Get A Load Of These Tomatoes…

My approach to putting in our summer garden this year was thoughtful and meticulous.  We planted most items from organic Seeds of Change heirloom seeds, starting them in our new little grow house; then we rebuilt our raised beds and brought in the best vegetable planting soil.   After rotating the planting arrangement from last year for better production and ordering heirloom tomato trellises so these abundant plants have room to breathe – we planted and fed with an organic tomato fertilizer from Gardner’s Supply.  Now we keep our fingers crossed.  The plants are taking off and look healthy…

My first early girls and one zebra are in….they are flavorful and beautiful, yay!  I picked four tomatoes along with some of my gorgeous Genovese basil and  heirloom chives…will have a little salad with these tonight.  I am a proud mama of these babies!

But then we go up to Napa and I walk around the gardens and grow house for the French Laundry restaurant and am stunned.  Look at these guys…whew…talk about abundance on a vine!  While I would expect nothing less from Thomas Keller’s garden…this season’s harvest was literally breathtaking.  Their method of trellising  inside their grow house was interesting and obviously, truly effective.  There were wires running the length of a planting bed at the top…with reels of string used to tie the top of each tomato stem, something they can reel “up” as the plant grows…it works beautifully.

Partial view of French Laundry summer garden...including grow house, chicken coop, rows and rows of vegetables...

Partial view of French Laundry summer garden…including grow house, chicken coop, rows and rows of vegetables…the tomatoes in the photos below are just a few of the ones abundantly growing inside the white grow house in the background of this photo

In the hot house...prolific and fascinating varieties of tomatoes...trellised with string on reels...ingenious and effective

In the hot house…prolific and fascinating varieties of tomatoes…trellised with string on reels…ingenious and effective

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Deep purple and purple and orange...beautiful tomatoes

Deep purple and purple and orange…beautiful tomatoes

Getting Ready For Upcoming Tea Tasting Events…It’s A Party :-)

My life has been consumed with preparation for my first ever “public” tea tasting.  I posted about these May events I was asked to do in my April 9 “Join us” post…

It has been quite a fun journey to get to this point…items on my enormous check list are being accomplished (including a day of shopping with my sister to find something to wear,  a fun trip to the Container Store to find suitable carrier bags for my 144 tasting cups, and an internet search to see if we could get an “actual” Camellia Sinensis tea plant (yay, and yes we did!!!  well, it’s on the way, in the mail).

We sold out the Saturday event weeks in advance and are just about there for the Friday class too…I am so thrilled to be able to introduce this audience to some of my favorite pure, organic and whole leaf teas .. the ones that drive me to be so passionate about the subject…and over a setting that gets at the “being” of tea time…sharing it with friends, family, or as a break for yourself.

Our awesome chef, Kevin Montoya, who owns Carley Cakes has extensive training in New York and San Francisco culinary and baking schools. He did a delightful tasting for us last week.  This so we could tweak the menu and presentation where necessary (which very little was necessary…he prepares my recipes from Tea With Betty so well…how fun to see someone else’s take on recipes you’ve lived with for so long).

Here are some of the photos from that practice set up and tasting morning last week…the setting is outdoors, in Goin Native’s front yard garden.  This is in the historic district of San Juan Capistrano…the Mission church bells will be sounding during the tea tasting, as will a few trains rushing by…creating a unique, rustic, and gorgeous natural setting.  Marianne, Goin Native owner, offers beautiful native plant garden ideas and items.  She is brilliant at potting and planting and heads up our volunteer garden angel group.

Tasting items…on a full sheet pan…

Our rehearsal and tasting items for the EAT BE TEA event...full tray of each item prepared by chef Kevin Montoya (they were spot on delicious), place setting (elegant, rustic) and vanilla, cinnamon butter ready for the scones

Our rehearsal and tasting items for the EAT BE TEA event…full tray of each item prepared by chef Kevin Montoya (they were spot on delicious), place setting (elegant, rustic) and vanilla, cinnamon butter ready for the scones

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More of the setting…

Kevin’s scones and desserts were spot on (actually so much better than I can even make them…)  So…we worked on the rest of the table setting, set up, tea making area, check in and all…gorged ourselves on the samples (as I was ensuring not only quality, but also…was there enough food per person to be a lunch like meal since the event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m…. we all agreed we were fully satiated and hadn’t even had the teas with this tasting…

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Goin Native grounds..getting ready

Goin Native grounds..getting ready

goin native grounds

El Sereno Graphics... picking up my books...our printer has a cool 55 Chevy in the shop

El Sereno Graphics… picking up my books…our printer has a cool 55 Chevy in the shop

Next…my husband and I ran up to East L.A. to my wonderful printer, Rich, owner of El Sereno Graphics, and picked up an order of books to have available for signing at the events… I love going up to his print shop… and popping the top off a box of Tea With Betty books….

