My Sensory Journey To Baltimore, MD

Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)
Welcome to Baltimore (photo by Jimmy Emerson)

When I was planning my family weekend trip to Baltimore from New York City to attend the Digital Family Summit (an interactive conference for young digital media creators and their parents) in early October, I was asked if I’d like to test drive a Chevrolet Equinox.  I’m a big fan of experiences and trying something new.  I would not describe myself as a car person, but thought, sure why not?

My business’ tagline is “Inspiration For Creation” and the core values are to capture inspiration from unexpected places and enjoy the creative process.  To facilitate creativity, I often tell my clients that you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. My most acute sense is smell, which is fueled by my work in the fragrance and flavor industry for the last 20 years. Fragrance is such an integral part of my daily experiences, but I think for many its overlooked or an afterthought.  Everything I do is a sensory journey, whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or weekend getaway.  I approached my Baltimore visit as a fragrant sensory experience, while I assume many of techies and professional bloggers who attended the conference had an analytical and logical perspective.

I was excited and curious to explore the Chevrolet Equinox car that was dropped off on Friday morning before we headed to Baltimore.  The first thing I did was open the car door and was delighted to get a whiff of the “new car” smell, which had a masculine, leather like scent. I expected it and would have been disappointed had the smell not been there.  For those marketers and brands out there, don’t underestimate the power of scent. After I futzed with the navigation system and pressed some buttons, I was done exploring. The car would meet my immediate needs for the weekend.

Sporty Equinox Car
Sporty Equinox Car

In our typical fashion we hit the road an hour and a half later than planned and spent five hours in traffic driving to Baltimore.  The weather was chilly, foggy, humid and misty that evening – it rained on and off.  While driving with the windows rolled down after it had rained, the air smelled a bit dirty, it was wet with damp, earthy nuances.  My daughter liked the scent and thought it was reminiscent of East Hampton after it rains, where we spend our summers.

Being a native New Yorker, without fail whenever I drive on the New Jersey turnpike by exit 13, this industrial, putrid metallic smell of factory waste permeates the car.  Visually the landscape of the factories spewing dark clouds of waste looks like a page right out of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax book best described by my late father as “robot vomit.”  The rest of the ride was scentless except for a quick stop for gas (I happen to like the smell of gasoline).

We finally arrived at the Hilton Baltimore at 10:30pm.  My kids were particularly fascinated with the large and wide revolving door, which they circled multiple times.  Besides, observing a few guests clumsily bump into the glass revolving door because it was awkwardly designed and not intuitive, I was intrigued by the scent of the lobby.  At first, it smelled citrusy and reminded me of bug spray, which lead me to think it was a hotel guest wearing Jessica McClintock perfume.  However, it was an ambient scent that lingered.  There’s a trend for public spaces such as hotels, casinos and retailers to scent the air to create positive experiences for their guests.  In hindsight, I realized that the Hilton is known for its “olfactive branding” program and I’m guessing the fragrance I smelled, which was fresh, citrus and green tea-like was the “Eau de Hilton.”

Knowing we had a busy day ahead we went to bed.  Although exhausted on Saturday morning, I felt compelled to wake up motivated by the loud and cheerful applause I heard outside.  Blurry eyed and a bit confused, I looked down from 16 floors.  To my delight I saw a sea of brightly colored fluorescent shirts, which belonged to the marathon runners gearing up for the Baltimore marathon. Go runners!  I wondered if the air smelled like sweat yet and giggled to myself remembering the scene in The Lonely Guy movie when Steve Martin jogs into a dinner party wearing fake spray-on sweat to pretend he had just worked out.

Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13
Baltimore Marathon 10-12-13

Slowly making my way to the bathroom, my senses were enlivened by the diffusive scent of Peter Thomas Roth’s Mega-Rich Shampoo (exclusive to Hilton Hotels) that my daughter was lathering in her hair.  The aroma was also fresh, citrusy and green.  Keeping up with the citrus theme, I showered and then spritzed myself with my new favorite fragrance Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, which is a bright and juicy scent. It smells just like a fresh-squeezed orange – pithy and rindy.

