Monday, March 31, 2014

Want to win "The Petit Four Cookbook"?

Let's start this week off with a giveaway, shall we? A few months ago, I reviewed a new book I had received, "The Petit Four Cookbook" by Brooks Coulson Nguyen. I enjoyed the book and found it had lots of great recipes, which I am planning to use when I host a bridal tea this fall.

Now I've been offered the chance to give away a copy of the book, which includes a chapter titled "Tea Time," to one of you! If you'd like to win a copy for yourself, just leave an "Enter me" to this post between now and 7 a.m. Friday, April 4, and please make sure to include a way to contact you if you're the winner. Good luck!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tea Room Postcard #13 -- Tea Room, Copley Plaza Hotel (Boston, Mass.)

Earlier this week I wrote about having enjoyed tea at the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea, Kentucky. That reminded me I have previously had afternoon tea at only two other hotels, the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, both in Atlanta. This postcard shows a hotel tea from yesteryear, said by the eBay seller to be around 1910 (the postmark is unclear) at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. The postcard was mailed to Mrs. Inez S. Crosby on Union Street in Camden, Maine.

What I most liked about this postcard, though, is that the sender mentions someone famous. "Dear Inez: Of course here is where I am stopping. Hope the meeting went off O.K. Went to hear Billy Sunday last night. Am going again. Going to Somerville today. With love, Mrs. Wilson."

Billy Sunday (1862-1935) is legendary in the history of American religion and was the Billy Graham of his day, from what I gather. Until I did a little research online I didn't realize he had been a ball player before he became a preacher. Although he has a reputation as an old-fashioned hellfire-and-damnation preacher (and deservedly so, based on the YouTube videos of his preaching I found online), I love this photo I found of him visiting the White House. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) He must have been quite a character, and I love knowing that "Mrs. Wilson" may have stopped for afternoon tea in Boston on her way to hear Billy Sunday!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A taste of Kentucky

This week I've tried to share a little taste of my trip to Kentucky last week, so today I thought I'd end by sharing a *literal* taste of Kentucky, this Kentucky Chocolate Pie I made using a recipe in the souvenir cookbook I bought.

I love how the cover of "Bluegrass Winners" shows the multicolored jockey shirts, and I couldn't help noticing the blue matches my new "TEA" mug, one of the gifts Linda had waiting in the lovely blue gift bags she had put together for the Traveling Tea Friends last week. I cannot imagine a more perfect memento of our time together!

And the pie … oh my! Now this is from the cookbook Linda suggested when I asked for a recommendation at one of the shops, and I can see why. It was originally published by the Garden Club of Lexington in 1985 and is now in its ninth printing!

This pie was very quick and easy to make and is so good and chocolatey, kind of like a pecan pie and a chocolate pie combined. Here's how I made mine.

Kentucky Chocolate Pie

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup margarine, melted (I used butter)
1 cup pecans, chopped
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the mini ones)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 unbaked 9" pie shell (regular, not deep-dish)
1 cup cream, whipped (I cheated and used fat-free Reddi-wip; don't judge)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine sugar and flour, then add remaining ingredients except the whipped cream. Pour into pie shell and bake for 50-60 minutes. Top with whipped cream if desired.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Touring Lexington with tea friends

While on the way to our lunchtime tea at Greentree Antiques & Tearoom last week, the tea friends stopped at Thoroughbred Park in Lexington to take photos of the horse sculptures. Aren't these great? I've long admired how sculptors are able to convey movement in a stationary object.

Here my friend Maureen and I are with some of the statues.

Thanks to Linda we also got to make a quick trip to the Kentucky Horse Park. She then drove us through Thoroughbred country, and yes, I think I'd be perfectly happy living in any of those magnificent barns. They were amazing, and it has definitely changed how I think about Kentucky and horse racing. We barely had time to see the Horse Park, though, because we were so busy antiquing after lunch!

I believe I'm one of the few who didn't come home with a teapot, but I did find this beautiful tray and the mystery spoons I mentioned last Friday. The 9-1/2 x 7-1/2-inch china tray with pink roses, just $6, was one of the prettiest things I've seen in a while, and I love how those intricate edges are all in perfect condition after all these years. There's no backstamp, so I have no idea who made it. I'm going to use it to hold a sugar and creamer in a similar rose pattern.

Also at that antique mall, I saw a piece of furniture, I guess you'd call it, that I have never seen before, and I was just enchanted. Do you know what this is?

What if I show you the interior here? Now can you guess? My new friend Lori and I had a lot of fun examining this piece, which was probably about 4-1/2 feet tall or so.

An old ribbon dispenser! Who knew!

