Thursday, May 31, 2012

A trip to Eastern Market - Detroit, MI

Way back in 1991 I was into gift basket making - I even attended a national gift basket symposium in Chicago.   I still make gift baskets occasionally [especially tea themed ones], but my passion for tea drastically sidelined my interest in gift baskets. 

It was in 1991 that I discovered R. Hirt Jr. Co. in Detroit's Eastern Market.  The first floor had every kind of specialty food that you can imagine, including a fabulous gourmet cheese  area.  The third floor had baskets galore, shred, cellophane and all types of unique giftware.  It was a one-stop shop for my gift basket needs and I loved going there.  

After my hubby and I traveled to England in 2001, and I discovered the rough cut brown sugar cubes they served with their tea, granulated white sugar would no longer suffice.  I found the brown cubes at Hirt, imported from Paris, France no less!

When my gift baskets waned, so did my visits to Eastern Market.  I was able to purchase a different brand of brown sugar cubes at Cost Plus / World Market - until they closed all their stores in my area.

Then Hirt closed their doors in 2011!  The store that was founded in 1887 and still operating in its 1893 building, ceased doing business due to a family disagreement between third and fourth generation family members.  How could that be?  Hirt was an Eastern Market icon!

Imagine my delight when I read my on-line Free Press news recently stating that the uncle and nephew settled their differences.  The nephew kept the Hirt business name, but opened a wholesale distribution center in a different part of Eastern market, while the uncle kept the original building, opening under a new name - De Vries & Company. 

So my hubby and I headed off to Eastern Market to get our supply of brown sugar cubes and see the building's renovated interior.   Here's the newly named, "old" store that everybody loves!

They have an impressive expanded tea section at the front of the store [as opposed to the previous smaller section towards the back of the store].  They sell a huge selection of Harney & Sons Fine Teas, Elmwood Inn Teas [which they never carried before], Taylors of Harrogate, Twinings of London, Lifeboat Tea, Typhoo, PG Tips, Teas from a Michigan blender - Great Lakes Tea & Spice Co., and Tulsi teas.  I asked permission to take photos and they graciously granted it.

Since they're a specialty food retailer, I have to share another product that we purchased while we were there...

Hand cooked English Potato Chips, directly from Herefordshire, England.  I LOVE the unique packaging, and the chips are delicious - similar to our Kettle Chips.

Here's a paragraph that was printed on the back the bag.  I think it's priceless.   Without tasting a single chip, I would have bought the product just because of it's fun packaging.   "Do you have English ancestors?  If so, have a rummage around at home, and if you find any eccentric old photos of them get in touch.  You never know, old Auntie Ivy could be the next face of Tyrrells.  Pop along to upload your piccies!" 

Here's a bit of Eastern Market history:

Every Saturday as many as 40,000 people flock to Eastern Market's vibrant marketplace for one of the most authentic urban adventures in the United States.   The market covers 43 acres with more than 250 independent vendors, in open-air stalls.  It's the largest historic public market in the United States [being on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places; a U.S. Historic District; and a Michigan State Historic Site].  Vendors and patrons have been coming here since 1891.

Below is a section of the market across from De Vries [Hirt].   Since we were there on a weekday it wasn't bustling with activity, but it was a fun visit none-the-less.

Thanks for visiting Detroit's Eastern Market with me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Newly Acquired Treasures

For the past seven years the City of Warren, MI has hosted a garage sale in the city's large parking structure on the Sunday and Monday of Memorial weekend.

Sunday, after church,  I went to see what "treasures" were available, and I didn't come home empty handed.   The $1 admittance fee  was worth the opportunity of browsing all the booths.

Here are my treasures:   A hand painted teapot trivet.  There are no markings on the back, but it was worth the $1.00 I paid.

Two burgundy water goblets for $3.00 each.  Target sold these five or six years ago and I bought some for my family Christmas Eve dinners.   When some of the grandchildren  "graduated" from the kids table to the adult table I became short, so I was  happy to find them.  I'm still keeping my eye out for more, but these were a great price.

Two clear glass egg cups for $1.00 each.  I've collected several over the years.   They're easier to find in Canada because that's were they were manufactured [Dominion Glass].   I use them at tea parties to hold mock Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and jam for scones.    I've also used them for serving sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses.  They're the perfect size for small portions.  Isn't re-purposing fun!

Lastly, a beautiful newly made apron for $35.00.   The lady who had the booth used to attend my church.  She knew I liked teapots and said she had the perfect apron for me.

