Friday, September 28, 2012

Visiting Two of England's Well-Known Tea Rooms

England is a tea room paradise, and we visited several on our 2001 tour, but there are two that are particularly well-known that I want to write about today.

The first one is Sally Lunn's Tea House, located in North Parade Passage, in the elegant, Georgian city of Bath.  We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and only had a two hour stay.   Two hours in the City of Bath?  Seriously??? What were  Globus tour planners thinking?   The city was crowded with people.  Our guide said aside from London, Bath and Stratford are the two most visited cities in England.  The photo below gives you an idea of how crowded it was the afternoon we were there.  The area photographed is near the entrance to the 2000 year old thermal springs of the Roman Baths.

I had seen recipes for Sally Lunn bread in my recipe books, but I didn't learn the history until that day in Bath. Sally was a young French refugee who came to Bath in 1680 to find employment with a baker who rented premises in Lilliput Alley. She sold his wares in the street, but when her skill at baking Brioche was discovered, she was reassigned to the bakery. Her buns were a tremendous success and customers specifically requested them.

In the photo below you can see how narrow North Parade Passage is.  Our guide told us all the buildings in Bath had to be made of Bath Stone so the whole city would look alike.

This is the house known as Sally Lunn's House.
[Post card photo]
We didn't have time to eat there, but we did purchase one of the famous Sally Lunn Buns to sample.  Their special taste and lightness allows them to be enjoyed with either sweet or savory accompaniments.  The photo below is a web site photo, but the box my Sally Lunn bun came in looks just like it.  It's folded up and kept with my other souvenirs. 
Sally Lunn's house was built long before she arrived in 1680.   Cellar excavations reveal Roman and Medieval foundations dating as early as 1137.  The plaque above the front door reads c. 1482 - which most likely refers to the rebuilding of the fireplaces and chimneys of the parlor during the monastic period.   It is claimed to be the oldest house in Bath. 
[Me standing at the entrance to Sally Lunn's]
My hubby and I visited the original kitchen museum in the cellar, with its faggot oven, Georgian range, and old baking utensils.   In 1937 Marie Byng-Johnson carried out an extensive restoration of the house.  During that time, Sally Lunn's recipes were discovered in a secret cupboard in the old paneling which can still be seen today.
[Photo courtesy of Sally Lunn's website.]
If I'm ever fortunate enough to return to England, I will definitely go back to Sally Lunn's for tea as well as visiting the Pump Room Restaurant for Afternoon Tea.  The Jane Austen Centre is on my list too.  To be sure, more time will be alloted to the City of Bath than two hours!
*  *  *
The second Café Tea Room I visited was Bettys in York.   That's me standing in St. Helen's Square by the street signs in the photo below [wearing the navy and white stripped sweater]. 

[Photo courtesy of Bettys website]
In 1919 Frederick Belmont opened his first Bettys Café Tea Room in the town of Harrogate. It was an instant success.  In 1936 Mr. Belmont traveled on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, and was so enthralled by the splendor of the ship's Art Deco elegance that during the sixth day of sailing he began to dream up plans for a new flagship Café in the heart of York.  He commissioned the Queen Mary's designers and craftsmen to turn a dilapidated furniture store into his most sophisticated branch yet.  One year to the very day that he disembarked from the Queen Mary, Bettys in York opened its doors.   Today there are a total of six Bettys, with two of them in York.
Bettys is still a family-run business.  In the early 1960's they bought Taylors of Harrogate, a leading UK Tea Merchant.  It has proved to be a winning combination.
I brought a Bettys menu home as a keepsake.  My hubby and I ate lunch there and  my journal entry states that I ordered a Chamomile Flowers Tisane, a hard wheat roll, and tomato soup.  My choices weren't too exciting, were they?  ;-)

Betty's serves Afternoon Tea so I'd like to have Afternoon Tea there if I ever return.  Tours are great for first-time visits, if they can be followed up by a return visit to see all the favorite places with a less structured schedule.
And who was Betty?  Over the years many explanations have been offered, but it still remains a family mystery.  The family 's favorite story, however, is the one which tells of a small girl who interrupted the very first Board Meeting when the issue of what to call the Tea Rooms was being discussed.  The little girl's name was, of course, Betty!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Visiting the Wedgwood China Factory