We made our way to the 2nd floor to attend the Digital Family Summit.  I joined my eight year old daughter for a Food Blogging, Styling & Photography workshop with Laura (Lolli) Franklin of Better in Bulk and Robin Zachary of Prop Closet.  This class was as aesthetically appealing as it was sensorially stimulating.

Fresh-baked unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were the foundation for our hands-on session. I expected the room to smell like the cupcakes had just come out of the oven, like the vanilla-like baking scent that is pumped into NYC’s Crumbs bakeries, but because we were in a hotel conference room and not a kitchen, they had been prepared earlier and the room was missing the aroma.  However, the brown and yellow cupcakes were neatly placed on a tray in rows by flavor waiting to be iced, decorated, photographed and eaten. Single colored sprinkles of red, pink, orange, green, blue, yellow and white were individually cupped and lined up monochromatically next to the unfrosted cupcakes. After a brief lesson about the do’s and don’ts of food blogging, styling and photography we broke up into small groups.  Using a simple recipe, each group got to craft their own colored frosting using food dye.  My daughter’s group created a muted lavender colored icing while other groups created slate blue, Kelly green, turquoise and hot pink colors.  The smell of the freshly whipped icing was palpable. It tasted even sweeter than it smelled – sugary sweet, cavity inducing sweet. The kids unleashed their inner designers and decorated their cupcakes with sprinkles, flags, confetti, and polka dotted candles.  Using props such as solid-colored napkins, cupcake stands, baking utensils and backdrops cleverly made of patterned wrapping paper glued to foam core boards, they styled their cupcake creations for a fabulous, fashionable and flavorful photo shoot.  Practically salivating, the kids could finally reap the rewards of their hard work and taste the long anticipated, tantalizing and tempting results of their masterpieces.  Proud, ecstatic and sugar-buzzed, the creative kids and parents left the session on a super, satisfying sugar high.

Masterpiece from my daughter's group
Masterpiece from my daughter’s group

On Sunday we had a little downtime and opted for a little R&R by visiting the hotel pool. The minute I stepped off of the elevator my nostrils tingled from the pool smell.  As I approached the entrance to the pool area, the smell intensified and my nose was assaulted by the overpowering Chlorine odor.  I wonder if a fragrance house can create an odor neutralizer to combat Chlorine or fragrance it to create a better scent. My acute reaction to the scent didn’t stop me or my family from enjoying splashing and playing in the pool.

I typically like to visit off the beaten path restaurants and sites when traveling in another city. But when attending a conference, it doesn’t matter where you visit; you rarely get to experience anything but the inside of the hotel.  I knew that my family would spend most of our time at the Hilton Baltimore.  However, before we left I wanted at least one meal that was representative of Baltimore.  Baltimore is known for crabs, which I enjoy eating, but rarely order because they require too much work and the payoff isn’t worth it. Mo’s Crab & Pasta Factory in Little Italy was close by and recommended. As a grand finale to our trip ten of us went there for dinner.  We feasted on Crab Cakes, Crab Imperial and Crab Dip in addition to other local dishes.  The two things that struck me when we entered the restaurant were the old fashioned cigarette machine with the pull handles and the alluring and distinct aroma of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning.  Since savory scents are kitsch and on trend such as Pizza Hut’s “Eau de Pizza,” White Castle’s Original Slider scented candle and most recently Yankee Candle’s Turkey and Stuffing candle, Old Bay Seasoning should consider creating a signature scent.

We had a great, educational and interactive experience in Baltimore during the Digital Family Summit.  Luckily our drive home was smooth and only took three hours with no rain and no traffic.  Our visit to Baltimore was brief, but intense.  I definitely would like to go back to explore the local flavor and discover unique restaurants and shops adding new scented, colorful and flavorful memories to my sensory journey.

