Tea Rooms, Part II

There are as many kinds of tea rooms today as there are owners. Each one has its own style and quirks, its good points and maybe not so good. Tea rooms, and I’m writing only about tea rooms in the US, fall into a few different categories. Here’s a brief look.

Many tea rooms are ultra feminine and pretty. Lace tablecloths, mismatched china cups and flowers abound. Often this kind of tea room is found in a restored Victorian house. The owner herself is usually there and will try to make your visit as relaxing and pleasant as possible. You can expect to be pampered with personal attention that is not intrusive. The quality and quantity of the food varies a lot depending on the owner’s culinary skills. The tea itself might not be the priority here; tisanes and flavored lower quality teas are offered. This is the perfect tea room to visit with a group. Reservations are almost always required so dropping in for a cup of tea is not possible.

Hotel teas have been gaining in popularity. They are very elegant and beautiful. Everything is professionally prepared from the pastries to the garnishes decorating the plates. The wait staff is typically efficient but not especially cordial. Don’t expect the best tea here. Hotel teas are run by restaurant people, not tea people. These teas are by reservation only with preference given to the hotel’s guests. Expect to pay quite a bit for tea at a hotel. Remember, you’re buying the experience, the ambiance and the fanciest of tea food.

Asian style tea rooms are unique among tea room experiences. Here tea is the highest quality, prepared by people who know how to do it correctly. Asian tea rooms are usually sparsely decorated but with a very serene, peaceful atmosphere. Low tables, a water feature and small cups without handles are some of the things to be experienced. The food isn’t about finger sandwiches and scones. Instead expect things like rice balls with pickle & sesame, tea cured salmon and nori, tofu with ginger, and green tea ice cream.

Trendy Tea Houses can be found in cities around the country. They feature unusual tea treats like tea shots containing a mixture of acai berry, green tea and lemongrass or therapeutic-biodynamic teas or even tea cocktails. The decoration is as varied as any hip restaurant would be. The staff at these places is always oh so earnest but not necessarily knowledgeable about tea.
Combination coffee and tea bars probably shouldn’t be allowed to exist. No one wants to smell coffee while drinking tea. It is an act against nature. Go to Star*ucks for your coffee but making tea at home yourself will get you a far better cup of tea.

My favorite local tea room is casual enough that I can stop in for a cup of tea wearing jeans. Reservations for formal afternoon tea are required but almost the same items are available a la carte. This place was packed one morning recently. College students, a couple moms with kids, several husbands and wives, a grandma and her granddaughter and my friend and I were all there for perfectly brewed tea and freshly baked pastries. Small tea sandwiches are offered with the afternoon tea service but the same fillings are available in full size sandwiches. There are always a couple soups from which to choose and instead of getting several small desserts, a whole sticky bun works as well. While I love the full afternoon tea experience, it’s nice to have an every day kind of place too.


Tea Rooms

Quick! Who developed the idea for the first the western first tea room? If you guessed Kate Cranston, you were close. It was actually her brother, Stuart. In the1870s, Glasgow, Scotland was almost as important as London in the tea trade. Stuart Cranston was in the tea business. At his shop, he kept a kettle going in order to offer samples of the China tea he sold. He then decided to charge for a cup of tea. After that came bread and cakes. The first tea room was born.

Miss Cranston took the idea a step further. At this time women were venturing out in public on their own more and more. Miss Cranston opened tea rooms that had general space and separate spaces for the ladies. While some places still required an escort or chaperone, her tea rooms were places a woman could go alone or with other women.

The art of decorating one’s home had reached a new popularity at this time. Miss Cranston tapped into that with her association of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. She gave him free hand in designing the interiors of her tea rooms. Miss Cranston’s formula for successful tea rooms was good value, quality and art. Mackintosh’s designs were exciting and slightly weird.

In addition to the extraordinary design and art of her tea rooms, Miss Cranston offered the best food. A menu from 1911, shows the following tea items:

Cup of Tea, small 3d. or large, 4d.
Pancakes or Scones, hot jellied, 2d.
Potato Scones, buttered, 1d.
Cakes, all varities, 2d. each
Sandwiches, varied, 2d.
Snack Pies, hot, 4d.
Cup of Cream Soup, 4d.
Welsh Rarebit and Poached Egg, 6d.
Fruit Tart, 6d.
Peach Tartlet and Whipped Cream, 6d.
Curds and Cream, 6d.
Devonshire Junket, 6d.
Swiss Tart, 6d.
Strawberries and Cream, 6d.
And a Fixed Price Tea, Cup of Tea with slice of Buttered Bread, Buttered Scone and Cake, 9d.

Old English money requires an explanation for some of us. A d. for 'denarius', a Roman silver coin, stands for tuppence which was 2 pennies (20 shillings per pound, 12 pennies in a shilling.)

The menu looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? The same things are still offered in many tea rooms.