Our 2001 Globus "British Heritage" tour included a stop at Stoke-on-Trent, the place where  all  the famous potteries originated.   We toured the Wedgwood factory.  Audio headsets explained how china is made, and we were able to see production firsthand at various stations throughout the factory.
The gigantic statue below is Josiah Wedgwood I, who was known as the 'father of English potters.'  
The factory tour ended in their beautiful gift shop.  Of course, I had to bring a Wedgwood teacup home with me.  Wedgwood began producing their own fine bone china in 1812.
For Christmas 2007 I was given the beautiful Wedgwood trio set pictured below.
Almost synonymous with the name Wedgwood, is their famous Jasperware which was introduced in 1774.  Jasperware is made from a clay body invented by Wedgwood himself,  containing barium sulphate, which sets it apart from other clay bodies.  That distinguishing ingredient was kept a secret for many years.  Jasperware itself is pure white, but numerous colors have been added to it - with the most popular being a light to medium blue [known as Wedgwood blue] with white "ornaments" added.  The ornaments are made in separate molds and added at a different stage of the processing.   Jasperware is unglazed, which produces its matte finish.  
Below is a Jasperware miniature Christmas teapot ornament.  It's the only Jasperware I own. 
Below is Wedgwood's recent timeline:
  • In 1987 Wedgwood merged with Waterford Crystal and became Waterford Wedgwood.
  • In 2009 KPS Capital Partners, a private equity company based in New York City, purchased them and Wedgwood became part of a group of companies known as WWRD [Waterford, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton] Holdings Ltd.
  • Wedgwood is still used as a generic term to describe the company's traditional product style, especially Jasperware.

Do you think Josiah Wedgwood might roll over in his grave if he knew all the transitions his company has gone through?  ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Bombay Company

Figural teapots [people, animals, furniture, houses, flowers, etc.] date back to the nineteenth century, and they're still popular today.  I have several figural teapots in my collection which I'll share over time, but today I want to tell you about my newest acquisition that I got last month - a butler!
At the end of  my August 9th  post I mentioned Bombay Company and shared photos of some blue and white teaware that I purchased from the company before they closed their U.S. stores. That post  prompted a visit to E-bay to see  if any Bombay products  were listed.   There were, indeed, several Bombay items, and the butler teapot pictured below was among them.   At that same time I was planning  my daughter's Anne of Green Gables tea party,  and I immediately thought of Anne's visits to Josephine Barry's mansion in Charlottetown.   Miss. Barry had a butler, so I thought the teapot would be perfect for the tea party.   I placed a bid and won the teapot.   The seller, a lady from Los Angeles California, was so pleased someone who appreciates teapots was getting it.   She said she hated to part with it, but had to downsize.  It was in brand new condition, and had never been used.

As it turns out, I didn't use the butler teapot for the Anne of Green Gables tea party after all, but he's sitting patiently in my china cabinet waiting for the time when I need the assistance of a butler!  ;-)

And since I'm discussing the Bombay Company, I've decided to share a few other tea related items that I purchased from their store.  The first is a beautifully decorated glass teapot Christmas ornament.  It's not a full-size teapot, but it's not a tiny miniature either.  It measures 5 inches tall by 6 1/2 inches wide.  I keep it displayed on a shelf in my office year around, because it's too pretty to pack away.

I also purchased a set of eight crystal knife rests straight from nineteenth century etiquette [although they were actually invented in the early eighteenth century].  Proper Victorian hostesses used them, and so does this twenty-first century hostess if there's  ample room on the tabletop. 

They are placed to the right of each plate in a formal setting, to prop up knives to keep the tablecloth immaculate.  Leave it to the Victorians! But they are a lovely, useful addition to the tabletop.

The spoon cabinet pictured below came from Bombay too.  It was originally a dark cherry wood, but my hubby antiqued it ivory so it would blend with the other furniture in the room better.  A glass door encloses the cabinet, which I really like.  I think it's one of the prettiest spoon cabinets I've seen.
Incidentally, the Bombay website states an on-line store will be opening in the fall of 2012.   Well it's fall now, and I'm keeping a watchful eye!

