The Scent of Nostalgia

November 19, 2019 5 min read

The Scent of Nostalgia

Last month, we journeyed to Troutbeck where chef James Gop of Heirloom Fire crafted a dinner inspired by the unique notes of the five Creed Classics. A true feast for the senses in every way, we thought it fitting to follow-up with James before the start of the holiday season to learn more about the role scent plays in creating a memorable meal. Below, you’ll find what we learned after spending a day in the kitchen with James at Heirloom Fire’s headquarters deep in the Berkshires. From ingredients foraged in much the same way as a Master Perfumer on the hunt for the perfect note, to being nostalgic about childhood memories, we invite you to share in our experience with James and his team during which Thanksgiving was very much on the mind. 
We meet James and his team in the part of their office used for tastings—think wide plank wood floors, a leather wingback chair, a curio of curiosities filled with books, moss, stuffed birds, and an old hornets’ nest. In one corner, a custom glass chamber used for curing meats reads more like a fine piece of furniture than an appliance and offers the room a smell akin to that of a butcher counter at a Spanish mercado. Fragrant steam rises from our cups of freshly brewed coffee and mingles pleasantly with the crisp mountain air. Under our feet is the kitchen where they cook up experiential meals for grand weddings and parties alike and where our journey takes us next.

James Gop of Heirloom Fire  

Thanksgiving is a holiday that begins in the kitchen and culminates with a feast shared by family and friends. That in mind, we asked James to recreate the fingerling potato salad he conjured up for our meal at Troutbeck and convinced him to divulge the recipe so you can try it at home. Inspired by the oakmoss, bergamot, and birch notes of Aventus, one can think of the dish as an elevated take on the tried and true mashed potato. 

James rolls up his sleeves and begins to collect ingredients. Pungent black garlic both salty and sweet, potato spuds ripe from the earth, fresh oregano, a tangy apple cider vinegar concoction, and bowl of indispensable grapefruit zest. And though grapefruit may seem a strange thing to pair with a starchy salad, it’s one of the most important ingredients. “Citrus freshens it up,” James says, “and adds as much complexity as it does lightness to the dish.” One sniff of the zested mound of citrus and one can’t help but draw a comparison to the bergamot top note so synonymous with Aventus. 
James seems to dance around the kitchen, he checks on the pot of boiling potatoes, coats a skillet with butter, and finds time to whisk up a fresh batch of aioli in between. A good sense of smell, it turns out, is a powerful tool for a chef to have. “You have to use all of your senses when you’re cooking,” James says. “There’s so much going on at once...each dish, each ingredient, is on a separate schedule so to speak.” And so chefs must be able to intuitively keep up. “It would be impossible to keep track of fifteen timers at once, so you’ve got to be present.” And this is where smell becomes so important, “You can smell when something’s ready or almost ready...if I’m searing meat I can start to smell when it starts to expel its juice, I can almost smell the flavor and know exactly when I need to take it out.” 

Aside from the technicalities involved in the kitchen, Thanksgiving is a holiday about memories. When asked about his own memories in the kitchen, James tells a story about his mother making her signature tomato sauce. Of course the recipe tastes good, but the reason it means so much to him is a result of the memories the smells of the sauce provoke. “It brings me back to when I was a kid,” he reminisces; the smell brings him right back to when he was a child, and can bring about such a storm, he can remember going up to his room and lying in his bed waiting for dinner to be served, he can remember what he was listening to on the radio. He remembers feeling comfort and love. And it’s fond memories like these that make sweat over a hot stove well worth the while. 

Click here to shop Creed Aventus


 

AVENTUS-INSPIRED PRESSED POTATOES WITH GRAPEFRUIT, BLACK GARLIC + GRAPEFRUIT (Serves 6)

 Select a large pot to cook your potatoes in. Add potatoes to the pot and fill with enough cold water to cover potatoes by two inches. Generously salt the water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; simmer the potatoes until they are tender enough to be pierced with the weight of a knife, around 30 to 35 minutes. Drain the potatoes and line them on a baking sheet until needed. While potatoes cook, prepare the salad dressing and aioli.

 POTATO BASE:

5 lbs fingerling potatoes 

1 tablespoon butter 

1 tablespoon cooking oil 

1 grapefruit segmented

1 bunch dill fronds, picked

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

1  bunch radishes (thinly sliced)

 

BLACK GARLIC DRESSING:

10 cloves black garlic, peeled

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

¼ cup chopped oregano leaves

2 cups olive oil

2 cups apple cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients into a blender and process on high until all ingredients are well combined; adjust seasoning if necessary.

 

GRAPEFRUIT AIOLI:

3 egg yolks

1 tsp salt 

1 tablespoon grated grapefruit zest 

¼ cup grapefruit juice 

1 cup olive oil 

Combine the egg yolks, salt and zest into a food processor and blend until emulsified, (about twenty seconds). Next, add the juice and blend until incorporated. Lastly, while processor running, drizzle in olive oil very slowly. Take your time here, a little at a time.

TO FINISH:

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium high heat. Gently press down on potatoes to flatten as much as possible without crumbling. When the pan is hot, add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of oil. When butter has melted, carefully add the potatoes and cook until deep golden on one side, about 2 minutes. Gently, turn over potatoes and cook for an additional minute. When done, remove the potatoes to a paper towel lined baking sheet; cook in batches until completed. Add potatoes and grapefruit segments to a large mixing bowl and lightly coat with the black garlic dressing. Next, add enough grapefruit aioli to slightly tighten up the potatoes (adjust with dressing if needed). Gently fold in dill fronds and parsley, adjust seasoning and transfer potato mixture to a serving platter or bowl. Garnish with radishes and additional fronds.