23 Ways to Bring More Scent into Your Life

If you’re looking for a way to engage your sense of smell — and you should — here are 23 fun ways you can bring more scent into your life.

Nose

1. Use a candle to set the mood

Brooklyn Candle Co.

Brooklyn Candle Studio

Is lighting a candle a part of your life? It should be! Candle light is romantic, yes, and it certainly creates an atmosphere in the home. But the scent it releases in your space can help make your house feel like a place of respite and safety. How do you find the right one for you? If you know which essential oils you prefer, you should be able to choose a candle without smelling it, assuming that the candle maker uses quality oils. Otherwise, go shopping! If you’d like to meet some contemporary candle makers who are using natural scents in their tapers, vessels and votives, please read my blog post on the subject, 8 New Candle Makers Using Natural Scents. I’m particularly fond of Archipelago’s Driftwood, a combination of Water Hyacinth, Driftwood and Tonka Bean that burns a long 90 hours.

2. Buy an aromatherapy diffuser

Instanatural

If you have a stash of essential oils you adore, you can send them into the atmosphere with ease by using an aromatherapy diffuser. I am particularly partial to the Essential Oil Aromatherapy Diffuser by InstaNatural. Try altering your mood by your needs by choosing an essential oil known to enliven, relax or soothe, like Peppermint or Bergamot (uplifting), or lavender (relaxing). Most aromatherapy diffusers, fed with 4-5 drops of oil, will work for about five hours.

3. Wear a natural perfume

Caption Blankenship is one of my favorites.

Caption Blankenship is one of my favorites.

Wearing a perfume made by an artisan can bring happiness while making you smell like nothing else on earth. Natural perfumes, made using only natural ingredients such as essential oils, alcohol or base oils, harness the power of natural ingredients and are a luxury experience like none other. Don’t know which one to try? My favorite indie perfumers of late working with natural ingredients are Jessica Hannah, Mandy Aftel and Jana Blankenship.

4. Travel by nose

The Young Lycidas is the most fragrant rose at the Portland International Rose Test Gardens.

The Young Lycidas is the most fragrant rose at the Portland International Rose Test Gardens.

Have you ever noticed how you respond to a place based on its scent? How a spice market feels so different to you not just for what you’re seeing, but what you’re smelling? That a city has a smellscape all of its own, how a trip to the woods can restore you with every breath? Paying attention to what you are smelling is what I call traveling by nose. It simply requires you to be present and notice the differences between places based on what your olfaction is telling you. What are my favorite smelly places? Well, the Pacific Northwest, of course, home to lavender, ponderosa pine, hops, mint and many other aromatic plants. But every geography has its intrinsic scents. A walk around the neighborhood will reveal its own smellscapes.

5. Go “Forest Bathing”

Truffle hunting is a great way to travel by nose.

Truffle hunting is a great way to travel by nose.

The Japanese call working through the forest atmosphere Shinrin-yoku, which means “forest bathing, or taking in the whole environment of the forest. The next time you walk into the woods, pay attention to the scents coming off the coniferous and broad-leafed trees. Look for the smell of geosmin, which is the damp earth smell, peaty and decaying. Experience how the water makes your nose smell more powerfully after a light rain. Forest bathing reduces stress, blood glucose levels and can ease depression. Can’t make it to the forest? Well, drizzling some Oregon Truffle Oil on some pasta is a fine replacement.

  1. Create scented bath salt

Tub

Baths solve everything. Really. So next time, use a scented bath salt using your favorite essential oils. I mix a combination of 2 C. Epson salts with 2 teaspoons Jojoba oil, 5-10 drops of my favorite essential oils (I like lavender, cedar wood and clary sage for baths). Shake it up in a container of your choosing, a Ball Jar is fine.

7. Make a scent spray

I use Monster-Away Spray to help my toddler assuage his fear of monsters.

I use Monster-Away Spray to help my toddler assuage his fear of monsters.

