Tag Archives: tea sandwiches

A Huntington Library Moment

It’s a rare gift when one of your best couple friends suggests a family outing to a tea room. But this tea room was not your average, every day tea room. It was the Rose Garden Tea Room at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

The tea service itself is a unique experience. Once seated, we were served a basket of small scones with the requisite pots of butter, jam and Devonshire Cream, as well as our choice of hot tea, iced tea or lemonade. Being as hard core as I am, I defied the fact that it was near 100 degrees F outside and ordered a pot of English Breakfast. Everyone else opted for the iced tea (and really, I can’t blame them).  We were then instructed to make our way to the buffet at our leisure.

On one side of the buffet there were a variety of sandwiches and salads: Watercress with horseradish cream cheese, Egg salad, Tuna, Salmon and cucumber, and more. (For the more adventurous palates, there was caviar as well. On the other side was an assortment of fruits and desserts. For my fruit lover, Edie, this was her preferred side. 

M and Baby M enjoyed the coolness of the iced tea, and T and Gene showed off their more refined sides between discussions of how punk rock is not dead and which current rap and pop stars are freemasons.

After tucking into several rounds of sandwiches, fruit tarts and chocolate delights, we ventured outside to indulge in the second course – a feast for the eyes in the botanical gardens. In this case, words can do no justice, so I’ll leave it to M’s beautiful photography skills (mine are the slightly fuzzy ones!).

M and T were our first couple friends that we made when we moved to Southern California, and in those nearly 10 years we have shared Easters and Thanksgivings, their most beautiful wedding in France, the birth of Edie and then Baby M, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their presence in our lives.

So whether you have the type of friends you like to hike around and have tea with or not, a day trip to the Huntington is definitely worth the trip. But as with all moments, the best ones are shared.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, CA  91108



Filed under Tea, Tea Room, Travel

A Heavens-to-Gooseberries Moment

Yes, you do see sugar cubes!

Travel seems to occur in cycles for me. One year I may find myself in Toronto several times for various reasons. Another year it will be Orlando or Atlanta. This year, it is is Minneapolis and Phoenix. On my last day trip to Phoenix, I decided I would carve out an hour to see what I could find on the order of tea. And here is where I discovered Gooseberries Tea Room and Boutique.

Located in an unassuming strip mall, this treasure of a tea room has been quietly entertaining legions of fans for 30 years, though the current owners have been in place for just the past few. Who’da thunk that one could find such a peaceful, cool, relaxing oasis of tea in the hot, hot, heat of Phoenix?  I had made the required reservations in order to have the full afternoon tea, and was led to my own private table that had a little personalized sign welcoming me. Deb, the server, brought out the tea room’s signature rose water and took my order for tea. When it comes to afternoon tea, I must, of course, have the English Breakfast. Soon, my tea arrived and was placed on the cutest teapot warmer I have yet encountered. (Gooseberries – where can I get one of these for myself?!?)

The first course was brought out: a tiered tray of sandwiches. A feast for the eyes as well as the appetite! All open-faced, and in fun shapes (the turkey and cranberry sandwich was cut in the shape of a tea pot!), there was plenty of savory goodness to satisfy the hungriest of patrons.

Then came the basket of scones and a plate of sweets. I loved that the scones were served in a linen-lined basket to keep them piping hot. This was a first in my tea room experiences, and I loved it! Along with the scones, there was plenty of Devon cream, jam, and even lemon curd. If you have not experienced lemon curd before, I highly recommend it. Imagine all the lemony-goodness of an entire lemon meringue pie (without the meringue) packed into one  bite. Intensely wonderful.  At this point in my meal, I was already reaching capacity. And there was still dessert!!! A delicate chocolate butterfly balanced in a tiny pastry cup of chocolate and cream, along with two other mini desserts.  I had to actually request a to-go box.

Yes, I enjoy tea. And I certainly enjoy the variety of styles and personalities of tea rooms I have visited over the years. But one of the things I enjoy most is discovering the story behind the tea moment. Who created this space? What is important to them? What do they enjoy most?

