In a new column, Bellamy: Bean There, Ate That, Restaurant Hospitality executive food editor Gail Bellamy shares a personal take on food and the restaurant industry.
Aromas of barbecue smoke, fresh-from-the-oven bread, movie theater popcorn and garlic-rich sauces have the power to whet our appetites. We’ve all heard the adage that customers eat first with their eyes. Now it seems restaurant-goers are also likely to lean over their plates for a big anticipatory sniff.
As a kid I was always getting reprimanded for smelling my food before I tasted it. For me, aromas remain an integral part of great food. That’s why I’m gratified to see more restaurant menu descriptions referring to scents. Examples include lemon and lavender scented pound cake on the dessert menu at Copley’s on Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, CA; cumin-scented potato chips that serve as an accompaniment for the ancho pulled pork at Olenjack’s Grille in Arlington, TX; and the scent-inspired Snake Oil Cocktails on the menu at newly opened Herringbone in La Jolla, CA. The cocktails are classified by fragrance categories (wood, floral, Oriental, oceanic and musk) and each is served with a perfumed paper strip to complement the drink.
An increasing number of the recipes I’ve been getting for Restaurant Hospitality’s Food & Drink section also have titles that refer to the scent of the food. It seems like such a natural connection to make. In her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman notes that we can detect 10,000 different odors, “…so many, in fact, that our memories would fail us if we tried to jot down everything they represent.” Ackerman also writes of aromatic royal architecture in the ancient world—cedarwood palaces, and mosques with rose water and musk mixed into mortar so the noonday sun could bring out perfumes with the heat. I’m imagining restaurants that smell like citrus, vanilla, cinnamon, coffee and chocolate.
When you’re putting together your next menu, you might want to consider the dollars-and-scents possibilities for cashing in on great aromas.
• Grilled Lime-Scented Shrimp with Chilean Kiwi and Prickly Pear Gastrique
• Quinault Tribe Steelhead Trout with Wild Mushrooms and Orange-Scented Beets
Gail Bellamy is the executive food & beverage editor of Restaurant Hospitality. She is the author of five books and is an accomplished poet who often writes about her love of food.