Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar

I tried to make reservations for afternoon tea at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar over the winter holidays because my friends N., S., and I wanted to go somewhere fancy for Christmas tea.  It turns out they don’t have afternoon tea service during December!  Instead, they serve hors d’oeuvres (cheese, crackers, and deli meats) so my friends and I decided to wait.  Fast forward 4 months later … we finally made it to the Fairmont Grand Del Mar for afternoon tea!

Making my way to afternoon tea…

Such expanses of land on the vast property, and look at the wide driveway!

Resort main entrance (photo from Fairmont Grand Del Mar website)

The bathrooms are even elegant! I especially like the full sized doors on the stalls and reusable hand towels.

Tea menu (click image to enlarge)

The Fairmont Grand Del Mar used to offer Tea Forte teas but they recently changed their tea selection, which is great!  I like Tea Forte but I prefer trying different teas whenever I can.  I tried the Liza Hill Darjeeling which was nice but didn’t have a strong enough flavor profile for me, even when it was steeped for awhile.  The Grand Bazaar Spice tea was spicy as its name suggests and it was a nice dark tea.  N. liked it a lot.  The creamy Earl Grey had a wonderful aroma but like the Liza Hill Darjeeling, S. thought the tea was not strong enough.

They still have beautiful china and the individual teapots and tea strainers which I really like.

The Fairmont Grand Del Mar does offer a vegetarian menu and I was very impressed with their vegetarian sandwiches which were mostly vegan and plant based, rather than cheese based.  This is my favorite vegetarian tea menu so far because all the ingredients were so fresh and so much thought went into the sandwich fillings which were delicious and innovative.

Vegetarian sandwiches (top to bottom): open face egg salad with microgreens, asparagus and tomato, open face artichoke tapenade, roasted garlic and cauliflower on whole wheat, open face roasted vegetable hummus on marbled rye

Their regular tea sandwich menu was also lovely.  I could have happily eaten these too!

Regular tea sandwich menu (left to right): Open face roasted vegetable hummus, open face egg salad, open face smoked salmon, honey ham and cheese, and shrimp BLT

I love that they still offer 2 scones per person because their scones are excellent: currant and Tahitian vanilla.

The mixed berry “preserves” were so good that I could have eaten them with a spoon! It was more like a berry puree and tasted like a coulis. My friend S. declared the lemon curd was the “best” she’d ever had!

Candied lemon cake with hazelnut

Raspberry macarons and profiteroles with caramel cream and passionfruit custard

Caramel creme macarons and opera cake

Tiramisu and fruit tarts with strawberry custard

Judging by the desserts, they still have a French pastry chef on staff (yeah!).  The desserts were all delicious but the profiterole was truly an experience, the most delectable dessert I’ve enjoyed in a long time.  A light profiterole puff (slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) filled with caramel cream and passionfruit custard, studded with a ring of crispy dark chocolate pearls.  Aaaahhhh!!!  I think I actually momentarily left my body and mentally abandoned my 2 tea companions while I was eating this!  Is that what it means when something is so good, it’s like a “bite of heaven”? 😉

Bye, bye, thanks for the wonderful tea!

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I last had afternoon tea at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar–I was very impressed when I called to make reservations because my name was still in their system!  In any case, I won’t wait that long again until my next visit.  My only regret is that we were not able to get a table in the library but now we have a reason to come back!  Thank you N. and S. for a lovely Sunday afternoon outing! 

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Lady Di’s British Shop and Tea Room

I want to give a shout-out to my friend S. in Portland, OR who celebrated her birthday at Lady Di’s British Shop & Tea Room in downtown Lake Oswego, OR.  She treated herself and 3 friends to their first afternoon tea!  What a wonderful gift!  S. was very kind to share photos from her special day.

Click menu to enlarge

S. reported that the teas were Twinings brand tea bags.  Each guest got their own little teapot.  Though the teas were delicious, S. said she would have preferred a properly brewed cuppa of loose leaf tea.

