On this Country Inn Day I, the Innkeeper, will be hosting a high tea. As usual I invite someone old, (an old acquaintance) someone new, (a person I like but don’t know very well, (yet) and someone borrowed maybe two (one or both my guests may be asked to bring along a friend. And of course I’m now inviting you to come along and join in my fun.
My guests today are Andy, an old friend, Mary Fran in the flowered jacket who I met recently at a most joyful funeral and Robin who is Mary Fran’s good friend. A more spirit-filled threesome would be hard to find.
As Innkeeper I rose early and began setting the stage for tea. After all, staging a high tea is very much like staging a theatrical production. The setting is most important if we expect our guests to feel serene and special. I decided this particular tea will be served in the formal dining room. As Innkeeper I enjoy presenting tea in various locations in and around the Inn. On a beautiful day it could be tea in the Secret Garden with the birdies singing for everyone’s enjoyment or on an Autumn’s day I might serve tea in the Outbuilding with a fragrant wood fire blazing in its old fireplace. Variety adds spice to life and to the Inn’s entertaining.
There’s much to do in order to be ready for my guests. As Innkeeper I’m in charge of choosing the china, crystal, linens and menu. I’m also in charge of the flowers.
Flowers are a must at tea. Their beauty soothes the savage soul and we all have those savage moments in modern day life. Roses are my favorite and very nice in the formal dining room.
I’m also in charge of polishing the silver. Every tea need not use silver, but high tea in the Inn’s dining room requires nothing less.
Though I’ll be serving three different teas today – Darjeeling, Oolong and Apricot tea I do enjoy serving a glass of Carolans Irish Cream as a postlude treat.
How many Innkeepers have a luscious blend of Irish cream, honey and mellow Irish spirits named after them? My name is CarolAnn, CarolAnn McCarthy – very Irish (though I was born 100% Polish) so it’s rather nice to serve a beverage made in Ireland at this “CarolAnn’s Country Inn.”
I, the Innkeeper, can’t do everything for this tea. I turn the food over to the Inn cook. Of course the Inn cook also happens to be me, but whatever. Cook planned three courses for today’s tea – first a plate containing chicken salad in puff pastry, broccoli salad and fruit.
In case you might like to whip up the chicken salad here’s the recipe.
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed, 1 cup celery, finely chopped, 4 small green onions, chopped, 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, frozen puff pastry, thawed and baked and caramelized pecans chopped. (To carmelize pecans simply heat 1/2 cup sugar till melted stirring constantly, then add the pecans. Turn the pecans out onto wax paper and then chop).
The second course is Scones
The scones were baked and then cut into squares. Scones are simple to make and usually loved by all. Here’s Carol Ann’s recipe: Mix 2 cups flour with 1 T. baking powder, 1/4 t of salt and 4 T of sugar. Cut in 6 T of butter and then combine 2 eggs with 1/3 cup of cream and mix into the dry ingredients. Shape into two round or square large scones, put a bit of cream on top and sugar, then bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Cook loves to use the French Bonne Maman’ preserves with English Double Devon Cream atop the Irish scones making then an international hit.
This tea cake is the thrid course. It is a new recipe Cook made for today’s tea. It’s nice to try out one new recipe at each tea keeping the rest of the menu tried and true. Luckily this cake came out beautifully and was quite yummy. You ought to try it yourself. I think you’ll like it.
The recipe comes from this book called “The Great Tea Rooms of America”. It’s written by Bruce Richardson. Let me share the recipe for today’s tea cake with you.
Ahrens Tea Cake
1/2 up butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla,2 cups all purpose flour,2 tsp. baking powder,1 tsp. baking soda, 1 cup sour cream.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together and add eggs and vanilla. Combine and mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add to butter mixture. Fold in sour cream. Spoon half of the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan.
1/2 cup sliced almonds toasted, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 cup brown sugar
Combine almonds, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Sprinkle onto the middle of the batter. Cover the filling with the remaining batter and bake for 35 minutes.
If you bake this tea cake you can serve it at your very own tea. You are planning to have a tea of your own soon, aren’t you? I certainly hope so. Tea is all about enjoyment, relaxation, and taking the time to refresh your spirit and the spirit of others. Like letter writing it’s a beautiful and gracious art that must not be forgotten.
So the food is prepared and the table is set.
The buffet holds the tea cake and the Irish Cream.
The guests arrive and the next few hours are a wonderful time where joy is shared, old friendship is nourished and new ones are cultivated. Work and worry are sturdy weeds you know, but joy requires cultivation. Sharing tea is one wonderful way to cultivate joy!
It’s been such fun talking, nibbling and sipping tea as I was transformed once again from Innkeeper and Cook into just another Inn Guest. Quite magical how this happens on my Country Inn Days. But all good things must come to an end. The guests leave reluctantly and I’m transformed one last time, now into Inn Maid.
The dishes need washing.
The crystal too must be cleaned and made ready for the Inn’s next entertaining event.
And the linen used today is washed and hung to dry.
The tea party now exists only in my memory and in this blog, but I’m left with a lovely afterglow. What a nice experience it was. Yes, there was some work involved, but that work was actually fun and well rewarded. Not only did I have the chance to exercise my creativity and use those things I collect and love, but I gave of myself to others and everyone knows…
When you give good things come back to you.
That’s for sure. The glow of friendship is like nothing else and my guests at this tea were so full of spirit and love I came away feeling blessed, in fact, at one point they actually placed hands on me and prayed that my cancer treatments go well . When was the last time your friends prayed over you? Like I said, these were very special guests.
And besides the glow of friendship (as if that’s not fabulous enough) Mary Fran and Robin sent me a present, ordering it from their smart phone right at the tea table. It was a cd, “Music from a Secret Garden.” You see, I mentioned my Secret Garden to them and they told me they had the perfect thing for the next tea I host there. How sweet is that?
Very sweet indeed!
So that’s about it for yet another very blessed and wonderful Country Inn Day. My next Inn Day may take me off to a spa or out into nature or perhaps on an adventure or two, but whatever the Inn Day I know it will be wonderful fun and I hope you come along. So till then be sure you live abundantly. That’s what God has in mind for all of us and it’s up to us to make that happen.
Go to it!