Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea

You are invited to a Movie Idols and Classic Films Tea!  Lady T. hosted the 2nd Victorian Tea Society tea of 2017 with a show-stopping, star-studded event.

Oh yes!  We got the red carpet treatment …

… and, of course, there were surprise appearances by A-list celebrities from the past and present!

Lady J. and I arrived on the red carpet first and as we made our way out of our “limousine,” a pair of familiar feet suddenly appeared before us!

Lady J. exclaimed, “Hey, WHERE did YOU come from?!”  Indeed, it was as if Mary Poppins suddenly dropped down from sky, Lady S. was so light on her feet!  It was truly a magical (and spooky) moment!

One by one, the stars began arriving.  Can you name the following stars, movies, and/or characters who showed up to Lady T.’s party?

Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), Rosalind Russell (Auntie Mame), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), June Allyson, Chinese movie star on vacation (Zhang Ziyi), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)

Inside at Party Central, touches of Hollywood graced the sky, walls, table, trees …

During our meet and greet, Lady T. served up delicious cocktails worthy of any Hollywood party!

 

 

When Lady T. initially announced she was going to host a “Movie Idols and Classic Movies Tea,” I asked her to define “classic.”  Lady T. told me that for the purposes of her tea, the term “classic” could refer to any decade.

When I hear “classic movie,” my mind conjures the Golden Age of Hollywood from the silent era to the talkies and technicolor … movies such as Dracula, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, movie stars such as silent film stars, Louise Brooks, Charlie Chaplin, and Lillian Gish, or the 1950s and 1960s glamour of Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, or Elizabeth Taylor.  Regrettably, I haven’t seen many “classic movies” mainly because they were shown on TV late at night, when I was already in bed (all good children are in bed by 8pm, right?).  However, I was not completely deprived because I did manage to catch The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, and various Shirley Temple movies enough times to be able to recite or sing lines from those movies, which is a testament to how often certain movies are rebroadcast on TV, and always during the holidays.

Shirley Temple (date and source unknown)

Flower Drum Song (1961)

Mei Li (Miyoshi Umeki): “You smell good. You wear incense to scare away evil spirits?”
Linda Low (Nancy Kwan): “Oh no, to attract them!”

Flower Drum Song Orange Oolong Tea (photo by Lady J.)

I love Lady T.’s nod to Nancy Kwan with this Oolong tea and beautiful teapot.  While doing some research for this post, I came across an article, “Talk tea & see” in Time magazine (April 11, 1960), on a Nancy Kwan fansite (claims to be official) that I thought was about Nancy Kwan and tea (wow, what were the chances?).  The article made my jaw drop and I can’t resist including it here because I could scarcely believe what I was reading (say whaaaat?!):

Wonton-sized Nancy Ka Shen Kwan (5 ft. 2 in., 104 lbs.) is the most delicate Oriental import since Tetley’s tender little tea leaves. Last week 20-year-old Nancy was before the cameras in London filming The World of Suzie Wong, and from the first frame the part fitted like her own freckles. Furthermore, the new “yum-yum girl” has saved the movie … Lest anyone have any doubts that her East-West blend can stand comparison with Hollywood’s well-known brands, company flacks have already hastened to announce that under her high-buttoned cheong-sam (the Chinese sheath with the slit skirt), she is the equal of any Occidental. But Nancy promptly corrected the claim that she has “the ample bosom of the Nordics.” Said she demurely: “It is big for the Chinese, enough for the English, maybe small for Italians.”

Nancy Kwan in Flower Drum Song (1961)

A reflection of old Hollywood (or just Hollywood!), it is pretty crazy to think that this was considered a “compliment” at the time.  Sadly, the pressure and expectation for women to play by certain rules in order to be successful, accepted, or validated are still alive today, not just in Hollywood but in general.  The more things change, the more they stay the same?  Old wine in new bottles?  Alas, I could go on and on but this subject is technically inappropriate for pleasant afternoon tea conversation so let’s get back to Lady T.’s tea!

To test our movie knowledge, Lady T. unveiled a game to see how many movie quotations we could identify.  I got only 5 of the following correct.  Our special guest, Lady C. was a real movie buff and her impressive movie knowledge earned her 11 correct answers!  Congratulations Lady C.!  Playing games inevitably made us hungry (especially the sole “man” of the party, Harrison Ford), and Lady T. started off the celebrity tea with Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite, Chasen’s chili.  According to Hollywood folklore, in 1962, Elizabeth Taylor paid $200 to have 10 quarts of chili from Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood shipped to Rome, where she was on location filming Cleopatra.

Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Raintree County (1957)

Elizabeth Taylor Chasen’s Chili–by Lady T.

An American in Paris (1951)

Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly): “That’s, uh, quite a dress you almost have on. What holds it up?”
Milo Roberts (Nina Foch): “Modesty.”

An American in Paris (Strawberry Romaine Salad)–by Lady S.

Sandwiches (Cool Hand Luke Egg Salad Sandwiches, Gregory Peck Ratatouille Sandwiches (Veggie Sandwich), Chinatown Sesame Cilantro Sandwiches, The Wizard of Oz Cucumber Sandwich

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy (Judy Garland): “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble … do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It’s far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain.  Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high …”

The Wizard of Oz cucumber sandwiches (to get paper-thin bread, use a rolling pin to flatten sandwich bread)–by Lady ML

Chinatown (1974)

J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson): “Listen, pal. I make an honest living. People only come to me when they’re in a desperate situation. I help ’em out. I don’t kick families out of their houses like you bums down at the bank do.”

Chinatown cilantro sesame sandwiches–by Lady J.

The actress, Bea Arthur, was a vegetarian and this mushroom toast was her preferred way to start her day, every day.

Bea Arthur’s Vegetarian Breakfast (by Lady B.) and Claudette Colbert Cheese & Olive Puffs (by Lady K.)

Claudette Colbert

Splash (1984)

Remember the scene in Splash when Madison (Daryl Hannah) digs into the lobster at the restaurant? 🙂

Alan (Tom Hanks): … I do wanna talk about what happened in the restaurant.
Madison (Daryl Hannah): Oh, I am sorry, that’s how we eat lobster where I come from.

Splash- Shrimp — by Lady T.

Annie Hall (1977)

Annie Hall (Diane Keaton): “It’s so clean out here.”
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): “In Beverly Hills, they don’t throw their garbage away — they turn it into television shows.”

Annie Hall Carrot & Pineapple Muffins with Lemon–by Lady T.

Tea at Five (2002)

Tea at Five was a one-woman play, written by Matthew Lombardois, based on Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography, Me: Stories of my Life (1991) which included stories about her life at the Fenwick estate, her family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where afternoon tea was a daily ritual.

Katharine Hepburn with tea and brownies? (unknown date and source)

Katharine Hepburn: “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies–by Lady Henni

American chef, Ruth Reichl, claims, “The best recipe I have for brownies comes from a friend who got it from a magazine about Katharine Hepburn. It is, apparently, her family’s.”

Katharine Hepburn’s brownies
(from Epicurious)

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and take the saucepan off the heat.
2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (In the original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)
4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F for about 40 minutes.  You can cut these brownies into squares, once they have cooled.

Or you can try my vegan gluten-free brownies…

Vegan, gluten free brownies
(yields 16 brownies)

2 Tbsp. unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 chia eggs (2 tablespoons ground chia* + 6 tablespoons water, whisked)
1/2 cup finely ground, blanched almond flour
3/4 cup chocolate chips

* NOTE: 1 Tbsp. chia seeds = 2 Tbsp. ground chia seeds. Can also use ground flax.

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together almond butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia eggs, using a spoon.
  3. Add cocoa powder, almond flour, salt, and chocolate chips to the wet mixture and mix with a spoon until incorporated.
  4. Pour batter into pan.  Smooth batter into an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 1-2 hours. Slice into 16 brownies. Enjoy!

La Dolce Vita (1960)

Journalist: “What do you think you like most in life?”
Sylvia (Anita Ekberg): “I like lots of things. But there are three things I like most. Love, love and love.”

Anita Ekberg’s Swedish apple cake–by Lady C.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh): “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind Strawberry Rhubarb Fool–by Lady T.

We certainly had some great movie conversations and I got a list of everyone’s favorite movies so I can watch them later on Netflix. 🙂  Thank goodness for Netflix because I would not be able to see classic movies otherwise!  Even when brick ‘n’ mortar video rental stores were the norm, classic movies were still in short supply.

