September 03 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
I frequently buy things in department store food halls abroad that I don’t recognise, or can’t get back in London. I can spend hours roaming the aisles of Takashimaya Times Square in Tokyo or Peck in Milan, filling a basket with objects that appeal purely on the basis of their packaging, or – as is often the way – promise to deliver an entirely new experience of chocolate. Often I wait until I get home to translate the ingredients into English before deciding what to do with my purchases – gift them or keep them.
Galeries Lafayette in Paris has one of my favourite food departments, and as a stroke of luck, its Gourmet Floor is in the same building as the men’s fashion department and the champagne bar, so whole afternoons can drift away in one place on Boulevard Haussmann. On a recent shopping trip I discovered Cointreau Cuisine (€19.90), a 0.35cl spray that delivers a burst of liqueur across a dish, infusing it with Cointreau’s 40 per cent volume orange zest.
It might seem like a shameless novelty, but I have been creating meals around it ever since, from smoked duck salads and roast cod loin to fruit platters and crêpes with chocolate ice cream. I’ve been working my way through my Flavour Thesaurus (something every kitchen should have) for possible new dishes, and for a more delicate flavour (and also because it smells as good as it tastes), I simply spray it across empty plates before serving.