What We’ll Be Eating in 2014…

(photo by Dinner Series)
A place setting (photo by Dinner Series)

Thanksgiving is around the corner with Christmas on its heels and soon it will be a new year.  Here is a list I compiled of some interesting predictions for what food & beverages we’ll be eating in 2014…

Innova reports Top food and beverage trends of 2014

The Flavor of ’14 from the Sterling-Rice Group (SRG)

Technomic’s Take: 10 Trends for 2014

Andrew Freeman & Co. predicts Hot restaurant menu trends for 2014

Top 12 hottest food and beverage trends for 2014 from Baum & Whiteman

London Bar + Drink Trends 2014 from Lost in Catering London

Chefs Convene to Discuss Food Trends from FSR magazine

DNA Response, Inc. Released The Top 8 Food Trends for 2014 From Celebrity Chef and eatcleaner.com Founder, Mareya Ibrahim, “The Fit Foodie” from PRWEB

Jim Meehan: five leading trends driving the New York bar scene from www.diffordsguide.com

Just What The Herbalist Ordered

Herbs growing in pots

Doctor-driven products have been driving skincare launches for the last few years. Now, herbalists are becoming the new formulators and launching natural skincare lines. Christian Toscano of Roots Rose Radish offers a range of 100% natural skincare products originally crafted from plants grown in her garden. Earth Tu Face was launched by Sarah Buscho and Marina Storm, two herbalists in San Francisco. The line is also 100% natural and purely plant-based. Brooklyn Herborium was founded by two Moms who wanted their children to live “chemical-free” lives. Emma Graves an herbalist and Molly Watman a graphic designer, created the The Clean & Green Collection for babies, kids, new and expecting moms. Dr. Fedorenko is a clinical herbalist, naturopath and dermatologist M.D. who recently introduced Dr. Fedorenko True Organic Tick & Mosquito Repellent, which is DEET and alcohol-free, organic certified and formulated with essential oils.

Expect to see more herbalists join the trend and craft natural beauty products to meet consumers’ growing demand for natural products.

Eau De Trendincite – A Scent of My Own

Eau De TrendIncite
Eau De Trendincite

I was so inspired by our last hands-on TrendIncite Xchange meeting that I decided to continue the “creativity and inspirational me” theme and reached out to Sue Phillips of Scenterprises. Sue lead our group on a creative fragrance journey, where each of us created our own custom scent. I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for 20 years and until now I’ve never created my own signature scent.

Eight of us gathered at Sue’s apartment where she explained the seven major olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Fruity, Oriental, Chypre, Woody and Fougere. Sue compared fragrances to food and music and explained that each had a beginning, a middle and an end.  In fragrance terms that translates to top notes, middle notes and base notes. We were then given a lifestyle questionnaire with 11 questions about our preferences that ranged from fabrics to seasons to vacation spots to film icons.  We individually tallied our responses, which corresponded to four olfactive categories – Citrus, Floral, Oriental and Woody. Then Sue shared 14 fragrance accords with us such as Balsamic, Citrus, Green, Mossy, Ozonic, and Rose Floral.  After evaluating the accords on blotters we were encouraged to choose up to four of our favorite fragrance directions, which would be used to create our custom, signature scents. I choose the Citrus, Gentle Floral, Balsamic and Woody accords and voilà Eau de Trendincite was born.  It is rather sweet and smells differently than I expected. It does have a sweet figgy and plum accord, which I like. The verdict is not out yet as I’m still getting accustomed to the fragrance and evaluating it. However, my mother and daughter love it!

Working for three leading fragrance houses, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Fragrance is a very personal experience and much more complex than one may think. I thought I would be formulating my own scent with my favorite accords – Bergamot, Orange flower and Vetiver with a hint of Musk and Vanilla. This was not the case. Sue uses a predetermined set of finished accords.  I enjoyed my experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to create my own scent. Sue’s fragrance exercise is perfect for fragrance novices who are looking to creatively express themselves with a custom signature scent.

