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.
A whimsical and romantic celebration of love, for the one you love.
I love picnics. I love planning for them, packing for them, and eating them. A picnic basket is a gift to be shared. So what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with a picnic full of hearty and heart-shaped fare? I live in a place where February weather is not very conducive to picnics, however, and perhaps you do too. It doesn't matter though, because whether you have rain, sleet, or snow coming down outside, an indoor picnic is always warm and bright. With a menu tailored to the reason and the season, nothing could be sweeter than this tea party for two.
Kumamoto Oysters with Blood Orange Granita and Chili Threads
Scotch Eggs with Mustard Duo
Beet Stacks with Goat Cheese and Arugula Pesto
Radish Hearts on Baguette with Lapsang Souchong Butter
Earl Grey Crème Brûlée
Mango Coconut Petit Fours
The cocktails were a mix of homemade rosehip syrup, fresh cara cara orange juice, and bubbly. If you are not familiar with cara cara oranges, I recommend going out and grabbing a few right away! People love celebrating Valentine's Day with strawberries or raspberries, but for the majority of the world, they just aren't in season on February 14th. But that doesn't mean you have to go without red and pink fruit for your sweet desserts! Citrus season is still upon us, and lucky for us there are plenty of beautiful alternatives: blood oranges, cara caras, and pink or ruby grapefruit.
The granita that topped the oysters was made with blood orange juice for that perfect shade of blushing pink, offset by the brilliant vermilion of the red chili threads. The subtle flavor of the chili paired with the sweet and tangy blood orange played exquisitely with the salty brine of the oysters. If you're new to the oyster game, Kumamotos are a great beginner oyster. They are usually quite small, are appealingly creamy in appearance, and not overpoweringly fishy in flavor.
The other savories for the meal included Scotch eggs, which are a traditional and crazy delicious picnic food, hand-cut beet stacks with goat cheese and arugula pesto, and cut radishes with a lapsang souchong butter. The lapsang souchong butter was made by taking loose leaf lapsang tea and grinding it, then mixing it into softened butter with a smattering of a flaky sea salt. I let it sit for two days to really infuse the flavor. Smoke is one of my favorite tastes, so I had to sneak it in somewhere! The smoky richness of the butter really complemented the sharp crunch of the radishes. And who could turn down a vegetable that comes in such beautiful colors?
I steeped the cream for the crème brûlée with a little loose leaf earl grey. The final result was a rich and sweet dessert that was nonetheless delicate, just like a perfect cup of tea.
The final bite was a homemade petit four of sponge cake, mango coconut jam, and lemon icing. I bought the jam from my local specialty market, and definitely couldn't resist a few spoonfuls while I worked! It has a texture similar to a caramel but a flavor nearly like a curd. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful meal.
No matter who you will be sharing this gift with: wife, husband, best friend, or sibling, an indoor picnic can be a wonderful way to say "I Love You" this Valentine's Day.
An early dark and biting air are easily remedied by a hot cup of tea. Come in from the cold to a fresh brewed pot, a roaring fire, hearty fare, and scrumptious desserts.
When I think of winter I think of snow thick upon the ground, of crackling fires, hot beverages that warm you inside and out, Christmas songs, and the true comforts of home. This tea party was inspired by all those things that make winter enchanting and enjoyable.
The food was influenced by traditional Yule and holiday fare.
Peas Porridge Hot with Ham Hocks
Satsumas and Holiday Pears
Five-Spice Ginger Cookies
Orange and Vanilla Buche De Noel
This tea was a wonderful mix of rustic and sophisticated, evocative of the specialness of the season- the time of year when it is ok to spend a little more, eat a little more, and give a little more. This type of tea is meant to be shared, because nothing warms you faster than a happy heart. So grab your favorite tea, tea pot, and person, and share a cup today.
Happy Holidays from Bedford Cottage Tea House!
May your days be merry and bright!
What do you see when asked to picture a witch: green skin? Warts? An old hag?
I see an ageless woman living alone in a picturesque cottage in the woods. Her hearth is lit, her walls are covered in books and jars of spell ingredients, and her table is set with spooky delights. She is a healer, a dabbler, a scientist; she is feared but respected, for there are few women like her.
Since Halloween is right around the corner, I used the classical character of a witch as the inspiration for this autumnal tea. I strayed away from the comical and cackling stereotype, however, and chose to highlight the creepier arcane witches instead.
What's a witch's cabin without a few spider webs in the eaves? This beauty here is a blueberry pie with a simple web-lattice top crust accompanied by a pie dough spider. I hand-cut the crust, but there are multiple ways you could achieve this look. If you own a large number of round cookie cutters, you could easily create much thinner and more numerous circular strands, then simply intersect them with the vertical ones. The pie dough spider was also formed free-hand, using the leftover dough from the top crust. I made the head, body, and legs all separately then smushed them together, brushed on an egg wash, poked holes for the eyes, and baked.
A witch needs all sorts of tinctures, tonics, elixirs, and extracts in order to supply villagers with the sundry potions they need. These bottles were all saved from the recycling bin and their previous labels removed. Most of them were once olive oil bottles, but one was balsamic vinegar and another was from vanilla extract. Any interesting bottle will do. You can use any manner of liquid to fill the inside: olive oil, food-colored water, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, whatever gives you the color and texture you are going for.
All of the bottle labels and food cards were handmade, using coffee-stained paper and india ink. True paper would have been hard for a witch to procure, so I made them look as though they were the scrappy bits, too valuable to throw away and just the right size to be pasted onto a potion.
One of the focal points of the tea table was the gingerbread house. I designed it to resemble the outside of the house that the tea was taking place inside of. The roof was shredded wheat with dragon's beard moss, the grass was matcha coconut, the path was coffee grounds, and the fence was black licorice. And of course there had to be a little black cat sitting inside the window.
Please click through the gallery to see more of the unique decorations and food served at this witchy and weird party.
I hope this BeWitching tea party has inspired you in delightfully eerie ways. If you have any questions about what I served or how I styled it, please let me know in the comments!