Callas, Clivias, Cabbage Roses… and Oops, Renegade Mint Too

Spring has certainly made its presence known in our backyard.  I love this time of year.  Our yard has literally sprung to life.  We wake each morning to a cacophony of singing birds, scurrying lizards, and buds breaking out onto still bare branches.

When I walk down our slope, below our deck, I am delighted to see the stunning orange trumpet flowers on the clivia plants that were a long ago gift (and transplant) from my mom (Betty’s) yard.  These, along with the giant white cala lilies she sent home with me some 20 years ago as dirty bulbs loosely wrapped in newspaper, bring a smile to me each year they spring back to life.  Mom loved her garden and shared her plants with whoever asked.  There are many clivia and cala lily plants around our area that came from her yard.

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom's (Betty's) garden about 20 years ago.  They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

Clivias in bloom…from the lily family…these beauties are transplants from Mom’s (Betty’s) garden about 20 years ago. They love it under our deck…lots of shade with a bit of sunlight

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cli·vi·a
ˈklīvēə,ˈklivēə
  1. a southern African plant of the lily family, with dark green, straplike leaves and trumpet-shaped orange, red, or yellow flowers.
    The calla lilies are so gracious.
    Cala Lily…such grace

 

 

Pictured below, this stunning cabbage rose plant…a centerpiece in the English garden part of my yard was a lovely gift from my sister – when her husband was redoing their yard, this rose didn’t fit into his scheme…lucky me 🙂

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Lots of buds ready to burst on this huge cabbage rose plant

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister's yard…it loves its new home.

Cabbage rose…a gift from my sister’s yard…it loves its new home.

Then there is my renegade mint…you may know that it is a weed…and that you should plant it in a pot (keep it contained).  Well, I did all that; however, my pot sits on the ground (on soil) in my herb garden, and eventually, it escaped via watering through the drain hole and voila…mint everywhere in our yard below our herb garden…oh well, guess I will be “weeding” mint for awhile…at least it is pretty and smells good 🙂

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Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot's drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below - it's weeding time I guess

Renegade mint gone wild into the yard (downslope)…I really did start it out in a pot…but it escaped through the pot’s drain hole and is inserting itself EVERYWHERE in the garden below – it’s weeding time I guess

Soon, it will be warm enough for me to enjoy a book and cup of tea while sitting on this small swing, under our wisteria plant,  listening to the birds and watching our mission fig tree pop out hundreds of jewels. A great spot for tea.

Time to get the cushion on my swing, under our climbing wisteria (also a bit "gone wild"…but gorgeous)

Time to get the cushion on my swing which sits under our climbing wisteria (also a bit “gone wild”…but gorgeous)

The French Laundry’s Winter Garden…Radishes Anyone?

Food trends fascinate me.  A few years ago, the highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton (and co-owner of the Pizzeria Mozza Restaurants) put Butterscotch Budino on her menu…she got rave reviews for this tasty pudding…and all of a sudden we started seeing budino’s and butterscotch on dessert menus everywhere we went.  Beets is another item that has made the rounds on menus –  various varieties,  colors, sizes, & cooking methods  are offered as the golden or red beet may be pickled, smoked, roasted, or served raw… along with their leaves too.

When in Napa Valley, I love to walk  to The French Laundry (TFL) gardens in Yountville…located directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant.  After visiting this winter…I predict the humble radish to be the food trend we see adorning plates everywhere…from bulb to leaf. The gorgeous TFL gardens were prolific with baby broccoli, chives, nantes carrots and more…but the radishes really caught my attention…while I was not familiar with most of these varieties, I can see why TFL likes them…they offer a crisp texture, pungent, peppery flavor and plenty of color lending themselves to be a valued addition to almost any plate.

The French Laundry Winter Garden…featuring…the radish…a cool season vegetable that is easy to grow.  Takes three weeks to harvest.

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

 

TFL Garden hothouse…radishes anyone?