 

Creative Me Time

When’s the last time you did something creative for yourself? It’s been so long, I can’t remember.

During a random conversation with an industry friend and colleague, we discussed a creative vision board workshop, which she recently attended and found both inspirational and enjoyable. I’m always looking for inspiration in my work and personal life. Naturally this piqued my interest. While lying in bed, wide awake with my mind racing, a usual occurrence, I experienced a eureka…”what a great subject matter for my next TrendIncite Xchange meeting.”

My sister, a member of my TrendIncite Xchange group, graciously agreed to host a creative vision board workshop with an intimate group of 10 members at her NYC apartment. Boards, magazines, scissors and glue sticks in hand, Michele Curico lead our workshop.

Based on the Bagua map, Michele briefly explained the Feng Shui concept and how it applied to our exercise. Our blank, white 16″ x 16″ boards had nine quadrants, each representing a personal aspect of our lives. Top left to right: Wealth, Fame (how we want to be perceived), Partnership (relationship focused), Family, Health, Children, Education, Career, and Helpful People.

Bagua Map
Bagua Map

We were instructed to select words and images from magazines that represented our creative vision for what we wanted to accomplish and focus our energy on for each quadrant for 2013.

Feeling like a kid again in elementary school, I leisurely and giddily flipped through magazines, tearing and cutting words and images that inspired me or caught my attention. It was so hands on, so tactile and so rudimentary. But wow, what a cathartic exercise!

For me the challenge was to sort and artistically apply this visual content to each quadrant. After I laid out the information, I hesitantly glued it to the board. I felt like I was making a commitment. At first, I thought this feeling stemmed from wanting to make the board look artistic. However, I realized it wasn’t about the aesthetics of the board. It was about being focused and clear on what my vision was and making the commitment to achieve these goals or at least try to.

Two hours flew by and all 10 of us were thoroughly engaged and immersed in the exercise. It was this creative and inspirational “me” time, which made each of us reflectively focus on ourselves. We so often forget or don’t make the time to do this. At the close of the workshop, Michele led us in a focused meditation to channel our energy and help us visualize the boards to achieve our goals. Let’s see what happens in 2013!

Here is my 2013 vision board

Amy Marks-McGee
Amy Marks-McGee 2013 Vision Board

Gabrielle Marks’ 2013 vision board

"The create your own vision boards presented by Michele Curcio was very succesful. I was very inspired and enjoyed myself."
“Michele Curcio’s presentation was succesful. I was very inspired and enjoyed myself.”

Missy Mazelon’s 2013 vision board

Missy Mazelon VB
“It was fun clipping random words and pictures with no set direction as to where they would be placed exactly on my board. Then I found it very inspiring that all of the words and pictures found their way into the designated categories so easily..and then some, as I ran out of room!”

Karen Dubin’s 2013 vision board

Karen Dubin VB
“This was a very enlightening evening! I found that the search for words and images that reflected my life goals presented the opportunity for me to do a much-needed assessment of where I am now both personally and professionally. And this is something that people rarely take the time to do. I love that when I look at my board it is full of color, and is a virtual mini-capsule of me. I had a blast doing the vision board!”

Janice Hart’s 2013 vision board

"The time spent creating my board gave me a vision of a very balanced self for my future goals. The trend exchange group and the atmosphere was very inspiring!"
“The time spent creating my board gave me a vision of a very balanced self for my future goals. The TrendIncite Xchange group and the atmosphere was very inspiring!”

