Wouldn’t it be nice to be in Cesena, Italy on the 17th of November? Then you could go to the Scent Bar and have a true synesthetic experience all day, because Hilde Soliani is going to be there along with Massimo Bonini and his new caffeine based creations (he is the owner of Torrefazione Lady) and the culinary offerings of a rising chef Daniele Lunghi, and after dark music composed expressly for the Hilde Soliani brand by Valter Malosti and the sound designer Gup Alcaro, and basically I would so blow the state of New Jersey just for the evening. Not that I have anything against Jersey, mind you, just well, with all that on offer, and all the grief we’ve had here lately, yeah, basically I would blow the joint.*
The point about Hilde Soliani’s perfumes – in case you arrived late at that party – is that they are delicious. There’s none of the great divide between smellable and comestible, it just is an organic whole, and does not fight with your food. Of her perfumes so far, I have been a fan of Conaffetto, and Bel Antonio, and Il Tuo Tulipano, and Ciocco Spezissimo, and that is a very high ratio for a young perfume house.
If you were to ask me just what is engaging about these perfumes, I would say that they do the same thing that all great Italian cooking does with food: integrate the smell and taste of place into the dish. This sense of wholeness is what gets even such tough old cynic/hipsters as Anthony Bourdain practically in tears over their plates, the seamless integration of it all. It just doesn’t get any better than this folks-as he would say-it really doesn’t.
The second reason why Hilde Soliani’s perfumes are so memorable is that no one else is doing this. She describes herself as a “gourmand woman”, and it certainly shows in what she produces. Who else would create a perfume that smells of all the components of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before it becomes cheese? I mean all the green grass, wildflowers, and herbs that those privileged cows get to eat as fresh forage and hay, and which gives their milk and later the cheese that inimitable quality. The perfume by the way is Tutti Matti per Colorno.
If you were to identify a principle here, it is a very old one, terroir the French call it, and the Italians believe in it as well. They do not like food imported from elsewhere (and never did) precisely because this whole connection between what you see, and smell, and what grows, and what thrives locally, is broken by stale imported stuff. No Italian worth his salt sees the use of that.**
It is also worth pointing out that modernity of a 21st century sort is beginning to permeate the very old arts of cooking and perfumery. We know enough about aroma chemicals to be sure, both their up and their down sides, but they are the components of perfumery that parallel molecular gastronomy, and that is beginning to change the face of fine Italian dining. Have you seen the demonstrations of coffee foams, and coffee bubbles, new on the market these days? Lavazza is going to town on techniques created as far away as El Bulli.
Unfortunately, I can’t get to Cesena, but I hope they have a wonderful time, and for a party, I know, I can just go crack one of my Hilde Soliani samples. I’m convinced all of Parma is crammed into the bottles.
*Nope, in no way affiliated, and didn’t ever do more than buy samples at Luckyscent. Just like the stuff.
** The Commodore, who used to live in Genoa, insists that I have never tasted real pesto. Something about Ligurian basil leaves, he says.