If you need a mid-day pick-me up or are just in a foul mood, a scented spray can do wonders. Recipes abound on the web, but for a simple sleep spray, I like to use a spray bottle with about 2 C. of water. I like my spray heavier on the lavender side, so I do a mix of 8 drops lavender to 4 drops Roman chamomile for each cup of water. So if your spray bottle holds two C. distilled water like mine, use eight drops Roman chamomile oil and 16 drops lavender oil. Shake well before each use.

8. Get Cinematic

PerfumeStory

Olibere is a perfume company that creates short films to go along with its perfumes. Neat idea! But there are also full-length movies that harness the power of scent. How about Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, after the novel by Patrick Süskind? Now Smell This, one of my favorite scent blogs, has a wonderful post about perfume usage in the movies.

  1. Make a DIY seasonal potpourri

FactoryDirectCraft.com is a good source for potpourri if you don't have access to your own materials.

Each season demands its own scents, and fall (happening as I write this), has some of the best (decorative gourd season, anyone?). Take some whole cinnamon sticks, slightly crushed, use a teaspoon of vanilla essential oil or extract, a handful of anise seeds, a dash or two of allspice, a ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and ground or whole cloves (based on how much you like gloves). Set to simmer on your stovetop in some water et voilá! It’s autumn in your house.

10. Meditate with scent

Lavender is an excellent oil to use for meditation, as is sandalwood.

Lavender is an excellent oil to use for meditation, as is sandalwood.

Medtation has proven benefits for well-being. But did you know that focusing on the body’s breath can be made even more enjoyable and meaningful by adding scent? Millennia of prayer with incense cannot be wrong. You can even add scent to your yoga practice. Scent is rarely the focus of such activities; it is simply a way to enter the practice. Adding scent to your meditative practice can be as simple as burning a scented candle or scented incense or dabbing a few essential oils on your temples.

11. Pick some flowers

When possible, enlist help!

When possible, enlist help!

Bringing fresh flowers is said to energize the home (or office, or garden, whatever) with great energy. Scented flowers work even better since they infuse spaces with the aromas of the natural world. Want the smelliest flowers? You’ll do better to choose flowers that are local to your area, which aren’t bred to travel long distances. Don’t go too stinky, though. The smelliest flower in the world, the corpse flower, smells like rotting meat. Instead go for roses, lilies, peonies, cherry blossoms, daphne, hyacinth, honeysuckle or whatever is growing seasonally in your region.

12. Clean with essential oils

If you don't want to make your own, Meyer's Mrs. Clean Day is a good producer of scented cleaning materials.

If you don’t want to make your own, Meyer’s Mrs. Clean Day is a good producer of scented cleaning materials.

Don’t want to clean? Me, either. Unless I get to use a homemade cleaning product made with hand-picked essential oils. Williams-Sonoma, Aura Cacia, and a host of other companies are now making green cleaning products with essential oil bases if you don’t want to invest in your own oils. Some great oils you can add to water for simple dusting include peppermint, bergamot, eucalyptus, cedarwood, grapefruit, lavender, pine and geranium.

13. Make your own body oil/ Do Self-massage

Massage

Self-massage might be your answer to a good night’s sleep. It’s as simple as buying some carrier oil such as jojoba and adding essential oils in a combination that provides an uplifting or relaxing scent experience. One of my favorite oil blends is featured on my post 7 Benefits of Daily Self-Massage (and essential oil blend to do it). I also really like the Vata oil and other Ayurvedic products from Banyan Botanicals.

  1. Read some smelly literature

PaulaHawkinsSlider-1024x716

I can’t get enough scent cues in literature. If you pay attention to them, you’ll notice they reveal much about characters’ psychology. If you don’t, they just add to the story. I’ve been compiling my favorite scent writing in a project called “The Scent in Literature Project.” I’ve been adding new entries for about a year now, and the scope just gets richer. If you’re looking for books specifically about scent, Base Notes as a great conversation going about the subject.