A few quotes from other TrendIncite Xchange members…

“So far the purple (abundance) is working, new projects are coming in! Still waiting for the age appropriate fella to show up!” – Judy Galloway

“The vision board session allowed me to take time out my hectic schedule to focus on what I want to focus on for 2013. I am excited to see evidence of some of my wishes coming to fruition already.” – Helen Kim

“The create your own vision boards presented by Michele Curcio was a great event with lots of positive energy flowing throughout the evening. My goals have already started to unfold.” –  Danielle Milata

Technology Cleanse

Two weeks ago my Blackberry Bold 9930 was in my back pocket and to my surprise when I went to the bathroom, I noticed it had fallen into the toilet. I had heard that if this happens, (a far too common occurrence), you should submerge the phone in a bag of rice. Hoping any electrical parts would dry up and my phone would work again, I did so. Unfortunately, 24 hours later I checked and my phone did not work. Luckily it was the weekend and I had no appointments. I really did not need my phone. However, I felt disconnected.

Debating if I should give in and purchase a touch-screen smart phone like the IPhone or Samsung Galaxy SIII (which I wrote about in my 1st post), I decided to use my insurance and just replace it with the same Blackberry.  As mentioned in earlier posts, I don’t like change for the sake of change. An aside, I am slowly moving into the 21st century and switched from my trendincite@aol.com e-mail to amy@trendincite.com e-mail.

Anyhow, I was without a smart phone for four days.  At first I was a bit disoriented and felt a little lost considering I’ve had a cell phone for 13 years.  It’s quite sad how we have become so dependent on technology. There was something nice about not being connected. I wasn’t constantly checking my e-mails, texting or calling. I was in the present, spending quality time with my family.

We expect everything so fast. We are reachable and “on” 24/7. Technology provides us with instant gratification. However, I think at times this hinders us. We need down time and I think technology cuts into this time. Of course this only occurred to me because of the toilet incident. But now that I’m aware, I intend to make more time to be disconnected.

Playtime or Naptime @ Yogibo

Yogibo, The Westchester

I needed to pick up a kid’s birthday gift this weekend, so we took a quick family visit to the Westchester Mall in White Plains. As you may know, I am not fond of shopping and unless I need something, I don’t spend a lot of time browsing or window shopping.  However, we went to the food court for lunch and stumbled upon Yogibo. I was not familiar with the brand or the store.

For starters, it is a wide open, inviting space with bright, cheerful colored bean bag furniture.  Adults and teens are lounging on these bean bag like chairs while kids are running, jumping and playing throughout the store.  A friendly employee encouraged us to come in and try the products.

As I entered, I felt like a cross between a kid in a candy shop and something from Woody Allen’s Sleeper movie.  This oblong chartreuse Yogi Maxbean bag chair was upright and as my daughter describes it “you karate chop it” where you would like to sit or lay.  Then one proceeds to place their body in the newly created crease.  I was a bit hesitant, but to my surprise it was very comfortable and held its position. The company’s tagline “The only furniture that loves you back!” suits the products.

My husband, who was comfortably lounging across the store, looked like he was on the verge of a nap. The kids on the other hand, had no hesitation and literally karate chopped each and every Yogibo on display. At times they would lay back, almost fall into the oversized bean bag pillows and make them a lounger, bed like creation.  You know I’m getting old when I tried to get up and was not only off balance, but couldn’t figure out how to gracefully maneuver my body or the chair.

These products reminded me of Mogu, a Japanese design brand that made similar bean bag like chairs, pillows and dolls.  Nine years ago they opened a store in Nolita, but closed in 2006. I even still have a Mogu Joy doll that was the big fad in 2004.

My daughter wanted to purchase a small pillow as a token of her visit.  Although tempting, we walked away empty handed. However, my husband and kids are ready for a house, which I will never be ready for, but we agreed that if one had a finished basement or a den, these would make great furniture.  I have a feeling, that if this store is still in business by the time we purchase a house, we will be owners of Yogibo furniture.

Kneading A Massage

I recently had my year-end, long overdue massage at East Side Massage. I know some individuals who don’t like massages because they feel uncomfortable and don’t like to be touched. However, for me, if done right they are fabulous.

