salon of the senses

298382_10150340284802527_2727975_n Last night was pure magic.  These two friends of mine, Briana and Laura, they each hold a certain power.  When we get together, the world changes in a tangible way.  When I am with Briana, men turn up out of nowhere and shower us with flowers.  I end up feeding strangers truffles with my fingers.  When I am with Laura, heads turn and people deferentially ask  if they may photograph us.

Yes, both Laura and Briana are phenomenally beautiful, but this is Santa Monica, California.  Every third person is blonde, buxom, blue-eyed, and bikini-clad.  It’s not external beauty that draws this magic in.  It’s Laura’s radiance, Briana’s creative passion for life, that diffuse out into the world like cartoon fingers and beckon everything in so that life, ideas, intention, pleasure all magnify and swirl around them in clouds of color and joy.

We all got together on Skype a few months ago and set an intention to create a pleasure workshop combining all of our talents–Briana’s jawdropping gift for milking the pleasure out of every moment, Laura’s boundless and inspiring artistic abilities, and my love of plant medicine–into one evening of sensuous celebration.  Last night that intention bore fruit.

Briana and I spent the morning preparing, infusing chocolate with lavender to make melt-in-your-mouth truffles and whipping orangeflower water and cream into the heavenliest parfait you ever tasted.  As we worked, we bragged about our triumphs and shared our desires.  We were brewing up more than food–we were brewing up magnetism.  By the time the cakes were out of the oven and the frosting was piled high in billowy clouds next to the finished truffles, two other goddesses had been drawn in to help us out, and we were being serenaded with original live music.  We laughed and celebrated, dancing, napping in the silken-drapery-enclosed hammocks, gathering armfuls of brilliantly-colored flowers for the evening ahead.

Laura’s generous and lovely friend Byron donated her space, an enchanting cobbled courtyard and artist’s studio, for us to transform with fairy lights and candelabras and solar lanterns, silken cushions and crystal goblets and tray upon tray of exotic spices and herbs, delicious cordials and wines and cakes and creams and truffles garlanded in flowers.

We feasted, and we gathered in a circle to celebrate this deeply sensuous life.  We draped ourselves over paper and allowed ourselves to be traced in charcoal, then filled the outlines with vibrant watercolor and scented, textured spices—turmeric and cocoa, hibiscus and salt, chili and ginger and nutmeg and clove. The resulting art piece was the size of a room, abstract and glowing like a jewel, brilliant with color and scent.

And then we collected around a table of exotically-scented oils and herbs, creating individualized perfumed sprays, hauntingly aromatic bathing salts, spicy and energy-lifting herbal cordials.

Finally we lay back on soft fabrics under the starlit sky, blindfolded, taking in the enchanting sound of Kathleen’s voice as she serenaded us in the cool breeze of evening.  Candles glowed around us, the air was delicately scented with lavender and rose and chocolate, we were replete with food and laughter and dizzy with herbal cordial…or perhaps it was the unaccustomed openness of our newly awakened senses.

And time slowed.  Music and scent and taste and texture expanded to fill every corner of the evening.  Nothing remained unfelt, unexperienced.  Life can be like this.  We forget—but this is how life can be.

Here are some of the recipes from that beautiful evening—use them with joy, use them slowly and expansively and with great pleasure!  Here is to all of us, and to life, and to this deep journey that holds so much pain and so much pleasure. Here’s to paying attention to all of it, paying attention out like a heavy rope, paying attention like a tribute, paying attention like an offering.

Rose Petal Wine

Choose a light-colored, sweet wine, or you can also use kombucha or kefir-fermented soda if you so prefer.  The night before you plan to serve it, fill a pitcher with fresh or dried organic rose petals and pour the wine over them.  Leave in the moonlight, loosely covered.  Refrigerate the next day.  Strain just before serving, and add a splash of rose hydrosol.


rosemary cake, brandied date and orangeflower parfait, rosepetal wine, damiana cordial, lavender-infused truffles

Bathing Salts

Mix equal parts coarse (hawaiian or himalayan) and sea salts.  To eight parts salt, add one part baking soda and one half part citric acid.  Salt is very purifying and detoxifying; we connect with the lifeblood of the earth when we soak in a salt bath.  Baking soda softens the skin, and citric acid helps dissolve dead skin.  Together, the baking soda and citric acid create a lovely rejuvenating fizz that lifts the spirits and adds an element of sound to this feast of sensation and scent.  For every cup of this bath blend, add up to 25 drops of essential oil.  My favorite blends are vanilla/lavender, ylang-ylang/orange/patchouli, and geranium/sandalwood/rose.  Shake in a capped mason jar and add by the handful to a warm bath, dissolving under the tap.  Light candles and float in the water, slowing everything down.