15. Drink your flowers

The Meadow in N. Portland is one of my favorite places for exploring flower syrups.

The Meadow in N. Portland is one of my favorite places for exploring flower syrups.

One of my favorite kitchen items is our Sodastream, which allows us to make our own sodas. It’s an easy way to make a flavored fizzy drink without worry about all the additives and extra sugar that ends up in commercial sodas. You can drink your scents this way. My household loves Elderflower, Rose, Lavender and Violet! One of my favorite places to explore bitters and flowers you can drink is The Meadow in Portland.

16. Cook with essential oils

Aftelier makes an excellent line of essential oil sprays for cooking.

Aftelier makes an excellent line of essential oil sprays for cooking.

There was a time when many ketchup recipes used essential oils instead of the aromatic plants themselves. That time has come again! Using essential oils in recipes is often favored over using the plant matter since the oils harness the finest qualities of the herbs and spices without some of the drawbacks. Think: pepper oil instead of pepper (you lose the heat and retain the aroma/flavor). You can use any of the oils on the USDA Generally Regarded as Safe list. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of sourcing your own oils, you can try one of the great cooking sprays by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier.

  1. Journal while smelling something from your past

Kit

Scent is deeply connected to memory. So the next time you decide to do some journaling, get something smell-laden from your past. Breathe it in deeply, and write for 20 minutes on whatever comes to mind. Who knows, you might just have a text worthy of the Olfactory Memoir Project!

18. Explore the nearest scent shop

Credit: Josh Partee

Credit: Josh Partee

Do you have a perfume shop in your city? Do you have any boutiques that carry indie perfumers? Is the closest place to find perfume a department stores? Take it slow. If you’re new to perfume trying three perfumes in one day might be enough. As you start to understand how perfumes are composed, using top, middle and base notes, you will become more interested in types of perfumes, like Oriental, Fougere, Floral and Herbal. You’ll start being able to identify them, even seek them out. My new favorite place to explore scent is at Spruce Apothecary in Portland, which carries several lines of European fragrances not often found in the United States.

19. Feng shui an important room in your house

Some rooms need more than an essential oil spray :)

Some rooms need more than an essential oil spray 🙂

Okay, so feng shui isn’t actually a verb. But you could space-clear a room according to the principles of feng shui and then bring energy into it using an aromatherapy spray. I like this post on how to space clear using sage, but more often, I simply clear a room of clutter, wipe down the surfacing using one of my aromatherapy sprays. It freshens up the space in a way you can feel down to your bones.

20. Drink pinot noir

For great wine, a great vessel.

For great wine, a great vessel.

Do you love wine. Well, then I’ve got a wine varietal for you. Pinot noir is said to be the most fragrant of varietals. In Oregon, where I live, we even put our pinot in a glass that could ACTUALLY HOLD AN ENTIRE BOTTLE OF WINE. Don’t believe me? Try drinking pinot in an Oregon pinot noir glass. The glass maximizes the surface area of wine touching the air and funnels the aromas in a way that captures the scent of the varietal. I won’t drink pinot in anything else.

  1. Add essential oils to your tea

SmithTea

Ah, the tea habit. So civilized. But even if you just have some loose green tea leaves, you can make it more interesting by spraying some essential oils in there. Maybe some bergamot, or rose, or lavender. Florals are great here, as are citrus. If you want to make your own essential oil food and drink spray. You can mix a Cup of vodka with 4-5 drops of essential oil. Be careful, a spray or two is enough.

22. Find your signature scent

If you can't find your signature scent, make your own!

If you can’t find your signature scent, make your own!

Your signature scent will likely change over your lifetime as you age and your olfaction changes. That’s to be expected. What you love at 20 is not what you love at 80. So consider your journey towards finding your signature scent a lifetime one. Remember: Scent is a deeply personal experience. You don’t have to like what other people like. Some people change their signature scent seasonally. Others change it day by day! If you’re ready to begin that particular journey, I recommend this story by New York Magazine.