Lady B.–Little Women (1949)
Lady C.–Auntie Mame (1958)
Lady Henni–American Beauty (1999)
Lady J.–Anne of Green Gables (1985)
Lady K.–Clueless (1995)
Lady ML–Arsenic and old lace (1944), An affair to remember (1957)
Lady S.–Blade runner (1982)
Lady T.–Gone with the Wind (1939), In the heat of the night (1967)

What is your favorite movie of all time?

Thank you Lady T. for hosting a memorable and fun tea for the ages!  It was an honor to have tea with your famous friends–I learned so much and ate too well! 😉

Just for fun, I came across these entertaining “Cup of fame” tea bag holders.  Go ahead punk, make my tea!

I’ll end this post with a quotation from D.’s favorite movie …

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick): “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Rise of the humanists

I have been fascinated by the Italian Renaissance for as long as I can remember.  So much so that I feel I must have lived a previous life during the Renaissance.  Though the Renaissance was not by any means all moonlight and roses, I love the food, art, philosophy, architecture, music, history, and ideas that came out of this period in history.  I finally visited Italy for the first time last year and it was a dream come true–it was everything I thought it would be, AND more!  Everywhere I turned, history came alive for me and I may as well have stepped back in time.  I was moonstruck in Firenze, feeling giddy knowing I walked the same streets once traversed by the Medici Family, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Because of my interest and lifelong interest in the Italian Renaissance and my love for culinary history, I decided to host an Italian Renaissance afternoon tea for the Victorian Tea Society.

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As the hostess for this tea, I faced many challenges.  The last-minute challenges I faced were timing and conversation, due to recent current events.  Conversation and friendship are the most important components of a tea party and even our society guidelines gives suggestions for the hostess’ role in this regard quite clearly:

Art of Conversation/Sharing: Members to let hostess know in advance if they have something to share/discuss, keeping conversations on a pleasant and positive note. Any time a member or guest brings up an unpleasant topic (i.e., politics, religion, personal problems, negative issues, etc.), it will be up to the hostess to direct the conversation back to more pleasant topics.

Normally, this is not a problem with our group but hosting a tea fresh on the heels of the most derisive and divisive presidential election in our nation’s history, the topic of politics assuredly weighed heavily on everyone’s minds.  How could I steer our conversation away from the events of the past week?1112161009a-small

As soon as all my guests arrived, I announced that we would not discuss politics for the next 3 hours and concentrate only on “pleasant conversation”!  Since the theme of the tea was the Italian Renaissance, I took the liberty to explain that one of the reasons I loved the Renaissance was the rise of humanist thought.  Humanism started in Italy with thinkers like Petrarch, Machiavelli, Cosimo de Medici and then spread across Western Europe in the 14th-16th centuries.  Renaissance humanists believed that by studying the classics and humanities, they could better understand people and the world.  Secular and human interests became more prominent during this period, creating a new consciousness that promoted the virtues of intellectual freedom and individual expression which influenced everything from art, food, music, literature, law, and philosophy to politics.  Humanism was important because it bridged the gap between medieval religious dogma/superstition and the modern scientific method and critical thinking (rationalism).  As the hostess, I urged and invited my guests to embrace and embody the spirit of the Renaissance humanists, to learn from our history, and strive to become better human beings!  And we would do this one Tea at a time! 🙂

Putting aside my last-minute challenges, my main challenge was to organize an afternoon tea around a theme that was not tea friendly or conducive to tea foods.  I wanted to preserve the look, feel, and tastes of afternoon tea without compromising my theme.  In the end, I got inspiration from the Renaissance master himself, Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”1112161010-small

So the table would not look too empty, I made a simple centerpiece using candles with medieval designs (although they could pass for Renaissance) surrounded by rosemary branches, tangerines (during the Renaissance, these would have been bitter oranges), and pomegranates, ingredients heavily featured in Italian Renaissance cooking.

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Table centerpiece

I served the food as a Renaissance feast so I didn’t use tea caddies for this tea party but I did enlist a co-hostess to help me serve the food (Thanks Lady S.!).  This worked out well to help promote conversation across the table which is sometimes difficult with tea caddies in the way.

I also made simple placecards which were perched on cupcake pedestals.

1112161009-small-2For the tea favors, I wrapped bottles of flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegar in paper that resembled Italian majolica, tin-glazed ceramics.  The tin glaze created a white opaque surface that was ideal for painting and gave majolica its characteristic luster and bright colors.  It was also non-porous making it ideal for storing liquids and for use as apothecary jars.  Majolica was first developed in the 14th century with production peaking during the Renaissance and dwindling by the 18th century.

