Liberté

Bitter

Tasting notes Bitter

Bitter

Tasting notes

Bitter

In the plant kingdom, bitterness often signals poison. It’s why babies will automatically spit out anything bitter – it’s a deep-rooted instinctive reaction. Yet many of us acquire quite a taste for bitter things: beer, coffee, citrus peel, and mildly bitter greens like rapini and endive. For centuries, bitter herbs have been infused in alcohol and taken as a restorative, or to improve digestion. These “bitters” are making a huge comeback on the craft cocktail scene, and bitter as a flavour is enjoying a moment in the spotlight – Canadian author Jennifer McLagan’s recent book Bitter is a fascinating and delicious read on the topic. She considers bitter to be ‘the most sophisticated flavour’.

Pungent

Tasting notes Pungent

Pungent

Tasting notes

Pungent

It’s the flavour that gets up into your nose and makes you want to sneeze. Raw garlic and onions, black pepper, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, ginger – they all have a uniquely sharp, piquant or pungent quality. What is it? It’s a hotness that’s different from the heat of chiles, yet from a chemical standpoint, it’s nearly identical. The heat of chiles is measured on the Scoville scale, while the heat of garlic and onions is measured on the pyruvate scale, which measures their concentration of pyruvic acid — one of their “pungent” flavour components. The pungency of onions, garlic and radishes can be toned down by salting them and then rinsing them after a few minutes. It can also be tempered by milk products like yogourt and sour cream. Gesundheit!

Preserved Lemon

Tasting notes Preserved Lemon

Preserved Lemon

Tasting notes

Preserved Lemon

If you know the comforting smell of lemon-scented wood soap or furniture polish, you’ll recognize the same fragrance in preserved lemon. It has all the sunny aroma of fresh lemon, but is somehow more deeply complex. Used frequently in South Asian and Indian cuisines, it’s little more than lemons, lemon juice and salt — sometimes with a few spices added to it — left to cure until the lemons have lost all of their bitterness and sourness. The pulpy rind is then used to add a touch of lemony gold to tagines, curries, and soups. Try it anywhere you’d use lemon zest to complement a savoury dish, and you’ll marvel at its flavour.

Earthy

Tasting notes Earthy

Earthy

Tasting notes

Earthy

Of course dirt is never wanted in food, but an earthy aroma or flavour is sometimes very welcome. The fragrance of wild mushrooms is reminiscent of the dark, mossy forest floor. Very dark-roasted coffee and cocoa beans reveal aromas and flavours that are familiar to anyone who’s spent time pulling weeds or re-potting houseplants. Red wines made from varietals like Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cabernet Franc can all display distinct aromas of mulch or black earth. Roasted nuts and even vegetables can smell and taste deliciously earthy as well —it’s a distinctly deep and elemental flavour that can’t be described in any other way.

<strong>Ras el hanout</strong>

Tasting notes Ras el Hanout

<strong>Ras el hanout</strong>

Tasting notes

Ras el hanout

Every respectable spice merchant in North Africa will create and then sell their own signature blend of top-quality spices called Ras el Hanout. It means “the top of the shop”, and is usually quite expensive compared to other spice blends, as it contains only the very best ingredients. There’s no fixed formula, but most will contain many familiar spices —cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, pepper — as well as several that are lesser known to North American palates including: grains of paradise, orris root, rosebud, and long peppers. It’s a kaleidoscope of fragrance and flavour that adds dazzling colour to Moroccan food. Also delicious as a rub for grilled lamb.

Nasturtiums

Tasting notes Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

Tasting notes

Nasturtiums

If you’ve ever planted Nasturtiums, you know they grow like weeds and produce an incredible abundance of flowers. But did you know they’re absolutely delicious to eat? They’ve got a surprising flavour that’s mildly mustardy or radishy, like watercress, making them a very beautiful and flavourful addition to green salads and cold summer soups. Nasturtiums are also wonderful in stir-fries and can be baked into fougasses and foccacias. Don’t forget to include them in your herb garden!

Yogourt & Heat

Tasting notes Yogourt & Heat

Yogourt & Heat

Tasting notes

Yogourt & Heat

You may have heard that milk is the best way to cool off your mouth after eating something spicy. Milk works well, but yogourt works wonders, and is a natural complement to the flavours of the spicy cuisines – Indian, Mexican, and North African. Yogourt is loaded with casein, a milk protein, that helps break the bonds between your taste buds and capsaicin, the molecule that make chiles taste “hot”. The thicker the yogourt, the more casein it contains – that’s why our plain Greek yogourts all do the trick perfectly.

<strong>Smoke</strong>

Tasting notes Smoke

<strong>Smoke</strong>

Tasting notes

Smoke

The flavour of wood smoke, like that of salt, appeals to something deep within our collective taste memory. Smoke means fire and at one time you needed a fire to cook. Today, not only can you cook without fire, you can easily conjure up the complex flavour of smoke with a pinch of smoked salt, or smoked paprika. You can perfume a dish with delicate smokiness by adding smoked chiles, cheese, or tea. You can order smoked beer at many microbreweries, and some mixologists will smoke a Bloody Caesar right before your eyes in a specialized smoking chamber. When fine-tuning flavours at home, or looking to add a final touch to your latest creation, don’t overlook this subtle yet powerful flavour.