April 9th is National Gin & Tonic Day!
Happy National Gin & Tonic Day! G&T's are my go-to drink at home and at the bar, so of course I had to make a special version for today's celebrations. While I normally like a gin and tonic that is bracing and bitter, this recipe shows the softer side of the drink. I combined a botanical gin with a jasmine green tea simple syrup for a sweet and floral cocktail perfect for spring. A blood orange for garnish instead of a lime gives some colour to this pale beauty, but keeps the acidity from overpowering the delicate undertones.
G&T BCTH Style
1 teaspoon jasmine green tea
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1.5 ounces botanical gin, such as Uncle Val's
1/2 ounce jasmine green simple syrup
3 ounces tonic water
blood orange for garnish
For the syrup: Steep the jasmine green in cold water overnight. Combine with sugar in small saucepan and place over high heat until it just comes to a boil. Remove from heat immediately and strain. Let cool.
For the cocktail: Combine all ingredients in a fancy glass and garnish with the blood orange. Serve at once.
Although you don't need to get out the fine crystal or the family silver for this 'holiday,' I recommend doing so anyway. There's a romance to this drink that deserves a little recognition. Celebrate yourself, the coming of a new season, and all the little pleasures in life with a G&T. I raise my glass to you, fellow gin drinkers, and hope you someday try the Bedford Cottage Tea House version of this classic cocktail. Cheers!
Love is just a game, but one that everyone can play!
Valentine's Day isn't just for romantic love; everyone can celebrate the special people in their lives. This tea party is perfect for families, friends, book clubs, and bridge groups. So if you love the thrill of the game, the camaraderie that comes with it, or the glory of victory, then gather your loved ones and play along.
Hummus and Tapenade Tiles
Puzzle Pot Pies
Cinnamon Shortbread Stacks
Guests get a choose-your-own-adventure style tea, using BINGO cards to indicate what they want in their personalized blend. Feeling lucky? Circle the *Go Wild* space and let your host blend a tea for you! Black tea with coconut, cinnamon, brown sugar and milk was a lucky draw; it was sweet, aromatic, and full of body, just the thing to keep a sporting mind sharp. What blend would make you yell, "Bingo!"? Maybe a white tea with hibiscus and honey? Green tea over ice? To not play is the only way to lose at this game.
This tea party might be the one time you're allowed to play with your food before you eat it! Arrange your tiles to spell a high-scoring word, or challenge your neighbor to a game of tic-tac-toe with black pepper and red cheddar scones. If you don't get three in a row, maybe you'll get some Xs and Os instead. The shortbread stacks are just stable enough to pile a few on your plate, but try and steal a neighbor's and you might end up with crumbs! Everyone's a winner with these delectables, so there won't be any hard feelings by the end of the afternoon.
So whether you're a lover or a fighter, a champion or an underdog, a quiz-whiz or a bad bluffer, there is room for you at this table. After all, it's all fun and games, even when love is involved.
January 11th is National Hot Toddy Day!
Hot Toddies are one of my favourite winter beverages, and it is no mistake that Hot Toddy Day falls right in the middle of National Hot Tea Month. A good tea, a little honey, a little lemon, and a good dose of whiskey come together to make a beverage that is hand-warming and heartwarming. It's perfect for those days when the weather is cold and dreary and the nights are dark and arrive early.
There are as many iterations of a Hot Toddy as there are people drinking them. This is the one I make most often, having slowly tweaked the recipe to fit my personal tastes. I'm a sucker for anything with a rich, smokey flavour, so I use a mix of English Breakfast and Lapsang Souchong for my tea base. I recently started using an extra-smokey scotch as the tipple; this makes for a rather campfire-y toddy, which is not for everyone. The balance between the heavy tea, peaty scotch, sweet honey, and sour lemon is exactly my cup of tea, however.
Hot Toddy BCTH Style
makes 2 toddies
1 heaping teaspoon English Breakfast
1 heaping teaspoon Lapsang Souchong
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon + garnish
4 oz Whiskey or Scotch
Honey to taste
Steep tea with 16oz of boiling water for 5-8 minutes. Pour scotch into pre-warmed glasses or mugs. Add tea. Squeeze juice into glass and finish with desired amount of honey. Serve hot with lemon garnish.
