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I'm the executive chef at an upscale independent living community for seniors. Next week, we're doing a big dessert table for a holiday party for our residents, lots of petit fours, cookies, etc. I was thinking of doing something to "scent the room" for a more "Christmasy" atmosphere. The room doesn't have an off scent or anything. It's a larger room that will hold about 150. Any ideas would be great.
 

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Normally I don't think it's a good idea to perfume a room while people are eating because it interferes with the pleasure of eating.  For example, we went to a steakhouse once and I was so looking forward to my steak and baked potato.  But my husband ordered a baked sweet potato and sprinkled cinnamon on it which was so unpleasant to smell while I was trying to enjoy my steak and don't get me wrong, I love cinnamon more than anyone but not while eating steak.

Anyway, the good news is that dessert is different and I wouldn't mind smelling cinnamon while I enjoy a slice of cheesecake.  One of my favorite things to do in my house, and I do it often, is to place fruits and spices in a little saucepan with water.  I put orange rinds, cinnamon stick and cloves in a saucepan with a little water and heat it gently on the stovetop.  It makes the whole living area smell delightfully festive and top up the water when it dwindles down.  it doesn't have to boil, just simmer at the lowest setting.  And make sure you have plenty of coffee brewing, I can't imagine a better smell than that.
 

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That would be a great touch to make the occasion special. Pine, fir or spruce tree scent would be apropos. Cinnamon, clove and warm spice scent too. But so would the scent of chocolate chip cookies being baked... especially if warm cookies are offered. The trick may be making the scent pronounced enough without being offensive. The elderly often have diminished taste and smell capabilities.
 

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Off hand I can't think of any good temporary way to do this. You have a fairly large area. I suppose you could go with scented candles on each table.

Edit to add to what Brian said while I was writing:

Actually this kind of thing is done all the time in many establishments and you probably don't even know it. These guys call it scent marketing http://us.moodmedia.com/scent-solutions/and if you wanted to do something on a permanent basis it would be the way to go. You could change the scent depending on the occasion, season, etc.
 

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Scents that harmonize with the aroma of the food you are serving. Like KouKou said, some smells interfere with the olfacltory pleasue of eating. I can't even imagine how much I'd be bothered to have cinnamon invade my nose while im trying to eat a steak. 
 

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In the olden days we used sachet bags placed around the room. We mixed a big batch, covered it with linen and let it sit for a week or so to blend the spices.

Almost remembering:

1 pint ground cinnamon

1 "      whole allspice

1/2 "   whole clove

1/2 "   powdered ginger

1/4 "       "           nutmeg

1/4 "   anise

The banquet staff made the bags. For the older crowds they put drops in the bags before filling. Maybe peppermint?
 
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