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A Tea and Scrumpet Moment

My Mom’s brothers and sisters have an interesting thing in common. Those who have had children all have one daughter each. This being the case, I often wistfully thought of my girl cousins as ‘sisters.’ Unfortunately, I lived in Idaho and my ‘sister-cousins’ lived in California and Nevada, so growing up we only got to enjoy each others’ company during family reunions which were too few and far between for my liking. Thank heavens for Lisa – my one and only girl cousin on my Dad’s side – who grew up just a mile or two down the road!

Of the out-of-state set, one cousin in particular, Heather, knows my tea obsession much better than most. It was her late mother, my Aunt Jane, who introduced me to tea houses in the first place. Now that we’re all grown up and having families of our own, it’s the rare moment when we actually can get together for tea. The most recent was after Heather’s first son was born and my Mom and I were stopping in for a visit. Heather’s husband was sweet enough to take the baby for the day, shoo us out of the house, and encourage us to go for some ‘tea and scrumpets.’

We ended up in Pleasanton at a little tea room Heather had discovered fairly recently, The English Rose Tea Room and Gifts.  We were well cared for and well-fed (having chosen the ‘Queen’s Sumptuous Afternoon Tea’), and while I can’t remember the particulars of the yummy sweets and savories or what tea I chose, it was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve ever spent with my Mom or with Heather. We shared favorite memories of Aunt Jane, the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, motherhood, or the desire for those things.  My Mom shared stories I had never heard before that had the three of us laughing so hard we could barely breathe. I think our kindly server actually brought us tissues for the tears of laughter that were rolling down our faces.

Shortly thereafter, Edie came along. The tea themed gifts came from a variety of sources. Lisa provided the requisite play tea pot and tea cups. She knew no daughter of mine could possibly go without! And Heather sent a handcrafted set of ‘tea and scrumpets’ (the name stuck, of course) made by a very talented woman in Australia.

Yes, this is what scrumpets look like. Now you know!

Yes, this is what scrumpets look like. Now you know!

They are some of Edie’s playroom favorites (of her own free will, I assure you!).

Heather’s brother was married last month, and it was fun to bring Edie to the house where I have so many fond memories. Standing with my Mom, Heather, and all my girl cousins who were able to make it, I smiled at the anticipation of many tea-and-scrumpet moments to come.

Future tea house crashers!

Future tea house crashers!

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A Minneapolis Tea Moment

I think I’m in love. And to find love in Minneapolis? Who’da thunk it? Harney & Sons Pu-Erh may have just encouraged me to end my love affair with Irish Breakfast Tea.

While in Minn for a conference, I decided that for once in my working life I would use an afternoon break for my own pleasure. I searched for afternoon tea opportunities and found a convenient offering at the Hotel Ivy. Served in the hotel lobby from 3-5 p.m. daily, I was greeted with fast, friendly (though rather flirty) service. My server surprised me with his advanced knowledge of the tea blends offered, so we were off to a good start.

When the tea arrived, it had been steeped perfectly, with the leaves removed. Hooray! (Leaving the tea leaves in the pot and having to strain each cup may feel like a fun ritual, but the taste overdevelops and can make the whole pot taste bitter).  I was a bit hesitant about the tea choice, since I am not typically a fan of smoky teas, but upon first sip, my tastebuds thought they had died and gone to tea heaven. With just a whisper of smoke, the overall flavor was robust, earthy, and satisfied my entire palate. There was an internal struggle of chugging the whole pot while it was at its peak of heat and flavor or sipping it slowly to make it last.  I sipped.

I should have let that be the entire moment, but I waited for tea goodies that had been promised. An elegant presentation of sweet and savory.

I’m sorry Hotel Ivy, but on this, I’m going to have to pull a Simon Cowell and say, “This was an utter dis-ahster.”