Mini quiche and sandwiches: Cream cheese and cucumber, salmon spread and cucumber, turkey and tomato, and Cheddar and chutney

Lady Di’s Tea Room has an interesting business model for sandwiches–guests get to choose one sandwich from the menu.  Portion-wise, one sandwich makes 4 little sandwiches which is enough to satiate any appetite.  It sure beats trying to figure out what to do with leftover sandwiches when you don’t have an even number of guests.  However, one sandwich is boring … unless you have tea with at least 4 friends so that you can each order a different sandwich to share!  I understand that one of the delights of afternoon tea is sharing it with friends but I might be in the minority since I don’t mind having tea by myself. 😉

According to S., “Everything tasted good. The scones were not as good as Marlene’s but tasted fine.”

Fresh fruit garnish with Eton Mess (strawberries, meringue cookies, and whipped cream), lemon bars, shortbread, and chocolate pound cake

And last but not least, here is some “British” bathroom humor.  I think it’s strange to find bathroom humor in tea rooms but it’s not uncommon?!  Even at the St. James Tearoom, which is probably my favorite “British” style tea room, they have some bathroom humor.  Their restroom is known as the Winston Churchill room or the WC (i.e., water closet). 🙂

Thank you, S. for reporting on Lady Di’s British Shop & Tea Room!  Happy birthday to you and may you find time for more afternoon tea in the coming year!

“Make tea, not war.”
― Monty Python

Spring tea in a cottage

Happy spring!  As a token of her gratitude for helping her co-host her Tea tasting party earlier this month, Lady B. treated a few of the VTS ladies to afternoon tea at the Julian tea & cottage arts tea room.

Bright and cheery white and yellow daffodils painted our way to Julian, a 19th century gold rush era mining town located in the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego County.  Its current residents live 45 minutes from the nearest supermarket and 1 hour from the nearest movie theater.  I had never been to Julian in the spring so this was a rare treat.

Julian Tea & Cottage Arts

Established in 1995, the Julian Tea & Cottage Arts occupies a historic house built in 1898 for Clarence King, son of the gold miner George Valentine King.  King struck gold in 1871 and founded the Golden Chariot Mine, the second most productive in the Julian area.  The house served as the King family’s residence until 1927 when Mrs. King sold it to their daughter, Lucy Bell, for $10.

I last visited the tea room 5 years ago and with the exception of the scones and the fun tea shop, there was little to entice me back for a 2nd visit.  Fortunately, things can change in 5 years and I’m happy to say that there was marked improvement in several areas, most notably, their sandwiches and service.

Sandwiches (left to right, clock wise): Olive cream cheese (open face), toasted sharp cheddar with chives (open face), cucumber, egg salad, salad and hummus (croissant), chicken salad (croissant)

I ordered the vegetarian menu which was very good.  On this visit, their menu was all vegetarian by default except for the croissant chicken salad which was replaced by a salad and hummus croissant.

In addition to afternoon tea and scones, the Julian Tea & Cottage Arts tea room also offers a lighter lunch menu for walk-ins, smaller appetites, or for those who don’t have the luxury of sitting down for afternoon tea.  Their lunch offerings are named for some of the historic players in the history of the King House, including George Valentine King, Drew Bailey, and Lucy Bell.  Their soup du jour on this occasion was pumpkin soup.

Lady B. ordered the Lucy Bell lunch: Half a sandwich with a green salad or soup, and tea

Their scones are still as excellent as I remembered: Crispy on the outside, warm and fluffy on the inside.  I would have preferred Julian apple butter or jam but the cherry blood orange jam was interesting.  Also, their lemon curd is made in-house!

Perfect scones!

While I was impressed with their cheesecake dessert on my last visit, I did not care for their bread pudding dessert.  However, this is more of a personal preference because I have yet to meet a bread pudding I actually like!  It’s simply not one of my favorite desserts so I cannot even tell you if this was a good version.  Overall, the tea service itself was excellent.  I was really happy with their tea, food, and service!  The tea server was friendly, professional, and knew exactly what she was talking about.  The tea itself was properly brewed (as it was last time) and kept hot.  The quality of the food was a vast improvement over my first visit.

