New shortbread recipes for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Vegan tea fare and games for 2

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

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

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

Henni’s curried chickpea salad

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

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

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

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

Henni’s vegan mayo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teago

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

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

December high tea at Marlene’s

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

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

Don’t you love the Royal Albert Christmas china?

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

Roasted winter vegetable soup with puff twist

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

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

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

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

Savory eclair with tomato, ricotta, and basil

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

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

–Thomas S. Monson

Tea at the Westgate Hotel

quotation2Lady K. hosted the autumn tea for the Victorian Tea Society at the fancy Westgate Hotel.  Afternoon tea is held in the Westgate Room, which is the lobby of the hotel.  It can be a little busy with guests coming in and out but it’s a gorgeous setting for afternoon tea.

Tables for afternoon tea

Our table

DSC08229 (Small)

VTS table

The ambiance and setting of the hotel was beautiful and it was a joy to sit in the Westgate Room.  However, I have a few complaints…  I hate to complain but after visiting so many tea rooms and hosting a few afternoon teas myself, there are a few things that I see over and over again in tea rooms that just bug the hell out of me!  I’ve decided I’m not going to hold back anymore and just lay it all out in the hopes that the word gets out and tea room owners or managers will take notice.

Each guest gets to order their own tea which is served in individual teapots. I like this a lot!  I tried the classic English blend tea and it was okay.  I don’t have any complaints about their tea selection because they had a good variety–I just happened to pick one that wasn’t very good.  The main problem was that the water was not hot enough which is why my tea seemed under-steeped.

The second disappointment was the very slow service!  Even though we were the first party to arrive for the 2:30pm seating (in fact, we arrived early!), the wait staff did not take our tea orders until 1/2 hour after we were seated (for some of us, that was 45 minutes) and the tea didn’t arrive for another 1/2 hour.

DSC08262 (Small)

I liked the individual tea strainers too, just like they have at the Grand Del Mar.

In case you were wondering if the Westgate Hotel offered a vegetarian option for afternoon tea, here it is:

DSC08254 (Small)

Vegetarian option: 3 salads (Caesar salad, Bleu cheese and pear with spring mix, and kale salad), cheddar cheese muffin, and Humboldt Fog cheese on brioche

Our food was served tableside by the wait staff, instead of on 3-tier caddies, possibly due to the size of our group.  However, if you have 4 or fewer guests, the food is served on 3-tier caddies.  On the plus side: The presentation of the food was very pretty.

westgatemenuThe menu was a suggestion because the actual food served was a little different.  Comparing the menu above, we were served the following instead: smoked salmon with caviar on brioche (notice the caviar is missing), black tiger shrimp and cilantro cream cheese on sourdough toast, white cheddar cheese muffin, Humboldt fog goat cheese on brioche, and curried chicken salad sandwich.  My two major complaints related to food:

  1. I don’t mind when the menu changes but it really bugs me when the wait staff can’t explain what the foods are!
  2. All the sandwiches were extremely dry or so crisp that when you took a bite, the filling got squished out or slid off the bread or toast!
  3. The food was obviously made far in advance.  The wait staff brought out the food on platters still covered in plastic wrap which implies it had been sitting in the fridge.  For the sake of appearances, the plastic wrap should have been removed in the kitchen and not at the table before serving.  It seemed tacky to me and inappropriate for an establishment that is trying to promote white tablecloth fancy dining.
DSC08261 (Small)

Shrimp with cilantro cream cheese on sourdough toast, cheddar cheese muffin, smoked salmon canape, curried chicken salad sandwich, Humboldt fog goat cheese on brioche

When one of the ladies marveled at the caviar on the salmon canape, I was disappointed that my salmon canape lacked the caviar.  One of the wait staff overhead me so she brought out a new one for me!  (OK, so the staff got brownie points for this)

DSC08263 (Small)

Smoked salmon with caviar (yes, the salmon was as dry as it looked)

DSC08267 (Small)

Berries ‘n’ cream and Raisin vanilla scone with clotted cream

A big plus: The scones were top notch!  Look how big there were, taking up the entire plate!  I picked out the raisins but still thoroughly enjoyed the scone.  I’d come back just for their scones!  I’m so glad they got the scones right!  I have a theory that the secret to a good scone is the size.  They have to be just the right size (biscuit size) or else they risk being overbaked and dry.

DSC08270 (Small)

Left to right, clockwise: Mocha cake, lemon cheesecake, blueberry muffin, coffee macaron, fruit tart

The desserts were beautiful but two of them had coffee in them which the wait staff did not identify, even when asked.  For example, the opera cake is garnished with a coffee bean but the wait staff insisted there was no coffee in it (well, there was coffee in it). 😦

DSC08271 (Small)

The fruit tart was delicious!  That was my favorite dessert

All in all, I had mixed feelings about having afternoon tea here.  It’s beautiful and there was an attempt at making the food interesting.  However, the setting did not make up for the lack of service, quality of the food, and warm tea.  That said, I would come here for afternoon tea over the Hotel del Coronado any day!  So if you’re looking for something fancy, and are thinking about the Hotel del, choose the Westgate instead.