Miss Cranston retired from the tea room business in 1919. Her tearooms survived for several years under different management but most were gone by the 1930s. The Willow Tea Room, 1902, pictured above, was resurrected with reproduction Mackintosh furniture and design. You can even get a cup of tea there.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the many styles of tea rooms today and the foods they offer.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Timetable

Ansonia Kitchen Clock with Calendar Dial, late 19th century

Up to 2 weeks ahead:
Prepare Pumpkin Soup and freeze (Both Teas)
Bake Scones and freeze (Both Teas)

Two Days Before:
Prepare Witches’ Hats (Halloween)
Prepare Monster Crunch (Halloween)

Day Before:
Cook bacon, prepare dressing and roast pears for Roasted Pear Salad (Both Teas)
Make the Cheesy Pumpkins, store in fridge (Halloween)
Roll up the Colorful Spirals (Halloween)
Bake the Spider Cheesecake (Halloween)
Bake the Pumpkin Roll (Harvest)
Bake the Apple Tart (Harvest)

Morning of the Tea:
Open and Remove Seeds from Pumpkin Serving Bowls (Both Teas)
Arrange Salad (Both Teas)
Make the Edible Finger Tea Sandwiches (Halloween)
Prepare Veggie Tea Sandwiches, Autumn Ham and Mini Chicken Pitas, cover with a damp town and plastic wrap in fridge (Harvest)

Just Before Serving:
Fill Pumpkin Bowls (Both Teas)
Prepare Tea (Both Teas)


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Baked Apple Tart

For the crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
12 tablespoons cold butter, in pieces
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds. Add eggs one at a time and process for 20 seconds, until pastry holds together. Press the dough evenly into a 10” or 11” tart pan with removable bottom. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350º. Remove the wrap and press aluminum foil over the shell. Fill with weights or dried beans and bake for 18 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake for another 7 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a rack before filling.

For the Filling:
9 Gala apples, peeled and cored
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 sugar crust, prebaked
½ cup apple jelly

Preheat oven to 350º. Cut the apples into eighths, then toss into a mixing bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. Place the apples in concentric circles in the prebaked pie shell and bake for 35 minutes. Do not overbake or the apples will collapse. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool thoroughly.

Right before serving, heat the apple jelly in a small saucepan over low heat until melted. Remove the ring from the tart pan and brush the top of the tart with the melted apple jelly.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Pumpkin Roll

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Halloween Sweets

Witches’ Hats

This recipe is from the Betty Crocker web site. You can find some great ideas there.

32 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped
1 package (11 ½ ounces) fudge-striped shortbread cookies, 32
1 tube (4.25 ounces) orange or red decorating icing

Attach 1 chocolate kiss to chocolate bottom of each cookie using decorating icing. Pipe decorating icing around the base of the kiss.

Monster Crunch

What’s a Halloween celebration without candy!

3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Cheerios
3 cups pretzels
2 cups mixed nuts
12 ounces M & M's
1 pound white chocolate

Melt chocolate over low heat in a double boiler. Mix with Chex, Cheerios, pretzels and nuts. Continue to mix and break up until white chocolate is completely dry. Add M & M's.

Pumpkin Spider Web Cheesecake

I made this for a party last Halloween and it was a huge hit. Even people who said they don’t like pumpkin loved this cheesecake
18 Oreo cookies, finely crushed (About 1 ½ cups)
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
3 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 square semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 tsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350º if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or 325º if using a dark 9-inch nonstick springform pan.) Mix cookie crumbs and 2 Tbsp. butter; press firmly onto bottom of pan.

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition just until blended. Pour over crust.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until center is almost set; cool slightly. Carefully spread sour cream over top of cheesecake. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan.

Place chocolate and 1 tsp. butter in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Drizzle over cheesecake in spiral pattern. Starting at center of cheesecake, pull a toothpick through lines from center of cheesecake to outside edge of cheesecake to resemble a spider’s web. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight before serving.


My World Wednesday: Factory Tours

My area is known as the Factory Tour Capital of the World. Yeah, that’s a bit extreme but there are some really fun, informative and tasty factory tours here. Let’s start with the big daddy of all tours, the Harley Davidson plant.

If you heard the names William Harley and Arthur Davidson separately, you might not realize who these guys were; put the names together and you have the most famous motorcycle in the world. Their company began in 1903 in Milwaukee WI and their headquarters is still there. But in 1973, all assembly operations were moved to a huge plant in my area. They run a factory tour every weekday. They even allow visitors to take the bikes for a spin on the test track. Nono, I’m making that up. But they do allow you to sit on a bike. After the tour, visitors get to spend time in their gift shop. You don’t have to be a hard core biker to want a Harley t-shirt. In fact, it is always good just to buy a shirt for everyone on your gift list.