Herbal Kundalini Cordial

Sensuality—the ability to experience all of the pleasures of the body—is dependent upon both our openness to experience and our energetic capacity to experience.  When our energy is high and balanced, our senses sharpen.  This herbal cordial is a lovely way to waken, warm, and lift the energy.

In a mason jar, place a combination of damiana, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, rose petal, muira pauma, and cardamom.  Most of these are very warming and stimulating, with the ability to lift yang energy and get the blood flowing (I add rose because it is so good at fostering a heart connection).  Don’t fill the jar more than halfway.  Pour vodka (at least 80 proof)  into the jar, filling it to the top.  Put it in a dark place and shake it from time to time, allowing it to sit for six weeks.

After six weeks, strain out the herbs and compost them.  Make a strong tea (one tablespoon of dried herb to one cup of boiling water) of damiana, cinnamon, or rose; while it is hot add several tablespoons of honey (about one to each cup of finished cordial) and allow it to melt in.  Cool the tea to room temperature, strain, and add to the herb-infused vodka in equal amounts (one cup of tea to one cup of vodka, for example, with 2 tbsp of honey).  Let this mixture sit a week or more to mellow and marry.  Sip in small amounts to lift and warm stagnant energy.  If you do not wish to take in alcohol, you can pour your cordial into hot tea to evaporate some of the alcohol away.

Rosemary Cake

This is an old-fashioned cake, meaning that it includes EVERYTHING I once learned to avoid/substitute for as a vegan pastry chef.  And yet…every time I serve it, someone asks me to cater their wedding.  It is THAT good.  Wheat/gluten/egg/cream/butter/sugar/cheese/nuts are simply forms of energy.  If you take that energy in as joy and companionship, it will nourish you.  I believe this with all my soul.  That said, almost everything can be substituted for.  If these ingredients are a concern for you, I can help with ideas of how to replace them.

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease and flour three 9-in. cake pans.

Cream together 1 3/4 cups raw sugar, one stick of butter, and 1/2 cup of grapeseed oil.  Add 5 egg yolks, 1/2 c. chopped fresh rosemary, and the zest and juice of two lemons.

Stir one teaspoon of baking soda into one cup of kefir or buttermilk.  Add this to the batter alternately with 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (or spelt or sprouted flour).

Add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup coconut (unsweetened), and 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold into the batter gently.

Pour into pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool and frost between the layers with rosemary frosting:

Melt 1 stick of butter over a double boiler.  When melted, add 2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary and allow to infuse and harden.  When somewhat hardened, cream together with 6 oz. kefir cheese or cream cheese and 1 tsp. vanilla. Add two tsp of lemon zest and then powedered sugar to taste (you can powder your own sugar by grinding raw organic sugar in the blender until powdery).

Garnish the cake with lots of fresh rosemary and rosemary flowers.

Love Potion

This lovely infused red wine opens the channels of communication. Take in small amounts—the idea here is to sharpen the senses, not dull them!

To a bottle of red wine, add:

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. damiana tincture or herb-infused tincture from recipe above

1 tsp. nutmeg

2 tbsp. rose water

2 tbsp. raw honey, mead, or both

1 tsp cardamom

Let sit for at least two days, then strain and serve.

There you have it…a feast for the senses!  As we learned last night, don’t forget to sloooooooow waaaaaaaaaay dooooooooown in order to savor every delicious touch, morsel, scent, color, note of this heartbreakingly beautiful world.


To your pleasure!

xoxo lissa



July 26, 2013 · 7:32 am

3 responses to “salon of the senses

  1. What an amazing post…I can almost feel the sensuality dripping from your words :). How amazing to be able to take part in something like that, to meld with others and to feel at one with a created vision. Delicious! Cheers for sharing the recipes…I doubt my recreation of them will give me much of a taste of your heady evening BUT at least I will be able to sample a hint of that heavenly sensual flavour albeit minus that wonderful cake that appears to be made of everything that I can’t eat ;).

    • it WAS an amazing evening. i was so inspired that i’m creating a little spinoff project involving a collaborative pleasure economy…i’ll write about it soon! yes, i cannot eat this way always, but OOH it’s lovely on the nights that i do, especially when it is under such joyous circumstances!

      • Food for the mind, the soul AND the body :). I love your collaboration with fellow like minded souls and only wish that we could find something similar over here. Might have to start it outselves! 🙂

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