DSC08757 (Small)

Bread pudding

I can’t end this post without mentioning a cute tea thing.  Lady B. was carrying a most curious purse!  I thought, why is she carrying a teapot around?  Then she revealed it was a purse or “tea bag” by Parisian designers, Pylones!  I love the little details such as the tea bag tag button closure and the lid flips up to reveal a compact mirror.

CUTE TEA THING: Tea bag from Pylones

Thank you Lady B. for treating us to a lovely and memorable spring afternoon!  It was absolutely my pleasure and privilege to help you host a tea.

Tote bag in the Julian tea & cottage arts shop (photo by Lady J.)

Tea tasting party

Lady B. hosted a tea tasting party for the Victorian Tea Society winter tea, our first tea of 2018!  She set the stage with this cute teapot invitation that required lifting the lid to learn the details: Lady B. would provide all the food but the guests were to bring a teapot and share their favorite tea!

As always, Lady B. welcomed her guests with inviting signs leading up to her house.  It’s always a new adventure to visit her as there is always something new to see in her garden!  On this visit, I spied some joyful signs:

Inside, Lady B. decorated the house and tea table with teapot and teacup themes for her tea tasting party.  See if you can spot them all in the following photos!

The tea tasting was a grand affair with 7 different teas and the stories that went along with them!
Lady B: Rooibos (A friend introduced Rooibos to Lady B. and it has since become her favorite tea!)
Lady K: She first tried Scottish caramel pu-erh when trying to reduce her coffee habit and learning of its weight loss benefits.
Lady J.: She first tried Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) tea (herbal) at a tea house that had its own lemon verbena bush.  Lady J. was so impressed that she now harvests her own lemon verbena leaves from her garden.
Lady S.: She first encountered Sunny slopes (herbal with apple, kiwi, orange peel, rose petals, and strawberry) at a coffee cart.  She had been suffering from a sore throat and the owner recommended Sunny slopes.  It’s now her favorite tea!
Lady T.: Chocolate mint rooibos (Lady T. really prefers ginger peach tea but was not able to get her hands on her favorite brand so she brought her 2nd favorite tea)
Lady M: Genmaicha (green tea) is special to Lady M. because it’s the tea that she was served when she was welcomed and married into her Japanese family.  The tea, while very delicious, is her favorite because of its sentimental value.
Lady H: Read about Yogi tea (black tea) to see why it’s one of my favorites.  On a side note, my everyday go-to breakfast tea is Yorkshire Gold (black tea).

The teas were all delicious but wait until you see the foods!  Lady B. made all the food herself!  Having hosted a few tea parties myself, I can tell you that this is a Herculean task to attempt on one’s own (Note: I do not recommend this!).  The time and attention that Lady B. put into this tea party is no small feat.  She did a beautiful job!

I love the quilled rose at the top of the menu

Creamy broccoli soup with brown rice and teapot shaped toast

Spring lettuce cucumber salad with Boursin cheese and Rooibos tea

Crustless quiche with tomatoes and asparagus

Grilled veggies (red pepper, olives, mushrooms, artichokes) on French baguette toast with herbed cream and goat cheese

Veggie bean teapot on Muenster cheese toast

Sandwiches, left to right, clockwise: Veggie bean teapot on cheese toast, Cucumber carrot on rye, Grilled marinated veggies on French bread, Artichoke hummus turkey roulade with havarti cheese and asparagus, Avocado egg salad canape on spelt bread

Lady B. experimented with making her scones in advance by shaping and freezing them.  They looked perfect out of the freezer but they did not rise during baking.  According to the King Arthur Flour website (must read!), chilled/frozen scones will yield a higher rise and should be allowed to “thaw” only as long as the oven is preheating.  I think the experiment is worth repeating and I appreciate Lady B. blazing the way with new baking techniques!

Although, as Lady B. pointed out, they did end up looking a bit like teapots AND they were delicious! 🙂  Everyone devoured them enthusiastically.  The homemade lemon curd was also excellent!  After the scones course, Lady B. announced we were going to have dessert outside in the garden and gazebo!

In the gazebo, the pink (Lady B.’s favorite color!) and white table was replete with parasols in addition to teapots and teacups.  It was such a cute theme!

The ladies outdid themselves with the hostess gifts, as Lady B. was very touched by them all.

Cross stitch by Lady T.

