A Traditional English Afternoon Tea With My Daughter

I received an invitation to afternoon tea which I couldn’t resist….from my daughter –  to go to the beautiful and historic  Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca… this time to celebrate Mother’s Day.  There is not another thing in this world I’d rather do…we got to relax, talk, and experience their tea service.

Teatime …

The three tier tray presentation was beautiful…this service was quite nice.  We got to sit back, uninterrupted in our discussions as the finger sandwiches, scones and sweets came all at once.  (Although I usually prefer the scones to come out warm, fresh out of the oven, these were fresh and delicious with a nice crust and tender dough inside.)

Our favorites are the finger sandwiches and each of these was tasty, distinctive and fresh.  Both of us determined we would have preferred double the savory bites, cutting the sweets in half….but the boys waiting at home got a special sweet treat each in a little “to go” box.

The tea they served was whole leaf, in a bag – Sir Aubreys.  Each had a nice flavor. The ginger peach black tea was our favorite.

Thank you A. for a fabulous afternoon…you couldn’t have chosen a better gift for me, primarily because I got to share it with you!!!

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Tea Time at the Mission Inn, Riverside, California...petite finger sandwiches and beautiful sweets

Tea Time at the Mission Inn, Riverside, California…petite finger sandwiches and beautiful sweets

A “Makeshift Teapot” Leaves Me With a Lovely Cup of Tea at Red O

We had a delightful lunch at Red O Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles a few days ago.  This is the first restaurant outside of Chicago featuring a menu by renowned chef Rick Bayless – who is known for changing the image of Mexican food in America through his fine restaurants in Chicago, his PBS series, seven cookbooks about authentic Mexican foods and for winning on Top Chef Masters a couple years ago.  We loved it.  We can’t wait to go back.  The ambiance is cool, inviting, like walking into an elegantly relaxing outdoor room.  Truly breezy and comfortable.  But my “test” at any restaurant these days is…can they serve you a good cup of tea?

Actually I did not expect much in the way of tea from a Mexican restaurant as coffees are the focus.  This menu had some wonderful coffee drinks to choose from; however, I still ordered hot tea.  The tea bag was whole leaf Dammann Freres.  A truly delicious tea.  The server did not know anything about their teas (he was really pleasant though and a conscientious server)…he brought out a cup with hot water in it and a bag of Earl Grey.  I steeped the first cup and it was not good as the water was too cool.  While Red O doesn’t seem to have tea pots, they have really good tea.  That was fine with me as my able assistant, D., came up with this idea after having the cup refilled with hot water…

Dammann Freres teas are from France and are of great quality and flavor.  This Earl Grey was one of the best I have ever had.  It was not overpowering with Bergamot (citrus oil).  It had a nice subtle flavor of orange.  I loved my second cup, even re-steeped using the same bag (as it was whole leaf and didn’t do much in the first steeping in too cool of water.) So, nice job on the tea selection Rick Bayless…

I can’t resist showing you this photo of the crab cake I ordered…it was beautiful and flavorful.  The sauce enhanced each bite.  The tomato and avocado relish on the side made for the perfect pairing with the panko crusted crab cake…just fantastic.  Next time I prepare crab cakes I’m going to use panko bread crumbs on the outside.

Enjoy.  Drink Tea…

Red O ...flavorful menu, breezy decor, Damann Freres tea which I steeped on my own by making my own teapot

Red O …flavorful menu, breezy decor, Damann Freres tea which I steeped on my own by making my own teapot

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Mom’s Homemade Pastry Cream …Luscious and Easy

When my mom, Betty, began catering in the early 1980’s, fresh peach and fresh strawberry pies were her first orders from a wine bar cafe near us which did not have a full kitchen.  Patrons loved her pies so much that she expanded into a full catering business for several years – Mrs. T’s Catering.  I was reminded how luscious her pastry cream was the other day when deciding to prepare it.  She would spread a layer of this yummy cream on the bottom of her pies (in her already baked, hand-made crust), then pile high with fresh fruit.  Her pastry cream recipe is in Tea With Betty and below.  

I was a bit rushed and being lazy so didn’t pull out my mixer which is called for to finish the cream.  I hand whisked instead.  It came out beautifully.  Reducing the mixer step made making this pastry cream truly quick and easy to prepare.  So, if you have the book…note that you can whisk in the last bit of butter by hand and it works excellently…no need for the stand mixer (which I have to go drag out of a cupboard in my garage any time I want to use it.)

As I tasted the finished cream, it instantly reminded me of my mom and what a special cook she was.  She sure had a palate for knowing great flavor using simple, quality, and fresh ingredients.

These are the petite vanilla cream tarts I threw together as a friend was coming over for a chat and a cup of tea…I just wanted a few bites of sweet to go with our tea and talk.  Perfect…three bites is all one really needs of sweets to be satisfied some say…we had four bites 🙂

Tart shells...Mom's pastry cream topped with Italian Toschi cherries...deeelicious

Tart shells…Mom’s pastry cream topped with Italian Toschi cherries…deeelicious

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Searching my fridge, I found a small amount left of this Italian dark cherry topping that a chef friend shared with me.  Using one cherry and a little drizzle on each made for a nice combination of flavors.

Toschi cherries are an Italian gourmet product using the highest quality cherries.  They are really wonderful to finish a meal with too on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

 Next time you need a pastry cream or pudding filling, try this one…it is so much tastier than a box pudding and has much less sugar in it.  It also takes about the same amount of time to prepare as a packaged pudding mix.

Recipe: Mom’s Homemade Pastry Cream Filling   Makes about 2 ½ cups.

PREP:  20 minutes  TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (includes chilling)

2 cups whole milk

½ cup sugar

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

Pinch of salt

4 large egg yolks

¼ cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt.  Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining ¼ cup sugar.

Whisking constantly, slowly pour about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture.  Continue adding milk mixture, ½ cup at a time, until it has been incorporated.  Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and registers 160° F on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.  Remove and discard vanilla bean.

Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter, and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.  (or my new lazy way…move pan off heat and whisk in the butter for one to two minutes, voila, done…proceed to cover with plastic wrap).

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before using, beat on low speed until smooth; you can also whisk by hand.