Winter is just settling in, so there is still plenty of time to experiment with a toddy recipe of your own. Do you like rum instead of whiskey? Cloves studded into your lemons for an extra punch? Apple slices instead of citrus? Be sure to let me know how you like your toddies in the comments!
The Nutcracker story is a cherished part of many holiday traditions, so what better way to celebrate than a tea party inspired by the classic ballet? A Christmas tree presides over the festivities, a nutcracker rallies his gingerbread soldiers against an army of marzipan mice, and sugar plums dance over taste buds. Watch this magical tea party come to life as the curtain rises and the lights begin to twinkle.
Overture: Winter Spiced Tea
Candy Stripe Toasts
Three Cheese Scones
Snowflake Harlequin Butter
Entr'acte: Hot Cocoa with Espresso Marshmallows
Russian Tea Cakes
Christmas Tree Croquembouche
The party begins with a winter spiced tea, inspired by the Chinese Dance in the Land of Sweets. Black tea from China joins with star anise, cinnamon, orange slices, and candied ginger for a brew that is spicy, slightly sweet, and fragrant.
Following the tea is an assortment of savory delights to satisfy and stuff. Rye bread toasts striped with red and green pestos and cream cheese are fun to look at and fun to eat. Perhaps the three cheese scones that follow are to blame for the presence of the Mouse King. He wouldn't be able to resist their cheesy decadence and neither can anyone else, especially not when spread with harlequin butter. Before he gets broken by Clara's brother, the Nutcracker had some work to do cracking open the nuts that were spiced and glazed. The gingerbread soldiers appear at the end of Act I to escort us from savory to sweet. Their cakey interiors are laced with black pepper and stiff molasses, an enticing combination perfect for a cold winter cookie.
The sweets begin with a cup of hot chocolate with espresso marshmallows, inspired by the Spanish and Arabian Dances. It's a perfect, creamy, and reinvigorating treat. The Nutcracker and his soldiers may have done away with the Mouse King, but there are still a few marzipan mice waiting to be polished off. Better get to them quickly, before they eat all of the Russian tea cakes and sugar plums.
As a reminder that it wasn't all a dream, the croquembouche Christmas tree is still standing high above all. Gentle puff pastry filled with pastry cream and finished with gleaming green sugar is the grand finale for this delightful tea party.
The Nutcracker is a fanciful holiday tale, one full of intrigue, mystery, and magic. Hopefully this Nutcracker Tea Party has been equally so. Whether you plan on seeing the ballet, participating in it yourself, or simply watching one of the movie versions from the comfort of home, a few inspired treats might be just the thing to bring it to life and give your December a little childlike wonder.
Happy Holidays from Bedford Cottage Tea House!
Birthdays are the perfect excuse for a celebratory tea party, whether it's for a friend's or your own. Mine happens to be coming up soon, and it is certainly one worth fussing over: the big 3-0!! Although I do not have any tea plans for it this year, I did want to share how I spent my Golden Birthday, the birthday number that coincides with your date of birth. My best friend in the world flew out to visit and over a whirlwind five days we threw a magnificent party just for us.
Golden Birthday Menu
Pumpkin Ginger Scones
Toasted Brioche Crostini
Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah
Pear Quince Tart
Lavender Tea Cake
Petits Fours in Four Flavours
Sweet and Savory Accoutrements:
hummus, pesto, whipped cream, lemon curd
Everything was handmade, including the brioche for the crostini. It was a labor of love; one that was just as fun to devour as it was to make.
No tea party would be complete without a modicum of fancy dress, so we even went so far as to pull old prom dresses out of my closet and put them on. Elbow length gloves, thrift store hats, and costume jewelry completed the look. We even had a "chaperone" in fancy dress himself.
An antique lace tablecloth and heirloom china were the final touches. In a happy coincidence, the china perfectly matched the Golden Birthday theme. Looking back on it now, so did the majority of the food we prepared: two different breads, baked to golden perfection; a bronzed bundt loaf; autumnal scones; glorious lemon curd; petit fours shining like trinkets in the October sun. Although it wasn't planned, it was beautifully executed.