When trying to relax with my eyes closed, I find my mind racing with random thoughts. One reoccurring thought I have each time I get a massage is “Do massage therapists make good bakers?” I feel like a piece of dough being kneaded and think if they can knead my skin that well, then they surely can knead dough.

When the tension releases from my neck, shoulders and upper back and the knots pop, I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. It’s as if a ghost of tension is rising out of my body like smoke rising into the air. My back muscles are so tense, they are like a taut guitar string being plucked by the massage therapist’s strong hands.  I am surprised how precise she is and how deep she can get into my muscles essentially bypassing everything in between. My mind visualizes the musculoskeletal system model from science class. Breathing through the pain, I unwind and ease into relaxation.

In almost a twilight like state I feel relaxed and then I find myself trying to identify which body part the massage therapist is using. Is it her elbow or her arm between her wrist and her elbow that is rolling down my back like a rolling pin?  I briefly giggle to myself remembering the Friends episode where Ross gives Phoebe’s client, an older man, a massage using wooden spoons and Tonka trucks. It really doesn’t matter what body part is being used because my stress is successfully being released.

By the end of the massage I’m so relaxed that my mind has stopped racing. My body feels like a mound of jello and I ask the massage therapist if I can stay there all day.  Politely, she thanks me and lets me know the hour is up. As I leave the massage table disoriented and sleepy with hair that my husband refers to as Nick Nolte like, I am in a zen like state and wonder how long the feeling will last. I’m not sure going to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained movie right after is the best choice. I look forward to my next massage, which I hope will be sooner then December.

Who Dat? New Orleans Style

I was invited to a high school friend’s wedding in the French Quarter, New Orleans last weekend.  When my husband agreed to watch the kids for the weekend I booked my ticket before he could change his mind. Who can pass on a girls weekend away in an eating capitol?

I often tell my clients to find inspiration and to facilitate creativity you need to be in tune with your senses at all times. When traveling, one must absorb the culture, observe the different behaviors and taste the local ingredients.  Well I proudly followed my own advice and ate, drank and danced my way through New Orleans.

I love oysters – raw, cooked, fried, you name it. My trip began with a visit to Drago’s known for their Charbroiled Oysters.  Like no other oyster I’ve had, these were succulent, salty, buttery, garlicky, cheesy, and delicious.  It was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. As if that wasn’t enough, we ordered a dozen raw oysters to follow and they were fresh, cold, crisp, and briny.

After dinner, the festivities began and we met the bride and groom to be and our high school friends by the Riverwalk and Spanish Plaza. We worked our way to The French Quarter and had cocktails at French 75 Bar (attached to Arnaud’s). It had an old school atmosphere with the bartenders in tuxedos, funky monkey lights with crystal tassels and a variety of specialty drinks.  I settled on the Caibiscus crafted with Cachaca, Falernum, Hibiscus tea, Grenadine and Lime Juice.  Our evening continued with a few cheesy bar stops along Bourbon Street – I had to pass on dancing at The Beach and drinking Tropical Isle’s Hand Grenade cocktail.  However, a visit to Bourbon street wouldn’t be complete without a final stop at Pat O’Brien’s. I don’t particularly like the Hurricane cocktail, but the saying goes “when in Rome do as the Roman’s do,” so I tasted it. I was craving dessert and ordered a White Russian or two instead.

French 75
French 75

Another must do, was Cafe Du Monde, which was our final destination at 1:00 am.  The beignets were fabulous…not too hot, not too cold, not to fluffy and not too dense, all just right, drowning in confectioners sugar. I’m still raving about them to the point where my second grade daughter told me “Mom, why don’t you just write a small moment about them.”  There is a reason Cafe Du Monde is an institution and open 24/7.  Even though they sell their signature beignet mix, I’m convinced you can’t recreate the same experience at home. Whenever you try something for the first time and really enjoy your experience, the next time you try it you’re chasing the high. There’s got to be a science to it…the difference in water, frying oil (assume it’s been used multiple times), the actual shape & size and the heavy handed use of powdered sugar. That’s just the physical aspect of the beignets, but the waiters and waitresses with their white paper soda jerk hats and black bow ties hustling about, all create a memorable experience. I have the same theory for NY bagels and Philly pretzels.  BTW – my black dress didn’t stand a chance, I was covered in powdered sugar, but it was worth it!

