Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Confessions of a Tea Room Groupie

Ok.... let's just get this out in the open now.... 

Let me preface by mentioning my assumption that either you or someone you know is a fan of afternoon tea or you would not be reading this... No doubt the tea parlour aficionados in your life have been to their fair share of eateries .... perhaps even dozens.  I too enjoy going to tea... and .... well.... here goes.... at last count I have visited 403 different tea places... some more than 50 times. 

San Francisco's incomparable Palace Hotel
The Palace Hotel, San Francisco - my favorite room for tea

So there you have it... Now you know.  Before you ask why I don't have a tea room of my own I should say, yes, I have been a tea room owner, as well as a fine dining restaurant owner etc.; and I do think it is likely I will have a tea-ery again someday... if for no other reason than to cut down on the cost of going out to tea hahahahhaha.  

Because of my great love for afternoon tea and the steady decline and disappearance of tea rooms in my home state of California, I started the SoCal SocieTea website a few years back.  The hope was to support and promote the dear and dedicated proprietors of the businesses I love so much.  But as with many elective pursuits, I at length found I had neither the time nor resources to keep up with it, and so it fell into disrepair.

Hotel Pierre, New York City - another perennial favorite 

When the idea came (through much consecrated prayer and listening) to undertake my new business (joie de vivre lifestyle which will officially launch this January), I was thrilled when a lightbulb went off and I realized I could once again champion my favorite cause by changing the SocieTea's scope and name... we're going national over the course of the next year you see.  And just for fun I merged my JdV Lifestyle biz's rewards program with the SocieTea's previous Cups of Kindness system.

And so here I am.... a shy girl who who finds herself blogging and gabbing up a storm on facebook.... no the pics I have in my facebook album are NOT of me by the way. I am far too shy for that.  They are snaps of the lovely dance fitness guru with whom I will be working.

A key aspect of my new business involves at-home theme dance parties which I see as an excuse to go to tea as I will have a way to work it all off afterwards -  tea hee hee... and now if you'll excuse me, the tea kettle is beckoning, and a big cuppa Yorkshire Gold awaits.


Postscript -- here's one of the last fave places I will post some art on today

The Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles

Monday, November 1, 2010

To the tea manor born

SpecialTea Review of Mill Creek Manor

Prepare to have your tea socks knocked off. This place is literally too good to be true. Nestled (and in this case, 'nestled' is le mot juste) in the heart of Big Bear Village this charming house is poised to show visitors the tea time of their lives.
The home was built in 1919 and if my tea-infused memory is correct, it has served the community as a hotel, boarding house, brothel, meat-processing business, a 'rowdy' restaurant, and at last a perfect place for tea. It even boasts its own ghost, Rosie, owner of the previous boarding house who perished as a result of being trapped in a walk-in refrigerator or freezer or something equally chilling.

Everything about our visit to this warm and inviting haven was delightful, even the drive! The directions were clear and easy to follow and we had picture perfect autumn weather.
Once we entered the yellow house we encountered a country French wonderland with every sort of "ooh, I have to have that" bit of merchandise imaginable. Given that we were on a strict schedule, we quickly made our way over to a beautiful hutch that serves as home to about 45 loose leave teas that guests can sniff and savor at will. We finally lighted upon a peach spice and a pumpkin cream, both of which hit the spot. Our table was beautifully set with lace, fine china, linen napkins, silver utensils and all the accoutrement one might need to really dive into the tea experience. We ordered a High Tea which meant successive courses of one treat after another, a piquant tomato cream soup led to a harvest salad and then the imposing tiered tea tray came out, to the applause of those at the table next to us.
Every morsel was better than the next with homemade breads, flavorful fillings and a variety of just right sweets. The food was truly exceptional, thanks to chef/owner Pat Garza who has a flair for creating an atmosphere and meal to please all the senses. Though we ordered tea fare, we polled those around us who had come for lunch. The sandwiches, meatloaf and salads ordered by others met with rave reviews as well.
Additionally, our server, Julie, was as gracious and delightful as can be and we even had a chance to chat with the owner's endearing husband, Art, a retired military man who gave 37 years of service to the Army.
In short, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the magic conjured at Mill Creek Manor. In fact, I am seriously considering making the trek up the mountain on Thanksgiving to join them for their traditional holiday feast. Going to Mill Creek Manor reminded me of why I love going to tea so much... and why I plan to go back there again and again.... looks like I better reconsider that snowboarding pass because Big Bear here I come!