Hershey Chocolate’s Chocolate World offers a “simulated factory tour ride.” You can learn all about the chocolate making process here. They used to allow visitors into the actual plant and I can still remember the smell of the chocolate. The simulated tour doesn’t have the same impact but they do still give you a Hershey Bar at the end. If you’re tired at the end of the tour, you can book a chocolate spa treatment at the Hotel Hershey. Just think, head to toe covered in warm gooey chocolate. Is it a yum or a yuck?

Snyder’s Pretzels has been around since 1909 and they are still going strong. They offer a factory tour with samples all along the way. They have an outlet store where you can buy their products for very, very low prices. It is hard to come away from there without bags of pretzels.

Even if you don’t have access to Utz Chips in your area, you’ve probably seen their logo on the backboards of various East Coast sports arenas and stadiums. The Utz tour will teach you how potato chips are made. They should know a lot about that since they can produce 14,000 pounds of chips in one hour. Just as the smell of chocolate is in the air in Hershey, as you drive up the street in this neighborhood, you can’t avoid the smell of frying chips. Utz also has a factory outlet store and they sell freshly made chips that haven’t even been bagged at the local farmers’ market.

The Wilton Armetale factory tour is especially interesting and doesn’t involve putting on weight. They’ve been manufacturing metal serving pieces and tableware since 1892. You can see molten metal poured into their sand molds at 1200 degrees and then watch how they hand finish all their pieces. There is a factory store that offers 60% discounts. Everything is a trade-off, isn’t it? Save your waistline and tempt your wallet here.

Today’s final tour is of the Family-Heirloom Weavers. If you subscribe to any old house magazines, I’m sure you’ve seen their work. With only 12 employees, this is one of the few remaining textile mills in the US. They use antique looms dating back to 1890. They weave ingrain carpets in authentic patterns, many of which are used in historic homes. They also weave coverlets following the patterns of weavers from generations ago. Their work is amazingly beautiful.

There are many more factories in my area offering tours but you’ve probably never heard of them. And many of the real factories have closed and moved their operations to other countries. I always try to buy local when I can. I hope that you try to do that too. By the way, you can order any of these products online. Any except the Harley but you'd probably want to take a test drive first anyway.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Harvest Savories

Here are the recipes for the Harvest Tea’s savory course. If you are running short on time, buy both the chicken salad and ham salad from the deli and add your own touches, like curry powder for the chicken and apples to the ham salad. For the Veggie Tea Sandwich, start with flavored cream cheese and add only one chopped vegetable.

Creamy Vegetable Tea Sandwich

I used a big pumpkin cookie cutter to make this tea sandwich but it doesn't show up so well in the photo. This one contains no meat so it works well for vegetarians. Change out the veggies according to whatever you have in your fridge.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 carrots, shredded
1 garlic clove, minced finely
½ cup sliced green onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
16 thin rye bread slices
Combine all ingredients until well blended. Spread on rye bread with crusts removed. Use a seasonal cookie cutter or cut tea sandwiches on the diagonal.

Autumn Ham Tea Sandwich

2 granny smith apples, sliced
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
½ pound baked ham
¼ cup grainy mustard
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Melt butter in small pan, add brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Add apples and cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Apples should be softened but not mushy. Drain apple slices reserving liquid, and coarse chop. In the bowl of a food processor, add ham, mustard, cloves, ginger, green pepper, onion and reserved apple cooking liquid. Process until smooth. Remove ham salad from food processor into a bowl. Stir in the apples and pecans by hand. Spread on bread, crusts removed and cut into thirds, or on small bakery rolls.

Curry Chicken Salad in Mini Pitas

½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup chopped almonds
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups diced cooked chicken
3 tablespoons diced celery

Bake coconut and almonds in a shallow baking pan at 350º, stirring occasionally 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted. Stir together cream cheese and next 4 ingredients; gently stir in chicken, coconut, almonds and celery. Slice mini pitas in half and fill.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Halloween Savories

Here are the savories for the Halloween side of this tea. They are all super easy, using prepared ingredients.

Cheesy Pumpkins

8 tablespoons Cheddar cold pack cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts
4 pretzel sticks, broken in half
fresh parsley leaves

For each pumpkin, use a melon baller to scoop out a ball of cheese. Roll it into a pumpkin shape. With the edge of a toothpick or small knife, cut ridges around the balls to resemble a pumpkin. Dip bottoms of cheese balls into chopped peanuts. Insert pretzel half into the pumpkins for stems and add a parsley leaf for leaves.

Edible Fingers

Firm textured bread
Chicken salad from the deli
Sliced almonds
Cream cheese

Remove the crusts from bread. Spread chicken salad on one slice. Top with the other slice. Cut lengthwise into ¾” wide strips. With a small knife, taper one end of each log to form a point. Attach a sliced almond to this end with some softened cream cheese, making fingernails.

