Once upon a time, I would have said that the idea that food could taste or smell like roses was a quaint conceit. I thought it was something that writers used to sound poetical and high-falutin'. I knew that rose petals could be eaten, of course, at least eventually I learned this: I read Like Water For Chocolate and was fascinated by the recipe for Quail in Rose Petal Sauce.

The rose petals I tasted, from people's gardens along my street, were sweet and tart and bitter and fruity and sometimes nearly flavorless. There were sweet-smelling roses that tasted sour, peach-scented roses that tasted like bitter angry death, and roses of all scents and colors that tasted tangy and nice. It was a wonderful experiment, but I never made the sauce (for any dish) and I still never thought any other food or plant could capture the heavenly smell of rose petals. In fact, at that point I would have argued vehemently that there was no single scent to roses. (MrFish says, "I remember when I first heard that you could eat rose petals. I tried quite a few, most were dry and flavorless, but my parents have rose bush that produces huge yellow roses. The petals are thick and fleshy, slightly sweet and reminicent of apple flavored velvet.")

All of this changed one day last winter, in Cost Plus World Market. Occasionally I go there, and occasionally I tangent through the liquor section and read their marvelous amazing descriptions of different brands. I like to stare at all the microbrews and try to imagine what blackberry-flavored beer must taste like, or puzzle out why Satan is pictured doing the two-step on the newest Portland ale.

I had looked at their dessert wine section several times, reminiscing about honey wines in Ethiopian restaurants and contemplating how wine descriptions always seem to sound tastier than they are. I think that if I'm drooling over a description of "flavors of cherry and chocolate in this smooth crisp Riesling," I'm probably craving dessert itself more than alcohol. But there was one wine that surpassed all of those: it claimed to smell and taste like rose petals. Specifically, the employee recommendation on it was making this claim, which held much more weight for me than anything on the label.

I really wanted to try it.

And I finally did, begging a friend of mine to share the $16 bottle, which had all of maybe two glasses' worth of wine in it. I think I even made her pay for it, promising to pay her back. It was worth it. It was fascinating. Besides tasting like sweet grape wine, each sip started off with the sort of icy-pink fairytale flavor that rose petals have in my imagination. It was astonishing. I kept tasting it, expecting the flavor to wear off or turn into a frog or something, and it kept on tasting and smelling like the sweetest rose petals.

Makes you want to drink, doesn't it? Fortunately for those of us who are alcoholics, or who don't really like to drink, or can't for medical reasons, or... all the millions of other reasons there are for not just guzzling the dessert wines, there are so many other foods in the world that taste like roses.

This is a surprisingly effective conversation starter, sometimes. Before I got into a discussion about it in the catbox, I never realized how many fruits tasted like roses. Wuukiee waxed quite lyrical about white peaches and nectarines, telling us that "they're sweeter and the flavor is slightly dantier -- I once had some species of whiteflesh peach that tasted like roses smell almost. That was divine." Someone else, and I wish someone could tell me who, used peaches as a chatterbox argument against nihilism: "Peaches matter. Perfect, cool, fragrant peaches, so ripe you can peel their skins off and dripping with juice... mmmm... peaches...." (haze says: I'm fairly certain the one who posited peaches against nihilism was doyle.)

That, I think, is the best way to experience this phenomenon: to go to a farmer's market and try white peaches, ripping one after another open with your teeth or fingernails in the hot sun, with their juices getting everywhere, until you find one that has that rose scent wafting up from underneath its skin -- or twenty -- or none, but eat pounds of peaches anyway, and are sated.

Lychees, too, apparently, taste like roses... was it m_turner who told me this? Freshly-peeled lychees, and despite the fact that now they are in season and should cost about a quarter of their usual price, I have not checked this out. I can imagine it though: the spiky shell that is already colored like roses, and the sweet drippy fruit within, and the honey smell of flowers inside it. Lychees remind me of nothing more than armored grapes, and after all grapes are the basis of all the rosely dessert wines.

I have read that rose apples taste like roses, hence their name. They are supposed to be sweet, and rose-like, and custardy, and slightly bland. This doesn't sound as exciting to me as its name implies. At the other end of the spectrum is rose petal jelly - all the rose flavor in the world, all the time! I think this is cheating, myself, because it's made from rose water and concentrated over high heat into preserves. Rose cordial would probably taste similarly. If you would like to try it yourself:

Rose petal jelly:
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 oz liquid pectin
  • 1 3/4 C rose petal juice

Pack one and a half cups full of rose petals. Put them in a saucepan and crush them with a glass or a potato masher. Add two and a quarter cups of water and turn the heat as high as it will go. Simmer the petals until the color drains out of them and strain one and three-quarter cups of the liquid out. Pour into a large saucepan and add the lemon juice and sugar; mix well. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil again over high heat. Pour in pectin, and boil hard for one minute, still stirring. Remove from heat. Use a metal spoon to skim off the foam and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Cover with one eighth of an inch of paraffin. The color will fade if not used after six months.

There are many foods that taste like roses by including them as an ingredient... which I still consider to be cheating:
  • Rose-water-flavored shortbread
  • Rose-flavored hard candies
  • Rose fudge
  • Rosewater panna cotta with lemon confit and pistachio honeycomb
  • Rose petal fairy cakes
  • Rose bastani
  • Gulab jamun
  • Turkish delight
  • myrigth says: Helados Coromoto is the name of an ice cream shop in Mérida, Venezuela. It has over 550 different flavours.. including rose petal flavour!

    There is also - how could I have forgotten! - non-alcoholic grape juice made from wine grapes. A small but increasing number of vineyards are devoting some of their grapes to juice, creating complex and individual flavors that bear very little resemblance to the Welch's juices from concentrate that I drank, disliked, and stained things with in my childhood. NapaStyle.com and NavarroWine.com sell Chardonnay, Cabernet, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir grape juices, and I'm sure there are others. I've tried several of them over time, and I had one recently that tasted very much like roses, bubbly and sweet.

    If you are going to drink your roses with alcohol, there are many wines made from these sorts of grapes that are supposed to taste like roses. But even more oddly, there are also rose-like beers.

    According to a review in beeradvocate.com, Heather Ale's Fraoch, a pale ale, "tastes like roses smell only sweeter." Despite or maybe because of this, the reviewer disliked it. A writer at coincidence.blogspot.com also claimed that Sam Adams Winter Lager tasted of roses. Of course, they may have been drunk at the time.

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