unsettling" part of Un Matin d'Orage is greatly due to the greens of shiso. It is so dominantly in the background, although the sweet gardenia is in the center of the picture, one can not ignore the existence of shiso. Shiso is an edible herb used widely in Japanese cuisine. It emits very unique and pungent tangy scent when you crushing the leaves. Japanese people like to eat them with sushi, pickled with Japanese plum (ume), or used in tempura to increase the complexity of the flavor. The leaf itself dose not taste sour, however, the smell of tartness will make heavy dishes feel lighter. In the case of Un Matin d'Orage, Annick Goutal has created a perfect balance between the sweetness of gardenia, champac and jasmine with the sourness of shiso and lemon. I can't really say I smell ginger, although it is mentioned in the notes.

Every time I put on Annick Goutal Un Matin d'Orage, I feel like being transported to an exotic garden full of fragrant flowers and herbs; the image of a hot summer night, dinning alfresco style under the moon light, surrounding by the smell of the earth, the gardenia, the jasmine....! That's what I love about perfumes, always telling stories and inspiring imaginations !

To know more about perfumes from Annick Goutal, here is a good web site :
Photo credits by order: Little Caper,, kattebelletje, Don Nunn

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market Los Angeles

Why is a restaurant has anything to do in a perfume and garden blog ? I guess they all have one thing in common, the wonderful smell !
Yesterday, I went to this newly opened Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market in downtown Los Angeles, with a suspicious mind. I want to go there because, first, the interior of the restaurant looks awesome, second, they sell the famous colorful little French cookies called macarons, other than that I have no idea. I decided to persuade my husband to give it a try or at least figure out why a seemingly very European gourmet restaurant doing in downtown Los Angeles. Little do we know, we were both very surprised in a good way !

The restaurant is more than just beautiful ! It could easily pass as a trendy cafe in Paris or fashionable restaurant in Milan. The decor is pure white with tufted black leather seats, Carrera marbles everywhere, antique wood tables and shining brass hardware. The ceiling is about three-story high, with beautiful moldings and motifs. The windows are huge, all the way from floor to ceiling. They cast cheerful morning lights into the dinning hall, truly a wonderful place for Sunday Brunch ! Due to the sheer volume of the space, and the placement of the tables, we feel totally comfortable even when the whole restaurant is fully occupied. Therefore, our first impression is "Good", at least the place looks fantastic ! A masterpiece combined both classic and modern architectural design.

Of course, I can't wait to check out the bakery counter, admiring the colorful rolls of bite size macarons and all other goodies. I was satisfied with the findings and happily followed the waiter to our table. We ordered some classic Italian dishes of Penne Pomodoro ( $8 ), Caprese Salad ($12), Tomato Bruschetta side order ( $7 ) and the Semi Freddo for dessert ( $7 ). Simply say, we are very very satisfied with all dishes ! The Pasta and Brushetta are especially good. The salad has really good Mozzarella cheese, but instead of using sliced tomato, they skinned and halved a large tomato then put on top of each slice of Mozzarella cheese, which seems very odd to me. But the dessert, recommended by our waitress is a total surprise. She told us Semi Freddo is like Tiramisu, but in fact it tastes like ice cream or some kind of frozen dessert which I can not explain, and it is much better than Tiramisu ! My husband is always skeptical about any new restaurant, but this time he agrees the restaurant is worth revisiting, despite the unfavorable location. He is already planning to bring friends to our new found favorite ! The service is impeccable, very warm, friendly and efficient. The General Manager is a handsome young guy who looks like James Bond, who stopped by our table to check on how we are doing. We can honestly say, this is one of the best dining experience we ever had. And we thought the prices are very reasonable with the high quality of the food. They even provide complementary premium sparking water !

At the end, I did purchase a full box of macarons to take home. It is a disappointment ! The macarons are too dry and crispy not rich and chewy enough, not much flavor either except sugary. But, still, I love the colors, the pink box and the ribbons, what can I say, I am addicted to all things girly ! It is great that Los Angeles finally have something resemble to Fauchon in Paris. What a wonderful way to celebrate 4th of July ! Can't wait to go back soon !

Here is the link to Bottega Louie Restaurant,
For review and photos, check on this link :
Photo credits by order: gnawthepaw, Faust Haus, Allen C, Virginia D

Osmanthus by The Different Company

Osmanthus by TDC (The Different Company) holds a very special place in my heart. It is my first love in the modern perfume. Before finding Osmanthus TDC, I was only attached to the classic perfumes like Diorella and Diorissimo from Dior, or Cristalle and NO.19 from Chanel. Oftentimes I stop by the airport duty free shop trying to sniff the new comers, I was always disappointed; since they all smell the same to me, very sweet and sugary with no personality. I thought to myself, may be I am just attached to the memories of the past, perfumes worn by my mom during my childhood.