Colorful Spirals

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 (8 inch) flour tortillas in various flavors
2 cups spinach or lettuce leaves
2 medium tomatoes, very thinly sliced
6 ounces deli meat, ham, turkey, roast beef
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese

Spread about 3 tablespoons of the cream cheese to within 1 inch of the edge of a tortilla. Layer with some of the spinach leaves, tomato slices, deli meat and ½ cup of the cheese. Tightly roll into a spiral. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

To serve, transfer to a cutting board. Slice off and discard ends. Cut spirals into 1 inch slices and secure with wooden picks if needed.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Pumpkin Scones

Here’s an alternative to the Maple-Nut Scones posted yesterday. This recipe uses some whole wheat flour and applesauce helps to keep the scones moist and sweet. If you like, you can add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts along with the applesauce.

1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup butter, cut up
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup applesauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter till mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add pumpkin and applesauce and stir just until moistened.

Transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. Use floured hands to pat dough into an 8” circle. Use a long knife to cut the dough into eight wedges, but do not separate the wedges. Sprinkle dough with brown sugar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or till browned. Cool slightly; cut into wedges.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Maple-Nut Scones

3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped nuts
2 tablespoons cold butter

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold butter
½ cup coarsely chopped nuts
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg
About 2 tablespoons milk
Additional milk

Heat oven to 400º. In small bowl, mix the topping, 3 tablespoons flour, the sugar and 2 tablespoons nuts. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter using pastry blender or fork, until crumbly; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups flour, the brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in ½ cup butter, using pastry blender until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in ½ cup nuts. Stir in maple syrup, egg and just enough of the 2 tablespoons milk so dough leaves side of bowl and starts to form a ball.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; gently roll in flour to coat. Knead lightly about 10 times. Pat or roll into flat 8” square. Cut with 2 ½” biscuit cutter and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Reroll scraps. Brush with additional milk. Sprinkle with topping.

Bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Immediately remove from the cookie sheet. Makes about 8 scones.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Cream of Pumpkin Soup in Pumpkin Bowls

If you don’t want to go to the bother of using fresh pumpkin, and I know I don’t, use 1 can (14-ounces) of pumpkin and increase the broth to 4 cups.

2 cans (14 ounces each) vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, finely slivered
2 tablespoons light or heavy cream
1 pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5-6 cups)
Small pumpkins for serving, tops removed and all seeds and fiber cleaned out

Heat butter in saucepan, add onion and cook until tender.

Add broth, oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and pepper and pumpkin. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.

Place half of the pumpkin mixture in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return puréed mixture to saucepan. Repeat with remaining pumpkin mixture. Add cream and heat through. Ladle into small pumpkins. Top each with a spoonful of crème fraîche and tiny slivers of fresh ginger if desired.


Halloween/Harvest Tea: Roasted Pear Salad with Bleu Cheese and Walnuts

The perfect Autumn salad. Baking the pears brings out a whole new level of sweetness.

2 medium pears, cored and quartered lengthwise
4 strips bacon
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups torn lettuce
4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
½ cup whole walnut halves
¼ cup dried cranberries

Bake pears 15-20 minutes until just tender in a 400º oven. Let cool and cut into ¼” thick slices.

Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and crumble. Reserve 1 tablespoon droppings. Whisk in the vinegar and oil. Bring to boiling.

Toss together lettuce, pears, cranberries and bacon. Add warm dressing and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with bleu cheese and walnuts. Serve warm.


My World Wednesday: My Town

Like so many Eastern US places, today my town runs into the next town which runs into the next town which runs into the city. If you didn’t know how it used to be, you’d never know the individual towns and villages. Still I like to think my town has retained some of its original flavor. Please allow me to give you a tour.

This is the Opera House. Plays, lectures and musicals were performed there. Each graduating class conducted their graduation ceremonies there and danced at their proms. It really was a grand space. Unfortunately the first time I was inside was for a Halloween Haunted House and it fit the bill perfectly. No one seemed to know what to do with this building after it outlived its original purpose. A few years ago it was turned into low-income and elderly housing.

Here are our public school houses. Not much to look at, were they. And no playgrounds. Kids made their own fun. An elderly friend told me the story of how he jumped out of one of the windows during class. The teacher ran out after him, pulled him back in by his ear and pushed him back into his seat. This happened two more times before my friend got bored with the game and walked home. If there had been seesaws, he might have stayed.

The train station. This building is being restored by the historical society and in fact is quite impressive today, for people who like trains. The track is all gone now but a new walking and biking trail is in its place. Back in its day though, almost everyone in town used the train station on a regular basis. We also had a trolley system that went all over, from the city to the local swimming pool.

This is the Wallick House, the best hotel and restaurant in town. It still stood in the 1950s but was torn down to make a parking lot. There were several other hotels and places to eat but today there are just places to eat, mostly fast food.

