Critic’s Notebook: Smell Test

When I go out on a reviewing meal, I strive to keep the situation favorable for accurate tasting and observing. I bring a companion who will follow my ordering instructions. I steer my server to the table that offers the best view of the operation. I eavesdrop on my fellow diners to gauge the crowd. And I sniff, a lot.

Because, as anyone who has ever tried to enjoy food with a stuffy nose knows, smell is 90 percent of taste. Aroma and flavor are inextricably linked. Nothing throws a bigger roadblock up during a review meal more than a nearby diner reeking of perfume or cologne. Diners are asked to follow some rules with regard to smoking and dress codes. Why not a fragrance ban as well?

The tongue-in-cheek “House Etiquette” section on the menu at Midtown Village’s Apothecary playfully remonstrates patrons whose perfumes and colognes interfere with other guests’ olfactory experience. But it’s a suggestion diners should take seriously. For the sake of your meal and mine, I beg you, refrain from fragrance when dining out. It’s enough to make garlic mashed potatoes taste like they’ve been seasoned with rosewater.