Not too long ago, while in New York City, I found myself at Enfleurage on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Enfleurage has an excellent reputation for handcrafted essential oils made from herbs, flowers, and resins. After chatting with the store’s owner, Trygve Harris, I ended up sampling the store’s frankincense on my wrist. (You might recall that frankincense, a tree resin used for perfumes and incense, is what one of the three wise men gave Jesus as a welcome gift.)
Lively and fresh, the sample differed from the usual oil, which tends toward the heavy and musty. I then found out that Harris water distills (“not steam,” she said pointedly) the frankincense in Oman, where she lives most of the year and where she sources and produces her oils. We talked a bit about cultural differences. “Oman is a very conservative country,” she said. “But they are still a sensual people. Everyone wears perfume—mostly oud” (also known as agarwood resin).
She then disappeared into the back and reappeared with a small cup and a spoon. “Here,” she said. “Try this.” I looked down. It was ice cream. I scraped a bit off the top and tasted it.
Wow. This had just become one of the best days of my life.
“Whaahizthisss?” I shrieked. It was a beautifully made ice cream flavored with something strange, spicy, and perfect.
“It’s frankincense ice cream.”
Trygve related how she developed the ice cream in Oman and then launched it at Oman’s Haffa Souq Salaleh (the frankincense market in Salaleh) and how it became the buzz of the souq, selling out every day. “I’m working out a recipe for Americans, since they don’t like strong flavors as much as people in the Middle East. Um, you might want to let that sit a bit.”
I had been scraping ferociously at the hard-frozen dessert like a starving arctic rat with a seal carcass. “When are you going to start selling this here?” I said (actually, demanded was more like it).
She shrugged. “FDA rules for ice cream are tough. I don’t know if it will ever happen.”
I finished the ice cream. Before I left I purchased some frankincense. Not as satisfying as Harris’s mysterious ice cream, but I’ll take what I can get.
Enfleurage will be moving to a different location this month—237 W. 13th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Harris blogs about Oman and other subjects at Absolute Trygve.