I had a lot of fun creating the menu and researching Renaissance food and cooking.  I wanted to create a vegetarian menu that was as authentic as possible while upholding the idea of an afternoon tea.

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Erratum: The last dolci should be ricciarelli, not riciarelli.

I served 3 different teas, 2 hot teas and 1 iced tea.  I bought the first 2 teas at the wonderful Oronero tea shop in Firenze.  The first teas, Il Sogno di Michelangelo (The dream of Michelangelo), is an oolong tea with pinenuts, raisins, cornflower, sunflower petals, and safflower.  The second tea, Palazzo Belfiore, was blended specially for a 15th century residence, now a guest apartment, with the same name.  It’s a blend of two types of blacks teas (China and Ceylon), with notes of pomegranate, orange peel, safflower, and chocolate.  The third and final tea was an iced tea, Persian melon white, from the St. James Tearoom.  Though it’s not an Italian tea, I chose it to give a nod to Marco Polo and other merchants/traders/explorers of the Renaissance period who, I imagine, must have introduced exotic fruits like Casaba melon to Europe.  The Palazzo Belfiore was, hands-down, everyone’s favorite tea of the day.

The first course was Ribollita, a famous Tuscan bread soup dating from the Middle Ages, when servants collected trenchers of uneaten bread for boiling in their own dinners.  It is a hearty soup containing stale bread, cannellini beans, and vegetables.  Tomatoes were not used in Renaissance cookery but this soup is so delicious that I wanted to share it.  My friend S. originally turned me onto Ribollita at a previous New Year’s tea and it’s become a favorite in our winter rotation.  Leave out the bacon for a vegetarian/vegan version.

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Ribollita

Tramezzini are triangular-shaped Venetian tea sandwiches with fillings such as tuna, proscuitto/ham, asparagus, and hard-boiled eggs.  Though they are not a Renaissance food, they utilize ingredients from the period and were invented as an alternative to English tea sandwiches.  Usually eaten as a snack or for lunch, most tramezzini have some kind of meat in it but we made 2 vegetarian versions that pleased everyone: Paprika egg salad, arugula, and edamame (substituted for fava beans) and polenta crostini with mushrooms.

Polenta crostini with mushrooms and Paprika egg salad with edamame and arugula

Polenta crostini with mushrooms by Lady K. and Paprika egg salad with “fava beans” and arugula by Lady ML

Meat, cheese, and egg pies or tarts were popular during the Renaissance.  Spinach and herbs such as parsley, fennel, chervil, and ginger often appear in Renaissance recipes for egg pie.  Lady B. served a delicious spinach and herb quiche (egg pie).

Spinach and herb quiche

Spinach and herb quiche by Lady B.

Panzanella salad is another recipe dating from the Middle Ages that makes use of stale bread.  There are many recipes for Panzanella salad but leave out the tomatoes for authenticity.  To learn about the origins of Panzanella salad, I refer you to Emiko Davies’ post on Bronzino’s Panzanella.  Lady J. based her recipe on Davies’ suggestions.

Of all the dishes for the tea, the one that I was most excited about was the Spiced walnut linguine.  It’s a pasta dish that can include any combination of popular spices from the Renaissance period such as cloves, nutmeg, saffron, cinnamon, allspice, coriander, and pepper and epitomizes the sweet-savory taste that is so characteristic of Renaissance cookery.  Lady MH added some Parmesan cheese which contributed to the savory aspect of the dish.  She also presented the pasta beautifully on mini ceramic plates which added to the Renaissance feel since Renaissance food was not very colorful, comprised mainly of neutral tones.  I really enjoyed this dish and can’t wait to try making it myself!

I love savory scones and this tea was the perfect opportunity to incorporate it.  Since I didn’t have much time to put this tea together, doing less was ideal.  In this case, we didn’t have to make scone condiments to go with the scones. The idea for these scones were inspired by the cheese & sundried tomato scones I once enjoyed at Avoca cafe in Dublin, Ireland but I couldn’t find the recipe and came across Feta, olive, and sundried tomato scones instead which were just as delicious!

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Feta, olive, and sundried tomato scones by Lady T.