Do you have any treasures from Bombay Company?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A New Collection of Tea Angels

It is said that three or more of something constitutes a collection, so yesterday I "officially" began a  collection of tea angels.
The angel on the left is a Willow Tree Angel called, "Angel of the Kitchen - Warm Comfort Between Friends." 
Susan Lordi is the designer of Willow Tree sculptures offered by Demdaco.  Her studio is in Kansas City, Missouri.
The original of each Willow Tree figure is sculpted using a special sculpting clay.  Then the original is sent to a factory in China to be cast in resin that exactly captures each knife mark.  The resin is cured and each piece is individually hand-painted with lead-free paint.
The middle angel is a 2002 "Angel of Hospitality - Teapot" [there is a newer Hospitality Angel holding a pineapple].  It is made of stone resin.
Jim Shore is the designer of these angels, licensed by Enesco Group, Inc.  He grew up in South Carolina, the son of artistic parents who instilled in him a love for American folk art.

I like that both designers associate tea with friendship and hospitality.
My newest angel arrived in yesterday's mail.  It came from a fellow blogger and tea lover in Canada [who in my opinion is an angel herself!].  I was reading a post at Lavender Cottage, written on August 6th, where Judith shared a photograph of her lovely "Time for Tea Angel."   She mentioned it was designed by Betty Singer.   I immediately went on-line to see if I could find one, but had no luck.   I commented to Judith that I liked her angel, and had searched in vain to find one.  To my delight she wrote back and said she had bought two angels at the Royal Doulton store and would be willing to sell me her extra one and ship it to me if I'd like her to.   I definitely took her up on her very kind offer.
Betty Singer is a renowned Canadian artist who designs angels, tree ornaments, and home and garden decor. Her designs can be found in stores across Canada.  Her original design work begins at her home in Brampton, Ontario.  The faces on her angels are reminiscent of her three daughters.
Isn't the "Time for Tea" angel lovely?  She's ceramic, and is part of the "Angels Among Us" Collection.
All three tea angels are stamped on the bottom, "Made in China."  I thought that was fitting since China is the birthplace of tea.
Do you have a tea angel collection?  I'd love to hear about it, and become aware of new tea angels to add to my collection.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy the three that I have.
 *  *  *
Today I'm joining Antiques and Teacups for Tuesday Cuppa Tea
Bernideen's Tea Time blog for Tea in the Garden

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Return Visit to the Whitney Restaurant

Two friends and I returned to The Whitney for Afternoon Tea last Thursday, September 20th.  Our reservations were for 12:30 p.m.  [Previous posts about The Whitney can be read here and here.]  This is a follow-up post since I promised to write about my return visit under the direction of the new General Manager and Chef.

Those are huge canvas-like tulips behind us in the photo below. Wonder what they'll replace them with now that fall is officially here? 
Doors to the beautiful mansion.
Our table set for three.  I liked the white linen napkins with The Whitney embroidered  in yellow.   If they had them before, I didn't remember them.
The tea service was painted especially for The Whitney and was in use the last time I had Afternoon Tea there. 

We were offered two tea choices:  Earl Grey and a Cranberry tisane.  I ordered the Earl Grey and it was very good, with a mild taste of bergamot - not overpowering as some Earl Grey's can be.
Dave was our capable and attentative server.  He's been at the Whitney for five years.
We were seated in the Drawing Room on the first floor.  The service was prompt and efficient.  Previously I was seated in Flora's Tea Room on the second floor.    As nice as it was being served tea in Mrs. Whitney's sitting room, it seemed as though we were forgotten about upstairs.  Flora's Tea Room is only used for large groups now. 
Enjoying my tea at The Whitney.
To accompany our tea, we were served freshly-baked, warm-from-the oven strawberry scones with citrus marmalade.  Dave declared them to be "the best ever," and they lived up to their reputation.  They were baked by The Whitney's pastry chef, Jessica. 

Detroit Fox 2 Morning had just filmed a cooking demonstration of Jessica the day before featuring "Pair of Pears."  You can view it here and get the recipe.
To our surprise and delight Dave brought Jessica to our table so we could meet her.   She's the lovely young lady standing behind my friend, Lori [in the purple], and me.
Following the scone course we were served Shrimp Bisque.
Savories:  Toasted baguette slice spread with pesto, topped with pan seared salmon and micro greens; a long thin cucumber slice wrapped around freshly chopped tomatoes on a toast round;  toasted baguette slice with  horseradish spread, topped with roast beef and micro greens; and grilled, marinated asparagus spears wrapped in Proscuitto.  All were delicious!
Desserts:  Raspberry bar on raspberry coulis; Carrot cake with swirl of cream cheese frosting on caramel; and chocolate mousse with fresh raspberry.   Heavenly!
Afternoon Tea is $29.00 per person, plus sales tax and 20% gratuity - which figures out to about $36.50.    Reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance.   Valet parking on Whitney property is $5.00.
Following Afternoon Tea, Dave personally gave us and some other ladies who had dined in the adjoining Reception Room, a tour of the mansion.   It was almost as good as the meal, which was hard to top!
I had heard David Whitney had a secret safe built into the paneled wall in the dining room, but I had no idea where.  Dave rolled back a corner of the carpet to open the section exposing the safe [which was actually a bank vault!]  Those are tapestries on the upper half of the paneled walls.
Can you see the vault?