Ultimately what made my Golden Birthday one to remember was that I spent it doing what I loved, with the people I loved. But throwing a tea party that was a smashing success helped. At the moment I can only throw a few parties a year, but someday I hope to throw them nearly every day. These celebrations, whether they are for a birthday or not, are special.
A toast, then; "To celebrating life the best way I know how- with a cup of tea and a homemade treat."
China Tea with Milk, Sugar, Jam, or Lemon
Cucumber Dill Sandwiches
Roast Beef with Horseradish and Rocket Sandwiches
Oatcakes, Stilton, Keen's Farmhouse Cheddar, Gherkins,
and an array of fresh summer fruit
Deviled Eggs with Chives
Bilberry and Gin Jellies
Inspiration for the menu was gleaned from Jane Austen's novels, as well as historical accounts from the Georgian period. Of course, in the end it is a thoroughly modern take on what might have been. Nearly everything for the spread was homemade, and even with a modern kitchen the amount of effort it took was enormous. What a production this would have been in the days of wood-fired ovens, ice houses, and boiling pigs' feet. Truly a tea party is a special occasion, an event of great acclaim.
The tea was a combination of Chinese black and green, reminiscent of an English Breakfast tea, but with a more herbaceous quality. Served with all the accompaniments varying tastes could desire, including jam, if one was prone to taking it à la russe.
Pork pies, sandwiches, and deviled eggs provide for those with more of an appetite, and satisfy any men that might be in attendance. A cascade of light nibbles, including the traditional Stilton and Farmhouse Clothbound Cheddar cheeses, are the other savories.
What everyone really wants, however, are the sweets. Glazed cakelets made in individual molds, served with the best of summer berries. A man might give up his fortune for those strawberries; red as rubies and sweet as new love.
Lemon ices are a must at any social gathering, especially in the heat of the summer. Cold, tart, and sweet, they are perfection to keep you cool while the gossip heats up.
Last but not least, Bilberry and Gin Jellies. Sweet, a bit tipsy, and a testament to the cook of the house. Party attendees may blush while eating, given the naughty jiggle that jellies are wont to make. If there are any clergy in your group, perhaps invite them to take a tour of the house while these are being served.
For the would be hostess, remember that now is the time for showing off. Display your wealth and standing as befits your position, or at least for the position you desire. Perhaps your patron will let you borrow their silver or crystal. Be mindful of the cost, but keep in mind that "a large income is the best recipe for happiness." So even if you don't have much, you should pretend like you do for the sake of your guests. For after all is said and done, a successful event is its own reward.
Jane Austen herself may be gone, but her legacy remains. Honor whatever influence she may have had on your life by throwing your own Jane Austen tea party. Consult your almanac, pick a day where the sun will be shining but not so much as to obscure the view of your choosing, be it man, woman, or nature. Send out your invitations, plan your menu, and prepare for a pleasurable afternoon spent in good company. For even though, "to sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment," it can't hurt to have a little food and fun as well.
Or should I say, maTeas! It's a pirate's life for me and you at this high seas themed tea party. Who can resist the siren song of treasure, tropical islands, true friendship and adventure? You don't have to wear a suit to attend this party; an eyepatch, hook, or tricorn would be in better taste. So heed the call, put wind in your sails, and follow me!
Ship fare was, historically, a sad affair. There was hardtack (usually with weevils for added protein), salt pork, rum, and the occasional salmagundi. But on the good ship Bedford Cottage, the menu is a little more diverse. The full bounty of the tropical isles we port in is present, served alongside the more practical, virtually unspoilable historical goods.
Plantain Chips with Mango Salsa and Guacamole
Hardtack and Salt Pork Jam
Cannonball Cream Puffs
Dark and Stormy Cocktails
The hardtack served aboard the Bedford Cottage is actually a simple cracker recipe. Stiffer than a flatbread but softer than what the poor buccaneers would have had, it is most enjoyable with a spread of salt pork jam. The jam is a savory blend of bacon, onions, garlic, coffee, maple syrup and brown sugar.
