To Tea or Not to Tea That is the Question

I usually have Christmas tea with my friends S. and N. but December was so crazy busy that we were not able to get together before Christmas.  Therefore, we celebrated after Christmas with a combination Christmas and New Year’s tea at Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe & Afternoon Tea!

I was very impressed by the vegetarian tea menu on my first visit to Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe.  When I found out they also had a vegan menu I knew I had to come back for that, if nothing else!  Shakespeare’s also hosts themed teas throughout the year so that’s another good reason to come back.  How fun is that?!

For the special Christmas tea, all guests received a Christmas cracker.  A gift and firecracker in one, it was perfect for a Christmas and New Year’s celebration! 🙂

The inspiration behind Shakespeare’s Christmas tea menu was a traditional English Christmas dinner.  This post focuses on the vegan menu only.

The featured Christmas spice tea was served first.  We sampled 4 other teas: Black currant, Guava ginger white, Mr. Darcy, and Earl Grey Creme.  We liked all the teas except Mr. Darcy which had a dry, acidic finish.  The lemon peel in it was also overpowering.

Our Christmas tea starters were Yorkshire pudding or vegan Pumpkin and parsnip pasty.  The Yorkshire pudding looked so good!  I loved the idea of the pumpkin and parsnip pasty but I tasted neither pumpkin nor parsnip.  The filling in my pasty seemed to have only potato.  Parsnip tends to have a strong flavor so I was surprised I didn’t taste it.

Regular savories: Egg Salad with Chives finger sandwich; Bubble & Squeak quiche, Stilton & Roasted Chestnut Vol au vent; Mini Sausage Roll with Branston Pickle; Rosemary & Thyme Chicken Salad finger sandwich; Turkey, Lettuce & Cranberry Butter finger sandwich

From an aesthetic standpoint, I think the food was nicely presented and the concepts were interesting.  However, I was a little disappointed in the execution of the vegan offerings in general.

Tea caddy for vegan menu (S. and I had the vegan menu)

I didn’t care for either of the vegan sandwiches.  The cucumber mint sandwich had margarine and I don’t like butter or margarine anyway so this is just my personal preference.  Otherwise, it tasted like any other cucumber sandwich.  The mango chutney and cream cheese sandwich was too sweet.

Vegan savories: Cucumber sandwich; Mango chutney and cream cheese sandwich; Chestnut vol au vent; Mushroom and spinach saute

Unlike the sandwiches, the savories suffered greatly because they were served cold. 😦  The potato pancake/flapjack was salty and soggy.  The chestnut filling in the vol au vent was dry and practically non-existent.  The spinach and mushroom saute was OK taste-wise but the portion was measly and it was just so … boring!  How about adding a puff pastry covering, pie crust, or toasted bread crumbs to make it more interesting?  Or maybe serve it in an edible bowl of some sort, like a mini bread bowl, or fried wonton skin bowl?  Anything!

Vegan: Cucumber sandwich; Mango chutney and cream cheese sandwich; Potato pancake/flapjack; Chestnut vol au vent; Mushroom and spinach saute

Vegan savories: Potato pancake/flapjack with Branston pickle; Bubble and Squeak Toast Point; Grapes

The Bubble and Squeak was a great idea but like all the other savories, it suffered because it was cold and the toast point simply didn’t belong.  I would have preferred the Bubble and Squeak as a mash (smooth or chunky) which would have worked better with the toast point.  A Bubble and Squeak “cake” covered in panko (like a crab cake) would have been nice too.

Vegan: Bubble and squeak with toast point

I have sampled Shakespeare’s scones twice: once as a takeout and once in the tea room.  Both times, I thought the scones were excellent!  The vegan scone, unfortunately, was not as good and needed something other than vegan butter and jam.  It looked just as good as the regular scone but it was much drier and seemed saltier.  I was so disappointed.  I don’t mind eating a scone without clotted cream, butter, lemon curd, or jam because a really good scone doesn’t need condiments!