Cafe Du Monde Beignets
Cafe Du Monde Beignets

Saturday morning began with a quick jaunt to the the Audubon Aquarium. Had time permitted, I would have liked to visit the Insectarium – oh well next time.  Eating was essential and we had to grab a quick bite before the wedding so we met our friends at Killer Poboys in the back of the Erin Rose bar.  They only offer a selection of five poboys that are all “internationally inspired and chef crafted.”  Although I’m not a big fan of cilantro or coriander, the Coriander Lime Gulf Shrimp (with marinated Daikon and carrot, cucumbers, herbs and the house special aioli) piqued my interest.  It was delicious!  The coriander was perfectly balanced and not overpowering, the shrimp were plump and fresh and I loved the doughiness of the bread with a hint of crisp, flakiness.

Clownfish & coral
Clownfish & Coral

Our adventure continued as we headed to the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, which on their website states “Please do not come more than 15 minutes before scheduled wedding time it could cost the couple.”  Keeping this in mind, it was no surprise that when we arrived I felt like I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie…dollar bills hanging from the chapel ceiling, Tiffany lamps haphazardly arranged, an old boom box, a few pews, a couch, four living room chairs, folding chairs and wedding knick-knacks randomly placed. Elvis’ appearance was an added touch, but I had a hunch he’d be there. When I first received the wedding e-vite to attend a “chapel” wedding, I mistakenly thought it was going to be held in Las Vegas and expected Elvis. The bride in jeans, with a white blouse and flip flops and an unshaven groom in jeans – both holding Styrofoam cups filled with a cocktail, seemed perfectly suited for the setting. Vows were exchanged with Elvis singing/asking the groom if “he would take the bride to be his hunka-hunka burning love?” As we toasted the newlyweds with champagne, we were beaded and given white handkerchiefs.

Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Ceiling of French Quarter Chapel
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp
Dragonfly Tiffany Lamp

For a real New Orleans experience, we gathered outside the chapel and to our surprise there was a 2nd line brass band. With a police escort, 35+ guests practiced their “woos” and waved their handkerchiefs high in the air as we paraded and danced through the French QuarterTourists and on lookers watched as we threw beads at the crowd and drank from our red solo cups, which the reverend allowed guests to generously fill as he drove his electric wheel chair with a cooler attached alongside the parade. We paraded for a mile and ended at Mojito for cocktails and appetizers. We sipped on housemade mojitos, snacked on crab cakes, listened to the band, and enjoyed the wedding celebration.

2nd Line
Wedding 2nd Line
Traveling bar
Traveling bar

At 6:00 pm it was time to eat again and we needed our grand finale, hurrah meal. The night before I had asked the local Pat O’Brien’s bartender to recommend her favorite restaurant and off we went to Jacques Imo’s in Uptown. This restaurant did not disappoint… I was fond of the watermelon mojito. As they say the rest is history.

It was a whirlwind two day weekend, but the most unique, non-traditional and memorable wedding I’ve ever attended. I truly appreciated being a part of the moment.

The Scent of a Memory

L-R: Amy and Gaby

I orginally submitted this article for Vol iii: The Social Olfactory, The State, but it didn’t make the cut.  I thought this would be an appropriate place to post it.

I’ve been in the fragrance and flavor industry for twenty years, the last seven years as the founder of Trendincite LLC, and I’ve yet to write about my own personal experiences with scent and scent memories. Whether I write for Tidbits, Trendincite’s bimonthly newsletter, or for Forward Thinking, my column in Perfumer & Flavorist magazine, the material focuses on the parallel relationship between fragrances and flavors. Like several colleagues, I fell into the industry and once here, I stayed. I have a keen sense of smell, which was always there from childhood, but was refined by working in the industry with experts.

