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2013 |
By Diana Colson

During the month of March, several traditional Royal English teas will be given at the historic Powel Crosley Estate, 8374 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota. Chef Larry and Jamie Barrett of Simply Gourmet Caterers are in charge of creating these six extraordinary events, and they promise to be memorable.

Each event will be a remarkable step back in time, a kind of culinary theater. Tea will be served in the exclusive upstairs living area of the Crosley mansion overlooking Sarasota Bay, where guests will be magically transported back to the 1930’s. These Royal English Teas will be given at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons: March 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, and 28. Tickets are $32, and a portion of the proceeds benefits the Crosley Foundation. To reserve, call 941-225-9122.

“Our menu will feature savory and sweet specialties,” says Chef Barrett. Expect such delicacies as Cassis Marinated Strawberry Parfait, Vanilla Cream Fruit Tartlets, Currant Scones/Devonshire Cream, Double Chocolate Triangles, Turkey/Sundried Tomato Pinwheels, and Royal Tea Sandwich medley. “And don’t forget the tea,” Barrett laughs. “Guests will savor properly brewed cups of flavorful English Tea.”

Upon entering the famed Seagate mansion at the Crosley Estate, you will be led up the tile staircase to upstairs rooms with smashing views of Sarasota Bay. Here, guests will be seated at tables of various sizes set with delicate, unmatched tea cups and saucers. Fresh flowers will grace each table.

When gathering china to use for these Royal Teas, Chef Larry Barrett found tea sets at a consignment shop in Ellenton. “Part of the fun of doing these teas was shopping for the antique tea sets,” he said. With gold rimmed saucers and teacups as thin as eggshells, the service speaks of a bygone era.

The Crosley Estate itself represents a time gone by. Seagate was built to be the winter home of Powel Crosley Jr. and his wife, Gwendolyn, and many consider it to be the finest mansion on Sarasota Bay. In the 1920’s, sixty acres of land were purchased that adjoined Ringling’s complex, and by 1929 construction was underway. The couple occupied Seagate from 1930-1939.

In love with automobiles since childhood, Crosley began mail-order marketing of auto gadgets to car owners in 1916. He then went on to manufacture phonographs and radios. He even operated a radio station: WLW in Cincinnati. In 1934, Powel Crosley Jr. bought the Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

He introduced what we now call “compact cars” to the American market in the late 1930’s. The Crosley Car was manufactured from 1939 to 1942, and again from 1946 to 1952. During World War II, the estate was used to house military pilots being trained at the Sarasota Airport, located just across highway 41.

Other products he brought to market were the Crosley Shelvador refrigerator, televisions, disc brakes, 35mm cameras, airplanes, and the fax machine. He was an avid aviator and yachtsman – the embodiment of a successful entrepreneur.

The Crosley Estate was purchased by Manatee County Commission in 1991, and later restored. It is available to house artistic, social, charitable, and cultural events. It is but one of the many settings served by Simply Gourmet Caterers.

Afternoon Tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. It seems that the usual habit of serving dinner as late as 9 pm had left the Duchess hungry about four o’clock in the afternoon. Anna, who was one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, began to order tea, bread and butter and cakes to be served in her room. Soon she began to invite friends over to join her for these refreshments, and the tradition of afternoon tea was established.

Taken up by Queen Victoria herself in the 1860’s, the custom soon spread to the homes of the upper classes and to tea shops across the country. Upper class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea, which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock. These events were actually called ‘low” teas, for they consisted of “finger foods” served on low tables in a sitting room.

(Oddly enough, “high” tea is the term used to describe a full meal served to the working class on a “high” dining table at around five or six p.m.)

“Every year, the Royal Family hosts an afternoon tea for about 8,000 guests at Buckingham Palace,” says Chef Larry Barrett, president of Simply Gourmet Caterers. “It’s a grand and colorful affair. Men wear suits or military uniforms, and women wear dresses with hats and gloves. The 500-foot buffet table is set with a feast and there’s tea, of course.” Barrett says that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by members of the Royal Family, circulate among the guests at this enormous and gala occasion.

Simply Gourmet Caterers are known for mixing epicurean delights with historical events in a culinary theater setting. To have them cater yourunforgettable event, go or call 941-225-9122.


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Simply Gourmet Caterers - Sarasota's Off-Premise Catering Experts.
Perfect food is our passion. We cater weddings, small parties, business luncheons, brunches, corporate retreats, birthdays, receptions and private affairs. Our award-winning catering is enjoyed at many locations including Selby Gardens, Phillippe Mansion, Ringling Museum, Powell Crosley Estate, Crosley Museum, Chelsea Center, College Hall and The Garden Club. We're extremely familiar with most venues from Sarasota, Long Boat Key, Siesta Key, Bradenton and Ellenton to Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Brandon. Delicious food and extreme attention to detail - that's what sets our catering apart.

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