Vegan scones with raisins served with Earth balance “butter”, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and mandarin orange

Oh no, saving the worst for last!  The desserts were NOT good and two of them were even horrible!  The chocolate coconut stack was filled with citron (or candied fruit) and was the vegan stand-in for the Dundee cake (Scottish fruitcake).  I liked it better than fruitcake but that’s really not saying much since I hate fruitcake.  The strawberry rhubarb cup was dismal: one piece of rhubarb and one piece of strawberry in a thin pool of sauce.  It could have been greatly improved simply with more filling and a crumble or streusel topping.

Vegan desserts: Tea cookie, chocolate coconut stack “fruitcake”, strawberry and rhubarb (minus the crumble), strawberry sponge cake

And now for the horrible … the strawberry sponge cake and tea cookie.  The sponge cake was flavorless (no strawberry flavor) and not even sweet enough to be called a dessert (the mango chutney sandwich and Branston pickle were sweeter!).  The vegan buttercream frosting was more salty than sweet but the worst was the texture of the cake which was dense, wet, chalky, and mealy!  The tea cookie also had a weird texture (it didn’t crunch or snap “right”) and tasted like cardboard.  It also didn’t seem like it had enough sugar and you know me, I usually think that desserts tend to be “too sweet!”  If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought they were made with gluten-free flour.  By now, I really wished I had ordered the vegetarian menu instead of the vegan one. 😦

The final dessert for the vegan menu was a chocolate-covered strawberry which I liked “best” of all the desserts.

To (vegan) tea or not to (vegan) tea, that is the question!  I know this seems like a harsh review but it’s only because I want to support Shakespeare’s efforts to accommodate vegans.  To my knowledge, Shakespeare’s is the only tea house that offers a vegan menu so they get kudos for that alone.  As it turns out, the owner herself is vegan and she really wanted feedback to make the menu better.  I commend her for trying and hope that her next vegan menu is better!  Because of their excellence in all other areas, especially in their service, I have confidence that the vegan menu will improve.  That said, N., S., and I had a wonderful time ringing in the new year at Shakespeare’s!

Instead of a tea quotation, I will leave you with this because it made me laugh!

Happy holidays!  Happy new year!  May the new year bring you much tea and joy!

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Royal Christmas Tea at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes

Happy Christmas!  I didn’t think I would be able to have Christmas Tea at Marlene’s Tea and Cakes this year but an expected surprise and gift came my way and I was able to share the experience with my friend P. and her 11-year-old daughter, N.

Interestingly, the first tea house I ever visited was Tea-upon-Chatsworth with P. and N., where we celebrated N.’s 1st birthday!  Therefore, I was so honored to have the privilege of sharing that experience with N. again, on her first visit to a tea house since her 1st birthday!

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Upon entering Marlene’s Tea & Cakes, I heard a little voice whisper in wonder, “Ooooh, it’s so fancy in here!” 🙂

As soon as we were seated, N. spotted the beautiful tea favor and could not resist eating her gingerbread cookie “tag”!  With a big smile, she declared it “really good!”  P. and I warned her to save the cookie for later since there were many, many more treats yet to come!

Sugar and creamer

The afternoon was a treat for the senses.  Marlene’s Royal Christmas Tea consisted of a delectable holiday themed menu, personalized tea favor, and live harp music.  To start, we sampled 3 teas: Creme au caramel (rooibos), Roasted almond & fruit (herbal), and Strawberry rose (herbal).  P. and I both liked the Creme au caramel best.  N. really liked the Strawberry rose which she enjoyed with cream and sugar!

Live music

Winter vegetable soup with puff twist

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Caddy (photo by P.)

Savories and sandwiches

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Savories and sandwiches (photo by P.)

Left to right: Mini beef Wellington; Ham, cheddar, and tomato; Yorkshire pudding with tomato and basil; Blue cheese mascarpone and red onion confit quiche; Green Goddess cucumber; and Turkey, Brie, and bacon jam.

N. had just seen Gordon Ramsay on TV make beef Wellington so she was very excited to see the mini beef Wellington on the menu.  Delighted, she marveled after each bite, “Mmm … They’re … so … flaky!”

