I am fascinated about combining fine cuisine and history. Researching the culinary past is a springboard for creating ideas for the future. The everlasting catch phrase “everything old is new again” definitely applies to food. My signature productions of White House dinners from the Kennedy and Reagan era are among our most popular events and are culinary theatre.
Over the last few years we have noticed a trend toward cost effective casual events. What unique culinary production could fill the void? I stumbled across a story about the Royal Tea that is hosted at Buckingham Palace every year. The tradition began in 1860 with Queen Victoria. The Royal Family invites 8.000 guests to the Palace for a unique upscale yet casual get together. Men wear suits or military uniforms and women wear their finest dresses with hats and gloves. Among the guests are average citizens who get to enjoy the Palace and the royal treatment for the afternoon. The 500 foot buffet table is set with a feast and there’s properly brewed tea, of course. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by members of the Royal Family, circulate among the guests.
Our Royal Tea at Simply Gourmet involves a bit of theatre. Using vintage tea service, waitresses with the proper accents and table settings that replicate turn of the century style. The tea is a great concept for so many events~wedding/baby showers, luncheons, casual get togethers, young ladies birthday parties and even fundraisers. Many times clients have given me ideas and I run with them, creating an event based on their premise. We recently presented a British invasion theme tea~we played Beatles and the Stones music and kept the atmosphere casual and funky. Another great tea concept is an Asian tea with a variety of dim sum. You can dress up in vintage garb or come Florida casual. Our Royal Tea magically takes you back to a simpler time.
I always select the tea to serve before deciding on a menu. It’s like pairing fine wines with cuisine. If a smokey oolong is being served, I can prepare over the top savory flavors serving smoked salmon canapés and Stilton tartlets. Even the sweets can be a little more aggressive, using liquors like a beautiful Cassis from Burgundy to marinated cherries or strawberries. With the Oolong you also can also use aggressive herbs and spices like tarragon and ginger. If Darjeeling is being served, then I go a little more traditional, serving chicken salad and scallion/cucumber sandwiches. Scones with currants or dried cherries served with Devonshire cream are fantastic with the full bodied mellow Darjeeling. One of our favorite teas to serve is a Ceylon Orange Pekoe. Preparing the tea takes proper technique, a roaring boil, then add the bags, turn off the heat and let the tea steep for a few minutes.
A great tea is like meditation, put on some classical music and take a break from life for a minute. An afternoon tea is a luxury everyone can afford.
Tea Etiquette Tips
Most people can’t get their finger through the tea cup handle itself, so you hold onto it by clasping it; putting your pinky out there helps you balance.
Never pick up a cup of tea without a saucer. Always have a saucer in case the tea drips. You wouldn’t want guests to talk about such a faux pays.
Tea is never served with cream~always use milk. I’ve tried it with cream, and it’s like wearing chapstick when you’re done. The milk adds a roundness and accentuates the flavor of the tea rather than masking the flavor.
A lot of people use a little honey or a cube of sugar. Never use loose sugar or granulated. It’s like double dipping.
English Cucumber Sandwich/Chive Cream
Petite Chicken Salad Sandwich/Miniature Kaiser Roll
Petite Egg Salad/Spanish Olive Sandwich
Turkey Sundried Tomato Pinwheel Slice
Currant Scones/Orange Marmalade~Devonshire Cream
Cassis Marinated Strawberry Parfait
Miniature Glazed White Chocolate Mousse Fruit Tartlet
Coconut Macaroon Stack
Intense Chocolate Brownie Triangle
Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea/Milk/Lemon