Also, I thought I'd give you an update on the mystery of the spoons I first blogged about here. Since I've had several people wonder if perhaps these were serving pieces, it dawned on me I should have mentioned the dimensions. Each spoon is just 6-1/4 inches long, with the widest part of the "bowl" (for lack of any other term) measuring about 1-1/4 inches wide. In other words, these are just normal spoon size, not large enough for serving anything.

Here's the set of four as they were tied together when I bought them, and this way you can see the curve of the bowl.

Here's the backstamp. If only it showed the patent number!

And this will hopefully show you the design of the slits, which are at an angle for some reason. Such a mystery!

I got some great information on spoons from The Sage Book Whisperer, who noted the curvature of the spoon would make it sit nicely on the edge of a glass (as it does here) for drinking Absinthe. Yet when I looked at Absinthe spoons online, I don't see that little scalloped design at the upper left of my spoon. Surely it had a purpose? At any rate, if you want to see some amazing spoons, please pop over to The Sage Book Whisperer's post here. Nancy had suggested perhaps this was a spoon for buttering corn on the cob, and I indeed found such a vintage implement on eBay (go here to see it, at least for the next four days), but the design's not the same as mine. My husband admitted that he was bored the other night and searched every type of spoon he could think of on the internet, yet he can't find what these are either. The search continues, and if I find a definitive answer about what these are, you can bet I'll let you know!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Greentree Antiques & Tearoom in Lexington, Kentucky

On Wednesday last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Traveling Tea Friends for a lunchtime tea at Greentree Antiques & Tearoom in Lexington, Kentucky. The weather was a little overcast, but our spirits definitely were not!

The March Tea had a St. Patrick's Day theme, of course, and the tables were elegant and waiting for our arrival.

Here are some of the group settling in. From left are Phyllis, Maureen, Mary and Lynn.

On a cold day nothing warms like a hot soup, and I eagerly tucked into this Potato Leek Soup. Divine! I had skipped breakfast in anticipation of the lunchtime tea, so I was quite ready to eat by this time! The tea served was Irish Blend Tea, and we all noted how the servers were so great about topping off our cups without our having to ask.

Next came our scones, which were Irish Oat Scones served with Blackberry Jam and Fayette Cream. I've never had this flavor of scone before but I very much enjoyed it.

This is one of those tea rooms where you also get an entree for lunch, and ours was a heaping serving of Spanakopita, a savory Greek pastry made with spinach and cheese. I hear this is usually made in individual portions with the filling wrapped in an outer layer of phyllo, but for a large serving situation like this one it is made by the pan, and the phyllo is incorporated into the layers. All I can tell you is, it was amazing, and I ate every bite of mine!

Greentree has a unique way of serving the tea sandwiches and desserts. Once we had our Spanakopita, we were invited to the back of the tea room where this buffet was waiting.

The sandwich flavors included Corned Beef and Poppy Seed Egg Salad, both good, and my favorite, these Benedictine Tea Sandwiches made with a famous cucumber spread. Linda blogged about the history of Benedictine Sandwiches here.

Here's my plate of buffet foods, including the tea sandwiches mentioned above and the sweets, which were, from left, Bailey's Fudge, Pistachio Cupcakes and Greentree French Filled Wafers. I must confess that I was really quite full after the entree, so I ate my tea sandwiches and then managed just a bite of the sweets. I enjoyed it all, and I certainly did not leave hungry.

Naturally we had to check out Greentree's antiques before we left. Doesn't this display just take your breath?

Their selection of teawares was exquisite! It was a terrific lunch tea, and I enjoyed not only getting to go to tea in a lovely new setting but also getting to enjoy a different "style" of tea as well!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A visit to Elmwood Inn Fine Teas

On my trip to Kentucky last week, the Traveling Tea Friends got to enjoy a visit to Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Danville, Kentucky thanks to our host, Linda!

If you've been reading Tea Time magazine for years, as many of us have, you know that tea expert/author/blender Bruce Richardson is one of the superstars of the tea world. He and his wife Shelley for many years operated a tea room at their home, the Elmwood Inn in Perryville, Kentucky. They no longer have a tea room, but they do have a wholesale tea operation and, "just for fun," he says, have the tea shop in Danville that is open to the public Monday through Friday. Here, he shows us an old wooden chest which was once used to transport Twinings Tea.

Nancy and Linda listen as Bruce shares a bit of tea history with our group.

We got to sample several delicious teas while we were there, including this rare Forest White Hawaiian Tea. Bruce let us pass around some of the loose leaf tea so we could examine it before we enjoyed sipping it.

Preparing our tea was his assistant, Lois, who was so friendly and chatted with our group after the presentation.

Here, Bruce shows a puerh tea brick he received from a friend in the tea world.

All too soon our learning and sipping time was up, because of course we had to have some time to shop, and what a shop this was! There were teawares in every color of the rainbow.

No matter what your taste, the shop had something to make you happy.

I just loved seeing all the colorful teawares on display!