This was the post office, a print shop and a drug store. The post office moved out of town a few years ago; no more walking to pick up your mail and the day’s gossip. The print shop and the drug store are still in that same building, run by the same families. You can still get an ice cream sundae at the original wooden soda fountain bar. Some things haven’t changed after all.

Some houses haven’t changed either. Oh, they did back in the ‘70s but people today see some value in preserving old homes and they are better than ever. This is my friend Cindy’s home. Today its trim is a creamy gold and it has dark rust accents. Pieces of the original woodwork were matched and custom knives were made to mill new boards. Behind her modern stove, a painting of the house has been fired into the tiles. Like all of us who live in old houses, it is a labor of love.

This last picture illustrates the reasons I’m happy to be living in my town today even though I may daydream of past times. How did anyone ever manage to cross the street without getting messy shoes!


Halloween/Harvest Tea Party Menu

This is a double menu with some items appropriate for a Halloween Tea and some more suited to a Harvest Tea. Or if you’re really ambitious, make everything!

Soup Course: Pumpkin Soup served in a Baby Pumpkin

Salad Course: Roasted Pear with Bleu Cheese and Walnuts

Scones: Maple Nut or Pumpkin Scones with Homemade Apple Butter

Savory Course:
Cheesy Pumpkins
Edible Fingers
Halloween Tortilla Rollups
Harvest Vegetable Tea Sandwiches
Curried Chicken in Mini Pitas
Autumn Ham Salad

Sweets Course:
Witches' Hats
Halloween Crunch
Spidery Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cake Roll
Baked Apple Tart


Halloween/Harvest Tea

When I began planning a Halloween Tea, I knew there was just something about afternoon tea and ghoulish decorations and treats that didn’t fit together. At a nighttime party, sure bring out the scary stuff. In the daylight hours though creepy doesn’t work well. In that spirit, I’ve planned a tea that with a few change-outs can work for Halloween or can be a Harvest Tea without any reference to Halloween at all.

When you look at the Halloween decorations you already have, you’ll know which type party is right for you. Does a jack-o’-lantern grace your front steps or do you have pretty uncarved pumpkins in unusual shapes or colors? Inside are there scary witch figurines or baskets of apples? You get the idea.

For a Halloween theme, the colors are pretty much set to orange and black but if you find tablecloth material with a white background that will match your white dishes, certainly use that. Group several of your Halloween decorations with candles and orange mums on your table. Even a few plastic spiders wouldn’t be out of place.

For the Harvest theme, earth colors, browns, golds, oranges, dark greens will help to create a beautiful tablesetting. Don’t use your damask tablecloth for this tea; something woven and rough will work better. Along the same lines, no fine china for this tea. Use heavier dishes like ironstone to set the harvest mood and wooden serving pieces look great. Pumpkins, gourds, colorful leaves, fruit and nuts along with a fall bouquet will finish the table.

For a little take-away gift, fill a brown paper lunch bag with nuts in the shell. Pick ones that don’t require a nutcracker like peanuts or pistachios. Use Halloween or harvest themed stamps to decorate the bags, punch two holes in the top and tie them with either black and orange ribbon or any combination of earth colors.

There are any number of Halloween CDs available from pop to classical. One of my favorites is by Mannheim Steamroller. You could go all classical too with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique or Mussorgsky’s Night on Bare Mountain.

This tea is an easy one as far as decorating because almost everyone has cute decorations that fit the theme. There is no need to go out and buy a lot of stuff. Use what you have. We’ll concentrate this time mostly on the food. The Halloween/Harvest Tea menu is up tomorrow.


Ivy and Lace Tea Party: Timetable

Gustav Becker Vienna Regulator, 1895

Up to a Week Ahead:
Prepare Pineapple, Coconut and Macadamia Scones and freeze
Prepare Biscuits and freeze

Two Days Ahead:
Prepare Tomato Soup
Dip the Chocolate-Covered Pretzels
Prepare Lacy Florentines

One Day Ahead:
Fry Bacon for Salad
Prepare Salad Dressing
Prepare Grasshopper Cheesecake

Morning of the Tea:
Prepare Shrimp Shells

One Hour Ahead:
Prepare Prosciutto-Wrapped Fruit
Assemble Turkey Biscuits

30 Minutes Ahead:
Prepare Frico
Plate the Salad
Heat Soup
10 Minutes Ahead:
Prepare Tea

During the Salad Course:
Reheat Scones for 5 minutes at 350º


Ivy and Lace Tea: Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

This is the little treat that everyone eats after they tell you that they can’t eat another bite.

12 ounces chocolate chips or candy coating, melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon (or more) milk
paste food color

Dip the pretzels into the warm chocolate and coat well. Remove using a fork. Shake off excess chocolate and lay the pretzel on wax paper to cool. In the meantime, add milk to confectioners’ sugar and combine. Add milk by the teaspoon until the mixture reaches a consistency that drizzles well. Stir in paste food color of your choice. Drizzle the icing on the cooled pretzels and allow the icing to harden.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Grasshopper Cheesecake

This pretty green dessert fits perfectly with the Ivy and Lace Tea theme.