23. Replace all of your spices

Curio
If your cinnamon has been grandfathered into your cabinet, if your cloves smell kind of off, if even your basil smells stinky, you really need to just do a full sweep and gets some new spices. Your spice collection is not intended to last forever. They are organic products with real shelf lives. Indeed, investing in better spices will please your nose and palate and make cooking more fun. My favorite new spice company is the Curio Spice Co., launching this autumn by my friend Claire. In addition to having my favorite logo of all time (a bear! Supersniffer!), Claire blogs about spices (and why sourcing them matters) at her Aromatum blog.

What’s your favorite way to bring more scent into your life? Please share with me in the comments section. I read every one!

 

Lavender Week!: How to Cook with Lavender

Lavender is a versatile herb that can perfume many household staples; but use it in moderation.

Lavender is a versatile herb that can perfume many household staples; but use it in moderation.

perfume-1Lavender is one of the most versatile culinary herbs — used correctly, you can take many of the foods you use regularly anyway and perfume them lightly with the herby, floral, slightly astringent smell of one of the world’s most alluring scents.

But be careful. A little lavender goes a long way. Use it too much and it will completely overpower the other flavors in your dishes. The goal is to add subtle lavender fragrance, not a perfume bomb you can smell half a mile away.

If you are using the lavender from your own garden, here are some steps to preparing the flowers for use in cooking:

Dried lavender will retain its oils and freshness for several months if stored properly, in an airtight container.

Dried lavender will retain its oils and freshness for several months if stored properly, in an airtight container.

  • Harvest the lavender. The blossoms are ready when the brilliant purple flowers have emerged and have not yet begun to wilt. If you are cutting lavender yourself, cut the stalks a few inches above the plant’s woody growth and gather the lavender into a bunch. Tie it together.
  •  Dry the lavender. You can always use lavender fresh, or you can hang it up or lay it flat to dry it. Note: If you are cooking with fresh lavender, use three times the number of flowers as in a dried lavender recipe.
  •  De-stem the lavender. You can use the whole stalk in cooking, but many people prefer to remove the flowers from the stalk and store them separately.
  •  Store it well. Store lavender in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. A Mason jar is a good choice.

Buying Lavender

If you don’t know exactly what has been sprayed on your lavender or on the lavender in the field near you, it is a good idea to buy from a reputable lavender farm or from an online lavender dealer. Byrne and Perry’s Chef Products carries a great Culinary French Lavender, harvested in the Provence.

Grow your own lavender and you won't have to worry about what pesticides might be lurking on it.

Grow your own lavender and you won’t have to worry about what pesticides might be lurking on it.

Cooking with lavender

Here are some ideas for perfuming your food with lavender.

Lavender butter

Smeared on fresh baked goods, there is nothing that feels more special than a specialty butter like lavender butter. Take  (½ pound) of room-temperature butter and top it with a tablespoon of dried, ground (if desired) lavender. Mix the lavender and butter together in a mixing bowl. Chill it for two days to let the lavender flavor develop. Use it directly atop your favorite bread, scone or muffin.

Lavender sugar

Lavender sugar can be used in any recipe calling for cane sugar, so the opportunities are limitless! Use about 1 tablespoon dried lavender for every 2 cups of Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Fair Trade Cane Sugar. If you have an Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder with Stainless Steel Blades, or food processor, grind the lavender for about 15 seconds to develop the lavender flavor. Add a cup of granulated sugar to the process and blend well, about three or four quick presses on a Cuisinart. Store the lavender sugar in an airtight container such as a Ball Jar  and use it in all of your favorite sweet baking recipes that call for sugar.

Lavender vodka

Using a funnel, drop about a ¼ cup lavender flowers into a bottle of your favorite vodka. Take out the funnel and close the bottle. Shake, so the flowers mix throughout. Store in the freezer for three days. Strain the vodka into a separate container, using a fine-mesh sieve, a cheesecloth or a paper towel. Squeeze the bundle with the flowers in it to extract as much lavender flavor as possible. Pour the vodka back in the bottle and store in your freezer for use in a lavender vodka tonic with a splash of lime. If you’re inspired to try more botanicals in your cocktails, check out The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks.