When I think back to childhood, there are several familiar scents that take me to a certain place and time.  In elementary school, I distinctly remember the scent of vomit. I had a visceral reaction…when a kid in school vomited, the smell alone created a knee jerk reaction and often caused me to gag and then puke. I have a seven year old daughter and four year old son and to this day if they throw up, I gag and it takes every ounce of me to hold back my smell instincts. I feel similarly about the smell of garbage, particularly on a hot summer’s day in New York City – I flash back to the foul smell of rotting fish and spoiled food in Chinatown or urine soaked New York City subways.  In East Hampton when the wind blows in the wrong direction, the smell of dank, wet salty and dirty seaweed wafts into my nostrils. As you drive along a country road, the quick, passing whiff of a skunk is unforgettable.  And I’d be remiss if I left out the smell of mulch – manure combined with a sweaty, salty body odor note, most unpleasant.

In contrast, I absolutely love the scent of fresh baked bread – a little sweet, salty and yeasty. I’ve been trying, as I’m sure others have been, to have a perfumer create a fresh baked bread fragrance that accurately captures the yeast accord. I can’t wait until a perfumer nails this scent. Mark my words – it will be an instant success.  There’s also nothing like the smell of fresh cut grass even if there is cis-3-Hexen-1-ol. Or the smell of potato fields – dry, starchy and a bit earthy. And the sweet, honey hay-like scent that I smell while passing open fields.

These are just a few examples of my scent recollections. My personal scent memories and specific scent associations help me recognize certain fragrances or ingredients based solely on what they remind me of.  When I smell a grapey note like the one used in Giorgio perfume, it takes me back to Dimetapp, the cough medicine I took as a child, and I recognize Methyl anthranilate.  I disliked Dimetapp as a child and therefore I do not like the cloying scent of Giorgio now. Anything with orange flower strikes a chord and brings me back to Bain De Soleil Orange Gelee sun tanning lotion; some feel this way about Coppertone. It’s the signature smell of summer, which I loved as a child and am still fond of today.  In the 80’s when I was a teenager, my peers wore Tea Rose perfume, an aldehydic rose floral, which I thought smelled like old ladies. Today when I analyze fragrance market research data, respondents frequently describe aldehydic floral notes as “old lady” and “grandma like.” This reaffirms my teenage evaluation of Tea Rose perfume before I even had “aldehydic” in my vocabulary.

In hindsight, who knew that my childhood scent experiences would be the stepping stones that launched my career in fragrance?  Unbeknownst to me, all of these childhood scent memories have directly impacted my sensibilities. I now recognize that creating signature scents and worthy scent memoires for consumers is a tall order to fill. I appreciate a scent that is polarizing and recognizable, often a blockbuster signature like Angel, because whether you love it or hate it, you remember it. I applaud perfumers who are able to create these signature scents that stand out from the crowd. Knowing that fragrances can create such an emotive response intrigues me and makes the fragrance and flavor industry exciting and ever changing.

From my twenty years of industry experience, I am hypersensitive to smell – both good and bad.  I’m grateful for this ability and find myself at any given time instinctively and habitually smelling products, foods or beverages prior to buying, ingesting or using.  Today my children mimic me and smell everything from fresh flowers to public restroom soap. They’re so scent aware that they can both recognize cherry almond because more than half of New York public restrooms, particularly restaurants use it.  And when they don’t recognize the smell of the soap, in surprise they ask, “Mommy what does this smell like?”  By this process, they are creating their own scent memories.

Smell is such an integral aspect of our being, but we often take it for granted.  The odd thing is that I have an identical twin sister who is anosmic and lost her sense of smell due to a childhood accident. We are similar in so many ways, but one defining difference is that I have an acute sense of smell and she has none.  I can’t imagine life without smell nor working in any other industry.