The Witches Tea 2018

We’re deep into October!  YAAAY!YAASSSS!!

AWWWW YEEEAHHH!

My sister got me these napkins for Xmas! How can I resist not hosting a Witches Tea??

I can’t believe it been 3 years since I last hosted a Witches’ Tea!  That is waaay too long and it’s time to bring back the tradition! 🙂  Welcome to the revamped, plant-based Witches’ Tea!

This is the 2nd time I’ve been able to make use of my Halloween teapot cozies!

Isn’t it funny how much a teapot resembles a pumpkin?

N. made a ginger butternut squash soup with her Instant Pot! Perfect for Fall!

Green Man Salad

Open faced tofu “egg” salad sandwitch and vegan grilled cheese sandwitch fingers

Cranberry scones

Plain scones (vegan)
(Adapted from The Miniature Moose)

2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can (12 oz.) coconut milk
Optional: 1/4 c. dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

* If using AP flour, add 1 Tbsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together just until combined.  Add 1-2 Tbsp. flour as needed to make dough less sticky.  If should be a very soft dough.  Scoop biscuit-sized balls of dough on a baking sheet, or form dough into a 1″ thick round cake and score with sharp knife.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-17 mins. until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  If baked as a round, break apart or cut before serving.

Kosher tea cookies (almond, apricot, and raspberry filled) from S.

Almond jello with mango by Henni (colors of Autumn!)

Chinese almond jello

2 1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
1/3 c. sugar
3 g agar agar sticks (or 3 g agar agar powder)
2 tsp. almond extract
Fresh or canned fruit (to serve)

Soften agar sticks in warm water, then drain (I scoop out the agar with a slotted spoon).  Add the milk, sugar, almond extract, and agar agar to a medium saucepan and heat until agar agar is dissolved.  Pour into a 8 x 8 pan and chill until firm.  Cut into cubes and serve with fresh or canned fruit or your choice.

Skull bracelet (yeah!) from S.

Sansevieria cylindrica (aka Cylindrical snake plant, African spear or spear sansevieria, a succulent plant native to Angola)–Hostess gift from S.

Ahhh, my year now feels complete!  Thank you, ghoul friends, for coming to the Witches’ Tea!

Happy Halloween!

“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and ca[u]ldron bubble.”

 

William Shakespeare

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Fondant cookies for your tea party

October is National Cookie Month and I can’t think of a better way to initiate the Fall than to bake cookies!  Back in May 2008, Lady J. taught me how to use fondant to decorate cookies.  I still make them once in a blue moon but, more often than not, I prefer to make unfrosted cookies.  However, working with fondant is a lot of fun and I thought I would blog about it since I recently came across some photos of fondant cookies that I made in July 2008.  Fondant cookies are also great for when you want to make a themed cookie for a party–there are so many possibilities!  I think using fondant is easier than using icing!

My friend Z. asked me to make some Thomas the Train shaped cookies for her son who was turning 2.  I made a double batch since my friend L.’s daughter was also a fan and also celebrating a birthday in July!  “Thomas the Train” is known as “Thomas the Tank Engine” in the UK where the first TV series aired in October 1984, 34 years ago this month!  Do kids still like Thomas the Train?  I have no idea!  I grew up with The Little Engine Who Could popularized by Disney. 🙂

Thomas the Train

To make Thomas the Train cookies, I colored some white fondant using food coloring (drop by drop) to match the color of Thomas the Train’s face.  I rolled tiny balls of white fondant to make the eyes and pressed them in the faces.  I drew the face using food grade edible markers.

I thought these faces were pretty creepy!

Then I cut out blue fondant using the same train cutter I used for the cookies and put them on the cookies.  I used royal icing to “glue” the face to the engine and draw the details of the train.  The black and blue accents were made using the edible markers.

The final product is not as creepy as the faces alone!

My sister loves daisies and wanted to learn how to use fondant so we used leftover cookie dough to make these.