A stunningly beautiful February morning at TFL Gardens and hothouse…radishes — baby carrots — baby lettuces — the veg is honored here

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Nutritional information about the radish … One cup is just 19 calories, 4 grams of carb., 29% of your recommended daily vitamin C and 7% fiber…there are also several minerals, including potassium.

So, what’s your radish?  My preference is to enjoy them thinly sliced or julienned over a fresh salad…my husband can sit and eat several whole ones as a snack.  However you choose, using them offers a little more depth to a dish…either in texture, crunch, color, and that bit of peppery flavor.

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

A Year In Review…Part Deux

I am guessing that “A Year In Review…Part one”  was so exciting that you are anxiously awaiting to see the back half 2013 recap of what moved me.  Here we go…I had to restrain myself and trim (or more like, hack away) at what to include…figuring that “less is more.”

June – December 2013 was filled with interesting gatherings for us…Napa with our daughter and son-in-law was special.  Anytime we get away with these two is cherished time for us (even though we missed the noise-making rug rats 🙂  Reuniting with old friends was a big part of the summer, as my husband reconnected with many high school friends which led to new-found, old and delightful relationships.  Reconnecting with his Southern family resulted in an incredible couple weeks in the American South, then, capping year end with one of the top two tea menus  ever…seriously….ever…at the St. Regis “Tea and Tinis”  for a second year with my dear sister and our dear friend Dawn was just the perfect way to finish off twenty-thirteen.  Included are photos of my touching new artistic, lidded tea cup…named “Betty” which my twin brother and sister-in-law got me in Carmel (a favorite vacation spot for Betty and us)…ahhhh

I don’t know why…but I have always thrilled over small food bites… in particular, those presented in clever utensils, packed with flavor, touching a variety of  taste senses.  As I’ve mentioned before, that’s what first drew me to seek out afternoon tea menus – the variety of tiny bites.  However, mastering the delivery of a melange of gorgeous, flavorful bites proves to be a daunting task for many and often has been disappointing to me (and my Mom (Betty).  Thus we created our own recipes and menus.  Today, I like to go OUT and find these scrumptious morsels while sipping teas or wines.  These tasting adventures, which so suit wine tasting, as well as, tea time, are just so civilized and conducive for eliciting deep thought, or divining small chatter, or examining life in all its manifestations, or doing nothing at all…your choice.  These photos made the cut of favorite “bites” or tastings this year…

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, inventive foods, along with a few scones, cooking class, and teas, of course…and why not finish with a tea martini

Back half 2013 favorite small bites, starting with a most flavorful shrimp bite at Jordan winery, then a stunning cheese pairing from Arrowood Winery, then the  French Laundry garden tomatoes, my own petite bites in Great Aunt Helen’s egg plate, polenta topped with sausage, whimsically inventive foods from Ink Restaurant, Corn chowder w/ popped corn from our Ramos House Cafe in SJC, lovely hearts of palm wrapped in smoked salmon from our dear Chef friend, Julius, along with several petite sweets, tea affogato (as featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine’s September, 2013 issue, and a few scones, quiche made at my first cooking class at Eat Street Culinary, and teas, of course, lots of tea…and why not finish with a tea martini

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Ending with my first tea martini was a good thing.  I had them “hold the sugar” and it was still soooooo good, refreshing and certainly drinkable…I could have had two but prudently moved onto a nice Mighty Leaf darjeeling instead.  Will write more about this Tea and Tini experience at the St. Regis in another post.  (The best finger sandwiches ever!)