Enter Debbie Parnham.  She has that certain air and grace about her that I often hope to achieve when I grow up someday. Beauty, style, and down-to-earth warmth and hospitality. We quickly found that we both have been involved in public speaking, though hers has been focused on women in prison. I found it hard to imagine this lovely and soft-spoken creature before me standing and speaking to roomfuls of hardened criminals, and yet I could see that her absolute approachability would make it work beautifully. She shared that her greatest joy in having this tea room is to be able to have tea parties for women and girls who might not otherwise have such an opportunity.

She has hosted a tea party for women in shelters, who have few or no possessions. This was a rare opportunity for these women to share a day of fellowship and beauty together – hopefully a day without worry or care. On this particular occasion, each woman was able to go home with her own tea cup that had been donated. Debbie shared that when she announced everyone would be able to keep her tea cup, the room erupted in screams and shouts of joy. Such small gifts and treasures can have such a special impact.

In another tea party, she brought the event to girls in juvenile detention. Though discouraged from bringing fine china and utensils, Debbie was adamant about “doing it right.”  In addition to the full tea service, she brought blouses for each girl to wear to the party. One girl commented, “I feel so weird!”  “Why?” Debbie asked.  “I haven’t worn real clothes in years.” Some of these girls have been incarcerated for so long, they don’t have any real grasp of the outside world, street clothes, and so many of the things we take for granted. Despite the warnings of the danger of bringing the real tea party to a bunch of hooligans, Debbie shared that the girls behaved extremely well and seemed to really enjoy this time to have fun together and be… feminine.

These are events she hopes to continue. It was all very inspiring and got my mind reeling on the possibilities of what it could look like if more communities got together and hosted events such as these  – to let the struggling women among us know they are not forgotten or unimportant.

This sneak peek into Debbie’s joys and passions provides the best sense of how you feel when you visit the place of rest and beauty she has created for the whole community of Phoenix.  A visit to Gooseberries is a must!

Gooseberries is located in the AJ’s Shopping Center – 7th Street and Thunderbird -at the Southwest Corner
13216 N 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602)789-0622
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
The Tea Time Menu is available by reservation only, so be sure to call at least a day before!


Filed under Tea, Tea Room, Travel

A Tea House on Los Rios Moment

Is there anything better than sharing afternoon tea with dear friends?

It’s been 10 years since Gene and I relocated from Boise, Idaho to Southern California with nothing but two cars stuffed full of our belongings. We could never have dared to hope for the life, opportunities and friendships that this adventure would lead us to.

These were my thoughts as I met two of my dearest friends for afternoon tea at one of my favorite local tea spots in southern California, The Tea House on Los Rios. I couldn’t believe that in the nearly 8 years I’ve known S and 6 years I’ve known B, I had not yet exposed them to this gem!

These are the women who have known all the ups and downs of my work life, pursuits of dreams and hobbies, and most important, my foray into motherhood. With 5 children between the two of them, they were my adoptive sisters who cheered me along the way, giving the best advice anyone ever told me, “Do what works to keep your sanity.” There were and are days when that mantra has helped me keep my marbles.

So here we were, on a Saturday no less, getting together for tea and conversation. While we once all worked together and lunched together weekly, we are now strewn across the length of Orange County, so these moments are even more rare and precious.

It was a chilly Saturday, but we sat on the wrap around porch and admired the blooming flowers, sipped pomegranate mimosas, enjoyed our current scones with jam and clotted cream, nibbled on our tiny sandwiches, and of course, drank copious amounts of tea. (I always go for the Los Rios Tea with a pot of Queen Catherine blend)

The tea, as always, was excellent. The food was delicious. But the friends… They were, and are, the best part of the moment.

The Tea House on Los Rios
31731 Los Rios
Los Rios Historic District
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Open 11:00 am -5:00 pm Wed thru Fri
Sat & Sun 9:30 am-5:00 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
Reservations Recommended
(949) 443-3914


Filed under Tea, Tea Room, Travel