Cranberry and white chocolate scones

N. was a natural when it came to tea etiquette: she sipped her tea quietly, used the serving tongs for the food, and took great care whenever someone poured hot tea for her.  She was a perfect lady and a joy to watch–a tea lady in the making!

Fresh fruit: Red grapes, watermelon, kiwi, cantaloupe, and pineapple

Desserts: Gingerbread man: Christmas Petit four; Chocolate covered cherry cookie, and Peppermint cheesecake trifle.

Petit four (love the Christmas colors!)–best petit four ever!

As usual, Marlene outdid herself with the food!  Everything was delicious and the tea favor desserts were a great souvenir to take away so we could continue enjoying afternoon tea at home.

Thank you P. and N. for having afternoon tea with me–it was a pleasure and I hope we can do it again sometime!

Thank you Lady S. for your generosity and thoughtfulness which gave me an unexpected opportunity to spend some quality time with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.  It was a priceless gift that certainly made this season special for me. 🙂

Happy holidays!

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire …”
–Edith Sitwell

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party

Today is the last day of the 36th season of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party (Dickens Fair).  A Bay Area tradition since 1970, it’s a grand event that takes place over 6 weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you’ve never been, it’s quite an affair that will appeal to all your Victorian sensibilities!

A few ladies of the Victorian Tea Society got together this year to attend the Dickens Fair on opening weekend, November 17.  It was their first field trip and proved exciting from beginning to end…

If you’ve ever flown to San Francisco, especially on an early morning or evening flight, in November or otherwise, there is a 101% chance it will be delayed due to fog or what Charles Dickens would describe as “implacable November weather.” That would be a best case scenario but instead, on this day, the skies of Northern California were not unlike Dickens’ London, with “smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.”  We arrived at the airport at the ungodly hour of 5:00am to discover that our flight had been canceled due to the wildfire in Paradise (AKA Camp Fire 2018) in Butte County that had started raging 10 days earlier.  The smoke from the fires reduced visibility to such a degree that every other flight was cancelled or diverted to nearby airports.  It was starting to look like we were going to miss the Fair entirely! 😦  As you can imagine, there was a “general infection of ill-temper” all around and we were behaving a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge, declaring, “I don’t know what to do!” laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of ourselves getting tangled up in our own pity party!  Granted, we now know that the Paradise Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date, so of course there were legitimate safety reasons for cancelling and diverting flights.  Our frustration and disappointment, however, had not to do with Mother Nature but with the way that Alaska Airlines handled (or didn’t handle) the cancellation … but that is a story for another time!

Thank goodness for kindness, Uber, and incompetent hotel staff because we eventually got on a flight to San Jose, took an Uber to Daly City in time to get into the Fair, and managed not only to keep our hotel reservation in San Francisco but unexpectedly got an upgrade to a suite!  I would like to believe that this turn of luck had something to do with the dose of gratitude we picked up at the Gratitude Cafe that morning! 🙂

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The important thing is that we made it to Dickens ol’ London and were able to get a taste of the Fair after all.

Map of Dickens Old London

Bustling with people of all ilk

Deep in the bowels of the Cow Palace, we found the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and feel of Dickens Old London.  It was dark, damp, dirty, loud, and bustling with people of all ilk, complete with questionable Jack the Ripper alleyways, street performers, and pubs.  In contrast to the dark and dirty sights and sounds, the air was punctuated with the delicious smell of sweet pastries and bread, and savory aromas emanating from the meat pie and chipper shops!  Both exciting and confusing to one’s senses.

During our stroll through Dickens London, we got accosted by chimney sweeps, bumped into the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come (very creepy, he looked just like the Grim Reaper), the Ghost of Christmas Present (he was just as Dickens described, “a jolly giant” with dark brown curls wearing a fur-lined green robe and on his head a holly wreath), and helped clear the way for Her Majesty, Queen Victoria and her Royal Guard.

Ignorance and Want

It was actually quite magical, like the Renaissance Faire but bigger, better, and more authentic!  I did find out later that the folks responsible for the Ren Faire (Red Barn Productions) also founded the Dickens Fair!  P.S. The Cow Palace itself was as interesting as the Fair!