Biancomangiare, “white dish,” originated during the Middle Ages, perhaps with the Arab introduction of rice and almonds to Europe.  Variations of the dish existed across early modern Europe (French blancmange, Turkish tavuk göğsü, Spanish manjar blanco, Danish hwit moos, etc.).  I highly recommend checking out Emiko Davies’ beautiful blog post about The art of Renaissance comfort food, if you would like to learn more about the origins of biancomangiare.  The biancomangiare I chose to serve at my tea is a vegan version based on various recipes for “Sicilian white pudding,” touted as the most traditional and famous white food in Italy.

Biancomangiare

Biancomangiare by Lady H.

Biancomangiare
(adapted from various recipes online)

4 c. unsweetened almond milk (store-bought or homemade)
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. rosewater or orange blossom water

Mix 1 /2 c. almond milk with 6 Tbsp. cornstarch to make a slurry and set aside.  Put remaining 3 1/2 c. milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, and rosewater in a pot and heat to just under a boil.  Add the cornstarch slurry and heat just until thickened (until mixture coats the back of a spoon).  Pour the mixture into individual cups or one big pan.  Chill at least one hour until firm like pudding.  Garnish with chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds, ground cinnamon, organic edible rose petals, mint leaves, unsweetened cocoa, etc.

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Ricciarelli (almond cookies) by Lady S.

Ricciarelli is a traditional Italian cookie made with almonds that originated in 14th century Siena.  They are chewy, light, and crisp at the same time, similar to a French macaron but better!  Everyone went crazy for these cookies!  Fortunately for us, Lady S. made 2 batches! 🙂  And Lady MH declared Lady S. her new best friend!  Yes, these cookies are quite enchanting indeed.

Ricciarelli (almond cookies)

(Recipe from Fearless Fresh)

3 c. fine almond flour (NOT almond meal)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest

Combine the almond flour, granulated sugar, 1 cup of the powdered sugar, the baking powder, and the salt in a bowl.

In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Fold in the almond extract, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and almond-flour mixture. Stir until completely combined.

Use a tablespoon to scoop out a large ball of cookie dough. Roll the dough into a ball in your hands, then use the bottom of a glass to gently smash the cookie into a disk about ½-inch thick. Roll in the remaining powdered sugar and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Let sit, uncovered, on the counter for about 45 minutes, or until the surfaces dry out just a touch. Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C).

Place the cookies into the preheated oven and bake for 22 to 27 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges.

Cool completely on a cooling rack, then store in an airtight container for up to a week.


And last but not least, a tea fashion show to illustrate how creative everyone was with their tea attire!  Hair garlands, crocheted snood, hair bands, Renaissance style dress, and a dress with constellations, a tribute to Galileo.

Thank you ladies, for a wonderful and memorable afternoon!  The food was delicious and I couldn’t have asked for better company.  It was definitely one for the ages! 😉

Instead of ending my post with a quotation about tea, I’m going to end with some prudent words from my favorite Italian Renaissance masters, to remind us of our humanist duty to think for ourselves, continue to learn, and not blindly accept the dogma of the day.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
–Michelangelo

There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”
Galilei Galileo

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Diwali tea

In October, I hosted my 2nd tea for the Victorian Tea Society.  I wanted to host a tea to pay homage to one of the biggest tea drinking countries in the world: India.  I am also a big fan of Indian cuisine (especially South Indian cuisine), Bollywood, and Indian culture and religions.  I thought it would be nice to introduce the ladies to something different.
diwali invitation

stamp

Diya on US postage stamp


Side note (11/18/16): The USPS just issued a postage stamp celebrating Diwali!  These would have added the perfect touch to my invitations!


Since I was hosting the fall tea, it was the perfect timing for Diwali.  Diwali is India’s biggest holiday, equal in importance to Christmas in the West and Chinese New Year in the far East.  Celebrated over 5 days, it commemorates the Indian new year and is celebrated by Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs alike.  The word, “Diwali,” means “rows of lights.”  Millions of clay lanterns called diya are lit all over India to signal the Festival of Lights, one of the most festive days of the holiday.  For my Diwali tea, I especially wanted to highlight the Festival of Lights and its theme of triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

DSC04061 (Small)It is also said that Diwali is a celebration of our inner light and a time to cultivate spiritual wealth.

