Tea For Twelve
(mid january. number 26.)
During my year off between high school and college, I was a tea boy– the lone employee of a bad businesswoman who paid me under the table, never on time, and never enough. The experience turned me off of tea, in the end. I went from an anglophilic teenager who drank earl grey like water into a college student who could be seen, through the window of the barn turned studio, making coffee at 9 p.m. nightly.
Now as an "adult," I still drink tea and often make tea blends for gifts, but my focus is (or, my palette more frequently craves) coffee. Aside from Townshends, tea is left to the establishments with their names printed in papyrus.
Two articles about "grown up" tea parties inspired this Secret Restaurant event. One was a much blogged about NY Times article in late 2009, featuring burly men with walrus mustaches taking a break from their grueling Brooklyn artisan lives to chill out in a wharf-warehouse, eating expensive blue cheeses and cakes and drinking tea. The other was recently in a sort of mom-audience home and garden catalogue.
We were very pleased with our results. We couldn't have done it without the help of Aria Mikkola-Sears (whose idea it was, initially) and Courtney Allen, frequent guests over the years, who leant absolutely essential helping hands.
Everything was served on the table at 2.30 in the afternoon on a sunny Saturday.
Winter Market Spice
Blended by me. Market Spice orange/assam tea from Seattle, combined with an additional black tea- ceylon, ginger root, crushed cloves, cinnamon bark.
Evening In Paris
Aria and I blended this a while ago, inspired by a tea my old teahouse used to carry. Darjeeling tea with lavender, rose buds, and grapefruit peel.
Twinings. Straight up. A more pungent, more citrus-y Earl Grey.
Douglas Fir Tip Tea
From Juniper Ridge. Wildcrafted Doug Fir tips from Northern California and Oregon. Makes you feel like you are part of a tree or something.
Blended by me. Elderflowers, spearmint, chamomile, ginger root.
Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Gin Fizz.
Just that. Star Ruby grapefruits. New Amsterdam gin. Fizzy water.
Old Fashioned Crackers
Based on a recipe from Aria's grandmother. Possibly going back to the great depression. Whole wheat, honey, black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds. Herbs grown and dried by Aria's incredible mother, Cher.
Smoked Salmon for cracker topping
Salmon caught by Courtney's father, Chester Allen, and smoked by his friend Greg Cloud at his smokehouse up in Washington. Dressed up with fresh rosemary, meyer lemon juice, almond oil, sea salt, and black pepper.
Whole grain mustard served alongside as a suggested pairing.
Black Radish/Butter Tea Sandwiches
Winter version of the late spring/early summer classic. Thinly sliced black radishes, topped with sea salt. On Ken's Artisan Bakery's walnut baguette, slathered with cold Kerry's Irish butter.
Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Our version of this tea party classic. English cucumber, over zingy fromage fort, on the walnut bread.
A dish from the Haut Savoie region of France. Ramekins filled with parboiled russet potatoes in a sauce of onions, cream, and smoked trout (from our hometown's fish market, Newman's, who have a spot in City Market in Portland. After this S.R. we have very rarely, if ever, purchased seafood elsewhere. The service and goods are exceptional), then covered with a massive wedge of reblochon (similar to brie, classic french soft cheese) baked on top until bubbling over.
Red Chard, Caramelized Onion & Gruyére Galette
Beautiful bright red chard stalks, onions cooked with butter and deglazed with white wine, and fancy gruyere stuffed into a super fluffy, flaky, buttery, braided pie crust.
Winter Fruit Salad
White fleshed pummelo grapefruits, kumquats, rangpour lime, d'anjou pear, pink lady apple. pomegranate seeds, torn mint leaves, and honey drizzle. Bright and zingy and refreshing.
Lavender Poppyseed Cookies
Classic sugar cookie texture, with the perfume of lavender flowers and the savor of poppy-seeds. A honey glaze on top. Arranged on powdered sugar to look like a giant snowflake.
Douglas Fir Shortbread Cookie Sandwiches
We infused the powdered sugar for the shortbreads with the contents of a Juniper Ridge doug fir tip tea bag, then chopped up some of the whole dried doug fir tips I wildcrafted on hikes last spring and mixed them in with the dry ingredients. Courtney made honey/brown sugar buttercream for the centers. These were show-stoppers.
Adapted from Nigel Slater's mocha cake recipe by the NY Times for that manly tea party article. This was actually the recipe that introduced me to Nigel's cooking. Aria had made it a few times, and busted it out again. Feels much more like "real food" than cakes usually do. Features millet and chia seeds and all sorts of crazy shit.
Meyer Lemon Yoghurt Cake
Greek yoghurt and olive oil contributed to the tangy, light, moist texture. Topped with yoghurt sauce and candied Meyer lemons.
Our friend Delphine, who works in a real restaurant and rarely has Secret Restaurant nights off, was able to come and certainly deserves a nod for the "best dressed" award. She is shown rocking the boy's tweed suit.
The afternoon slipped into a sun-drenched, belly-full stupor, to the sounds of Bert Jansch and Laura Gibson.