Tea Time in My Garden & The Perfect Spring Tea Sandwich

Spring has sprung and the birds are chirping wildly in our yard.  A myriad of plants are blooming like crazy down our backyard slope.  Calla lilies are delicate and popping up everywhere.  Clivia plants are flowering below our deck (they thrive there).  Most of these plants hold great sentimental meaning to me as they are transplants from my Mom’s yard.  She was quite the gardener.  We’ve nurtured them for over 20 years and they happily return each late winter and spring.  This year I’ll be digging some up for sharing with our daughter for her yard.  I wonder, does passing these plants on to the next generation give the plants “heirloom” status?  Or maybe just “sentimental” status.

It’s time for me to pull out the patio furniture cushions and set up the yard for relaxing outside.   Am ready for tea time under my Wisteria covered pergola near my climbing mini rose covered arbor…a most beautiful setting that mother nature set up for me…I had little to do with it.

Taking tea in this setting seems like a prudent thing to do this week…wouldn’t want to leave all this blooming beauty to just the birds.

One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus.  This time of year the spring asparagus is delicious…I steamed a plateful last weekend for dinner…

One of my favorite spring tea sandwiches is an asparagus with prosciutto open faced finger sandwich.   I put this together for my Italian themed teas… tasty, simple, fresh…and versatile…can be used as an appetizer as well as a tea sandwich. I recommend getting the highest quality prosciutto you can as you only need a few slices to prepare a dozen or more finger sandwiches. The recipe for this prosciutto and asparagus finger sandwich is below and is also in the book.

Clivias blooming ... transplanted from Betty's garden 15 years ago

Clivias blooming … transplanted from Betty’s garden 15 years ago


Wisteria in bloom...

Wisteria in bloom…

finger foods...including asparagus and prosciutto on whole wheat toast ...

finger foods…including asparagus and prosciutto on whole wheat toast …


Makes 12 finger sandwiches    PREP TIME: 20 minutes TOTAL TIME:   20 minutes

6 slices of a good quality prosciutto sliced paper thin. You should be able to see through the slice.

12 asparagus spears. Thin spears work best

3 tablespoons mayonnaise – Best Foods/Hellmann’s brand preferred

6 slices of whole grain wheat bread, toasted 

Wash, trim, and blanch the asparagus for approximately 2 minutes.

Place in an ice bath to chill down cooked asparagus.

Using a 3” square cutter, cut out the center of each toasted slice of the whole grain wheat bread.

Put a light spread of mayonnaise on the 3” square.

Using half a piece of prosciutto, lay it on the bread and press it onto the mayonnaise.

Cut this toasted 3” bread, which now has mayo and prosciutto on top, in half (to 1 ½” wide).

Each 3” square now makes two finger sandwiches.

Slice a cooked asparagus spear in half lengthwise.

Lay asparagus onto prosciutto and trim to fit bread.

Cover and keep refrigerated until just before serving.

I just love this time of year!  A cup of Ceylon or Oolong tea will go nicely with these finger sandwiches…sitting under the wisteria…

“Centerpiece – Tea”…WOW!

So, while my sister was at The Ivy having iced tea, we were celebrating a family birthday in Las Vegas.  And although “what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas,” I can’t resist showing you photos of this dramatic presentation of tea which RM Seafood (Rick Moonen of Top Chef Masters fine seafood restaurant) does for each table.  It is a bit of a mysterious theater which the server builds upon throughout your meal.  It is not something one orders…it is a dramatic flair they “do.” RM Seafood is in The Mandalay Bay Hotel.

I recorded a video of this, however I haven’t figured out how to download videos on my blog yet.  I am taking a class next week though, so maybe after that you’ll see some videos…because this was actually rather exciting.