Of course my favorite souvenir is always a book, and here you see one of the book displays, with Linda and Shelley in the background.

One of the books I brought home was A Social History of Tea by Bruce and British tea expert Jane Pettigrew. Here, he kindly autographs the book for me. He is a very down-to-earth man, and I appreciated the story he told about some cards he received for his recent birthday. One card came from his brother in Georgia and had a "Duck Dynasty" theme, and the next card he opened came from his friend Dorothea Johnson, the etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Washington. "I walk in both worlds," he laughed.

And last but not least, the hard-working Linda was kind enough to take a picture of me with Bruce. What a fun, fun time! And if you're not in Kentucky, you can shop Elmwood Inn Fine Teas online here. Once I've had time to try them, I'll tell you about the new teas I got at the shop!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Taking tea in Kentucky!

Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to Kentucky to participate in the Traveling Tea Friends Gathering. The event was expertly organized by my friend Linda of the Friendship Tea blog. I traveled to Kentucky with my fellow Georgian, Maureen, of the Tea and Talk blog. In Kentucky we were joined by Phyllis of Michigan, who writes the Relevant Tea Leaf blog, and her sweet friend Lori (who is now my friend too), and also by Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania tea room owner and blogger Nancy of the Rosemary's Sampler blog. (You'll often see Nancy's tea room mentioned in Tea Time magazine.) We had a truly amazing time, and our headquarters for the week was the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel of Berea College, a beautiful inn that was built in 1909 as a guest house for the college. We enjoyed several fine meals in the hotel, more cups of tea than I care to count, and on Tuesday afternoon came one of the highlights of the week for me, tea at the Boone Tavern Hotel.

At my table are, from left, Lynn, a lovely friend of Linda whom I first had the pleasure of meeting on a trip to Asheville two years ago; Melissa, Linda's daughter; Phyllis; and Lori.

At the second table are, from left, Nancy, Linda, Maureen, and Linda's friends (and now my friends) Patty and Mary. Linda is well-known for her tea expertise, and I think it speaks highly of the Boone Tavern Hotel that they have her as their tea consultant. I felt incredibly lucky to get to enjoy tea there under her watchful eye. I must confess that I forgot to take a picture of the, well, tea! But we got to try several selections and my favorite was the Lavender Earl Grey, just because I was in the mood for a flavored black tea that day.

Our afternoon tea began with a Boone Tavern favorite, a sample serving of their famous Spoonbread served in a ceramic spoon. Spoonbread is a cornmeal dish that is similar to a cornmeal soufflé, and Boone Tavern was kind enough to supply us with the recipe. Can't wait to make it, even if you do have to beat the mixture for *fifteen minutes.* (The recipe was also printed by Saveur magazine and may be found here if you'd like to try it for yourself.)

Next, we enjoyed a cup of Kentucky Burgoo, which I learned is a spicy stew. It was just the thing to warm us up on a cool Kentucky afternoon!

Soon, our pretty three-tiered servers arrived at the tables where we all oohed and aahed and took lots of photos! For once, I wasn't a bit self-conscious about photographing my food, because all the other gals were doing the same thing. The one thing I'd like to point out on the tray that is not shown in another photo is the middle tier with the pretty white-chocolate covered strawberries and raspberries. I don't believe anyone at my table had enjoyed a white chocolate-covered raspberry before, and we agreed they were delicious.

Our savories were so fun, and I loved that they, too, incorporated the Kentucky theme Linda had chosen especially for us. Clockwise from left are a Pimiento Cheese Tea Sandwich, a Fancy Deviled Egg, a Mini Hot Brown, and a Tea Biscuit with Country Ham, Apricot Glaze, and Arugula.

My favorite was the Mini Hot Brown, just because I loved the cheesy flavor and I'm so impressed they took the trouble to make this in miniature form! A close second, though, was ...

... the Tea Biscuit with Country Ham. Yum!

We had two types of scones, plain ones and Cranberry-Orange ones with a Triple Sec glaze, enjoyed with jam and some real clotted cream Linda had managed to find for us!

The sweets were Kentucky-inspired as well. Clockwise from left are the Mini Race Day Pies (partially hidden), Chocolate Bourbon Tartlets, and Mint Julep-inspired Bourbon Cupcakes with a bourbon and mint buttercream frosting. The Mint Julep Cupcake was my favorite of the sweets, though I enjoyed them all.

Last but not least, we had horseshoe-shaped iced sugar cookies, a lovely tribute to the upcoming Kentucky Derby. (Those fortunate enough to live near Boone Tavern can sign up for a Kentucky Derby tea at the hotel on April 19, sigh.) I was so stuffed by this point I took my cookie back to the room to enjoy later. It was a wonderful afternoon of tea with friends old and new, and a particularly delicious way to get acquainted with the eager-to-please staff of the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel!