A Few Of My Favorite Things In 2016 & What’s Next?

Reflecting can be a good thing…so here is a brief pictorial journey of the things that inspired me in 2016, along with a hint as to my direction for 2017.  Food, tea, family, literature, gardening…all these things inspired me this past year.  Our #1 food experience….drum roll please…Providence, L.A. where acclaimed, Chef M. Ciurisky, WOWS every time in an unassuming fashion!

Providence – Chef M. Ciurisky’s fabulous L.A. restaurant. My #1 dining experience 2016…by far…

Each and every dish is simply spectacular in it’s conception, flavor, and presentation…starting with their delectable handmade oyster cracker filled with sumptuous salmon and a lovely little foamy soup…tasting of the sea.

Providence handmade oyster crackers filled with salmon…served with a foamy sip of soup…

 

First course…handmade oyster cracker filled with salmon and a scrumptious foamy taste of soup…yes we wanted more 🙂

Continuing to be our top vacationing experience…the Napa Valley … and it’s not just about the wine (well, it is, but….) the gardens are spectacular.

Winter mustard cover crop at Frog’s Leap…so gorgeous.

My birthday dinner was a surprise visit to the acclaimed Restaurant at Meadowood

Just loved the road leading to Coppola’s stunning Inglenook Winery on a cloudy, drizzly day

The French Laundry gardeners kindly post their seasonal garden schematic..here is fall 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our other top vacationing experience…Southern California beaches…surf camp with our grandsons, family week (a tradition), & now sister time too…and awesome seafood.

Carlsbad California sunset from our vacation spot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading great writing…with a cup of tea of course…my fete this year was re-enjoying War & Peace as a Lenten goal…1,287 unabridged pages in 40 days…still my favorite book of all time.

My Lenten commitment – 2016 was to read War and Peace (unabridged)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with life changes and dietary changes yet coming up with fabulous and satisfying alternatives … My niece Samantha’s unctuous and decadent petite creme brûlées and her apple crostatas.  Her 4 ounce brûlée is a perfect dessert for me…and doesn’t raise my glucose levels at all (yay!!!)

Sammy cakes Pumpkin Brûlée…I had mine without the “carmelized sugar” and no sugar spike later …hurray…

 

 

 

 

Sammy cakes apple crostata … just a rustic thing of beauty and flavor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our vegetable and fruit gardens this year were the best ever…all organic and unique veggies grown from seeds.  My husband’s favorite…watermelon radishes..also several heirloom cucumbers (including the lemon cuke which looks like a lemon but fully tastes like a cucumber).  Gorgeous tomatoes and basils and beets and herbs … it was a good year and good yield, along with figs and pomegranates and Fuji apples…odd looking nectarines that tasted rich and delicious.

Our 2016 backyard harvest …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food and teatime will always be a focal point of joy, inspiration and excitement in my life…and will be experienced in Eat Be Tea; however, I am excited to embark on a year of literary exploration this next week…beginning with two ventures; 1) Exploring the classics through the writings of the immortals in the Harvard Classics and 2) enjoying a year-long book club all about author Jane Austen.  You will hear more about this focus next week and my hope is that you will follow along, and maybe get into the literature yourself.  Happy New Year!  and remember…

Drink Tea … It’s good for you … and even better with a good book.

 

 

Testing Out “The Law of Attraction” & The Power of Positive Thinking

Mom’s (Betty’s) teacups…she was the start of my love for tea and blogging about it…

Yes, I have been M.I.A. for awhile…not for any one particular reason either…but things added up to cause a bit of disillusionment with keeping up with this blog.  Last year at this time I was happily blogging about food and tea and the meaning of life in all it’s manifestations (War and Peace revisited emerged:-) when my blog was suddenly and inexplicably…..hacked!  It just disappeared… gone!  I had to go through several machinations and $$$ to get it back, and it irritated me 🙁    But, dutiful as I am, I got it restored after hours of stress with the hosting site, the security site, and my wonderful web person (who doesn’t really do this anymore but helped me anyway – thank you Wendi).  After restoring it, I was told it was just plain silly for me not to have annual security coverage and other stuff to protect my little tea and food blog from evil doers…so I did that.  Then I had to renew my hosting stuff … so I did that… then my photos went through some update that has made it much more difficult for me to edit and post … so I just QUIT!  Ha!  I got even with all of them.