“They are Man’s and they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance and this girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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With only 4 hours to spend in London, we had to bide our time wisely.  We took a not-so-leisurely stroll trying to take in every street, attended the Saucy French Postcards Tableaux Revue (think Pageant of the Masters except with tableaux vivants of French postcards), the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (Wonderland Story time), and watched kids making fairy houses.  If we had more time and if I actually knew what we were getting ourselves into, I would have joined the Silk Road Ceilidh and participated in some parlour games! 🙂

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (Wonderland Story Time)

Finally, the highlight of our visit was securing a 4pm reservation for afternoon tea at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe!

Photo by Lady S.

Photo by Lady J.

We each got our own little souvenir pot of tea with PG Tips

 

The scones course was served first

The sandwiches were served next: Egg salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, and watercress

The food was not at all impressive but we knew we were paying for the privilege to sit in the fabricated tea shop and for that, it was worth the experience of doing so.  The tea shop was very crowded and loud, more pub-like than afternoon tea-like, but fun nevertheless!

There was so much to see and do at the Fair that we definitely needed a whole day, or even an entire weekend to participate in all the activities and shows.  The performances and shows were first-rate, the costumes great, and there is something for everyone, as far as activities go.  I am so impressed with the detail and cannot imagine the planning and volunteers (?) required to pull off this event!  My only complaint is that the shops are all very expensive so I did not feel that I could buy anything though I wanted to support the event.  In fact, I felt a little bit like Oliver Twist, wistfully looking through the windows:

“There are a good many books, are there not, my boy?” said Mr. Brownlow. […]

“A great number, sir,” replied Oliver; “I never saw so many.”

“You shall read them if you behave well,” said the old gentleman kindly; “and you will like that, better than looking at the outsides…”

However, Mr. Brownlow also declared that “there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts” and this was enough to convince me that the grapes were probably sour anyway!

Many thanks to Lady S. for planning a memorable and fun field trip for VTS!  Thankfully, the skies had cleared a bit the next day, which bode well for our flight home.  And we even got to do a bit of sightseeing!

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

―Ebenezer Scrooge

3rd Annual Tea Fundraiser

This is the 3rd year my philanthropy group has hosted an afternoon tea fundraiser.  I’m happy to report that, like our 2nd Annual Afternoon Tea Fundraiser, this year’s fundraiser was also a sold out event!  The proceeds from our fundraiser went towards merit scholarships for college-bound students.

Like last year, we recruited an emcee, solicited 3 new vendors, organized a bake sale, put together mystery grab bags, implemented an improved payment process, and secured Marlene’s Tea & Cakes for the catering.  With all the logistical details in place, our biggest challenge was encouraging enough volunteers to decorate tables and help with the fundraising activities.  This will remain our biggest challenge because it really does take a village to host an afternoon tea fundraiser!

Here are some photos of the themed tables from our event.  Hopefully you will take away some inspiration for your own tea table!

Autumn Floral

Traditional Asian

Delicate Flowers

Midnight Mystique

Fall Fantasy

Paris

Butterfly Garden

Lavender Winter Wonderland (table setting and photo by Lady J.)

The Rose Garden (photo by Lady J.)

Majestic Peacock

Here Comes Santa Claus

A Formal Affair

Hawaiian

My table theme was “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”  I redecorated and repurposed my Alice in Wonderland tree from last year for the centerpiece by transforming it into the Whomping Willow. 🙂  Depending on the angle of the Whomping Willow, you can see the following: flying keys, flying Ford Anglia, flying acceptance letters, Hedwig, Dobby’s socks, Weasley clock, goblets of fire, or Cornish pixies.  The table setting was similar to the one I set for the VTS Afternoon tea at Hogwarts the month before.  Harry Potter fans were thrilled!

As usual, the catering by Marlene’s Tea & Cakes was excellent!  Marlene also made our tea favors this year which were delicious: Pear scones!

Thank you to all the volunteers and guests who made this year’s fundraiser a success!

“He who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity & enjoying life’s pleasures…breathes but does not live.”
-Sanskrit Proverb

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

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! [Update: the Branston pickle is vegan, according to the ingredients list on the jar]

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!

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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!