Monday, March 21, 2011

Remembering the Frances Virginia Tea Room

Last weekend, I attended a special fundraising event whose guest speaker was Mildred Huff Coleman, above, author of "The Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook." The Frances Virginia was a famous tea room that operated in Atlanta until the sixties. I've had the pleasure of meeting and/or interviewing "Millie" several times, so now I actually consider her a friend and was delighted she was speaking at Something Special in Newnan, which itself was a former tearoom but is now a special events facility. The occasion was a fun Fashion Luncheon staged by the Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation, whose volunteers did a terrific job.

As guests arrived at Something Special, we were greeted by lovely music from a local bagpiper!

The ballroom and a tent at the special events center had been transformed into an elegant tearoom for the day, and each table featured teawares, hats and gloves. The centerpiece at my table was especially fun because I have that exact same footed pink teacup!

Another reason this luncheon was so enjoyable was that I finally had a chance to catch up with my sweet friend Joanie, at right. Joanie is a frequent commenter here (and perhaps my greatest cheerleader!), so I thought some of you would enjoy being able to attach a face to the name!

Other fun visitors I came across included my young friend Michelle, one of the volunteers who modeled spring fashions. Michelle was one of the servers at the former Holly Cottage Tea Room her mother owned. I've missed seeing her (and her mother and grandmother!) and was so pleased to find her at this event.

Another surprise face in the crowd was Martha Sue McCain, a beloved woman who once ran Something Special Tea Room with her mother. How perfect that she would return to Something Special for this event!

Of course you can't have a tea party without food, and our delicious luncheon plates included Chicken Salad, Cheese Straws and Frozen Fruit Salad. There was water and iced tea to drink, and for dessert we had Miniature Lemon Cupcakes and Brownies. (In quite an unusual move for me, I forgot to take photos of the sweets!)

Millie's talk was quite delightful, and the sell-out crowd of 160 guests (mostly women, naturally) really got into it. Millie's aunt, Agnes New, was the last dietitian partner of the Frances Virginia Tea Room in downtown Atlanta. Now the tea room had closed by the time I was born, so sadly I never got to visit this legendary establishment, but I've heard others tell of its charms for years. Its founder, Frances Virginia Wikle Whitaker, opened the tea room in the heart of the Depression and yet made quite a go of it. By 1931, she was serving 1,000 people a day, which Millie said meant 1 percent of Atlanta's population was eating at the tea room each day! And yet, incredibly, Frances Virginia is not to be found in any Atlanta history book! Millie and her late aunt remedied that, of course, by joining forces to pull out the old Frances Virginia recipes and convert them to sizes for home cooks to use. You can read about the resulting cookbook on Millie's website, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough! (I have two copies myself, different editions, and prize them. The tea room's Chiffon Pie dessert recipes alone make it worth reading the book!)

As if all that weren't enough, guests were welcomed into the beautiful gardens at Something Special following the luncheon. I've been a little too chatty today, but if you'll join me tomorrow I'll show you some of the great teawares and centerpieces from the luncheon!

9 comments:

Cynda P said...

I was there too!! It was a delightful afternoon. Sorry I missed you

Frivolitea said...

Oh my goodness. That looks like a wonderful event!!!

Linda J. said...

You are never too chatty!

Thank you for taking me along to Something Special for this fun event via your photos, a great way to start my Monday morning!

Karin Şen Cankan said...

The event looks great I wish I was there too. You lookk wonderful Angela,

Love,
Karin
karinsfairytale.blogspot.com

Joy said...

How fabulous! You weren't too chatty, I enjoyed reading about this special afternoon and will be looking for the book.

Marilyn said...

What a beautiful event. That plate of food looks just perfect.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Angela - your photos are beautiful!

That was such a special event and you captured it so well. I am so glad I had the chance to go, it will be a fond memory for me for a long time to come.

It's not often that a great speaker is speaking about Tea - the cause is a great one, The Carnegie Library, the company you get to visit with is Wonderful, the food is delicious, the table decorations are unique - and add in the bagpiper, I'm 'over the top!'

I ended up buying the cookbook and can't wait to use it! Thank you for your great review, you are 'a Treasure!' All the best,
Joanie

Ginger said...

Sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day. And nice to "meet" Joanie in person too.

Susan said...

Hats, gloves, cheese straws !
What a delightful event !