Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hosting a holiday tea

The photo has nothing to do with the post, except that it was one of the only photos I took during the holiday tea I hosted this past Sunday. I totally meant to take food photos, but ended up with only this one of Alexis (in the hat) and Nico (with the ears).

Holiday tea has been a tradition in my family for more than a decade. I think we must have started because my grandma loves tea, and though as a family we're not great with tradition, we've managed to stick to it for all these years. Originally, we went to the Compass Rose tea room, but that was replaced with Michael Minna, so we moved around for a few years, trying out different tea rooms, and eventually settling on Lovejoy's in Noe Valley.

But this year, we completely forgot to make reservations. So I decided to host it myself. I'd been wanting to try out some recipes that I was thinking about using for Kathryn's bridal shower next spring (which will also be a tea), and it would be a good excuse to use, for the first time, the china we inherited from Joel's grandmother.

So I did it up. I made a rich, sticky sherry cake (I'll post the recipe later this week), mendiants (here's a recipe, though I was using the one from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet, a cookbook that I got for free and have found frustrating to navigate), and scones, plus ham salad (from a recipe that Joel's mom gave me), salmon with dill marscapone and chive butter, and cucumber with tarragon butter tea sandwiches, all on decadent Acme Pain de Mie bread.

I also tackled clotted cream two ways. First, I bought one of those absurdly expensive $8 jars of imported clotted cream, but it was so disappointing that I didn't eat more than a bite. Slightly better was the fake clotted cream I made. Last year, I tried out the Alton Brown clotted cream recipe, which involves straining cream through cheesecloth, and it was a bust. This year, I opted for a recipe that tried to approximate the flavor of clotted cream with other ingredients. I had relative success with the first recipe here, which calls for heavy cream, sour cream, and a bit of powdered sugar. And Kathryn brought some homemade organic strawberry jam we made last summer in Placerville. Go team.

Then it was just a matter of ironing the tablecloth (thanks Kathryn!), setting the table, finding a hat (black and white with a bit of netting), and boiling water. I served a really yummy vanilla red tea from Mariage Freres, a Darjeeling, a black-and-green blend my mom brought over, and a passionfruit tea from India.
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