Daisies decorated using nonpareils and icing

Lady J.’s fondant cookie instructions

From package, break out a chunk of fondant.  Re-seal package so that the fondant does not dry out.  Knead fondant until workable and roll out onto a silicone sheet, parchment or wax paper.  Use a pair of bamboo BBQ skewers as guides to roll out the fondant to achieve uniform thickness. (It’s optional if you want to lightly dust work surface with powdered sugar or cornstarch.)  Lift and move the fondant as you roll.  This will prevent it from sticking to the surface.

Cookies:

  1. Bake your favorite sugar cookie recipe or use the No fail sugar cookie recipe.
  2. Use a cookie cutter to cut desired shapes out of your cookie dough.  Then cut fondant with same cookie cutter.  When the cookies bake, they will expand a bit.  The cut fondant will fit the tops of the cookies perfectly.
  3. After the cookies cool, brush tops of cookies with a thin layer of shortening which acts as the “glue” for the fondant.
  4. Place cut fondant on top of cookie. Press to cover to edge of cookie (okay to have some edge of cookie showing).
  5. Decorate cookies by adding texture, luster dust, edible pearls, fondant flowers* and piped icing.

Notes and tips for working with fondant

— If you buy white fondant and use paste/gel coloring (can be purchased as a kit or individually), you can avoid having to buy different colored fondants.  It’s a little bit more work but offers you more variety and will save you a bit of $$.

— Fondant cookies can keep for two weeks.  Best to keep in cellophane bag – not in Tupperware containers.  Do not put fondant cookies in refrigerator (the fondant will weep and get sticky).

–*Fondant flowers can be cut out and shaped ahead of time.  Use piped icing to adhere to decorated cookies.

— Fondant dries quickly.  Always keep covered to prevent drying when in use.  Leftover fondant should be tightly sealed in plastic wrap and kept in airtight container. Fondant has a shelf life of one year, as long as it is covered up.  Its enemies are air and water/moisture.  Do not refrigerate fondant.  Happy cookie decorating!

“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.”

Crystal Woods, Write like no one is reading

Afternoon Tea at Hogwarts

Ferrero Rocher Golden Snitches

I had been planning a Harry Potter themed party inside my head for yeeears.  The creative possibilities were endless which made it very difficult for me to plan the party outside my head because, my goodness, where to begin?!  With each passing year, it seemed less and less likely that a Harry Potter party would ever be realized.  Then I received some signs …

Two years ago, I spotted Ferrero Rocher Golden Snitches online and became smitten with the ones by Party Delights.  Like the little Spanish tea spoons that inspired a tea party for Lady J., I knew I had to host a party that revolved around Ferrero Rocher Golden Snitches! 🙂

Earlier this summer, I received more signs, literally …

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Though I’m not as much of a Potterhead as I used to be, the planets and the stars were clearly aligning … OH!  It’s the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter! … 2018 is my year to host an afternoon tea for the Victorian Tea Society … and hey! the Harry Potter books are all about friendship and wasn’t the ritual of afternoon tea invented for the purpose of fostering friendship? … so why not host a tea party at Hogwarts?! 🙂  Indeed!  Finally!  After all these years!

“And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

As the Headmistress, I sent Hogwarts acceptance letters to eight lucky First-Year students.

“Don’t talk rubbish. There is no platform nine and three-quarters.”
Vernon Dursley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The student’s train ticket to Hogwarts

The students were instructed to meet Hagrid on Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross for the train arriving at Hogwarts at 11:00am, at which time the sorting hat ceremony was to begin promptly.  But before heading to Hogwarts, Hagrid took the First-Years to Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley to get their wands.

“Curious indeed how these things happen. The wand chooses the wizard … It’s not always clear why. But I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you …”

Mr. Ollivander, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Beautiful handmade wands by Lady E. and Lady L.

Unfortunately, some of the students took the wrong train upon leaving Ollivander’s Wand Shop and did not arrive at Hogwarts at the appointed hour.

“The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school. I suggest you all smarten yourselves up as much as you can while you are waiting.”