Over the past few weeks, I was feeling inspired to write again and have several half done posts to finish…but then, I started getting bombarded with security site emails telling me that my “auto renewal for security won’t renew automatically…” well of course it won’t…I never do that…rarely do I leave a credit card sitting online…so daily I have been getting this email asking for the renewal fee or guess what…”my site will be in jeopardy of the evil doers again!” … yuck. Fear mongering has never impressed me as a way to sell a concept or product (and I was in sales for 30 years so have an idea of what makes for a rational reason to buy something).

Last week, I had worked with my niece on a college paper she was doing on “The Law of Attraction” and the Power of Positive Thinking.  It has been inspirational for me. So inspirational that I’ve decided to follow the vibrations of positive energy and am NOT renewing my security for EATBETEA.  Therefore, this blog may just disappear overnight.  But I am willing to take the risk.  I feel good about it.  I am sending out positive vibes that it hangs on in the midst of evil doers…that there is a shield of whole leaf teas that will fend off any potential invader.

On a separate note, I have been thinking of going a different direction with my writing and might start a new site.  If so, I will let you all know – you might want to follow. Tea will always be involved, as tea continues to be a most positive daily ritual in my life. No matter what happens, tea and the 5 minutes of steeping a great cup is something I plan to keep as a positive focal point.  It is the thing I wake up looking forward to each morning. No matter what diet changes are needed; whole leaf, antioxidant filled organic teas harvested from quality growers will fit in … and it seems to me, it attracts positive energy!

Drink tea…It’s good for you!

Enjoy

 

Teas as the Spice of Life…Satisfy that Chocolate Craving (with NO Carbs :-)

The other day we did a tea tasting event where we served petite desserts in the finishing course…  my decadent dark chocolate brownies are always a hit and a superb finishing bite paired with jasmine pearl green tea.   We cut the brownies into small bites… and o.k., I did need to taste one 🙂 mmmmm.  These sweets do have carbs and plenty of fat and are wonderful now and then, and one bite doesn’t seem to hurt my goal to stay within range on my diabetes management program; however, on a daily basis, this is a no go for me.  The good news is there are excellent alternatives in my tea cupboard which are enormously satisfying in this area.  Whenever I have a sweet craving, I can go to my tea stash and scan for which variety of tea will enhance my afternoon break, a little ritual for myself to perk me up through the dangerous “raid the pantry” time which occurs for me between 3 p.m .and 5 p.m.

Spices infused into whole leaf teas are a treat that can satisfy your desires while saving you (and me) from a regretful binge.

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies...bite sized...from Tea With Betty...

Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies…bite sized…from Tea With Betty…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are savory, spicy, and sweet tasting varieties of teas that can boggle your taste buds. Try some that sound good to you.  My sister goes for the fruity infusions.  My grandsons just love chai.  Masala Chai is a powerful taste satisfier…having all the holiday spices and black pepper really punch up it’s flavor. While I add whole milk to this, I do NOT add sugar to any tea (my grandsons enjoy a bit of honey in theirs).  Peet’s brand Masala Chai is a delightful and powerful Indian blend which includes cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, cloves and pepper.  The pepper really comes through and it tastes like dessert.