Lavender balsamic vinaigrette

Lavender can add a quick, floral kick to any basic vinaigrette recipe. In vinaigrette recipes calling for a combination of balsamic vinegar, oil, honey and ground pepper, add 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender (or a third of that of dried) for every 1½ cups of vinaigrette.

Lavender-roasted chicken

Poultry invites new herb combinations, and lavender will be a real surprise to your guests. Create a rub for roasted chicken using about a tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1½ tablespoons dried lavender, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon honey.

Lavender and blueberry anything

Of all the fruits you can perfume with lavender, blueberry is my favorite. And lucky for us, they usually are in season at the same time. Try putting lavender sugar into your favorite blueberry cobbler at the height of the season, bake some lavender directly into blueberry lavender scones, or infuse some milk with lavender and pour it atop fresh blueberries. About half a teaspoon of lavender is usually a good fit with a pint of fruit.

Salmon and lavender

Create a rub of lime zest and lime juice from two limes, ½ teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon dried lavender, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub the seasoning mix on salmon fillets and bake as you would in your favorite salmon recipe.

How do you use lavender? If you are inspired to try more recipes with lavender, I highly recommend Sharon Shipley’s The Lavender Cookbook.

Truffle Week! 7 Days Experimenting with Oregon Truffles

Truffles1

A low-key tool: Carved-out milk jug.

GrapesTruffles are the olfactory powerhouses of the Oregon forest.  Their scent is full of contractions: intoxicating but subtle, deeply earthy yet ethereal and out-of-this-world.

If ever you needed proof of the connection between olfaction and taste, consider the truffle.

I’ve done a lot of truffle hunting since moving to Oregon six years ago, and I can’t get past how they turn me into Gargamel every time, unleashing in me an energy and a drive that can keep me digging in the woods for hours on end. Every meal seems a little more special, a little more hard-won when you cook with truffles. It’s not the market price — though Oregon truffles can fetch over $300 a lb. It’s the way they take the feeling that you get from walking through a cathedral of an Oregon forest and transport that feeling to whatever you are eating.

But the thing you are actual cooking with is not taste at all, but the truffle’s scent, a come-hither perfume that smells like sex and earth and rot and musk.

This was my motivation behind my 7 Days of Oregon Truffles. My goal? To experiment with various dishes to see what harnesses the magic of the Oregon truffle most completely. In short, to find a dish worthy of the truffle.

I started this little truffle experiment as a way to interpret an Oregon ingredient in my own household — a kind of meet-and-great of Oregon’s best kitchens with my own. I hope you enjoy these little stories about cooking with Oregon  truffles.

Tips: Cooking with Truffles

When you cook with truffles, your mind is challenged to artistry. Your jeans? Challenged to accommodate your zest for life. If you dare to eat truffles for a week,  you, too might find the truffle can take over. Your greatest fear becomes nothing from the world outside — news of torture and war and suffering and poverty. The greatest worry of all is that this truffle will go bad and you will have stolen a treasure and let it molder away right under your nose.

Truffles

A cross-section of Oregon black truffles.

Here’s a few generalities about cooking with truffles:

  • Keep it simple — too many flavors can overpower with the truffle.
  • Make it all about the truffle.
  • Use very fat-laden preparations like creams and cheeses.
  • Very often, truffle oil is a better alternative to using truffles directly.
  • Do not cook with truffles or truffle oil. They are a finishing product.
  • Use the truffle at the height of its aromatic powers, when it is ripe.

Day 1: Mushroom Risotto with Truffles

Risotto

The plates were on the table. The forks were in the hand. Truffles sliced on top.