–Professor Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Professor McGonagall advised the other students to “smarten” themselves up as much as they could while they waited.  They decided to explore Hogwarts …

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“Welcome to Hogwarts!  The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room … Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards.”

–Professor Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Hogwarts house banners

The eight students were randomly sorted into the 4 houses, with 2 students in each house: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff.  Following the Sorting Ceremony, the First-Years were required to declare, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!” in order to enter the Great Hall.

Marauders map (click to enlarge)

“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.”

—A lesson all First-Years learn

Great Hall

“You can laugh, but people used to believe there were no such things as the Blibbering Humdinger or the Crumple-Horned Snorkack!”

–Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Centerpiece: Hogwarts’ Magical Creatures Collection (Fairies, Cornish Pixies, Mermaids, and Rare and Unusual Flora)

“The pixies were electric blue and about eight inches high, with pointed faces and voices so shrill it was like listening to a lot of budgies arguing.”

—Description of Cornish Pixie

Captured! Pesky Cornish Pixie!

Hogwarts china

On this day, the Hogwarts house-elves had specially prepared a vegan menu for the start-of-term Afternoon Tea.  I was lucky enough to recruit house-elf extraordinaire, Lady E., to help me serve tea and to welcome the First-Years.

Lady E. initiated the tea service by offering the students a glass of Polyjuice Potion, a bright blue butterfly pea flower iced tea that turned purple with the addition of a lemon ginger syrup.

“There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class. As such, I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion-making. However, for those select few who possess the predisposition, I can teach you how to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. I can tell you how to bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death.”

Professor Severus Snape, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

One of Professor Snape’s potions: Butterfly pea flower iced tea with lemon ginger syrup (the blue tea turned purple when the syrup was added)

“This establishment of Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron, is noted for its most excellent and delicious luncheon.”

A sign in the Leaky Cauldron

Leaky Cauldron Pea Soup (by Lady J.)

Lady MH, who did her homework ahead of time, proudly announced that all students would be able to breathe underwater following the consumption of her Gillyweed salad.

Gillyweed Salad with Breadstick “wands” (by Lady MH)

Hermione’s Tofu “Egg” Salad on Seeded Bread (by Lady Henni)

Lady E. was very busy serving as I cast one transfiguration spell after another for five varieties of Endless Sandwiches.  The spell, as the name suggests, produced plates of sandwiches which refilled themselves as the sandwiches were eaten.

Endless sandwiches (left to right, clockwise): Harry’s Curried Chickpea Salad on a Stoneground Cracker, Ron’s Vegan Sourdough Grilled Cheese, Hermione’s Tofu “Egg” Salad, Mrs. Weasley’s Cucumber Hummus sandwich, and (center) Three Broomsticks Stuffed Mushroom

Ron’s vegan sourdough grilled cheese was indeed a magical sandwich as most of the students devoured it before they even realized it wasn’t actually cheese! 🙂

“The (Forbidden) forest hides many secrets.”
Ronan the Centaur

Forbidden Forest Fruits with Lime and Agave Dressing (by Lady S.)

Super simple fruit dressing
(from the kitchen of Lady S.)

Zest and juice of one good sized lime
1/4 to 1/3 cup agave syrup or honey (depends on how juicy the lime is)

Combine and refrigerate.  Pour over assorted cut fruit just before serving.  NOTE: The acid in the juice will make the fruit go soft if you add it too far ahead.


Following the fruit course, all the First-Years took part in the mock Triwizard Tournament!

“The Goblet of Fire! Anyone wishing to submit themselves to the tournament need only write their name upon a piece of parchment and throw it in the flame … Do not do so lightly! If chosen, there’s no turning back. As from this moment, The Triwizard Tournament has begun.”

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Goblet of Fire (with Mermaid jar in the background)

First held in the late 13th century, the Triwizard Tournament was a magical contest held between the three largest wizarding schools of Europe, with each school being represented by one champion.  The tournament was designed to test magical ability, intelligence, and courage.  Instead of electing a champion from each house for this mock Triwizard Tournament, the First-Years helped their fellow housemates complete their required tasks as a demonstration of good sportsmanship and teamwork.