Happy New Year…Drink Tea…organic, whole leaf…it’s good for you!  Even with a little Ketel One vodka in it 🙂

A Year In Review…Well, Half Of It Anyway :-)

The past month has been a bit crazy …  I suppose it has been for most of you; however, I complicated things by throwing in a couple vacations, as well as, caught some kind of cold / virus that seems to want to fake me out…it comes and goes…then comes back just when I think I am better.  So…I got a little behind on my writing, but I think I am BACK now 🙂

2013 is gone.  While I don’t want to spend much time looking back, it was a year of interesting experiences inspired by tea for me.  I moved from my Tea With Betty blog to Eat Be Tea so I can expand the writing and experiences to include more about what I love…small bites of foods, paired with tea, experienced in numerous ways in various settings that often changes one’s life…one cup at a time, one bite at a time, one conversation at a time, one moment of reflection while waiting for the steep to finish.

I say goodbye to 2013 with this brief journey back.  I was blessed to have so many wonderful experiences over tea and food that I’ve had to break this into two posts…Below are photos for the first half 2013 of tea and food experiences that inspired and brought me joy –  beginning  with tea with my family at the Mission Inn, Riverside, Ca. last January 2…and ending with savoring a cup of Marriage Freres Darjeeling up in the Napa Valley while relaxing with a book.  In between, there were several garden tours that motivated us to redo our herb and vegetable beds (thanks to my sister’s invites and my husband’s hard work) and additional tea time items that touched me.

January - June 2013  Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

January – June 2013
Year in review of my tea and favorite food experiences

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Caption list:

1. Teatime at The Mission Inn with two darling little boys 🙂

2. Gonfu tea service…a favorite of mine enjoyed at several locations

3. Kusmi teas…a gift from my sister-in-law from their trip to France, their chocolate tea is as good as eating a piece of quality chocolate…seriously

4. Chocolates and confectionery my daughter and I made while at an Eat Street Culinary class with Chef Katie Averill in Anaheim…can’t believe we made these, from scratch.

5. Surfas opens in Costa Mesa, Ca…yay…lots of food and cooking supplies

6, 7, 8, 9. Napa Valley in February…the mustard in bloom as a cover crop for the grapevines, tea items at Dean & Deluca fine food purveyors…and they carried one of my favorite tea pots, featured on the cover of my tea book…the Betty pot and The French Laundry garden hot house.

10. Japanese tea house located in the bucolic Descanso Gardens L.A.

11. My Life Is Good “Tea Shirt”…a gift from my best friend.

12, 13, 14  Gorgeous tea foods prepared with the significant help from our friend Clive (the 5 layered tea sandwich he used to make at the Savoy, London and stunning lemon meringue tarts prepared by my niece Sammycakes. Also, my petite favorite biscuit scones.

15. Teapot with tea warmer at our dear friend Eugenie’s.

16. We discover pastry chef Kevin Montoya…owner of Carley Cakes. yum.

17 – 23. Out of the blue…I get asked to do a tea tasting for 100 and launch Eat Be Tea at this time….more Tea With Betty books are ordered, tables set in this gorgeous, rustic outdoor setting in the historic area of  San Juan Capistrano – my husband and Chef Kevin plate the food for the pairing with several organic teas from Mighty Leaf.

24.  Chef Kevin decides to name my biscuit scone…the Jones Scone and offer it in his pastry case with my fragrant and flavorful vanilla, cinnamon butter…at Hidden House Cafe on Los Rios Street in SJC.

Finally, we are up to June…back in Napa at the culinary institute where they claim “food is life”…so true…

Finally, I sit down to a fragrant darjeeling packaged in a darling cotton sack.

Happy New Year! Relax and drink tea!

 

 

The Charleston Tea Plantation…

America’s only working, commercial tea farm is located in Charleston, South Carolina on historic Wadmalaw Island in the Lowcountry.  We visited last month…170 acres of tea plants (camellia sinensis)…including a lovely shop and factory tour.

Two Leaves & A Bud...the camellia sinensis plant (tea)

Two Leaves & A Bud…the camellia sinensis plant (where all tea comes from)

 

Charleston Tea Plantation - America's only working tea garden

Charleston Tea Plantation – America’s only working tea garden

Welcome to America's Tea Garden

Welcome to America’s Tea Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under beautiful  grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour...comfy rocker line the porch

Under beautiful grand oaks lies the factory, gift shop and tour…comfy rockers line the porch and if you chose to, a trolley took you through the fields.