DSC04122 (Small)In addition to lights, it is also traditional to create rangoli designs on the floor of living rooms, on doors, or just outside the front entrance for good luck and to repel evil spirits.  A type of folk art, rangoli designs are traditionally created using rice, flower petals, sand, or flour.

I designed a peacock rangoli to welcome the VTS ladies.  I took a few liberties with the rangoli and used construction paper instead of traditional organic materials.  Also, instead of traditional diya which burn oil, I used tea lights that burned for 4 hours.  Since I planned my tea for a 4-hour sitting, I knew exactly when it was time to wrap up the Tea when the candles started burning low. 😉  As we all know, tea-loving souls like us can really go on and on and not notice the time.  Such is the delight of afternoon tea!

DSC04072 (Small)I had a lot of fun creating the menu. There were so many dishes I wanted to serve but I was mindful in choosing recipes that didn’t require too many ingredients since we all share the cooking.  I have to remember that my spice and herbs collection is excessive and that not everyone is a spice/herb junkie like me. 🙂

diwali menuI knew that my color theme would be red and gold because my dishes are red. 🙂

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See the peacock shaped napkins in the water flute glasses?

I made origami lotus flowers for the place names which were held up by a stick of cinnamon. The lotus is a popular symbol in many cultures including Indian culture.  It is also a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhist tradition so I thought it was a good choice for ringing in the new year.

DSC04125 (Small) (2)I decorated the dining area and table with many tea lights, some real, some flameless.

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Paper quilled candle holders (mock diya)

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Table setting

First course:

Sambhar by Lady Henni

Sambhar with cumin scented khakhra by Lady Henni

Lady MH's chaat salad and Lady Henni's samosa

Lady MH’s chana chaat salad and Lady Henni’s samosa

Chana chaat salad
(adapted from various recipes by Lady MH)

1 cup dried chickpeas (3 cups cooked or 2 14 oz cans)
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon chat masala (optional, see recipe below or use store bought)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced cucumbers
6 cups mixed salad greens
Balsamic vinaigrette

Toss chickpeas with cumin seeds, cayenne, chat masala, sea salt and parsley/cilantro. Arrange cucumbers, tomatoes, and greens on a plate. Add chickpeas to top of salad and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Chaat masala
(from Lisa’s Kitchen, yields 1/4 c.)

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. amchoor (dried mango) powder
1 1/2 tsp. black salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Dry roast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small frying pan over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Toss in the asafoetida and stir in for a few moments. Remove from heat and grind in an electric coffee grinder until powdered. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix.  Store in an airtight jar away from heat and light for up to 2 months.

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Cucumber and carrot sandwiches and open faced cucumber sandwiches with mint and cilantro chutney cream cheese

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Curried chicken salad croissant sandwiches with jewel picks!

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Lady T.'s curried chicken salad croissant, Lady B.'s mint chutney and cucumber, and carrot and cucumber sandwiches

Lady T.’s curried chicken salad croissant, Lady B.’s mint chutney and cucumber, and carrot and cucumber sandwiches

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Lady K.’s shrikhand fruit custard (chopped mangoes, pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts, and mint)

Kesar Dry Fruit Shrikhand
(adapted from iDiva.com)

2 ½ cups plain yogurt (non-fat Greek yogurt OK)
1 tbsp warm milk or water
¼ tsp saffron threads
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ – ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (to taste)
2 tbsp raw pistachio nuts, skinned and chopped

Put yogurt in cheesecloth and hang it up for 4 to 5 hours to drain the whey.  Soak saffron in milk or water for 30 minutes.  Whisk the drained yogurt, sugar, saffron milk, and cardamom together till the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Chill and serve with nuts and fresh chopped fruit.

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Lady J.’s ginger scones

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Coconut burfi and raw cashew chocolate chip cookie dough bites

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Tea favors: Homemade masala chai in an apothecary jar

As a fun activity, I painted henna designs for some of the ladies.

henna2DSC04056 (Small) (2)DSC04098 (Small)henna3I really enjoyed hosting my 2nd VTS tea and already have ideas for my next tea!

During this auspicious festival of lights, may the glow of joy, prosperity, and happiness illuminate your life and and your home.  Wishing you a Happy Diwali!  Namaste.

Om Asato Ma Sad Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Lead us from untruth to truth
From darkness to light
From death to immortality
Om Peace Peace Peace

–Diwali prayer

Japanese friendship tea

The second VTS tea of 2013 was a Japanese friendship tea hosted by Lady MH, complete with a cherry blossom theme that sang, “Spring!”  Can you believe that this was her first time hosting an afternoon tea?!