This is the point when my dear neighbor arrived and got into a heated conversation with my husband about the scientific merits of the film What the Bleep Do We Know. That film is a major intellectual wormhole — pretty much the last thing you’d want to start talking about when you’re preparing to devote all of your attention to your tongue.

I was done with my risotto before my husband even touched his. It wasn’t long before I had drifted into a state of complete and utter bliss — until I got to thinking that maybe these truffles weren’t really truffles at all, but magic mushrooms. Within minutes, I had spaced out completely and was moved, as if ordered by remote control, to take more from the pot.

My husband had a similar, if muted, reaction. Sadly, he has a pretty bad sense of smell because of his allergies, which does affect his truffle experience.

Lesson: Truffles make everything taste better.

They are like little umami catalysts. They are little symphony conductors that force all of the Parmesan, arborio rice, white wine, garlic, onions and mushrooms to play exactly as loud as they should. They are music to my tongue.

Day 2: Asparagus with Truffles

TruffleAsparagus

Roasted asparagus, with just a little olive oil — and if you have some on hand, sliced truffles. I generally roast a pound of asparagus (and that’s for two people!), drizzled with a little olive oil, at 375 for about 18 minutes. Last night, I added the sliced truffles with about one minute to go.

They make the asparagus taste like it has just been pulled out of the earth and walked on a plate through the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles . Or, thinking about it another way, this is absolutely the most decadent and charming version of ants on a log that I’ve ever encountered.

Lesson: Not a first choice for truffle use, but if you happen to have too many truffles, go for it.

Day 3: Potato Leek Soup with Truffle Oil

Creamy-Potato-and-Leek-Soup
Soups are the great matchmakers of the world. Given time, and the right characteristic properties, they can take two otherwise curmudgeonly ingredients, introduce them, let them mingle, and within a day, they are married and living happily ever after.

For this Truffle Week challenge — a challenge that has been hampered these last few days by some unexpected interruptions — I set out to discover how Oregon Spring black truffles would affect the love-making properties of a French-style potato leek soup.

In a word: Felicity.

Potato leek soup is already a winner without the truffles. Its richness doesn’t overwhelm, but surprises, lingers, and then spreads to throughout the body into an overall sense of well-being.

Lesson: A wholly good use of truffles.

Day 4: Truffle Butter

butter1

By now, my jeans were fitting a little tighter, my lap feels a little smaller, and my arteries — if you can feel arteries –are packed. I wasn’t sure I could keep up this exercise. Even if I tempered my truffle-infused, cream-based dishes with a side salad, I’ve been leaving the table feeling like I never want to eat again.

And though I had given away five of the twelve truffles I pulled out of the Oregon forest floor, I was finding that these babies go very, very far and just keep changing with my whims. They are power-packed. They are long distance runners.

To be honest, they are starting to get a little annoying. Truffle Week should probably have been Truffle Night.

On Day 4, I pulled out my old Bayerisches Kochbuch and flipped to the pages for Kartoffelpuffer — potato pancakes, latkes, whatever you want to call them, whatever your culture, these are much-loved street food in Germany and are  often served with applesauce. I like mine with sour cream and chives. With a side of pork schnitzel. And a thin smear of truffle butter on top.

I used one of the remaining truffles to make a little canister of truffle butter. Not too difficult, just chopped really small and mixed in soft butter. I’ve been eyeing this French butter dish, or something similar to it, at the Portland Saturday Market. Seems like a better choice than a custard cup.

Lesson: Truffle butter goes great on, well, just about anything. 

I’m not sure that I’d try it on sweeter dishes, but I’m sure it can be spread across any manner of baked goods — brownies, savory muffins, whatever.

We should all be happy that no one has come up with truffle potato chips.

Whoops.  Too late.

Day 5: Truffle with Pizza

A word about truffle and pizza. If you sprinkle truffles on anything acidic, say, a red sauce on a pizza, you are wasting the truffle Just don’t do it. Epic fail.