The "bib" is detachable so the apron can be worn as a half apron as well.  It's beautiful fabric and Bonita's detail is striking.   She includes a crisp vintage [75 years old] hankie in the pocket of her aprons that belonged to her mother.

One last treasure, but it didn't come from the City garage sale.   Sandy, a lady who works with my daughter, recently had the task of sorting through the possessions of a deceased loved one.   My daughter mentioned that I liked tea, so Sandy brought her a teacup from the estate to give to me.

It was packaged in a green J.L. Hudson's box [seen in the background], but I don't know if it actually came from Hudson's.    It's Royal Cathay China and the pattern is Silver Gardenia. 

In an attempt to  research the manufacturer, it appears Royal Cathay may have been  produced by Royal Doulton.  E-bay and Replacements Limited sell Royal Cathay,  but neither source states where the china was manufactured, and it's not on the backstamp of the china.   If anyone has knowledge pertaining to Royal Cathay China I'd love to hear it.

It's a beautiful teacup and one I'll treasure.  Thanks, Sandy, for your thoughtfulness and generosity!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Occasion for Tea

Last week, my May 24th and 25th blog posts featured my 2003 trip to Victoria, British Columbia.  I returned in August 2008 to attend "An Occasion for Tea" sponsored by Tea Time Magazine and Victoria Magazine published by Hoffman Media.

I've decided to feature that trip before concluding my current Victoria series.  Friend and blogger, Tea Lover Denise, asked me to be a guest writer on her blog, Uniquely Tea, to share hightlights of An Occasion for Tea with her readers, found here and here.  

Before I begin writing about my 2008 trip to Victoria, I have some great news to tell you!  To refresh my memory about what I had written at Uniquely Tea, I re-visited the blog that has been dormant for quite awhile.   I found a new post from Denise  stating she will soon be writing a new blog from England.  Uniquely Tea was one of my favorite blogs, so I'll be anxiously waiting to become a follower of her new blog.

My first trip to Victoria was via a flight to Seattle, Washington and then a second flight [on a small plane] to Victoria.   In 2008, my girlfriend and I flew to Seattle, then took the 2 hour 45 minute Victoria Clipper ferry ride to Victoria.   I much preferred the ferry  to the airplane.

After a five year time lapse, I was back at the Empress again... this time for a three night stay!

Sandy, the Bellman, and Me

We stayed in room #315 and I was so impressed with the electric kettle and selection of signature Empress tea bags that were provided in our room.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if U.S. hotels would be that considerate of tea drinkers?

Event registration was throughout the afternoon of August 8th.  Dinner - the first activity of An Occasion for Tea - was at 6:30 p.m. 

Mandy Kray, the Empress historian, and lady who took my hubby and I on a tour of the hotel in 2003, was one of the opening speakers.

On Saturday, Aug. 9th, Sandy and I signed up for the last Afternoon Tea seating [3:00-4:00 p.m.]  in the Empress Tea Lobby so we'd have most of the day for sightseeing and shopping.   The day started with breakfast at Murchie's.

Beautiful flowers in Victoria...

And the picturesque Inner Harbor...

Then it was time to head back to the Empress for our Afternoon Tea reservation.   Pictured below are two lovely sisters from San Diego, California that we met on the ferry.   We sat with them at all the event activities.

The Empress Afternoon Tea Tray

After Afternoon Tea, there was dinner at 6:00 p.m.!   I was too full to eat dinner, but I did take this chocolate teacup back to my room for later.

We met in the conference center for breakfast on Sunday morning, August 10th for the last session of An Occasion for Tea.  Etiquette Expert, Dorothea Johnson was one of the speakers, and Designer April Cornell did a fabulous tablescape presentation.   An Occasion for Tea concluded at 12:30 p.m., and we all dispersed to go our various ways. What a wonderful event we were privileged to be a part of!

Sandy and I still had an Afternoon Tea to experience at the Gatsby Mansion before taking the ferry back to Seattle.  It's one of the places I didn't make it to during my 2003 visit.

The Gatsby didn't used three-tiered servers.  They brought each course out separately, and as you can see in the photos below, it was not only a feast for the eyes, but a delight to the palate as well. 

It was the perfect ending to our Victoria "tea trip."

Friday, May 25, 2012

2003 Visit to Victoria, British Columbia - Part II

Victoria is a very accessible city, and we  rode the bus, taxied,  or walked almost everywhere during our stay.  There was no need for a rental car.  One of our places for lunch was St. James Bay Tea Room - very quaint and informal.