In the autumn of 2004, my husband and I had a wonderful trip to Europe. One of the places we visited is the town called Bellagio, Italy on Lake Como. Bellagio is a magical place ! The view of the lake is incredible, the winding small roads across the little town are charming, full of lovely stores and cafes. But most surprisingly, it has lots of beautiful gardens dotted through out the hillside town. I remember it was a cool October day, small drop of rain drizzling from the gray sky. We were taking a ferry from Como; when the boat arrived at the shore of Bellagio and we stepped onto the pier, instantly both me and my husband smelled the most incredible fragrance that can only be described divine ! The whole town were infused with this pungent sweet peachy fragrance that we recognized it right away. It was the familiar smell of osmanthus flower ! The flowers are very popular among Chinese, since many people grow this plant in their garden or on the patio and used it in making tea and cooking. My mom used to have several on our tiny balcony, every year during September and October, I anxiously waiting for the white dainty flowers to bloom, so I can carry some in my pockets to school, hoping I will smell just like that ! We were very surprised to find osmanthus bushes and trees in this Italy lakeside town. The damp cool air seems to intensified the fragrance. We inhaled luxuriously everywhere we went ! For me, the smell of osmanthus will forever link to Bellagio !

Three days later, we left Italy to Paris to enjoy the city of lights. We were wondering around the gift shop of Pompidou Museum, and saw this beautiful modern clean line heavy bottle by a strangly named perfume house, The Different Company. I sprayed the tester of Osmanthus, and the rest is history ! Even my husband ( who is always indifferent to perfume, his only comment is this is good, that is bad !) admitted Osmanthus TDC smells wonderfully, totally captures the essence of osmanthus flower in real life. Actually, in real life if you get too close to the flowers, and purposefully smell them, you will not be able to smell much ! To me it is the mystery of osmanthus, that the fragrance is only spread by winds or air and reaching you unconsciously. The feelings of "it is there and it is not there" strike me as both sweet and innocent, like children playing hide and seak. Needless to say, we carried the heavy bottle back to US with lot's of happy memories !

After this triumphant discovery, I am starting to feel interested in modern perfumes again. Later I found out that Osmanthus TDC was created by the famous perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena. And his modern approach to the creation of perfume is well documented in the book "The Perfect Scent" by Chandler Burr ( an interesting book ! ). Ellena prefer his perfumes to be genderless and simple. He believes "A good fragrance becomes part of the wearer", which melted into your skin and mixed with your bloodstream; instead of commenting "That's a wonderful perfume", people might said "you smell great" ( from The Perfect Scent, Chandler Burr). For me Osmanthus TDC gives me that feeling. It creates the illusion of osmanthus flower without over powering, which capture the flower's characteristics of "it is there and it is not there" perfectly. When I compare the classic perfumes with TDC, I gradually grasp the meaning of a perfume that is very closed to the skin. The more I think about it, the more I feel classic type of perfumes are like an opulent piece of jewelry or a red satin evening gown of Valentino, they are certainly pieces of fine art but probably will not look right on me. This new philosophy has broaden my views on how I perceive myself wearing perfume, and the effect on people surrounding me.

Classic perfumes are still part of me, the girl tore off photos of Chanel from Vogue magazine, and hoping one day she can look just like those models ! However, I have learned to appreciate the more approachable and casual modern perfumes, they may be more suitable for my everyday jeans and summer dresses. Sometimes, less is more !

If you like to know more about Jean-Claude Ellena, here is a great interview by Perfume Shrine.
Osmanthus TDC is available on-line at TDC has very innovative packaging !
I have bought a large Osmanthus TDC Estagnon Aluminum (250 ML) from for $150. What a luxurious feeling when you can spray abundantly ! Be sure to call them and verify if they have the item in stock before placing order.
Photo Credits by order: Bellagio by Martin Hapl, TDC Perfume bottle by anne makaske , Valentino red dress by Karen Lee

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Serge Lutens Bois de Violette

Today marks the first day of Un Jardin de Parfum Blog. As the name suggests, this is a blog dedicates to the love of perfumes, gardens and all things beautiful.
Recently I have ordered several perfume samples from Aedes De Venustas, including the much appraised and talked about Bois de Violette by the perfumers, Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens for PARFUMS SERGE LUTENS. The perfume is only available at Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris, and few on-line stores carry. The notes include white cedar, violet leaves with hints of freshly cut grass. Initially it is quite woody and heavy, like entering an old Japanese Kyoto incense store atmosphere, dark, quiet, complicated and mysterious. But unlike the continuing strong force of Japanese incense sometimes makes me headache; Bois de Violette on the other hand, fades into sheer dark purple veil. The sugariness of the violet begins to emerge, the air becomes lighter, still full of intriguing, comfortably and securely separates us from the rest of the world. The fragrance wraps around the body with good lasting power ( 4~5 hours). This is the first Serge Lutens perfume I have ever tried. The perfume is truly beautiful and mesmerizing. Although it may not be love in the first sight due to its heaviness in the beginning, it has gradually grown on me. I am fully comprehensive why Lucas Turin commented the perfume, "to keep it as dark and transparent as humanly possible". Parfums Serge Lutens proves to be an extraordinary perfume house. Bois de Violette will definitely on my shopping list when I revisits Paris one day ! ( hope it will be soon ! )