One Thousand Scents

Friday, June 06, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 6, Tiramisù

Some of Demeter's bake-shop scents are really, strangely off the mark: their Scottish Shortbread doesn't smell like anything I'd ever want to put in my mouth. I keep trying it to see if maybe I'm doing it wrong, but every time, it smells weird: not spoiled or off, but peculiar, most definitely artificial, nearly petrochemical, and not at all like the real thing, which smells only of its ingredients, baked: wheat flour, cornstarch, butter, and sugar. (The cornstarch is heretical to some, sacrosanct to others. I think it's not really shortbread if it doesn't have the cornstarch to give it that fragile, crumbly texture.) It's a very distinctive smell, and it would be a nice thing to smell like, but this isn't it. (Demeter has a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee, but I haven't bothered to even try to send this back, because it's just the one bottle, and it's not worth the cost of shipping it. I figure even if I get one or two duds, at that price--$5 a pop--I'm still getting a great deal.) Scottish Shortbread smells like no food on Earth, though it has some foody qualities, one of which is a bizarre sort of fake-coconut undertone that's also present in some of their other food scents.

One of them is their Tiramisù, which nevertheless is probably the second-best of the bakery scents I've tried so far (let's see: Angel Food Cake, Sugar Cookie, Croquembouche, Brownie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Graham Cracker, though I might be missing a couple). If you ignore that faux-coconutty element, which doesn't belong in tiramisù and isn't strong anyway, you have something really delicious: sweet pastry saturated with coffee.

Tiramisù the dessert is ladyfingers dunked in espresso, then layered with a pastry cream made with zabaglione (an egg-yolk custard) and mascarpone cheese, all topped with cocoa powder. (The name sounds, I don't know, Japanese or something, but it's Italian for "pick me up". With all those Italian ingredients, it had better be Italian.) Tiramisù the Demeter scent is sweet and thick, with the baked-goods quality that's missing from Scottish Shortbread, and an enormous quantity of strong coffee, the bitterness of which cuts through the sweetness in an extremely agreeable way.

As it evolves, the coffee fades pretty quickly, leaving a vanilla-flecked cookie/cake smell of indefinable origin. This lasts quite a while, much longer than most Demeters: I can still detect it, though lightly, three to four hours later. For a Demeter scent, that's heroically long-lasting.

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