It is rumored that some pirates, including the famous Blackbeard, ate gunpowder to stir their courage before battle. While that can't have been pleasant, my gunpowder hardtack is. A little ground black sesame seed worked into the dough perfects the illusion of chowing down on the silvery black explosive.
Dead men tell no tales, but spreading the word about this awesome tea party is what we want here at Bedford Cottage Tea House, so no need to fear for your life! Share the bounty and throw a Pirate Tea Party of your own!
Candied Spiced Pecans
Sweet and Salty Popcorn
Garlic Parmesan Popcorn
Thyme and Cheddar Drop Scones
Brie with Sour Cherry Spread and Crackers
Habanero Spice Cookies
Yule Stump Cake
The centerpiece for the party was the Yule Stump, a less traditional take on a Buche de Noel. There are one or two stumps on our new property, and quite a few trees, so it seemed fitting to try something new. It was a brown sugar cake with dark chocolate frosting, marzipan mushrooms, apple ring mushrooms, and a little matcha tea for moss. The dirt was made with toasted cake crumbs and cocao nibs. And although I hadn't planned on dusting it with snow, the morning of the party it snowed a few inches, so I took that as a sign and added it.
The sweets are always what I go for at parties, and this one was no exception! My Habanero Spice Cookies are an intriguing twist on a classic molasses gingersnap. It's nearly impossible to have just one, and they are perfect with a cappucino or eggnog tipple. I've included the recipe below and highly recommend tracking down the ingredients and adding them to your Christmas cookie rotation.
Would it really be a Christmas party without some kind of candy cane or peppermint? I prefer the small ones; perfect to sneak into a pocket on your way out the door. My mom even surprised me with an extra treat- Christmas candy! I remember having this mix every Christmastime as a kid. And despite the fact that I always pick out the one or two things I really like and leave the rest for someone else to finish, it just wouldn't be a party without it.
Now you may be thinking, "Where is the tea in this tea party?" To which I reply, I put it in the punch! A festive punch is always welcome at a holiday party, and is an easy way to serve a large number of people. I made mine with Celestial Seasoning's Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea, wonderful fresh apple cider from a nearby orchard, and vodka. The tea added a good amount of zing and depth to the cider without any additional sugar, and it's an herbal blend, so my guests were able to dream of sugar plums when they finally got home to their beds! A festive ice ring added just the right amount of flair to the vintage punch bowl.
Habanero Sugar Molasses Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 scant tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light or dark molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
Habanero sugar* and regular granulated sugar for rolling
Place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 375. Whisk all the dry ingredients except sugar together in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add egg and molasses and gently beat until combined, making sure to scrape the sides down. Slowly add the flour and stir until uniformly mixed. This is not a particularly wet dough, but can be over mixed, so I would take it out of the mixer once it looks cohesive and use a spoon to get any dry flour pressed into the rest of the dough.
Once dough is mixed, scoop out in small amounts, about 1/2 -1 tablespoon in size.** Roll into balls and then roll in the habanero sugar and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Oddly enough, these bake better on non-insulated, regular bakeware (no fancy non-stick surfaces). If you think the straight habanero sugar will be too much for you, combine it with regular granulated sugar to your liking.
Start the cookies on the upper rack, bake for four minutes, switch to lower rack, bake for three minutes, then remove from sheet and place on a cooling rack. This short cooking time ensures chewy cookies. Repeat until you run out of dough.
**My habanero sugar came from this store, but you might be able to find it in a local spice store or online.
***You want these cookies small! The dainty size keeps them from being too overwhelming.
A big THANK YOU to my Mom, who made this tea possible in more ways than I can count. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! May you find tea in your stockings and under your tree, and happiness in every cup.
Chapter 1: The Inspiration
Harry Potter was first introduced to the world in 1997. His magical world has been enchanting us muggles for nearly twenty years, and next month the legend expands with the movie release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So with Halloween right around the corner and a new movie coming soon, the time was right for a Harry Potter tea party.
I consulted the books just like Hermione would have done, readied my wand, and then let the magic happen.
