If you've joined us for the previous days of the 2021 Holiday Gift Guide, you've likely discovered that we absolutely love sensory experiences. Last year we ditched the Christmas bells in favor of more obscure chiming instruments, and a few days ago we shared a series of scents that held the power to transport you so with olfactory and auditory experiences checked, we now share some delectable experiential delights!
São Jorge Cheese
Coming off of our Breklim Surfboards —featured as yesterday's gift—and out from the Azorean waves onto the shores of São Jorge, our first taste trip takes us to a plate of eponymic São Jorge cheese. On the islands of the Portuguese Azorean archipelago, the skylines opposite the ocean are verdant vertical planes speckled by cows somehow managing to graze gracefully on the immeasurably steep mountainsides. The landscape on São Jorge island holds uniquely fertile pastures, where legumes and lush grasses emerge from the rich volcanic soil. Island cheese makers developed their cheese within the isolation of an island set 900 miles off the coast of the mainland, however, as voyagers made stops at this Atlantic mid-point respite, the cheesemakers were introduced to European cheese traditions which were incorporated into, without invalidating, the unique practices of the island. The result is a firm, dense cheese boasting a generous bouquet of flavors and a truly invigorating tingling-eliciting compound. The bacterias responsible for the fermentation of the fresh milk into these stunning wheels can trigger a very mild histamine response so while your palette is hypnotized by the glorious flavor profile, your tongue will tingle with an effervescent sting. It's absolutely fabulous and deceivingly addictive.
You have the opportunity to continue practicing your Portuguese as we make the journey to Brasil. Here, the juice from sugar cane is distilled in copper stills to create the nation's most popular spirit, cachaça—to give you an idea of the popularity, roughly 1,500,000,000 litres are consumed by Brazilians alone each year. Traditional cachaça in drinks like caipirinha is a tropical treat, but it's true magic is actualized only when it's combined with Amazonian jambu, also known as buzz button, toothache flowers, and acmella oleracea. These flowers are elongated yellow domes capped with a circles of a vibrant red only present on tropical flora. When consumed, these lively herbal flowers fill your mouth with a cacophony of tingles that ultimately lull your lips and tongue to a point of numbness and, as you can imagine, this electrifying numbness is a sensory symphony when paired with the searing flames of high percentage alcohol (1). Jambu cachaça is an experiential surprise and a phenomenal gift.
There are dozens of foods that we'd characterize as experiential: slimy taro and natto, puckering bitter gourds, even the instantaneously melting German ischoklad. But the last sensory spice we're sharing here is Japanese sansho powder. Made from Japanese prickly-ash, which is a spiny, thorn-covered citrus shrub dressed in unassuming leaves and small red berries that hold delicate black seeds. The leaves, seeds, and berries can and are consumed, each offering an aromatic, citrusy pepper flavor but the seeds, when dried and ground, also produce a mildly spicy heat and a mouth-watering, mouth-numbing sensation similar to that of the Szechuan pepper, "which comes from plants of the same genus" (2). Found by archeologists in excavated earthenware pots from the Joman Period (10,000-200 B.C.E), sansho is one of the oldest spices in human history and its enduring popularity after facing the test of time is a testament to how remarkable, delicious, and gift-worthy sansho is.
So tingle your tongues and tickle your palettes with some tasty treats this holiday and be sure to explore the rest of the 2021 Holiday Gift Guide for even more gift giving inspiration!