11 chocolate mint cookies, crushed
3 tablespoons butter
24 ounces cream cheese
¾ cup sugar
5 teaspoons cornstarch
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup green crème de menthe liqueur
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 chocolate mint cookies, coarsely chopped

In a bowl stir together the crushed cookies and melted butter till well combined. Press crumb mixture evenly onto the bottom of greased 4” springform pans or mini muffin tins.

With electric mixer combine cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in crème de menthe and vanilla extract. Stir in crushed cookies. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the crust.

Bake at 225º for 35-45 minutes for springform pans or 25-30 minutes for mini muffin tins. Remove the cake from the oven and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Loosen the ring and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Then remove ring completely and cool. Chill, uncovered, overnight. To remove the cheesecake from mini muffin tins, put in the freezer for 30 minutes. They will pop right out.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Lacy Florentines

I love lacy Florentines, a cross between a cookie and a candy.

½ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 cups very finely chopped toasted blanched almonds
¼ cup flour
1 cup finely diced candied orange peel
½ teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

To make the batter: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, sugar and butter, stirring until butter melts. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and add the almonds, flour, orange peel and almond extract.

Drop the batter by the tablespoonful on baking sheets. Using the back of a spoon dipped in water, flatter each cookie.

Bake for 11-12 minutes. Remove and cool on the pan for 1 minute. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze: Melt 1 cup of the chocolate. Remove from heat and add the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate, stirring until melted and smooth.

Spread the bottom of each cookie with the glaze. Run the tines of a fork through the chocolate in a wavy pattern and place the cookies back on the rack to set.


My World Wednesday: The Family

No, not my human family but my four legged family. I’d like you to meet my two goofy pup-a-loos, Seamus and Maggie.

When I planned this post, I imagined how my two puppies would sit sweetly side by side and smile at the camera like little angels. Ha! I couldn’t get them to sit together and forget smiling for the camera. They were too interested in fighting over a vine they’d torn from the ground.

Seamus, a.k.a. Seamoo, Sweet Boy, Bubba, Little Pickle, came to us because his original owners felt he was too aggressive with their children. We were happy to have him but I agreed he was way too aggressive the first weeks. Actually both the sofa and I thought so. But at least I don’t have any permanent holes chewed in me. He’s been with us 5 months now and we couldn’t ask for a better boy. He’s a purebred bulldog just over one year old. His tiger coat is called brindle. Like a typical bulldog, his favorite things to do are sleep and eat. And playing tug-of-war with his sister, Maggie.

Maggie, a.k.a. Maggie Mae, Squirrely Mae, Little Squirrel and Pee Machine, has lived with us only about 5 weeks. She is a Boston Terror, errr, I mean Terrier. She’ll be 3 months old on Monday. The puppy training books say that she won’t be able to understand housebreaking for another couple weeks yet. We’ve really been keeping the paper towel companies in business. Maggie’s big accomplishment so far is that she has learned her name. Each time I call her, she cocks her head to one side and looks at me. Notice I didn’t say that she comes to me, she just looks. Maggie has to do everything her big doggie brother does, from picking up sticks and rocks to trying to jump on the sofa. Next week she’ll get her third shots and then she’ll be able to go on walks with the rest of us. We’re all looking forward to that. A tired pup is a well behaved pup.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Shrimp Shells

I’d like to say that everybody loves shrimp but my friend, Lisa, knocks that out of the water. What I can say with certainty though is that this is my number 1 guest favorite recipe.

To save time, buy your shrimp precooked and peeled. I realize you might not have Old Bay where you live; use any crab boil instead. And if you don’t have crab boil, just use paprika to give the shells a little hit of color.

12 jumbo shell macaroni
1 3-oz package cream cheese
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ cup finely shredded Swiss cheese.
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 oz chopped shrimp
¼ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons onion
Old Bay Seasoning

Cook macaroni shells according to package directions, drain, rinse with cold water and chill. Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and pepper. Stir in shrimp, celery, onion and Swiss cheese. To assemble, spoon shrimp mixture into pasta shells. Sprinkle Old Bay over top. Cover and chill.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Smoked Turkey on a Biscuit with Cranberry Chutney

This sandwich itself is simple to put together. Spread the cranberry chutney on a biscuit, add the smoked turkey and a lettuce leaf. The biscuits are just a bit sweet and a perfect match for the turkey and chutney. Here’s the recipe for them:

Flaky Biscuits

2 cups pastry flour
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons softened butter
½ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 325º. Into the bowl of a food processor add the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Process until just blended. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs 15-20 seconds.