Chapter 2: The Menu
The world of Harry Potter is full of iconic food and beverages that are just as delicious to eat as they are to read about. It wouldn't be a tea party without tea, so I served a traditional English Breakfast, although I think a Scottish Breakfast would be just as fitting. Butterbeer was also on offer, served slightly chilled and with a gorgeous head of foam.
The Hogwarts train ride wouldn't be complete without some pumpkin pasties, and neither would a Harry Potter tea party. I made two versions, sweet and savory, to satisfy any hungry student.
The other delicacies were taken from various mentions throughout the books, such as Harry's favourite dessert, treacle tart, complete with griffin crust. There were bacon butties with H.P. sauce, pumpkin loaves, and the infamous Skiving Snackboxes. The three different snackboxes are two-tone marshmallows, rice treats, and coconut ice. They are great bite-size treats (but without the adverse side-effects)!
Also featured was Polyjuice Potion mushroom soup and a Colour-Changing Charm Tea.
Chapter 3: Recipe for Hagrid's Rock Cakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup each dried cranberries, cherries, and currants
1/2 cup whole milk
Combine the flour, butter, salt, sugar and baking powder. Use a pastry cutter to break mixture until fine and crumbly. Add the dried fruit and toss a few times to keep from sticking together. Slowly add the milk while gently kneading. When the dough just comes together, place in fridge while you preheat the oven to 375*. When the oven is preheated, remove dough and gently pat down until 1.5 inches thick. Use a large biscuit cutter or circle cutter to cut cakes. Place on baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Remember, in the books these cakes are nearly inedible, which you certainly wouldn't want to serve your guests, but that doesn't mean they can't look rustic and rocky. It helped me to visualize my hands as though they were Hagrid's, large and rough, but steady.
Chapter 4: The Farewell
Everything I put into this tea was a nod to J.K. Rowling and the wonderful world she created. For those of you who love Harry Potter, I hope you enjoyed this tea as much as I enjoyed creating it. Leave your comments below and if you have any questions about what I did, please ask!
Slow down everyone, summer isn't over yet! There is still plenty of delicious seasonal produce in the markets, the air is still warm and the nights are still long. Now is the perfect time to throw an All American Summer Tea Party. Inspired by traditions across the land, I've put together a tea party celebrating what our summer has to offer.
Iced Black Tea Blend Sweetened with Local Raw Honey
Egg Salad Sandwiches on Farmhouse Bread with Tea Pickled Veggies
Northwest Summer Salad
BBQ Chicken Rillette with Homemade Toast Points
Blueberry and Apple Tartlettes with American White Cheddar Pastry
Let's start with the drinks. Summer time is all about thirst-quenchingly cool beverages, and what is more American than iced tea and lemonade? I used a mixture of English Breakfast and Earl Grey to form the base for my tea, then added a heaping spoonful of local honey to sweeten. This iced tea is fragrant, sweet, and bracing, but still drinkable from sun up to sun down.
Lavender and lemon is a pairing made in heaven, and they shine when turned into lemonade. Steep the lavender blossoms in boiling water until it reaches desired strength, then strain and cool. Use this instead of water when mixing with the lemon juice and sugar. If you're feeling extra festive, fill your glasses with ice cubes that have lavender blossoms frozen inside and garnish with a lemon twist. Beautiful, delicious, and reminiscent of blossoming fields beneath a hot sun.
What would a summer party be without a potato salad? It is virtually unthinkable to not include one, but if you're tired of the same old globs of mayonnaise version, this is a wonderful replacement. Red potatoes are tossed with fresh sweet corn, green onions, smoked salmon and sour cream. If you are lucky enough to have an ocean (or lake, or river) view, you couldn't find a better dish to enjoy while soaking it in.
The final savory of the menu was my tribute to the chicken traditions of the South. Chicken thighs are braised in a bbq spice rub with golden ale and Lapsang Souchong tea, then beaten into a spreadable delight known as rillette. Slightly smoky and with an incredible depth of flavor, this is a treat that could grace any table, not just a picnic one.
Summer needs to be cherished, especially now that everyone has Autumn in their sights. So grab a few friends, a couple of blankets, and a lawn game of your choice and enjoy the rest of summer's bounty.