“Eternal glory! That’s what awaits the student who wins the Triwizard Tournament, but to do this, that student must survive three tasks. Three extremely dangerous tasks.”

–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Tasks for the Triwizard Tournament consisted of charades (Transfiguration), trivia (History of Magic, Astronomy), and word challenges (Spells & charms, Defensive magic) from Cranium and drawing challenges (Apparition, Divination) from Telestrations.  The tasks were assigned categories/classes that were randomly picked from a hat.  Every successfully completed task earned one point.  The house that scored the most points out of three received bragging rights and prizes!  Not all the tasks are documented but here are a few memorable ones:

ASTRONOMY

Astronomy challenge

HERBOLOGY

“The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it.”
—Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I was very pleased when House Slytherin received the Herbology challenge because of all my First-Year students, Lady T. and Lady B. showed the most promise in this subject, being avid gardeners.  Their task was to identify the creature or vegetable, one of the leaves, and both of the remaining herbs below.  I was very disappointed when they scored only 2 out of 4 points. 😦

Herbology challenge (answers: Mandrake or daikon, curry leaf or citrus leaf, rosemary, and thyme)

SPELLS & CHARMS

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

House Ravenclaw got a tough word challenge for picking the Spells & charms category.  They had one minute to rearrange the words in this anagram to create a new word(s) or phrase.  The clue was: “cardio coach.”

ETERNAL IRON SPAR

The answer was: personal trainer.  House Ravenclaw got “trainer” but they were still working on the rest of the clue when the timer went off.  It was a valiant effort!

POTIONS

House Hufflepuff received the Potions challenge.  Their task was to identify the spices below using sight, scent, and feel.  They did not do very well and scored 2 out of 5 points.

TRANSFIGURATION

“Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts … Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned.”

–Professor Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

House Hufflepuff received a Transfiguration challenge.  Transfiguration is a branch of magic that focuses on altering the form or appearance of an object by transforming its molecular structure.  Lady MH.’s task was to transform herself into a “Low Rider” and Lady J.’s task was to guess her transformation correctly.  Lady MH did an excellent job becoming a “Low Rider” as you can see below:

NOT a low rider

However, Lady J. had a very difficult time guessing Lady MH’s transformation.  She thought Lady MH was a horse and could not get “horse” out of her head, much to the hilarity of all the participants and spectators present.  We now believe that Lady J. was the victim of a Jinx, a type of spell associated with dark magic and characterized by its negative effects used mostly for the amusement of observers and the minor discomfort of the victim. [NOTE: The First-Year student responsible for the Jinx will be identified and punished]

House Gryffindor received a Magical Creatures challenge.  Lady K. was tasked with using a Transfiguration spell to transform herself into a randomly chosen animal.  In this case, the animal was a “clam.”  Fellow Gryffindor, Lady ML, had to guess Lady K.’s transformation.  Lady K.’s initial attempts at shifting into a clam were not very good and elicited an exclamation from Lady ML, “What the heck kind of animal is that!?”

Lady K.’s initial attempt at transforming into a “clam”

A few seconds later … poof!

Clam

With the successful outcome of this task, Lady K. and Lady ML sealed the win for House Gryffindor!  Congratulations!

“You’re a little scary sometimes, you know that? Brilliant … but scary.”

—Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

And yes … everyone did think it was a little suspicious that House Gryffindor won the Tournament!  There were even murmurings of “cheating” (gasp!) because Lady K and Lady ML happened to be related which could have afforded them an unfair advantage in the Tournament. 😉  That said, I was very proud of all the First-Years who tried so hard and really got into the spirit of the Tournament.  They proved themselves to be great wizards in the making!

After the Tournament, everyone had worked up their appetites for the Hogwarts scones and desserts!

Hagrid’s Rock Cakes (Vegan Lemon and Rosemary Scones from Starry Starry Lane Bakery and mock clotted cream (contributed by Lady K. and Lady ML)

Lady Henni’s vegan lemon curd

1/2 c. unsweetened nondairy milk
2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice (depending on how tart your lemons are)
2-3 Tbsp. sugar (depending on how sweet you like it–I use 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. tapioca flour/starch
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 drop yellow food coloring (or use a tiny pinch of turmeric or saffron–haven’t tried either yet!)
tiny pinch of salt (optional, I don’t use it)

Mix everything together until smooth and microwave for 60-90 seconds until bubbly and hot.  The mixture needs to “boil” to activate the cornstarch and tapioca thickeners.  If the mixture does not look smooth, use a hand blender to puree the lumps. The curd will firm up in the fridge.

Mini Hogwarts Treacle Tarts (by Lady L.–love the letter “H” rendered in pie crust)

Hogwarts desserts (Photo by Lady J.)

At the conclusion of the tea party, I invited the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.) to make a special service announcement on behalf of house-elves worldwide.  Traditionally house-elves could be granted their freedom with a piece of clothing from their owners.  Dobby, a famous house-elf for the Malfoy family, was famously given his freedom when Harry Potter tricked his owner into throwing a sock at him.  We remembered and honored Dobby today with socks and also granted freedom to our loyal Hogwarts house-elf, Lady E., for her exemplary service in the Great Hall.  She received a pair of socks in the shape of sharks, her favorite animal!  [Disclaimer: All Hogwarts house-elves are treated fairly and with respect]

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

Sirius Black, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

“Dobby is free!”  Guests “donated” a pair of socks to S.P.E.W. in lieu of bringing a hostess gift

Before the First-Years were dismissed, I invited them to take a peek in Dumbledore’s pensieve which was filled with “special” shortbread treats: Floo powder, Newt’s eyes, Unicorn blood, Amortensia, Bone-gro, Honeydukes sweets, etc. as memories for them to take away.

” … It is called a Pensieve. I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind.”

Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Finally, it was time to bid farewell to the First-Years and send them home for their summer holidays.

Lady T.’s owl, Hedwig

“I think we’ve outgrown full-time education … Time to test our talents in the real world, d’you reckon?”

Fred Weasley, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Shortly after all my First-Years left, I started hearing rumors and seeing an inordinate number of wanted posters for escaped prisoners from Azkaban!  I could not believe my eyes when I saw my First-Years’ images in these posters.  The Headmistress in me was appalled to discover that my First-Years really meant it when they “solemnly swore they were up to no good!”  Even worse, they were caught and obviously spent time at Azkaban, the most notorious and inescapable prison for wizards.  The wizard in me, however, was secretly proud to learn they had outsmarted the Dementors and escaped Azkaban. 🙂  What can I say?  Great wizards in the making!

“I mean, it’s sort of exciting, isn’t it, breaking the rules?”
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Thank you to the ladies of the Victorian Tea Society for a riddikulusly fun and magical afternoon!  You are definitely all keepers!

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Chinese style afternoon tea (dim sum)

What’s an afternoon tea blog without a tribute to dim sum, a Chinese tea tradition that predates the English afternoon tea tradition by a millennium?  And not to mention, tea originated in China …!

Though I experienced my first English style afternoon tea in 2006, I realized I have more accurately been enjoying “afternoon tea” since I was a kid but never really appreciated the ritual because I didn’t drink tea at the time (I wasn’t allowed to!) and going out for dim sum was always a big, loud family affair–the opposite of an intimate, quiet English afternoon tea which is more in line with my personality. 😉

Vegetarian egg rolls

“Dim sum” is also known by its Cantonese name, “yum cha” (飲茶) which literally means “drink tea.”  According to some sources, Chinese tea houses first appeared along the Silk Road in the 10th century as rest stops for weary travelers where they could refresh themselves with drink and food.

As luck would have it, I attended a dim sum luncheon today that featured dishes that are the standard of measure for every dim sum restaurant.