DSC08239 (Small)

Tea favors: Cookies from the Good Stuff Cookie Co., a bakery that specializes in stuffed cookies! Chocolate cookie and peanut butter oatmeal

Lady K. gifted us with cookies from the Good Stuff Cookie Co., a bakery that specializes in stuffed cookies!  Now these, I highly recommend! 😉

Yum! Inside the stuffed cookie

Thank you Lady K. for hosting an elegant and lovely tea!  Despite my misgivings, it was so nice to get together and see everyone.  It really is the company that matters.

quotation

2nd Annual Afternoon Tea Fundraiser

[NOTE: This is post two of two related posts.  This is the followup to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I cannot take credit for any of the photos in this post except for one or two.  I am grateful to the guests who were able to capture photos of the event.]

Last year, my philanthropy group hosted an afternoon tea fundraiser to celebrate our 35th anniversary.  It was such a success that we decided to try making it an annual event.  I’m happy to report that our 2nd Annual Afternoon Tea Fundraiser was a sold out event!  We hoped it would be equally successful but selling out was a pleasant surprise!  This year, the proceeds from our fundraiser will go towards college scholarships for needs-based students.  We have always offered merit scholarships but we are so proud to be able to offer needs-based scholarships for the first time in the history of our organization.

Since planning an afternoon tea is time consuming and requires a lot of work, we knew we had to raise the fundraising ante to justify our time and efforts by making this year’s tea even more successful.  To that end, the Tea Committee worked hard all summer to come up with new and fresh ideas for fundraising activities to get guests excited about attending our event.  We listened to their ideas about how to improve the event and recruited an emcee, solicited 3 new vendors, organized a bake sale, put together mystery grab bags, and implemented a new payment process.

Mystery gift/grab bags sold for $15/each. These were a big hit!

Mystery gift/grab bags sold for $15/each. These were a big hit!

Succulent arrangements ranged in price from $10-30.

These 2 arrangements were my favorite! I also liked the teapot bird feeder in the foreground.

Fascinators for $15 and hats for $25.  Everything sold out!

Guests really enjoyed the shopping component of the event.  It was a good opportunity to shop for gifts before the holidays, to support local businesses, and contribute to our scholarships fund.  In addition to shopping, guests could also admire all the different table settings which our own members put together with fine china and linens from their own private collections.

DSC_0999 (Small)

Tea by the sea

DSC_1000 (Small)

I love Paris

DSC_1006 (Small) (2)

Garden tea

DSC_1008 (Small)

Beauty of roses

DSC_1009 (Small)

Asian

DSC_1016 (Small)

Cheerful flowers

DSC_1015 (Small)

Fashionista!

DSC_1003 (Small)

Caribbean blues

DSC_1013 (Small)

A formal affair

DSC_1011 (Small)

Christmas tea

DSC_1010 (Small)

Foliage of colors

DSC_1017 (Small)

Indian

DSC_1018 (Small)

Butterflies

DSC_1020 (Small)

Leaves falling, autumn calling

DSC_1021 (Small)

Eclectic elegance

DSC_1022 (Small)

The Wizard of Oz

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

While all the tables were wonderful, my favorite table of all was E.’s.  Her theme was Cherry blossoms and I especially appreciated the thoughtful and handmade details that went into her table setting from the crocheted napkin rings, to the cute kimono favor boxes (stuffed with goodies), to the original water color painting inviting her guests to “share a spot of tea” with her.  The colors of her tables evoked cheeriness, elegance, and charm, just like cherry blossoms!  Click on the photos below to enlarge (must see!):

And last but not least, the food was catered by none other than Marlene’s Tea & Cakes!  As our emcee quipped, “Marlene is a magician and her food is delicious. My favorite thing was … everything!” 🙂  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

It was so gratifying to see a full house!  With 164 guests in attendance (a 21% increase in attendance over last year), we raised $5300 (45% more than last year) for scholarships.  One guest commented that our event was, “Better than high tea in London!”  I don’t think we could have received a higher compliment!

“There are two i’s in Fundraising – they should stand for inspiration and innovation, not imitation and irritation.”

–Ken Burnett

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland — a tea table

[NOTE: This is part one of two related posts.  The impetus for this tea table was the 2nd annual afternoon tea fundraiser]

I have always wanted to host a Alice in Wonderland tea party because the creative possibilities are endless.  After rereading the book, I was convinced it was a mad but grand idea and decided to pursue it.  I found inspiration in the most unlikely of places–in a recycling pile in the garage!  I spied a big box that once housed a new bicycle and decided to re-purpose the box back to its former glory as a tree.  This 3 ft. tall tree became the centerpiece for an Alice in Wonderland themed tea table in an upcoming tea fundraiser event.

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where –”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

0914172121 (Large)

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”

I constructed the tree using cardboard, construction paper, paper, wire, and acrylic paint.  Each side of the tree depicts a moment from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  I wanted my guests to see something different no matter where they were seated at the table.

“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”

White Rabbit: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

With the tree ready to go, I started setting the table itself.