As we are waiting for starters, the server placed this vessel as a centerpiece and with large tweezers drops in some lemongrass, edible marigold leaves, and lemon zest…then leaves…

After dinner, some of us order dessert, as well as, I order a cup of jasmine pearl green tea.  Their tea service is nice, a Forlife stump teapot, whole leaves already steeped and removed for me, so prepared tea is brought to the table…

The dessert I ordered was a gorgeous, monochromatic colored, fennel panna cotta with fennel iced cream and fennel pollen with crispy fennel slices.  Subtle, not over powering in fennel flavor at all…

Thinking the meal was done…the server comes back to the centerpiece and adds hot tea (white, black, and chamomile) to the vessel with lemongrass, marigold, and lemon zest…and LIQUID NITROGEN… the fragrance and cool smoke exuding from the vessel is just wonderful.

While we were watching the “theater” of the liquid nitrogen, we munched on petite minardes brought to the table to finish off the meal…a nice touch.  I guess we gobbled these pretty quickly as they were almost gone by the time I caught a photo of the little tray…

The food and service at RM Seafood was delicious and beautiful.  Loved their “open kitchen.”  Relaxing, great feeling, environment.  Glad we went and the tea presentation was an unexpected, special treat.

Rick Moonen's tea centerpiece...during the meal the server builds this floral vase into a surprise and spectacular demonstration of tea preparation...the tea was deliciously floral and perfectly brewed

Rick Moonen’s tea centerpiece…during the meal the server builds this floral vase into a surprise and spectacular demonstration of tea preparation…the tea was deliciously floral and perfectly brewed

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Now This Is A Pretty Glass of Iced Tea…

My sister sent me this photo of the glass of iced tea she ordered when at The Ivy Restaurant in Los Angeles, Ca earlier this week.  What a pretty table.  What an attractive glass of iced tea.

Lovely glass of iced tea served at the famed L.A. restaurant...The Ivy

Lovely glass of iced tea served at the famed L.A. restaurant…The Ivy

The table settings at this famed restaurant are gorgeously floral. Everything looks so fresh.  Their “made to order” table top china is colorful and beautiful too. No wonder The Ivy remains such a popular lunch spot.  She didn’t see any celebs though.

The Coolest Little Steeping Teapot

Here’s something that came out of the Napa Valley that has nothing to do with wine…our winemaker friends gifted me this lovely single-serve, one touch teapot.

I use it in the evening when I want just one cup of tea while winding down the for the night.  You can use whole leaf teas and steep, or toss a tea bag into the infuser to steep.  Once your tea is how you like it … with one touch, you release the tea into the pot, away from the leaves…ready to pour into your cup.  It’s darling and works wonderfully.  No mess, no drips…neat and clean.

Looks like a lot of thought went into the development of the little teapot.  It’s made of shock resistant glass, BPA-free plastic infuser and a stainless steel filter.  I like it.  It also earned “Best New Product 2011” at the World Tea Expo.    – I can see why.

The Teatime Trading Co. invented and sells this cool, individual sized vessel.  Check it out via their video at teatimetradingco.com

Thank you R and L for surprising me with this, it was fun getting to use it with you too.

Coolest little steeping teapot...prepare individual cups with whole leaves

Coolest little steeping teapot…prepare individual cups with whole leaves


Celebrating the Irish…

My mom claimed to be 1/4 Irish.  She celebrated that heritage each year on Saint Patrick’s Day by preparing a  traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, including Irish soda bread.  My sister and niece have taken over the dinner duties. Rotating  between them.  I am in charge of the soda bread, which I think is actually best toasted in the morning and slathered in butter… Irish Kerrygold butter mmm.

The past two years,  my “baker” niece  added these delicious Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcakes. Mmm   The whole group loves this addition to the menu.
Irish breakfast tea with toasted Irish soda bread is wonderful on a cold morning.  Maybe it’s the bit o Irish in me that incited my love for tea and tea time.   Harney & Sons Irish Breakfast Tea is my go to tea this month. It is hearty and takes milk well.
A factoid for you…The Irish consume more tea per capita than any other nation. Historically, their quick breads and teas are renowned.
Here’s to Irish breakfast tea and a nice large loaf of soda bread.
Irish soda bread and Baily's Irish cupcakes by Sammycakes

Irish soda bread and Bailey’s Irish cupcakes by Sammycakes