Oolong tea is the traditional tea served at dim sum.  When I was 12 years old, I had dim sum in NYC’s Chinatown.  My 15-year-old cousin M. told me that tea was a digestive that helped counteract and cut the grease in dim sum foods.  Since M. was 3 years my senior, I thought she was super smart and cool and devoured her every word.  I remember being amused by how enthusiastically M. drank tea to justify eating a lot of dim sum. 😉

Traditionally, dim sum is served from roaming rolling carts in a restaurant.  Customers choose small tapas sized dishes that are displayed on roaming rolling food carts.  The choice of foods is dependent on where you are seated in the restaurant, location, location, location!  The closer you are seated to the kitchen, the better chance you have of nabbing the hottest (temperature), freshest, and most popular dishes.  If you are unlucky enough to get seated at some remote corner of the restaurant, trying to flag down a cart will be an exercise in frustration and futility.  Not many restaurants offer the cart service anymore but if you can find a restaurant that offers cart service, you are in for a treat.  It is simply not as fun to order off a menu because part of the fun is taking a chance and choosing a dish on whim, based solely on how it looks and smells.  [NOTE: The dim sum luncheon featured in this blog post took place at Emerald Chinese Cuisine which doesn’t offer cart service]

Daikon turnip cake

Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce

“Dim sum” (點心) translates literally to “touch heart.”  When I hear “dim sum,” the first image that comes to mind is sui mai, pork and shrimp dumplings with a touch of red in its center, the red representing the heart.  As a kid, sui mai was my favorite dim sum food.

Sui mai (pork and shrimp dumplings)

Vegetarian soy sauce fried noodles (chow mein)

Steamed chicken bao (buns) [NOTE: Char sui bao or BBQ pork buns are usually the standard but these were chosen specially for this luncheon]

Whereas my favorite dim sum foods were sui mai and joong/zongzi/ (lotus leaf variety), my sister’s favorites were har gow and don tot (egg tarts).

Don tot (egg tarts): I think these were the best don tot I’ve ever eaten!?

My biggest frustration about dim sum is that there are very few vegetarian offering 😦 but it’s special enough for me to make the occasional exception! 🙂  Even dishes that are seemingly vegetarian-friendly have hidden non-plant ingredients.  For example, egg tarts.  The pastry of egg tarts is traditionally made with lard.  Chinese broccoli is served with oyster sauce (but you can ask for it on the side).  The pan-fried turnip cakes usually have tiny bits of minced sausage or dried shrimp.  However, I am in awe of the art of the dim sum chef.  I read that dim sum chefs often start their training early and train for years for a career that is shorter than the normal chef.  Making dim sum is labor intensive since everything is made by hand and chefs may retire earlier as a result.  With that knowledge, I have a new appreciation for dim sum since I find it challenging to put together English style afternoon tea foods which are just as dainty but nowhere near as complicated or complex as dim sum! 🙂  My (tea) hat’s off to all the dim sum chefs out there.  Thank you for doing what you do and keeping a tradition alive.  In another lifetime, I would love to be a dim sum chef!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.

The Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea

Lady MH hosted the spring tea for the Victorian Tea Society at Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea.  Months in the planning, Lady MH reserved the entire tea room for 15 lucky guests to revel in a Royal Afternoon Tea to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Since the tea was held on Sunday, May 20, many of the ladies spent the previous day watching the nuptials on TV before taking their hats off to (or putting their hats on, as the case may be) Prince Harry and Meghan at the tea party!

The timing of the Royal Afternoon Tea party not only coincided nicely with the wedding event itself but Lady MH somehow managed to arrange for some English weather too!  Though we didn’t get rain, the May gray was too good to be true!

The table settings were elegant and simple in style, just like Meghan

Lady MH’s gifted all the guests with crown brooches (not pictured), pocket mirrors (not pictured), and this exquisite royal crown cookie by Penny’s Custom Cookies. I think this Penny’s best design yet!

I really love this idea! These alphabet beads identify the type of tea in the teapot. It certainly takes the guess work out of which tea goes in which teapot!

All guests got their own pot of tea. Guests can choose to sample any tea in the Corner Shoppe.