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Peet's Masala Chai spiced black tea...delicious either hot or cold...blended too

Peet’s Masala Chai spiced black tea…delicious either hot or cold…blended too

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient teas by NUMI ... all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

Chocolate PU-ERH ancient healing teas by NUMI … all organic and truly hits the chocolate in a satisfying manner

But when I crave chocolate…I go to chocolate infused teas.  I have tasted dozens and found remarkable varieties.  Mighty Leaf has several, some even include tiny chocolate chips which melt as you infuse the tea.  Numi Organic Chocolate Puerh is a particularly satisfying cup of tea…this and a small square (1 ounce ) of 70% dark chocolate is dessert in itself…and so good for you!  Of all the chocolate tea blends I have tried, this is my absolute favorite.  It truly tastes like a heart-warming cup of decadent chocolate and it’s claim of being “velvety smooth” is accurate…and 0 carbs!

This tea, with one or two squares of my organic Theo 70% Dark Chocolate Bar, or new favorite, organic CHOCXO 70% with chocolate nibs is a perfect indulgent, decadent and “legal” snack for me…it may work for you too.  And there is a little pick-me-up with the small amount of caffeine in both.

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

Tea & Tolstoy … Devouring War & Peace 31 Pages at a Time

My Lenten commitment - 2016 was to read War and Peace (unabridged)

A little “tea and Tolstoy” in our room in Carmel…on a Winter’s day…

While consuming lots and lots of tea, I accomplished a goal I’ve had for over a decade… to “re-read” a complete, unabridged, beautifully translated version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  How this came about? I was a Russian Lit minor in college and for decades have professed that my favorite book of all time is War and Peace.  However, I was 21 years old when I read this epic tome and had been wondering whether it would hold up over time as #1 for me still…I mean, I’ve read a lot of great books since then.

Part of my love for everything “tea” came from reading this book in my early 20’s.  I remember that there was a constant referral to teatime throughout the text …  and often tea was taken in the most remote places..with generals in a tent, in a Russian battlefield, in the cold of winter … prepared for them by servants who lugged their leader’s samovars and tea through tough terrain.  Tea was seemingly ALWAYS present.  Men drank tea as much or more than women.  This constant taking of afternoon tea struck me as being oddly civilized, while all around,  thousands of lives were being destroyed, often on the whim of an arrogant officer’s shallow desire to gain favor, accolades or medals from a general, prince or the “great” Napoleon.   

On our recent trip to Carmel, I decided to lug my 1,279 page hardback book along and see if I could muster the tenacity to start.  As the Lenten season began while on our vacation, I made it a goal to finish reading the book in 40 days…that meant plowing through 31 pages a day to accomplish this task. Many are long, hard pages, as there was French language to wade through with the English translation depicted at the bottom of the page.  There is also lots of philosophy and dissertation about  ‘life in all it’s manifestations” expounded throughout by the brilliant author.

Well, I did it!  It took Tolstoy five years to write it and me 37 days to read it.  And yes, it holds up beautifully.  What an awesome, remarkable book.  I am truly glad that I read it again at a time in my life when I can more fully appreciate Tolstoy’s philosophy and astute reflections on history and what factors manifest war and peace – o.k., and there are great love stories throughout too   :-).

I can attest that the referral to tea time is prevalent in War and Peace, and just as in Downton Abbey, the setting of taking tea encouraged a great deal of drama and dialogue.  I almost think that we really could solve most of the world’s problems over a cup of tea – if only we had the will to do so :-).

Reading Tolstoy again reinforced for me how “teatime can be anytime and anyplace,” and that,  great literature is great for a reason…because the universal themes of life transcend time.   I felt accomplished when done and comforted that while many things have changed since the war in 1812, the comfort and civilized rituals around having a cup of tea has withstood the test of time and continues to be a good thing in the scheme of life.. and war and peace.

Drink tea…it’s good for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….

Just My Cup of Tea

The idiomatic expression “my cup of tea” is used to describe something you like or enjoy.  This morning, as I left my exercise class, I decided that I would enjoy exhorting a cup of tea from my sister as I knew she still had this awesome chai oolong on hand that was “calling my name”.   She happily let me in, made us breakfast, had me steep the tea and said, “get whatever cups out you like”…I spied her gorgeous Italian tea cups and pulled them out.  The tea tasted so refined out of these cups.   It reminded me just how special a beautiful, porcelain or unique serving vehicle can make one’s tea experience.  I’ve been rushing around lately, consumed with the “stuff” of life…but this little experience brought me back to appreciating the calm and joy of a simple ritual…made more special by using the “good cups”…

What I just love about tea....every day, if I am lucky, I get to take comfort in the ritual of steeping a pot

Every day, if I am lucky, I get to take comfort in the ritual of steeping a pot

I came home thinking about how much I enjoy tea tastings and that tasting cups are intriguing to me…the anticipation of trying new varietals is exhilarating and is one of my favorite things to do.  In flipping through photos, I came across these favorite tasting experiences of recent months…

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My niece and friends tea tasting at Seventh Tea Bar in Costa Mesa Ca...

Tea tasting at Seventh Tea Bar in Costa Mesa Ca…beautiful stainless tea pots with temperature gauge, timers, gongfu lidded cups for steeping….quite the fun ritual of which I was saddened to find out when meeting friends for lunch this month that Seventh is gone, now a French bistro 🙁

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samovar in San Francisco, as one might expect, offered the most contemporary, and yet traditional individual tea services.  D. ordered the Matcha, served in a personal beaker, I had the Russian menu, with a smoky Russian black tea and milk to temper and fine the tannins…just a delightful experience – I also love their press tea pot.  Each tea comes out with it’s unique steeping accessories.

Our tea service at Samovar...individual Matcha for D and Russian Caravan with milk for me

Our tea service at Samovar… Russian Caravan with milk for me

Another sleek individual tea service, using a press from Samovar

Another sleek individual tea service, using a press from Samovar

Matcha tea service for one at Samovar (SFO)... what a cool beaker

Matcha tea service for one at Samovar (SFO)… what a cool beaker

While I haven’t actually experienced the Italian tea shop, La Vie Del Te.  I am enjoying their Special Oolong (a gift from my good friend A…) and imagine drinking it from the beautiful white and fleur designed individual service here, photos from their website… with a French Macaron? (what?, notice the pastry stand) (I’d actually rather go for a little biscotti) 🙂  What a gorgeous, stylish personal tea pot and cup.

La Vie del Te...in Italy I want this set!

La Vie del Te…in Italy
I want this set

Lastly, two of my favorites – Tea with my darling husband in Carmel this winter…enjoyed while playing dominoes

Tea Time in Carmel with a game of dominoes with D.

Tea Time in Carmel with a game of dominoes with D.

And tea with my sister…using her Italian tea cups…and some scrambled eggs with salami…a spontaneous awesome sister experience!

This morning's tea and eggs...V's Italian tea cup brought out the best in the tea

This morning’s tea and eggs…V’s Italian tea cup brought out the best in the tea

Remember…get out the good cups!!!!

Tea Shirt ... at Samovar, San Francisco... I love the tasting cups depicted on our server's shirt...and DRINK TEA...It's Good for you!

Tea Shirt … at Samovar, San Francisco…
I love the tasting cups depicted on our server’s shirt…and DRINK TEA…It’s Good for you!

 

The Modern Tea Bar… My Visit to Samovar SFO

So, I got a little side-tracked over the last two months…but, I am back 🙂  and have so much to share with you about recent tea and food experiences that “wowed” me.  In late January I shared my excitement about getting to San Francisco to explore the Samovar Tea Bars.  The post is here, titled Samovar Tea Bar here I come...  This photo is a shot from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge from Berkeley going into San Francisco on a stunning, crisp, February afternoon.  The bridge is enormous and such an engineering feat…notice the pyramid shaped TransAmerica building in the right background…a famous landmark site as one enters this unique cosmopolitan city.