Add the milk and process for at least 3 minutes. The dough will be soft, like melted cheese.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, cover it and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 12” x 7”, about 1/8” thick. Fold it in half crosswise and roll lightly to bind the two layers together.

Using a small, round biscuit cutter, between 1 ½” and 2”, cut out the biscuits. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet close together but not quite touching.

Lightly prick the biscuits with a fork. Bake them for about 20 minutes, until their tops are a very light golden brown. Turn the oven off, crack the door open and allow the biscuits to stand in the oven until they’re totally cooled. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature; they’ll last for two weeks.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Prosciutto-Wrapped Fruit

You don’t really need a recipe for this. Wrap strips of prosciutto around the fruit of your choice. Ta-Da, finished!

Melon has a special affinity for prosciutto and that is what we usually see. You don’t have to use melon balls, slices look pretty too. For the Ivy and Lace Tea, you might want to use only green-fleshed melon to fit into the theme.

Figs are another favorite. Figs stuffed with a soft cheese before wrapping with the prosciutto are extra special.

The only thing to consider when choosing fruit is to take care with fruit that turns brown in the air. Dunk the fruit pieces in some lemon juice before wrapping.

Even though this is a super simple dish, it isn’t short on taste. Your guests will love it.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Pineapple, Coconut and Macadamia Scones

I’m always eager to try any scone recipe. When I saw that this one was made with Bisquick, I wasn’t so sure how good it would be. Was I ever surprised! These scones have a great taste; all of the elements shine through individually and the background flavor is a perfect compliment.

I hate to admit this but I had a problem figuring out how to cut the scones to make 12. This is obvious from the photo. Geometry was never my strong suit. Cut the dough into thirds vertically and then in half horizontally. Then cut each of those sections into triangles. So simple after my husband showed me. You might want to draw it on a piece of paper before the scone dough is in front of you.

2 ½ cups Bisquick
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup cold butter
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup macadamia nuts, chopped
¼ cup whipping cream
1 egg
1 can (8 oz) pineapple tidbits, drained

Heat oven to 425º. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. In the bowl of a food processor, mix Bisquick, sugar and butter. Combine well. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until just combined. (You can do all this by hand if you don’t want to use the food processor.)

Pat dough out on the prepared pan into a 10” x 7” rectangle. Cut into 12 triangles but do not separate.

Bake 12 to 14 minutes. Separate scones and serve warm.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Spinach Salad with Warm Cider-Bacon Dressing

This is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. The apple cooked in cider gives it sweetness while the bacon adds the saltiness. I don't eat much bacon these days, even though I love it, so this salad is a special treat.

6 slices bacon, crumbled
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 red apple, chopped, leaving skin on
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh spinach

Fry bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons of fat. In that fat, cook the onion and apple for 2 minutes, add the vinegar and cider, and boil, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Whisk in the mustard, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl toss the spinach with the warm dressing until it is just wilted and sprinkle the salad with the bacon.


Ivy and Lace Tea: Tomato Soup with Parmesan Frico

There are two camps when it comes to tomato soup: those who like it chunky and those who like it smooth. I vote for smooth so I purée mine in a blender. If you prefer chunky, by all means, leave the chunks in. This soup tastes great either way.

Tomato Soup

4 tablespoons butter
½ cup thinly sliced celery
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
3 cups coarsely chopped plum tomatoes, use canned if you don’t have fresh
3 whole fresh basil leaves
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt butter and sauté the celery and shallots until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir in the basil leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Purée in a blender until smooth and strain if necessary.

Parmesan Frico

Lacy Frico are easy to make and look so pretty and delicate. They taste delicious, of course. I like them served on a salad plate too.

9 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon flour

Toss the cheese with the flour. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Sprinkle a bit of the cheese in a circle, about 2 tablespoons. Cook until the cheese is melted but not firm. Flip and cook until firm. Timing depends on how hot your heat is, how well the pan conducts heat and the temperature of the cheese. Make one to test. Remember not to crowd your skillet or you’ll have a mess. When the Frico are done, place them on a paper towel to cool or drape them over a bowl or rolling pin in you want shapes.


My World Wednesday

I’ve been wanting to make my blog a bit more personal. In addition to the usual afternoon tea party ideas and recipes, I thought I’d post a bit about my world. So I came up with the title, My World Wednesday. Catchy, isn’t it?

I’ll start by showing you where I live. As you can see from the picture, it is a Queen Anne Victorian that was built in 1902. A Victorian paint color expert, John Crosby Freeman, helped us to pick the colors for this painted lady. We chose sandy pink for the trim, slate blue for the shutters and a rosy pink for the trim details.

We were really fortunate that only three families lived in the house before us. The builder’s family occupied the house until the 1970s at which time it was still all original and quite run down. The next family updated the kitchen and did cosmetic work but they didn’t remodel or remuddle. The third family moved into the house in the 1980s and only lived there 5 years. I remember that they referred to it as a money pit. They also did no damage but the quality of their work, roofing and wallpapering and painting, really left something to be desired.