The tea party commenced with the singing of the English national anthem, “God save the Queen.”  Since this was an English-American wedding, I wondered why we didn’t dispense with all tradition and also sing the “Star spangled banner” …?  However, the menu was an English-American fusion of tea delights so all was forgiven for this little oversight. 😉

NOTE: The photos that follow reflect only the vegetarian menu.  Overall, I enjoyed the vegetarian menu very much but I want to point out that Shakespeare’s also offers a vegan menu!  Had I known, I would have chosen the vegan menu since that option is not usually available at tea houses.

Stilton port pate with pickled beetroot and toast points

The roast chicken vol au vent was an homage to the royal couple’s engagement day since Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle over a roast chicken dinner.  The vegetarian version of the roast chicken vol au vent was filled with roasted vegetables!

Left, clockwise: Egg salad with coriander, brie cranberry quiche (hidden), cucumber and mint butter, roasted vegetable vol au vent, English cheddar and arugula, vegetarian sausage rolls, and in the center, Branston pickle (which, by the way, was not vegetarian)

Branston pickle, a sweet and sour chutney or relish of chopped vegetables (traditionally: carrots, rutabaga, cucumbers, and cauliflower) in a “brown sauce,” was served as an accompaniment to the sausage rolls.  I had never had it before and it was sweet, sour, and crunchy with the distinct flavor of Worcestershire sauce which, by the way, is not vegetarian.  I don’t know for certain whether the Branston pickle served here actually contained Worcestershire sauce because I didn’t get a chance to ask but it certainly tasted like it.  Just a heads-up!

I was so happy to get a vegetarian sausage roll!

Excellent scones and real clotted cream!

Fresh fruit course

The selection of desserts were wonderful in concept and execution and appropriate to the theme of the royal wedding.  That said, those of you who know me will appreciate the irony of the selections:

  • Syllabub: Syllabub was included on the menu as a tribute to tradition.  Originating in the 16th century, syllabub is a quintessential English dessert that consists of whipped cream with sugar and wine (in this case, it was Champagne).  I think I was the only one who could taste the Champagne. 😉
  • Banoffee pie (banana and toffee pie): The inclusion of banoffee pie on the menu was a nod to Prince Harry’s fondness for everything banana.  Apparently, the royal couple almost ordered a banana wedding cake which, in my opinion, sounds even worse than fruitcake!
  • Princess tiara shortbread: Everyone’s favorite British (Scottish to be exact) biscuit but my least favorite cookie! 😦

Champagne syllabub, banoffee pie, and princess tiara shortbread cookies

To end the Royal Wedding Tea celebration, all guests were served a “slice” of Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake, lemon elderflower cake with lemon buttercream frosting.

Lemon elderflower wedding cupcake

This Royal Wedding tea party boasted the largest attendance of any Victorian Tea Society event to date.  Members and friends of the Victorian Tea Society came together to share the experience of afternoon tea which this plaque in the Corner Shoppe summed up quite completely.  Thank you Lady MH and co-hostess, Lady K., for hosting a royal occasion that will be remembered for years to come and congratulations to the royal couple!

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! 

High Tea in Dubai

While the Victorian Tea Society ladies were attending Lady MH’s Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea, Lady J. was on a 28-day “Timeless Wonder Cruise” on Oceania from India to Rome. During her trip, she got to experience High Tea in Dubai.  She was gracious enough to provide photos and to write about her experience for Tastes like Tea!  In the words of Lady J. ….

During our “Timeless Wonder Cruise,” we had the opportunity to go on the half-day shore excursion, “Dubai Heritage Tour with High Tea at Burj,” which included a 1.5 hour lunch break for “high-tea and pastries” at Sahn Eddar Lobby Lounge (“Reception of the House” in Arabic) in the Burj Al Arab hotel, the third tallest hotel in the world.

Burj Al Arab

We went up to the 18th floor for our tea and were surprised to find ourselves in the spa area.  We walked through a hallway and came to a clearing where tables of mostly ten were set up for tea. One could look over the railing to see the lobby down below.

