Gatherings from The Kitchn

A Guide to Matching Flowers to Your Menu

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

Cooking dinner for your sweetie at home this Valentine’s Day? We’re all for it (in fact, we have a few ideas on what to cook). But what’s for supper is just one part of setting the sultry scene. To help you pair your meal with the most fitting flowers, we asked Caroline Bailly to play matchmaker. Whether you’ve got a classic French feast in mind, or you’re planning to heat things up with a spicy Thai curry, the founder of L’Atelier Rose has the right buds for you.

(Image credit: L’Atelier Rouge)

French + Hand-Tied Roses

While the new wave of French cooking is notable for its enthusiasm in breaking the rules, classic French fare is steeped in, if not defined by, its reverence of tradition. The iconic presentation of hand-tied roses (often the first and most indicative test of any florist’s talent) is consistent with the latter — but use unconventional roses and leave the bright green stems and foliage exposed, and your hand-tied arrangement will stand up to more modern interpretations as well.

(Image credit: L’Atelier Rouge)

Italian + Sweet Peas

Not all pairings have to be matchy-matchy. Sweet peas, which are grown in Italy, have a delicacy that makes for a lovely contrast with the often robust Italian-American cuisine.

Japanese + Ikebana

Japanese cooking and Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower design, emphasize stellar technique above all else; the focus of both is to highlight the ingredients without the fuss of extraneous components. Just as a plate may feature only a single piece of fish, yet make an incredibly strong impression because of the intense care and focus in the preparation, Ikebana-style arrangements tend to incorporate more sparse, architectural flowers that are minimalist without being austere.

Thai + Ginger Flowers

Ginger flowers are grown only in tropical climates, and are a staple in Southeast-Asian cooking. They come in bright, exuberant colors, with the most commonly seen variety a saturated red that, even in smaller groupings, makes a meaningful accent to any tablescape. The bold colors are consistent with the bold flavors of Thai cuisine, and tie the centerpiece and meal together without being obvious or overly literal.

(Image credit: Ken Bosma )

Middle Eastern + Jasmine

Middle Eastern cuisine is highly fragrant, so one should be careful in choosing flowers with scents that will complement the aromatic dishes. Jasmine is an important feature in many Middle Eastern nations’ cultures, and the fragrance pairs well with the assertive food without clashing or competing. Even just a hint of jasmine paired with other less fragrant blooms is a nice touch.

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British Gastropub + Garden Roses

A traditional English flower, the garden rose, presented simply, is a great complement to the hearty pub fare Britain is known for. And something rich and meaty is something most of us can get behind in the cold winter months.

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Spanish Tapas + Red Carnations

Carnations are the national flower of Spain, and are often seen in the mouths and hair of flamenco dancers — one of the most romantic of Spanish cultural traditions. Because red carnations are small and flexible, you can shape them in a wide variety of vases and containers — dense bunches, single stems — and craft a unique array to go with your patatas bravas, croquetas, and tortilla espanol.