Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Taking Tea

Susan Ellison (wife of Harlan) and Kathryn Drennan (wife of JMS) took me out for tea last Sunday. I thought we were going dutch, but it turned out they wanted to treat me because they felt they hadn't been able to do anything to help us with fire recovery. It was very sweet of them. They took me to the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, where tea consisted of the lovely spread you can see in the photograph above.

Tea seatings start early at the Peninsula--around noon for the first seating, which was the one we attended. We enjoyed a glass of champagne (I wasn't driving, so it seemed like a good idea to me) and I tried the caviar treat, which was caviar and creme fraiche on a pumpernickel bread round. Good, but it added a disproportial expense to the tea.

There were lovely strawberries in cream before getting to the main meal: four kinds of savories and an equal number of sweets. The waiter suggested we eat the two kind of scones while they were still warm, and we did. They were served with clotted (or Devonshire--I don't remember which) cream and a choice of lemon curd or a chocolate-raspberry spread which was...unusual.

Susan and Kathryn like a smoky Russian tea, the name of which I cannot remember, and insisted we needed to drink the caramel-pear tea with the sweets. Both were quite good. I was a bit pedestrian with my choice of Earl Grey, which Susan finds "too fussy." I've been known to try a bit of rooibus tea, which I now know is the "bush tea" referred to in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but I passed up on it last week.

We had a lovely time, and then went off to do a bit of retail therapy in Beverly Hills and at the Farmers' Market and the Grove. I was trying to locate La Creuset kitchen canisters in cobalt, but neither Williams-Sonoma nor Sur La Table carry them in that color. It looks like I'll have to buy them on-line.

While at the Farmers' Market, we felt the need to refresh ourselves with beverages and beignets at The Gumbo Pot, one of the few reliable places I know in Los Angeles to get New Orleans style food. The beignets were hot out of the oil, powdered with sugar, and tasted exactly like the ones at the Cafe du Monde in the Crescent City. It's been years since we were there, but we went every night of the week we were in town to cap off the day.

It's too bad that Susan and Kathryn don't go to San Diego Comic-Con, because there are several tea shops I'd like to take them to. We've decided to give Gordon Ramasy's restaurant at London West Hollywood a try for tea sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I'm going to reprint the recipes for the best scones ever. They came from the Ticky-Boo Tea Shoppe in Carlsbad, which went out of business virtually overnight much to our disappointment. I don't know what shape my cookbook from there is in, wherever it is in the warehouse, so I was thrilled to remember I had put it in to this blog early on. Enjoy:

Ticky-Boo Scones

2 C. All-purpose Flour
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/3 C. Sweet Butter
1/4 C. Vegetable Shortening
1/3 C. Heavy Cream
Splash of Water

Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
Sift the measured dry ingredients together, twice.
Dice fats into the dry ingredients, then lightly rub with cool fingertips or pastry blender. Make a well in center and stir in cream. Lightly mix with a fork until a soft dough forms. If dough is dry, add water, sprinkling a little at a time until the dough is perfect for kneading.
Turn out on a well-floured board and knead very lightly for about 1/2 minute for a loose smooth dough. Roll out with a rolling pin or pat with hands to approximately 3/4" thick.
Stamp out with a cutter or cut into triangles with a sharp knife. Knead together any trimmings and stamp out again, continuing until all the dough is used.
Lift with a spatula onto the preheated baking sheet, placing them 1" apart. Brush tops only with beaten egg or milk (optional--I don't.)
Bake toward the top of the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Remove and turn out onto a wire rack for cooling. Best served warm with clotted or Devon Cream and jam or curd.
This basic recipe may be adjusted to add currants, raisins, cheese with sage and walnuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or any other spice or variety you choose.

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