Mad Hatter: “Would you like a little more tea?”
Alice: “Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more.”
March Hare: “Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less.”
Mad Hatter: “Yes. You can always take more than nothing.”

IMG_7127

I added LED lights to the tree

To pay tribute to the Queen of Hearts and her subjects, the napkins on the table were black or red and folded as one of 4 card suits: heart, diamond, spade, or club.  I also scattered playing cards all over the table.

“Get to your places!” shouted the Queen in a voice of thunder, and people began running about in all directions, tumbling up against each other; however, they got settled down in a minute or two, and the game began. Alice thought she had never seen such a curious croquet-ground in her life; it was all ridges and furrows; the balls were live hedgehogs, the mallets live flamingoes, and the soldiers had to double themselves up and to stand on their hands and feet, to make the arches.

The decorations on the backs of the chairs were from the Talking Tables Truly Alice party prop set.  They were great for hiding imperfect bows but also added to the whimsy of the table.

There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time she found a little bottle on it, (“which certainly was not here before,” said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words DRINK ME beautifully printed on it in large letters.

DSC08219 (Small)

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words EAT ME were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door: so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!”

DSC08195 (Small)

Tea party favors — homemade shortbread

“Twinkle twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what you’re at?
Up above the world you fly
Like a tea tray in the sky.”

Here the Dormouse shook itself, and began singing in its sleep “Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, twinkle–” and went on so long that they had to pinch it to make it stop.

DSC08222 (Small)

Dormouse–this little guy is at least 40 years old!

To be continued ….

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.

September High Tea at Marlene’s Tea & Cakes

I was thrilled when Marlene’s Tea & Cakes agreed to cater our upcoming afternoon tea fundraiser and couldn’t turn down an opportunity to join Lady J. for a tea tasting.

It’s no secret that my favorite tea house is Marlene’s Tea & Cakes.  I have posted about Marlene’s many times and never tire of having afternoon tea there (and that’s saying a lot because I get bored easily when it comes to food).  If you have never visited Marlene’s, you are missing out!  Let me count the ways …
0913171059b (Small)

The table settings are always gorgeous and meticulous (ironed white tablecloths, fresh flowers, delicate china, crystal glasses …).  Most tea houses get the table settings and ambiance just right.  However, they usually fail in one of three areas: Tea, food, or both!  I don’t care how beautiful, charming, or cute a tea house is.  If the tea house does not serve properly brewed tea or decent food, it is neither a tea house or a restaurant.  A pretty house will not keep me coming back.  Marlene’s is the complete package!At Marlene’s, the tea is always hot and, most importantly, properly brewed.  Marlene brews and tests every pot of tea herself.  She won’t serve anything that isn’t up to her standards.  I have the utmost admiration and respect for her passion and commitment to excellence and quality.  She is a woman after my own heart.

Click to enlarge

My favorite tea from Marlene’s tea menu, (above) hands-down, is Paris.  On this visit, Lady J. and I tried the Lady Londonderry and I dare say it’s a close second to Paris.  Other wonderful teas are Creme au caramel and Roasted almond & fruit, which happen to be caffeine free.  If you don’t know which tea to choose, Marlene is happy to help you make a selection!

Lady Londonderry Tea (Black tea, lightly and elegantly flavored with strawberry, lemon balm leaves, calendula and sunflower petals)

Ahhh …! The food …!  My favorite thing about Marlene’s is the food.  Marlene excels in tea foods and makes savories and sweets equally well.  Her menu changes monthly with ingredients that keep up with the seasons–her culinary creations are imaginative, creative, gorgeous, and delicious.  I look at her menu every month just to see what she comes up with next!

Click to enlarge

0913171127a (Small)

Potato leek soup with puff twist (I love that Marlene left some of the red potato peel in the soup to give it texture!)

Marlene also takes great pride in the plating of the food.  I appreciate the effort she makes in the presentation–she is an artist.

Bonus: Banana bread with our scones!

Marlene’s sandwiches are the freshest in the business.  Even though both Lady J. and I know a few tricks about tea sandwiches, we still marvel at the freshness of the sandwich breads at Marlene’s!

0913171142c (Small)

Egg salad and watercress sandwich; Cucumber and carrot sandwich; Turkey, cheddar, and apple butter panini; Mini beef Wellington; and Bleu cheese mascarpone red onion confit quiche

This double chocolate zucchini bundt cake is why I love Marlene’s.  She’s always willing to push the limit and try something different.  This cake was scrumptious!

0913171234a (Small)

Double chocolate zucchini bundt cake

In addition to being a top notch chef/pastry chef, Marlene is a gracious, warm, and lovely hostess.  She tries to make every visit special whether it’s a personal visit to the table, an extra pot of tea, or additional goodies not on the menu (on this day, we got some banana bread with our scones).  I highly recommend a visit–plan an elegant party, have tea with a loved one, or invite your girlfriends for tea.  You will not be disappointed with afternoon tea at Marlene’s Tea & Cakes!  NOTE: Reservations are required.

If you are cold, tea will warm you,
If you are heated, it will cool you,
If you are depressed, it will cheer you,
If you are excited, it will calm you.

–William E. Gladstone