Day 6: Spaghetti in a Mushroom Cream Sauce with Truffles

trufflespaghetti

All this sauce took was a little garlic, a lot of butter, a lot of cream, some less-than-worthy button mushrooms from Olympia, WA. The taste, when jazzed up with a tablespoon of Oregon black truffles, is just about enough to bowl me over. It is certainly enough to make me regret eating so much.

I added these truffle shavings at the last moment, after the sauce had boiled to a proper thickness and cooled a bit off the burner. Then I stirred in the truffles and gave them a minute or two to work their truffle magic — you know, the meet and greet I’ve talked about above, which allows the truffles to coax out the right flavors and scents in the other ingredients.

Lesson: This was by far my favorite use of the truffle in my household this week. It got me to shut up and eat.

Day 7: Black Truffle Ice Cream

Truffleicecream

Ice cream and mushrooms are two mutually exclusive tastes in my book. Luckily, truffles aren’t really mushrooms. They are tubers — but not in the sense of a potato. They are the fruiting body of a species of fungi that propagates itself much like  fungi do. Nor are they particularly closerly related to what we normally think of as fungi.

They are really in a class all of their own.

And while I am not one who believes that all strange tastes lend themselves to good ice creams, I can say that truffle ice cream, when made with Oregon spring black truffles, is delicate and interesting enough to be worth the expense of a single truffle.

The recipe I used is from the FOOD Network and calls for “honey cream.” If anyone knows what that is, please enlighten me. I had no idea, and couldn’t find it online, so I just added some honey to some cream.

Truffle ice cream hits the tongue cool and earthy, but then mellows out as the tongue picks up the cream, sugar and honey. The lingering flavor at the end is sweet truffle, which tastes something like mushroomy chocolate that’s been sifted through peat moss.

I must have underestimated myself, because the truffle ice cream grew on me. I ate two bowls. They were small.  Still, if given a choice, I’d take a baci gelato or a maracuya sorbet over truffle ice cream any day of the week.

Lesson: Try it, but don’t repeat.

If You Can’t Dig for Truffles: Oregon White Truffle Oil

JackAssuming you don’t live in Oregon — sorry! — and assuming you don’t live in one of the great truffle-producing regions of the world, you might consider finding other ways to harness the olfactory magic of the truffle.

My favorite is Oregon White Truffle Oil, an artisan product by my adoptive Oregon father Jack Czarnecki and he is the owner and former chef of the Joel Palmer House, the Dayton, Ore. restaurant that arguably uses more domestic truffles than any other in the United States.

Several years ago, Czarnecki passed his toque blanche at the Joel Palmer House to his son Chris, an Iraq War veteran who has been shaking things up and introducing some new dishes to the JPH menu. You can find a recipe of one of his new masterpieces, Angel Hair Pasta with Dungeness Crab, here.

Jack is crazy in the forest. He digs in the dirt with a zeal that can last for hours at a stretch. It is back-breaking labor that never gets old for him — not when he doesn’t find a truffle for two hours, not when the patch he is digging in doesn’t yield.  He’s exactly the kind of person I like to attach all of my Oregon dreaming to — a little nuts about what he does, very smart man doing very physical work, a visionary in overalls.

TruffleOilNow, not everyone can afford to buy truffles. I certainly can’t. But what Jack has actually done is create America’s first truffle oil.

Truffle oil?

You’ve probably had it on French fries or drizzled on risotto in upscale restaurants. But it wasn’t necessarily the real deal. There’s been a truffle oil backlash of late based on the revelation that most of the oils being used in America are synthetic.

In other words, most people are faking it.

And while I admit that it seems completely ridiculous to get caught up in most foodie rows over authenticity, truffle oil is something I am happy to get angry about.

Jack’s not a faker. He’s developed a system to capture the organic essence of the truffle in an oil in a safe way and is now selling bottles of it for $29.99 for Oregon White Truffles and $34.99 for Oregon Black Truffles from his website.

I hope you enjoyed my week of experimenting with Oregon Truffles. Have you tried them or seen them around? How do you like to use your oil?