Flavors are often described in generalizations, in which a single word is expanded to recall an entire shared taste experience. "Floral" is such a word.
But the varied blooms that chefs are employing this spring show that, unlike a rose, floral is not floral is not floral: Bracing acid, vegetal coolness and allium funk can all be found in petals--a garnish both colorful and flavorful.
In Beverly Hills, the Vietnamese-inspired cooking at Red Medicine incorporates a bouquet's worth of blossoms. Butter-yellow wood-sorrel flowers lend tartness to a dish of wild striped bass with brown-butter soy milk, while flowering daikon greens have been used to accompany pork in another preparation.
The ever-changing menu at Oakland's Commis has featured wild borage, small blue flowers with a taste similar to cucumbers. Right now, a winter dish of cod with fennel, leeks and celeriac in lard vinaigrette was pushed into spring thanks to borage's touch of cooling blue.
Inseparable from warmer weather, these seasonal garnishes will continue to move east and north. Chive blossoms will soon be scattered over skirt steak at Boston's Clio; elsewhere in Massachusetts, an array of flowering herbs will season vinaigrettes at Summer Winter in Burlington.