Lady MH's lovely origami invitation

Lady MH’s  creative origami invitation (Dress code: Kimono optional)

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Setting the stage for the Japanese Friendship Tea

To start, Lady MH regaled us with stories of the Japanese side of her family, including a moving one about her father-in-law who spent time in a Japanese internment camp.  During his internment, he carved wooden birds from scraps of wood to pass the time.  The birds now sit lovingly framed and displayed in the dining room.  His motto was, “Keep moving forward!” which he used to keep himself going and a guiding principle he passed on to his family.  If anyone is a model for that motto, it’s Lady MH!  🙂

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The special wooden birds

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Sunny table setting designed to bring the outdoors inside

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Tea cookie favor: Shortbread cookie with cherry blossom design by Lady P.

How lucky were we, to be drinking tea from exquisite Japanese Sōma-yaki pottery!  Sōma-yaki pottery originated about 300 years ago in Fukushima, Japan and in 1978, it was designated a national object of traditional craftsmanship (from Wikipedia).  Sadly, the Sōma-yaki pottery industry was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami which makes these pieces even more rare and special.  Lady MH received these heirloom pieces from her mother-in-law.

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Tea cup saucer: Soma-yaki pottery is characterized by its green color and blue cracks in the surface glaze. Many pieces have a stylized horse painted in metallic gold. This piece also has a cherry blossom.

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Soma-yaki stylized horse painted in metallic gold at the bottom of the tea cup

Another unique characteristic of Sōma-yaki pottery is its multi-layered structure.

DSC01804 (Large)The double walls of the pottery insulate hot liquids while keeping the outside cool, to prevent burned hands.  A hole is built into the bottom of the outer layer to allow drainage of water when washing.

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The green teas were aromatic and paired nicely with the food courses

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Soma-yaki sugar jar/bowl

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Japanese Friendship Tea menu

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I love Lady MH’s clever construction of the menu holder that consisted of an origami crane in front and a pretty river rock supporting the back.  The crane and river rock were glued to a flat mesh platform.

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Meditation miso soup by Lady T. (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook)

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Japanese Friendship Garden soba noodle salad by Lady S.

Japanese Friendship Garden soba noodle salad
(inspired by the soba noodle salad at the Japanese Friendship Garden)

4 small bundles of soba (buckwheat noodles)

Assorted lettuce  red, butter, romaine, etc.
Cucumbers, sliced thin
Carrots, sliced thin
Green onion, chopped thin
4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Pinch of toasted pine nuts (optional)

Dressing:
4 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. finely minced ginger
1/2 c. salad oil

Mix dressing.  Break noodles in half for easy serving. Follow cooking directions, drain and rinse in colander.  Mix a little bit of dressing with the noodles to keep them from sticking together and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.  Layer salad ingredients on a small 7″ diameter salad plate in the following order: Soba on the bottom, topped with greens, and drizzled with dressing.  Top with a pinch of pine nuts if desired.  Serve immediately.

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(top to bottom) Mt. Fuji turkey river boats by Lady MH, Kabuki spam musubi by Lady ML, Zen-sational mushroom delights by Lady Henni

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Kabuki spam musubi by Lady ML

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Zen-sational mushroom delights by Lady Henni

Zen-sational mushroom delights
(adapted from Wonder bread Mushroom Appetizer Croustades recipe)

Makes 12 appetizer servings

12 slices white bread
2 green onions or leeks, finely sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, both dried* and fresh,  finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
Truffle salt for finishing (optional)

*Rehydrate the dried shiitake and roast them for extra flavor before sauteing

Bread croustades: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut crusts from bread and flatten with a rolling pin until quite flat, about ⅛-inch thick. Cut circles from the bread with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. (You can cut 2 circles from each slice of bread.) Lightly brush mini-muffin pan with melted butter. Gently press each round of bread into a mini-muffin cup, forming it into a bowl shape. Repeat, making as many croustades as specified in the recipe. Bake about 9 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then remove the croustades from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Mushroom filling: Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium high heat. Cook green onions and mushrooms about 4 to 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

Fill cups and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve at least 2 per person.