I have been sitting on my library floor, wrapping up individual tea gifts we are going to give to guests as they leave … while watching season 3 of Downton Abbey (oh my…have you seen it yet? … )  If watching…
“Don’t you just love how everything happens over having a cup of tea?”

Will let you know how it goes…am practicing making 50 to 100 cups of tea at a time this weekend to get the timing exact…

Life’s short…drink tea…and enjoy

My Mighty Leaf Teas...ready for tasting and wrapping up for gifts

My Mighty Leaf Teas…ready for tasting and wrapping up for gifts

Join Us For A Tea Tasting Event…@ Goin Native May 10 and May 11

Once or twice a month, I volunteer garden in the historic Los Rios area of San Juan Capistrano (California).  My “gardener” sister got me hooked on this about a year ago.  It feels good to contribute to the beauty of this historic site, where we are working to make it a destination for more and more Monarch butterflies.  The leader of this “Gardening Angels” group, Marianne Taylor, heard I wrote a book about tea and got this idea…”would I consider doing a  tea tasting for Goin Native Gardens , her incredibly neat garden business and personal home, also located in this historic area of San Juan Capistrano.   Goin Native is situated on an 1887 property and is a wonderful site for a tea tasting…the outdoor setting is under shade trees and umbrellas, in the midst of gorgeous vegetable and native plant gardens weaving themselves around their historic home.

Owners since 1990, Marianne and John Taylor restored this historic site and it’s gardens to reflect beauty and functionality.  The raised bed vegetable garden is easy to work and manage.  There are multiple garden retreat areas, along with fruit trees, native plants, and relaxed, cozy sitting areas throughout the property.

I am excited to introduce our guests to wonderful Mighty Leaf organic, whole  leaf teas – perfectly paired with savory and sweet bites from my Tea With Betty recipes …prepared by local pastry chef, Kevin Montoya, owner of Carley Cakes.

While guests will primarily eat, drink tea, enjoy the gardens and converse;  I will also briefly touch on: what tea IS …versus what it isn’t;  demonstrate how to make a good cup of tea;  and demonstrate how to make a delicious quick bread (my favorite little biscuit scone.)  We will be serving a three course menu paired with five fine teas.  It should be a fun lunchtime event with time to walk around the gardens and relax.   Check out the invite  GoinNative_invite   .

Below is our menu reflecting tea pairings and the flow of the class.

Goin Native presents EAT. BE. TEA … 

Tasting Menu for May 10 and May 11 event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Gathering Time

  • Organic Ceylon Iced Tea from Kenilworth Estate
  • Spiced Roasted Pecans

Tea Making (How To) and Tasting Time with The Savory Plate….

  •  Smoked Salmon Mousse in Crispy Wonton Cup
  • Polenta  Square Topped with Roasted Mushrooms
  • paired with RareTieguanyin Jade Oolong Tea
  • Roasted Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil on Crostini
  • Creamed Goat Cheese drizzled with honey
  • Paired with Organic Assam Tea from Rani Estate

Intermezzo…Biscuit Making Demonstration with Petite, Warm Biscuit Scones…

  •  Savory Pancetta Cheese Biscuit & Linda’s Favorite Biscuit Scone
  • with Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Butter
  • Paired with Masala Chai Tea

Sweet Finale

  •  Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites
  • Lemon Curd Tartlet with Toasted Meringue
  • Paired with Jasmine Downey Pearls Tea  (Rare)

Relax and walk about the gardens and shop

Author book signing of Tea With Betty Tea Manual & Memoir

Reserve your seat by going to….


Come join the fun if you can.  We are hoping this is just the first of many tasting menus to come…we are planning on doing video of this event & photos, and post them soon on this site or my new, soon to be released blog site which I will fill you in on in the next three weeks.   (It is currently under construction right now…fyi…all of Tea With Betty info will transfer to the new site…but we will have ability to do more things, such as videos on the new site…more on this subject later).

Enjoy and Drink Tea  🙂

The French Laundry Winter Vegetable Garden

While recently relaxing in the small town of Yountville in Napa Valley, California…aka “Kellerville” by some funny foodies, we enjoyed watching the vegetables grow in Chef Thomas Keller’s gardens which are directly across the road from his famed French Laundry Restaurant.  While we did not go to the French Laundry for a meal, we did enjoy one of his other restaurants in town…Bouchon Bistro (twice)…He also has a fun restaurant called Ad Hoc too…we aim to go there on the Monday nights they serve their famous fried chicken.  We missed it this time…as it is served every other Monday (shucks).