Killing me softly with savories at the Hotel Ivy

Killing me softly with savories at the Hotel Ivy

Presentation: fabulous. Atmosphere: great. Server: knowledgeable. Sweets: perfectly balanced amuses bouches. Savories: Aaaack! We begin with a deviled egg, nicely deviled but with too much egg. Trout eggs to be precise. Please understand, though native from Boise, I have become at peace with the California lifestyle including much indulgence in sushi. A little raw fish or caviar never hurt anyone. But trout roe on a perfectly good deviled egg is a bit much. Next. A beet coronet of herbed goat cheese. I like beets. I like herbs. I like goat cheese. A lot. I do not, however, like a lot of goat cheese, and this was entirely too much. There was not enough of the beet mini tortilla (for lack of a better description) to balance the (what seemed like) pounds of creamed goat cheese. Next. A forgettable cracker with something-or-other on it.  Next. A mini toast or cracker with a white anchovy and slivers of red pepper. Again, I like fish, I like sushi, I like Caesar salad with heavily anchovied dressing. I do not, however, like an entire anchovy wound up in a tight swirl on a cracker with no other flavors to balance to extreme fishiness of the situation. I think they need to just stick with tea.

And what a wonderful tea it was…

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A Las Vegas Tee Moment

How many years has it been since Gene and I have visited Las Vegas for fun? No conferences, no trade shows, no boxes to unpack or meetings to snooze through? More than 5. More than 7, perhaps. In any case, off we went with no obligations or responsibilities. Edie had the pleasure of staying with my folks, so we were footloose and fancy-free.

As 30-somethings in town, we explored a different side of Vegas. Actually, we explored the daylight hours and activities and found we liked it very much! And we satisfied both of our desires for tea/tee.

Tee Time at Bear’s Best Las Vegas allowed us to experience Jack Nicklaus’ design – he built the course by selecting his favorite 18 holes from his more than 270 course designs worldwide. We were paired up with a local, who ended up being the best tour guide and golf partner you could ever ask for. Company: perfect. Weather: beautiful. A delightful blend of sun, sagebrush, sport and success (well, for Gene. My game was not so fabulous, but fun all the same).

Tee Time

Tee Time

Tea Time at the Bellagio’s Petrossian Bar, the next day, was a product of my desire to try (and fail) to make reservations in time during any of my last 3 Vegas visits (reservations must be made 24 hours in advance). This was Gene’s first time in accompanying me to tea, so I’m considering it an early Mother’s Day gift.  Tea at the Bellagio seems like it should be so romantic! Okay, maybe Ocean’s 11 has a little something to do with that.  After a bit of a rocky start with the hostess asking if we were there for “high tea” (ultra faux pas!!!), we were seated and our orders were taken. Tea was served on a 3-tiered tray: mini scones on top, an array of chocolate sweets in the middle, and tea sandwiches below. I liked being able to order the tea sandwiches of my choice (4 each).  While the tea selection was extremely limited, the Darjeeling and English Breakfast we ordered was served loose leaf in each pot. The bar itself is a strange situation – half enclosed and half with shuttered windows overlooking the casino floor. Tea is served in the half overlooking the casino, unfortunately, so I can’t give it high marks for atmosphere. But…

Vegas Tea

Tea Time

Company: perfect. Service: very good. A lovely combination of sweets, savories, schooling and smiles. What can I say? Vegas, baby. Vegas.

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An Amsterdam Tea Moment

In the spring of 2005, just as the cardinals were meeting in Rome to elect the new pope, Gene and I embarked on our first trip to Europe together. His first trip to Europe, ever. Amsterdam was our second major stop on the whirlwind tour, and our first impression was of awe at the number of bikes, both parked and ridden, throughout the city and the whole of The Netherlands.
The architecture made everything look like gingerbread houses, and the canals and foot bridges enhanced the feel of walking through a fairy tale. Even stumbling across Anne Frank’s home where she and her family hid in the attic for so many long months, there was a feeling of suspended reality. (And no, I had not been smoking anything.)  
While exploring the neighborhoods was our primary focus, and peering in the windows of the numerous “coffee shops” a favorite pastime, you can imagine how I was absolutely stopped in my tracks at the sight of a Tearoom called Jennifer!
A tea shop named 'Jennifer?' Of course I pop in.

A tea shop named 'Jennifer?' Of course I pop in.

 

There was no question that we had to take a tea break.
Mmmmm... Jennifer Tea

Mmmmm... Jennifer Tea

 

The selection was very basic, and the furnishings had the distinct look and feel of Ikea, but I delighted in the knowledge that here, in a sea of coffee houses, I had found my port-of-tea.
 
Jennifer Croissanterie and Tea Room
Raadhuis Straat
Amsterdam 1016 DD
The Netherlands

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