CUTE TEA THING: Tea charm bracelet by Lady S.

And last but not least, Lady B. had a surprise gift for each of us: customized cross stitched tea towels!  Each one was unique.  This one is mine and the design is very me, don’t you think? 🙂

“Something special for someone special”

Thank you Lady B. for your time and care in creating the beautiful tea towels and for hosting a memorable and delectable tea tasting party!  I look forward to sipping tea with you again soon.

Disclaimer: Tastes Like Tea is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

New shortbread recipes for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

I dreamed of some new shortbread for the Chinese New Year inspired by Asian flavors, just in time to celebrate the Year of the Dog!

All recipes are based on the basic shortbread recipe in this post.  Add-ins are indicated in red below:

Black sesame shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
2 1/2 Tbsp. toasted black sesame seeds

Matcha black sesame shortbread
Add 1 tsp. matcha powder to above

To toast the black sesame seeds, see this post on the China Sichuan Food blog.  I was so happy to find this post!  Prior to using this method, I always burned the black sesame seeds–they start smoking and burning within seconds.  You cannot toast black sesame seeds in the same way as white sesame seeds and toasting them is necessary to get that distinct nutty flavor.  They just don’t taste good raw…

Using a food processor, grind toasted black sesame seeds until they resemble a coarse powder (fine powder is also okay but my food processor doesn’t get it that fine).  Add all other ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.


Almond sesame shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1/4 c. almond flour (optional, may omit)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. to 3/4 c. toasted white sesame seeds

To toast the sesame seeds, heat them in a pan over low-medium heat until they start to turn golden brown.  Watch them carefully because they can burn quickly, turning from white to dark brown in the blink of an eye.  If they turn dark brown, toss them because they will be bitter.

Using a food processor, add all ingredients except the sesame seeds and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Spread the sesame seeds over the surface, pressing them into the dough.  Add more if needed to cover the surface completely.  Turn the pan over gently to release any loose excess sesame seeds.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.


Oolong tea shortbread
(Basic shortbread recipe adapted from Lucy Ross Natkiel’s Classic Shortbread III recipe in The gourmet shortbread book)

1/2 cup butter, cold
1/3 cup powdered sugar (unsifted)
1 cup flour, minus 2 Tbsp. (unsifted)
2 Tbsp. rice flour*
1 Tbsp. Oolong tea leaves (loose)
or
contents of 1 Oolong tea bag

Using a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is fully incorporated into the flour.  Spray the ceramic shortbread pan very lightly with a non-stick vegetable oil spray.  Pour the shortbread “crumbs” into the shortbread pan, and working out from the center, firmly press the dough into the pan.  Prick the entire surface with a fork.  Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes, or until it is lightly browned.  Be sure that the middle is thoroughly cooked and doesn’t look slightly opaque or the shortbread might stick in the pan.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before you flip the pan over onto a cutting board.  If the shortbread does not come right out, put a cutting board on top of the pan (the cutting board should be bigger than the pan) and while holding the pan against the cutting board, turn it upside down and firmly tap one edge of the pan against the board.  This should loosen the shortbread and it should drop out.  Cut the shortbread into serving pieces while it is still warm, otherwise the edges will not be clean.

*You can skip the rice flour and just use 1 c. flour, if you wish.  The rice flour makes a flakier cookie.

May these shortbread cookies bring sweetness and joy to the new year!

Vegan tea fare and games for 2

My friend S. invited me over the tea and games and she set a beautiful tea table with delicious vegan friendly fare and Royal Albert roses china.  Are we giddy and happy yet? 🙂
On the subject of games, “I spy with my little eye …” dishes that go great with tea!  On the menu (starting top left, clockwise):

Dr. Praeger’s kale puffs
Roasted veggies (yams, mushrooms, cauliflower, thyme, rosemary)
Vegan mizeria (Polish cucumber salad)
Oatmeal bites
Artisan Nut thins (gluten-free crackers)
Avocado salad
Curried chickpea salad
Baked tofu (seasoned with Bragg’s liquid aminos, salt, and pepper)
Gluten-free oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (not pictured, recipe from The beaming baker)

Teas
The Tea Nation peach ginger black tea
Bentley’s mango green tea

Henni’s curried chickpea salad

Henni’s curried chickpea salad
(adapted from the chicken salad recipe in the Better Homes & Garden cookbook, now in its 16th edition!))