IMG_8398 IMG_8402Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don't think I'll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka :-)

Here we are in the tea fields. I am happy there is a tea plantation in the U.S. as I don’t think I’ll ever go the 9,000 miles to see fields in Sri Lanka 🙂

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It was a fun experience to see this plantation. While fine teas are grown in higher altitudes in China, Japan, Sri Lanka, & India…and great teas are hand picked, many from renowned old estates,this American Classic Tea was good iced.   Most restaurants in Charleston offered this American Classic tea. Below are photos from their self-guided factory tour.  The gift shop had a great feel and the samples were prevalent.  Lots of visitors enjoyed the setting.The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas...the service and counters are beautiful...

The gift shop is spacious with a bar that offers iced and hot teas…the service and counters are beautiful…

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The making of tea...leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried...the entire place smells like wheat grass ...very green, nice, almost sweet.  Founder William Barclay Hall...now owned by Bigelow

The making of tea…leaves are machine picked at this farm, withered, cut, dried…the entire place smells like wheat grass …very green, nice, almost sweet. Founder William Barclay Hall…now owned by Bigelow

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Back From Our Family Vacation…

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming "open arm" stairway...epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

A Southern Welcome with Charleston fountain and architecturally welcoming “open arm” stairway…epitomized our feelings of warmth experienced on this vacation to the American South

IMG_8587Often my husband and I are asked, “how de we keep our family together?”  “Simple.” is my response.  “When invited to a family function…You’ve just got to show up.  Don’t come up with an excuse…SHOW UP!”

We are blessed with lots of family.  And recently, we found out just how much we have on my husband’s paternal side of the equation – all residing in the American South.  Many times, it just takes one person to step up to keep family together.  That’s what happened here.

A few years ago, my husband’s cousin, A., sent us a note in her Christmas Card that she was coming out for a short visit from her home in Columbia, South Carolina (tagging onto her son’s business trip).  Now, this was quite a pleasant surprise.  The last time our California family had seen anyone from the South was 27 years ago.  I missed that reunion in Georgia, however, for those 27 years had dutifully scribed a cheerful card to cousin A..  I sent photos and news about our happenings,  only knowing her through this annual penning of notes.

We had a fabulous visit with A.  Upon her leaving, she urged us with grace and southern charm to visit…she followed up and sent me information about America’s only working tea garden near her ( in Charleston S.C.), she sent my husband a subscription to Charleston magazine and friended him on Facebook…once our sweet little dachshund passed away…I knew it was time for an extended vacation.  So, we finally planned our trip to the south —

We showed up.  And boy, so did they!  With the “California cousins” coming for a visit, Cousin A. instigated a full-on family reunion which resulted in 120 members showing up to a beautiful gathering at Misty Lakes, No.Augusta, South Carolina.  It was awesome.

Some of you know that I am not a fan of flying…so, with the reunion as the primary reason for our trip, I then targeted where we would eat and drink tea on the rest of our journey.  Some of the best chefs in America do their cooking in Charleston. Exploring Low Country cooking was our focus and, of course, drinking tea.

Our Southern vacation…full of Family, History, Spanish Moss, Mansions, Mosquitos, Alligators, Low Country foods & Sweet Tea.  The route:  Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Atlanta … fun times with new found relatives all along the way.  All because of one cousin who showed up and encouraged us to do so too.

My next few posts will be about my “finds” on this excursion.  Here are a few photos of our trip in a nutshell…gorgeous Savannah, including Tybee Island, foliage, buggy rides, teas, barbecue, and truly fabulous Southern foods amidst the mansions.

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Southern life...moss, marsh, mansions, biscuits, BBQ, and tea

Southern life…Spanish moss, marsh, mansions, Low Country cuisine, Charleston teas