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco...a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

View from our car window as we crossed the Bay Bridge going from Berkeley to San Francisco…a crisp, beautiful winter afternoon

It was the January issue of Food and Wine magazine that turned me on to this hot tea spot.  Then last week, our dear friends J. & J. saw Bon Appetit’s  four page spread in their current May issue called “Join the Tea Party” where they noted Samovar as a hot spot for tea calling it “the newest outpost … offers organic and single-origin teas steeped in futuristic French presses.” After reading all about Samovar, we got to experience it live and in person. This is a seriously awesome tea bar.  We went to the Yerba Buena location situated at the Moscone Center.  It is a bustling area…we went at a quiet time (10:30 a.m.) and enjoyed excellent service and fabulous tea and beautiful foods – and I loved our server’s t-shirt..and his incredible attitude.

My mantra and sign off for most posts is... "Drink Tea...it's good for you".. so we loved our server's t-shirt...too bad, they don't sell them.  He was very funny too.  What a fabulous atmosphere

My mantra and sign off for most posts is… “Drink Tea…it’s good for you”.. so we loved our server’s t-shirt…too bad, they don’t sell them. He was very funny too. What a fabulous atmosphere and he was happy to pose for a photo.

Our view walking up to the entrance to Samovar, Yerba Buena…

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar ... signage on walkway...view from the front is expansive of San Francisco

Walking up to Samovar Tea Bar … signage on walkway…view from the front is gorgeous scene of San Francisco buildings with a large seating outside seating area not yet set up for the day…we went inside…it was cool out

IMG_5034Entrance…note my guy sitting inside…you can barely see him

just outside door to samovar...if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table...

just outside door to samovar…if you look closely, my main guy is sitting at our table…white collar, glasses, menu in hand…tolerating me photographing

It is just a cool place…a wall of tea canisters and clean, chic, white Samovar bags of tea are hanging off a large wall, easy to shop…

Wall of Tea...at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

Wall of Tea…at Samovar Yerba Buena SFO

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The demographic of clientele is broad and global in nature, also, as many men as women taking tea.  Their menu offerings reflect a global perspective, their teas are clearly of superior quality and the tea service is masterful.  They are tea masters. We so enjoyed the easy attitude, and unpretentious yet perfectly styled table ware for each global menu.  Being there brought back the inspiration which drove me to write Tea With Betty as a menu planner for teas from 17 different cultures and perspectives.  I opted for the Russian tea menu.  (well, of course,  the place is called “Samovar”…the Russian hot water / tea service centerpiece that fascinated me with tea and society during my Russian Literature reading days).

Below is my Russian Caravan tea service, lightly smoky with milk …and a lunch plate featuring Russian tastes, salmon, beets, eggs with caviar and a perfect Russian tea biscuit.  But first, David went more Asian with a delicious Matcha tea …we went home with some incredible teas too.

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk ... a black smoky tea...my Tolstoy menu...beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

Matcha tea served from a clear beaker, my Russian Caravan service with milk … a black smoky tea…my Tolstoy menu…beets, salmon, caviar on eggs and peppery Russian tea biscuit..delicious

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Our tea and food...Matcha from a clear beaker for David...Russian Caravan, smoky black tea w/ milk and and delightful Tolsoy menu w/ salmon, caviar on eggs, beets, peppered Russian tea biscuit...the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

My peppered Russian tea biscuit…the perfect slightly sweet bite to finish this lunch plate

 

We look forward to returning and trying other teas and menus.  The British tea looked so appealing, the scone rustic and full of oats…this one photo is from Samovar’s site, as the one I snapped didn’t come out well.

English menu...rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea...lovely and not too sweet

English menu…rustic scone, fritatta, fruits and black tea…lovely and not too sweet

It was a treat.  Wish they were near me. It would certainly be a weekly venture, but at least I have enjoyed steeping the teas I brought home.

Drink tea…it’s good for you 🙂

Enjoy