1 1/2 c. cooked chickpeas
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/3 c. chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
1 Tbsp. dried onion or 1/3 c. scallions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. mayo (use your favorite brand or recipe below)

The secret to this recipe is cooking the chickpeas in stock made with Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base. If you use only water, you will have to adjust your seasonings.

Roughly mash the cooked chickpeas with a potato masher, adding the cooking water as needed so the mash is not too dry.  Add all other ingredients and mix with a spoon until everything is incorporated.  Serve on crackers, bread, croissants, salads, etc.!

Henni’s vegan mayo

I have never liked mayo anyway and whenever we get a jar of it from the store, 1/2 of it always goes to waste due to spoilage (and commercial mayo has a really long shelf life so don’t ask how long …).  Since I usually have tofu in the fridge I’m happy to be able to whip up mayo only as I need it.  No more food waste, no more guilty conscience, win-win!

In my opinion, this vegan mayo doesn’t taste like mayo and I wouldn’t eat it by the spoonful (does anyone do that with mayo?!) but it sure does the trick with things like this chickpea salad.  I look forward to trying this with cole slaw and potato salad.  Although for potato salads, I still like to use Majestic garlic (which I have been known to consume by the spoonful!).

Henni’s vegan mayo
(yields approx. 1/2 cup)

1/2 block silken tofu
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 Tbsp. canola oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
1 tsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. black salt (kala namak) (optional)*

*Add the black salt if you like that sulphuric eggy taste of mayo

Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Keep refrigerated, covered in an airtight container, for up to a week.

In between sipping tea and nibbles, S. and I played Elevenses, the card game of morning tea!  Having played a few weeks ago, we were ready for a rematch.  Elevenses is a card game in which respectable 1920s socialites strive to serve the finest morning teas!  Players use cards with sandwiches, biscuits, cakes, tea, etc. to create a tea spread.  When eleven o’clock strikes, the player with the best spread wins!

My sister got me this game for my birthday last year.  To my knowledge, it’s the only card or board game that features afternoon tea as a theme besides the solitary version of Elevenses, Elevenses for one.  If you know of any other games that feature afternoon tea, please share in the comments!  The only other one I’m aware of is Teago, which is the afternoon tea version of Bingo. 🙂  However, it does not seem to be available anymore. 😦

Teago

Thank you S. for a lovely afternoon of tea and games! 

Disclaimer: Tastes Like More is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

December high tea at Marlene’s

My friends N. and S. wanted to do something “fancy” for the holidays this year.  Since Christmas tea at the Hotel Del last year was so disappointing, we wanted to make sure we had a better experience this year.  After plans for tea at the Grand Del Mar and the Park Hyatt Aviara fell through, I suggested going to Marlene’s Tea & Cakes (of course :))!  (NOTE: The Grand Del Mar serves hors d’oeuvres for tea during the holidays and by “hors d’oeuvres,” they mean “cheese, crackers, and champagne”–say whaaat?)

As my friends remarked, Marlene has “impeccable taste!”  Marlene’s Tea & Cakes is, hands-down, my favorite place to have afternoon tea.

Don’t you love the Royal Albert Christmas china?

As usual, Marlene’s menu was delicious!  I really appreciate that she is able to accommodate vegetarians (advance notice is required).

Roasted winter vegetable soup with puff twist

S. ordered the vegetarian option. I loved that the vegetarian sandwiches were marked with little sprigs of parsley!

The cranberry white chocolate scones were delicious!  Marlene bakes the best scones!

I LOVE the gingerbread reindeer cookie!  It’s almost too cute to eat!

When I first tried a savory cookie, it produced one of those “wow” moments in my culinary world.  Well, now there’s a savory eclair!  What do you think of that?! 😉

Savory eclair with tomato, ricotta, and basil

Thank you N. and S. for sharing a lovely afternoon with me!  It was a wonderful way to end the year.  Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to all!

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.

–Thomas S. Monson