2013 | Examiner.com
By Barbara Guilley
This month, the Crosley Estate in Sarasota, Florida, hosted Royal Afternoon Teas, catered and created by Chef Larry Barrett of Simply Gourmet. Held on the second floor of the 1920's bayfront mansion, Simply Gourmet provided a delicious and elegant afternoon tea worthy of the estate's rich decor and spectacular ocean views when we visited last week.
Barrett and his wife, Jamie, own and manage Simply Gourmet, but catering isn't their only talent. Prior to moving to Florida 19 years ago, both enjoyed careers in the performing arts in Chicago and New York. Their artistic touch is evident in every detail of the afternoon tea from sweet and savory presentations to tablescapes with fresh flowers, linens and fine china, the latter of which comes from Barrett's own collection.
"We shopped for the cups and saucers at different places around the area," says Barrett of the china used for the teas. "Three years ago, we started out with enough for 75 place settings." The popularity of the teas has made it necessary to add to that original number. The serving pieces are vintage and the variety adds charm and color to each table.
The savories served included not only an assortment of traditional tea fare with egg salad and cucumber finger sandwiches, but also some equally tasty variations like the turkey/sun-dried tomato pinwheels. Current scones, fresh and flavorful, were served with Devonshire cream.
The grand finale of this tea event, the dessert tray, was the jewel in the crown of this Royal Tea. Cassis-marinated strawberry parfaits, vanilla cream fruit tartlets and double chocolate triangles completed the afternoon tea, all as lovely to look at as to eat. The parfaits were served in miniature glasses, each with their own demitasse spoon. Barrett says he places the tiny utensils in each one of the one hundred glasses. "It would make a great video for Facebook", Barrett adds with a smile.
The double chocolate brownies, however, deserve a five-star rating on their own. Packed with sinfully rich flavor, Barrett prepares the brownie-like dessert in a unique way which captures all the chocolate-y goodness with a satisfyingly moist texture.
Asked what type of tea Barrett serves at these functions, he described it as an Orange Pekoe Ceylon. Prepared from loose tea leaves, Barrett brews it all himself. "I don't trust anyone else to make it."
That quality control is working. The tea was excellent and pots were plentiful throughout the afternoon.
A Simply Gourmet afternoon tea at the Crosley Estate is simply not to be missed.
More teas and dinner events will be scheduled at the Crosley Estate by Simply Gourmet. For more information check out The Powel Crosley Estate link or Simply Gourmet's webpage.