His gardens are inspiring….simple and beautifully managed (of course, what else would you expect from this renowned chef).  I get a kick out of seeing what’s growing, then guessing how it will be served that night in the restaurants.  It seems Romanesco Cauliflower was certainly on the menu in some form as there were rows and rows of it, ready for picking.

The French Laundry Gardens...simple and stunning

The French Laundry Gardens…simple and stunning

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The produce in the Napa Valley is stunning, prevalent, and truly most flavorful.  We enjoyed the best salads on this trip.  Both my husband and I came home having lost a few pounds as we ordered fresh salads and fish at almost every meal which hit the spot for us with flavor and seasonality.  The produce takes prime location on most menus in the valley…it should as it is sooooooo good.

I came home to see how my little lettuces, baby kale, and fresh dill were doing in pots outside our back door…they looked pretty good too…

Most restaurants in this area have some kind of garden outside their building where they are able to grow their own herbs and more.  It’s nice knowing the source of the ingredients we consumed.

No problem getting your five fruits and veggies a day in this  “produce basket” geography…that and a little wine…then a finish with a nice cup of tea (which they do right!) is perfect.


Tasting Heirloom Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes

As I was leaving my exercise class this morning I got a text from my sister letting me know that, in a few minutes,  “Mr. Tomato” was going to be at our local nursery, Plant Depot, in San Juan Capistrano.  I decided to head over to see if I could find out why my heirloom tomatoes were less prolific this year versus last. Instead, I walked into a nice surprise…a good crowd of gardeners (also tomato eaters) and an impressive set up for the class.  Long tables filled with scores of plates mounded high with diced and cherry tomatoes sat waiting to be pierced with toothpicks for tasting.  Over 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes were on display. (Did you know there are hundreds of heirloom tomato varieties?)

We were asked to taste and score which we preferred.  This was serious business that took concentration. Whether tasting butters, wines, teas, or tomatoes – tasting against another like item is the best way I’ve found to discern flavor differences and determine preferences for use of the ingredient.

This was such a spontaneous event for me, and I was so excited about tasting, that I forgot to take any photos…so instead, you get to see how my beautiful, albeit, limited production of heirlooms came out this season from my garden.  We grew 10 varieties…the good news was that some of the ones we grew, were my favorites from Mr. Tomato’s tasting.  My favorites for flavor, color, and size were:

Abraham Lincoln – Green Zebra – Brandywine – Legend – Porkchop – Old German – Snow White Cherry – Andrew Rahart – Arkansas Traveler – Black Cherry – Kellogg’s Breakfast

Next year I plan to plant most of these.   The mix of flavors from acidic to sweet, colors, red, brown, yellow, greens, and sizes cherry to large will deliver beautifully on a platter offering freshness, sweetness and a bit of zing.

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Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes

As we come to the end of the “great” tomato season, I hope to have a few more opportunities go enjoy salads like this one.  After that, I move on to other veggies in the fall and primarily only have roasted tomatoes til next season’s crop comes in.


Small Bites…

Seems the trend in food today is offering “small bites”.   It’s all the rage and I just love it.  The opportunity to “graze” over food offerings is what I so enjoy about an afternoon tea menu…several bits and bites of savory to sweet that won’t get you too stuffed, while taking your taste buds on an adventure in flavor and texture.   It’s struck me that tapas, antipasti, hors d’oeuvres, canapes, dim sum, charcuterie platters, and finger sandwiches all hit the same need to satisfy that little hunger pang that comes on about 3 p.m. — and into happy hour.

My recent seasonal favorites to serve during these warm summer early evenings are a bit of savory and sweet – and happen to be vegetarian (although not vegan).

Bite sized appetizer... grapes encrusted with toasted pecans and bleu cheese...cheese plate in a bite and Wild mushroom pate on a pita cracker...

Bite sized appetizer… grapes encrusted with toasted pecans and bleu cheese…cheese plate in a bite and Wild mushroom pate on a pita cracker…


These luscious and versatile little crackers are found at Trader Joe’s Markets.  Panini Girl’s blog offers many many outstanding recipes.

Whether serving these bites for afternoon tea or with a glass of the bubbly…grazing and sipping is an optimum way to socialize and relax into the rest of your day or night.

Here’s a pretty plate of small bites I recently had at Chef Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern Restaurant located in The St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point, Ca.  – Beautiful and whetted your appetite before dinner…now these bites took some time…but were worth it, particularly the crispy risotto cake.

Stunning "amuse bouche" plate...each bite packed with flavor

Stunning “amuse bouche” plate…each bite packed with flavor

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Try putting together a perfect little bite that encompasses savory, sweet, crispy, and softness all at once… if nothing more, a bit of cheese on a cracker almost gets you there 🙂