British Memorabilia/Decor Inside the Tea Room

We visited Murchie's Tea and Coffee Shop on Government Street, who  supplied the Empress Hotel with their Signature Afternoon Tea Blend from 1972 to 2001, until the hotel was sold to Fairmont Hotels.   Metropolitan Tea is their current supplier.

We visited Chinatown...

And ordered a "show stopper" Bubble Tea at the Panacea Bubble Tea Bar.   It was an almond/coconut flavor, and very good.

We took a ferry to Point Ellice House.  We toured the house and had Afternoon Tea in the tea area of the gift shop.

Phyllis [on the right] ran the tea room and gift shop

 Tea Room Server

Afternoon Tea Plate

Afternoon Tea at the Windsor House Tea Room

Their Three-tiered Server

Afternoon Tea at the White Heather Tea Room

The "Not So Wee" Tea Plate as it was called on the menu.  Tea was the house special - "Balmoral" loose tea.   [The owner was from Scotland.]

In addition to Murchie's, we visited Special Teas and Silk Roads tea companies.

And had our picture taken by an antique photographer on Wharf Street!

We stayed at "The Grande Old Lady" - The Empress - on our last night in Victoria.  The 520 room hotel was built in 1908 by the Canadian Pacific Railway.   The Empress is the pride of Victoria.  It's what Big Ben is to London, or the Eiffel Tower to Paris - a historic landmark and a distinctive symbol.  Some have even said the Empress is Victoria!   In 1987 a $45 million dollar renovation began to restore the hotel to its original splendour.  The 'Royal Renovation'  was completed in 1989.

Our room was in the Upper Lobby area, #308  with a beautiful bay view.

I purchased the book, The Empress Hotel - In the Grand Style,  written in 1997.  The hotel's history is fascinating, and the book includes many references to tea.   The author stated in one chapter, "The Empress turned fifty without fanfare but with 'tea as usual'."   A 1960's renovation was dubbed "Operation Teacup."

We went on a 70-minute guided tour of the hotel.    One of the floors is said to be haunted - glad my room wasn't on that floor!  The lady in the center of the photo below was our tour guide, and when I returned again in 2008 she was still there. 

After the tour we had reservations for Afternoon Tea.   Since the hotel opened, they've  served Afternoon Tea  to Royalty, Prime Ministers, Presidents, Dignitaries, Celebrities... and my hubby and me! ;-)   Tea is served in more than one dining area of the hotel, but the 'must do'  is in their beautiful Victorian Tea Lobby.

As we sat in the beautiful Tea Lobby with portraits of King George V and Queen Mary looking down on our tea experience [they have been hanging in that same place since the hotel opened],  I found myself wishing the walls could talk!   Imagine what they could say about all the people sipping tea over the last 100 [plus] years!   Maybe it's good they can't talk. English novelist, Henry Fielding once said, "Love and scandal are the best sweetners of tea!"  ;-)

Pictured below is a "trio" [teacup, saucer and luncheon plate] of the Empress 'Royal China.'  It was produced and presented to King George V and his wife, Queen Mary, in 1914 upon the opening of the Booth China Factory in England.  Later, the china found its way to Victoria, and graced the tables of the Empress when the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to visit in 1939.  It was carefully stored away and didn't appear again until 1951 when Princess Elizabeth visited.  Eventually most of the china was either lost or broken.  Fortunately pieces of the original china were re-discovered in 1995 in an antique shop in Victoria, and the 'Royal China' pattern was meticulously duplicated by Royal Doulton [who purchased the Booth factory].  It has been gracing the table settings of the Empress Tea Room since Victoria Day weekend, 1998.  It  is sold in the hotel's gift shop, and I purchased the cup and saucer on my 2003 visit and the luncheon plate in 2008.

We took the double-decker bus tour of Victoria, a 30-minute tour of the beautiful Parliment Building, toured Craigdarroch Castle, the Emily Carr House [Victoria's artist and author], Madame Tussaud's Royal London Wax Museum, saw a movie at the National Geographic IMAX theatre,  and shopped on Antique Row [Fort Street] and downtown.  There's lots of  shopping opportunities in Victoria.   While it probably seems like we went to every establishment that served Afternoon Tea [eight Afternoon Teas in seven days!], we didn't!  I have brochures of more tea places for future reference.  No two tea rooms were the same, but all were patronized by men and women.

There is so much to see and do in Victoria.    I used eight rolls of film [pre-digital camera days], and I wish I had space to share all the photos with you.   It's been great fun re-reading my travel journal for this post.  I hope you've enjoyed the "arm chair" tour.