View of the lobby from the 18th floor

We were able to grab a table for our nine traveling friends, including P., from the ship’s crew. When we arrived, the finger sandwiches and desserts were already set out on the tables. They were not set on tea caddies but on vertical stands–short stands for the desserts and taller ones for the sandwiches. I thought the stands were made of glass but TW said they were cardboard. KM disagreed and thought they were plywood, which seemed more likely.

The waiters (all men) served the sandwiches, desserts and tea. The waiters preferred that we helped ourselves as it took too long for them to serve every guest. Instead of serving or presenting us with one of each sandwich, the waiter asked us what sandwiches we wanted.  It didn’t take us long to realize our waiter was not knowledgeable in afternoon tea food service styles since this was unlike any tea service we’ve experienced before.
Several times we had asked for more sandwiches because there weren’t enough to go around (i.e., there was not one for each person per type of sandwich).  It had been six to seven hours since breakfast so most of us were hungry, especially the men. TW remarked that she liked the egg salad sandwich, but the rest of us didn’t get offered any. Much later, the waiter brought another plate of sandwiches that included the “missing” egg salad sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches.

There were four different sandwiches (rectangle: eggplant and chicken salad; round: salmon and imitation crab with a slice of egg on top). The waiter stacked the two smaller ones on top of the rectangle sandwiches on my plate, but I wanted to see them and so asked him to arrange them separately on the plate.

The hot tea, served in a silver carafe, tasted like Lipton tea. I was disappointed that teapots weren’t used. At one point our waiter was pouring tea from a teapot that matched the plates on our table. However, he didn’t come all the way around the table to where I could get a picture, and I never saw the teapot again. One of our friends asked the waiter what the two syrupy bowls on our table were. He said they were to put on the desserts.  We then got confirmation that they were for the scones, so we asked the waiter, “Where are the scones?”  We weren’t sure if he understood but he went to the kitchen and brought us a basket of the scones!  The scones were typical of small round ones I’ve had in the States with raisins. It turned out that the 2 mysterious syrupy bowls on the table were actually strawberry and apricot “jams.”  Wheras the Devonshire cream was very thick as expected, those syrups were definitely not “jams.”

When the waiter presented the desserts, he did a sloppy job and got chocolate on the other desserts.  We also had a chocolate cake, fruit tart (with dragon fruit!) and a lighter cake with two mini marshmallows on top.  Some of the ladies were tickled by the marshmallows since it made them feel like they were having a children’s tea rather than a tea for adults.

We did eventually get our proper share of sandwiches and started to finally fill up. However, instead of the promised 1.5 hours for tea as printed on our itinerary, our local guide gave us only 1 hour!  I am used to taking at least two hours for tea so 1.5 hrs. was already too short!  As a result, I was the last one at our table to finish as I was still sipping my tea.  I was also late leaving the tea area as I was waiting to talk to the head waiter, hoping to get a menu from the chef of what we ate, but I was not successful.

The cucumber sandwiches had a thick cake-like bottom layer (one couldn’t call it bread) with a thin layer of green Jell-O (aspic? gelatin?) on top–we didn’t finish eating all of the cucumber sandwiches.

Would I do tea in Dubai again?  Probably not.  Calling it “High Tea” is a misnomer since it was more aptly “Afternoon Tea,” as there were no savories and not even close to a supper-type tea.  Even though the food was not bad, the service was just not proper tea etiquette!!  P., from the ship’s crew, learned much about afternoon tea from the comments made at our table!  TW said I had spoiled them in how to enjoy the ultimate in tea ritual!Thank you Lady J. for sharing your afternoon tea experience in Dubai!  The fact that you could enjoy afternoon tea in Dubai is a testament to the popularity  and demand for this beloved ritual.  Though the service lacked attention to detail and authenticity, and the tea could have been better, the location certainly looked luxurious and unique!  The food looked wonderful and most importantly, it sounded like you were among many friends. 🙂 In my book, that makes it true afternoon tea experience!