I fell in love with this house when I was a teenager. I used it drive by it each day on my way to school and I dreamed of living there. It wasn’t a dream I pursued though. My husband and I built a new home and were quite happy living there. That is, until I saw an open house sign. I wanted to just go look. I really had no intention at all to buy. We’d only been in our new house a couple years. I couldn’t believe it but my husband fell in love with the house too.

We moved in about 16 years ago and the previous owners were right, it really is a money pit. But we still love it. Most of the architectural and decorative details are still intact. There are three sets of pocket doors, a beautiful oak entryway and staircase, some original light fixtures, parquet floors and lots of stained glass. Like many Victorian houses, it was built on a main street. In today’s heavy traffic, that is a bit of a drawback. Nevertheless, we hope to have many more decades here.

The old photo was from our town’s anniversary, in 1930. While we do have some flags for July 4th in the modern photos, we’re a bit more low key than in those earlier days. We do still have the flag that’s in the sidewalk and the awnings are in the garage.

Thanks for visiting my world. Tomorrow it will be back to the Ivy and Lace Tea’s recipes.


Ivy and Lace Tea Party Menu

Inspiration for an afternoon tea theme can come from anywhere. I saw this photo and it sparked the Ivy and Lace Tea. Here's the menu:

Fresh Tomato Soup with Cheese Frico

Field Greens with Apple and Bacon with Cider Dressing

Coconut Pineapple Macadamia Scones with Pineapple Preserves and Clotted Cream

Smoked Turkey on Mini Biscuits with Cranberry Chutney

Prosciutto-Wrapped Fruit

Shrimp-Filled Pasta Shells

Lacy Florentines

Chocolate Pretzels

Grasshopper Cheesecake

Bai Hao Oolong Tea


Ivy and Lace Tea Party

The Ivy and Lace Tea is a traditional afternoon tea. Guests should be seated at a table some place other than your kitchen. Invite only the amount of guests that you can seat. Since this tea is more structured (I don’t want to say formal) than some I’ve presented, feel free to invite people who appreciate that kind of atmosphere.

As for invitations, this is a good time to use the real ones instead of phoning or emailing. This tea’s theme lends itself to creating your own. Use good card stock, a lace paper punch and a touch of ribbon. If you aren’t feeling creative or don’t have the time, your local card shop will certainly have an invitation that works.

The ivy in my garden is still growing strong even though it is October. If you have ivy, use this to decorate your table. Use white flowers in vases and fill with beautiful trailing ivy. If you have potted ivy in pretty containers, bring that to the table too. Maybe you even have a couple ivy topiaries to anchor your table—that would be perfect.

I picture this tea table decorated in green and white but you could use a third color depending on your dishes. Lay a solid color tablecloth that coordinates with your dishes. Over that use a beautiful lace cloth. If you don’t have a lace cloth, buy a length of lace from any fabric store. Seam two pieces together in order to cover your table. If you don’t sew, simply place the pieces side by side. The objects on the table will hold them in place. Use fabric tape or pink the edges if you can’t hem.

White candles in clear glass holders look really pretty on this table. There is an etiquette rule that says not to light candles during the day. But you know how I feel about rules that serve no real purpose. I think candlelight looks festive and pretty no matter the time of day. Do whatever feels right to you. If you’ve invited your mother-in-law and you think she might sniff the air in distain when she sees your lit candles, you might want to forego them. Or you might decide to let her sniff. Your call.

Use pretty fabric napkins for this tea. I’m sure you can find an ivy pattern. Fold them into a pocket for the flatware and tie this bundle with a piece of lace. You might even add a sprig of ivy.

I’ve noticed that some tea party planner types like to tie huge bows of lace, flowers and tulle on to the back of each guest’s chair. I guess it is supposed to look super festive. To me, it looks as though some Victorian lady’s underwear drawer has exploded all over the room. As always though, do what pleases you. If you like this look, and it certainly would fit in with the Ivy and Lace theme, by all means, use it. You might want to not light your candles if you do, however.

If you want to give a tea party favor, you might consider little pots of ivy that you’ve started yourself. You could use these as place settings on your table. Just add a little name label on a stick in the pot. There isn’t much to transplanting a bit of ivy from your own pot or patch. Cut a piece, use rooting powder if you have it, stick it into moist soil. It will take off in just a few days.

For music playing in the background during this tea, you might want to consider the radio stations on your cable TV. They offer such a wide range of music and it is all without commercials. Mine has several "Sounds of the Seasons" stations. These always provide a nice mix of musical styles. There are also several "light" stations and even "light" classical.

Tomorrow I’ll give you the menu for the Ivy and Lace Afternoon Tea. While it would be goofy to have lots of lacy foods, I might have included one or two. Even at a traditional tea, a sense of humor isn’t out of place.