When the Whitney's occupied the mansion, the ball room was located on the second floor, and the art gallery was on the third floor.
An artist drawing of the mansion hanging above one of the fireplaces.
And since ladies enjoy seeing powder rooms, I took a picture of that too!  ;-)
It was a wonderful afternoon at the Whitney, and I look forward to returning.  Kudos to Dave for such outstanding service!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumn!


Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice is in my cup on this first day of Autumn, but I also enjoy their Cranberry Autumn and Apple Cinnamon blends.   What fall teas do you enjoy? 


Friday, September 21, 2012

A Teacup from the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Britannia Yacht and Balmoral Castle

Our Globus tour took us to  Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh, where we toured the Palace of Holyroodhouse [a working palace]; the decommissioned Royal Yacht, Britannia, which is moored as a 5-star visitor attraction in the historic Port of Leith; and Balmoral Castle.  

Holyroodhouse is the Queen's official home and office in her Scottish capital.  She spends a week in residence there every summer, while carrying out a wide range of official engagements throughout Scotland.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse has its origins in an Augustinian monastery dating back to 1128.  Over time the palace buildings eclipsed the abbey [the Abbey was abandoned after the roof collapsed in 1768].  The palace is best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots.


Below is the teacup I bought at the palace gift shop.  The booklet reads:  The design takes its inspiration from the stag's head, the symbol of the Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse.  According to medieval legend, King David I founded the Abbey in 1128, on the spot while out hunting, he had a vision of a stag with a cross between its antlers.
Backstamped on the cup and saucer:  Design inspired by the stag's head and wrought iron gates of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. 
The crest with the stag's head with a cross between its antlers is in the middle of the saucer.
Britannia, the former Royal Yacht of Queen Elizabeth II, is one of the world's best known ships.  The 412 foot vessel made her maiden voyage on April 14, 1954, and was decommissioned in 1997 after sailing over a million miles, and 968 official voyages in almost every part of the globe. 
Thankfully, the tradition of sinking Royal Yachts at sea after they were decommissioned was not followed with Britannia.  The government invited proposals from UK cities interested in providing Britannia with a suitable home, and Edinburgh's proposal was selected.
Britannia was a mixture of palace, embassy, holiday home, and naval vessel.
The visitor reception area is on the second floor of the Ocean Terminal shopping center.  From the shopping center you pass over a bridge that gives access to a glass and steel tower that makes Britannia accessible.  The tower contains stairs and further bridges to the ship's four different levels.  It was a floating stately home, with the addition of officer's accommodations.
[Internet Photo]
After touring the ship, I bought a demitasse commemorative cup and saucer.
Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1848. The estate has been the Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. It is privately owned property.
The estate covers just over 50,000 acres of heather clad hills, ancient Caledonian woodland, and the beautiful River Dee is nearby.
The Queen and Prince Philip traditionally spend August, September and part of October at Balmoral. 
[Jerry & Me]
Before our tour of Balmoral, we ate lunch at a cafeteria just outside the castle grounds, which had a gift shop.  I purchased my teacup and saucer there instead of at the castle gift shop.
It is Highland China, made in Scotland, in the Thistle pattern - Scotland's national emblem.
It's interesing how the thistle became Scotland's national emblem.  Viking invasions of Scotland were carried out for almost 500 years.  After many unsuccessful daylight attacks, the invaders planned a surprise attack in darkness.  They crept, barefoot, before dawn, towards the Scottish defenders.  Fortunately for the Scots, one Viking stepped on a thistle and his agonizing cry of pain roused the Scots.  They defeated the Vikings, and the few survivors fled to their ships.  That day the thistle became the country's emblem.
Our Globus tour began at Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace, approximately 12 miles west of London.  It has not been a working royal residence since 1760.  Somehow I missed getting a teacup there.  Guess I'll just have to return to get one, but I did manage to take some photos of the palace.
I hope you've enjoyed the palaces and teacup series.