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Kushisashi (chicken on a samurai stick) by Lady MH.  For the zen centerpiece decoration, Lady MH stacked and glued together 3 river rocks.

Kushisashi (Chicken on a Samurai Stick)
(by Lady MH)

1 chicken breast, cut into marble sized pieces
6-7 in. bamboo skewer sticks
Panko crumbs

Prep skewers the night before.  Skewer, alternating 3 pieces of chicken.  Layer into a container and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Keep layering and cover container and refrigerate overnight.

Lightly dust chicken with flour, shake off excess.  Scramble 3 to 4 eggs in a large drinking glass (large enough to fit the skewers).  Put panko into a pie pan.  Dip chicken skewers into egg, then dredge with Panko crumbs.  Prepare all of the chicken skewers, then get ready to fry.  Fill a large frying pan about half full of oil.  Heat to med. high and start frying.  Cook until light brown, drain.

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Yes, it was as delicious for the eyes as for the tummy!

Scone condiments (lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and clotted cream) by Lady ML

Scone condiments (lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and clotted cream) by Lady ML

sakura

Sakura (cherry blossom) shaped butter pats for scones

Tranquil matcha green tea scones by Lady J

Tranquil matcha green tea scones by Lady J

Tranquil  Matcha Green Tea Scones
by Lady J.

1 8.3-oz. package of Matcha Green Tea Scone mix*
1 c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. currants
¼ c. walnuts
¼ c. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and pour in the heavy whipping cream, mixing as you pour. Mix until the cream is absorbed in the dough. Work dough around the bowl until all dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is already
sticky to the touch.

Place dough on a floured counter; press into 6-inch circle; then cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges. Place wedges on a baking sheet (grease or use parchment paper); sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly brown.  Test by inserting toothpick into center of scone; it’s done if it comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *                    *

After the scones course, Lady MH asked us to share our favorite quotations about friendship.  On the table was a beautiful Japanese zen meditation bell that has been in her family for generations.  Lady MH instructed us to strike the bell before unveiling each of our friendship quotations.

Zen Bell

Japanese Buddhist Zen bell with a clear lasting tone

Lady MH read her favorite quotation which she received from her friend, Lady S., 30 years ago!  It is something she has cherished since and she wished to pass it on to all of us.

DSC01876 (Small)Lady J. contributed the following quotation: “Friends are special people.  We can’t pick our family, and we’re sorely limited in the number of them at any rate.  Society and mores (and often our own conscience) dictate we select a single mate.  But our friends can be as diverse and infinite as the adjectives we choose.  Our friends, in a very real sense, reflect the choices we make in life.”

Lady ML followed up with, “Friends are the family we choose.”  Great friends think alike, Lady J. and Lady ML!  😉

I surprised everyone with a friendship poem that D. wrote specially for this occasion.  It reminds us that friendship is the foundation of all love.

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Friendship poem by D.

In addition to the special quotations above, Lady KL played a song (theme from Friends), and Lady B. showed us a piece of artwork with a quotation about tea and friendship.  In addition to the sentimental moments, there were some funny moments too, like when Lady MH and Lady T. both simultaneously quipped, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold,” recalling their days in the Girl Scouts.  The exchange of friendship quotations was the icing on a lovely afternoon.  Lately, I had been feeling tinges of regret that I am not able to foster all my friendships on a deeper level but this day reminded me to be grateful for what I do have: I have many friends for which I am privileged to have in my life and I will enjoy and appreciate the moments as they are presented to me.  Thank you, Lady MH, for a memorable and special afternoon tea and for making me reflect on friendship this day!  I’m grateful for your friendship.

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Sakura strawberry dessert by Lady MH and Joyful fruit treats by Lady B.

Sakura strawberry dessert (aka Pink Stuff)
(by Lady MH)

1 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar

Stir together and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until crunchy.  Set aside with 1/4 of mix reserved for topping.

1-10 oz. box frozen strawberries (slightly thawed)
2/3 c. sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
12 oz. Cool Whip (optional)

Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Stir in Cool Whip if using.  Spread the Pink Stuff over the crunchy mix in a 9 x 13 pan (or portion it into individual cupcake cups), and top with remaining topping.  Freeze until ready to serve.

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Origami cranes–we took one home for good luck!

May we all eat, drink, and be merry!

Come and share a pot of tea,
my home is warm and my friendship’s free.”

― Emilie Barnes