Dear reader, at long last, please enjoy this photo essay of the lovely English Tea I catered for the bridal shower my talented friend Debora threw! Her daughter was about to wed and move to London-town, so they wanted a traditional tea in the English style. Debora is of Mexican descent, and many of la familia and guests had never experienced the joys of tea sandwiches. Ay dios mio! So I made elegant cucumber and very pretty smoked salmon treats, using the only rye bread worth eating in L.A. (how I long for the fanatastic Jewish baking of my youth):
I also created super-girly strawberry and coconut tea sandwiches cut in the shape of flowers, naturally.
Mmm, and worth a mention was the fantastic fruit salad of Honeydew, Mango and Raspberries with Lime and Ginger. I've noticed when trying out the foods of another culture that though novelty is exciting, we all do better when there are also a few familiar elements. I found this recipe (thanks Cook's Illustrated) and thought, perfect! Mango and lime will be comfortable ingredients. And look at how beautifully it turned out! That is some sexy summer fruit.
I try not to overextend myself, so I hired my exceptionally gifted baker-friend LeeAnn to make chocolate-cherry and pear-ginger scones, as well as raspberry-marzipan and lemon-poppy muffins. Sweet Lord. (Those are my delicate cucumber sandwiches in the background. The secret is to mix in the tiniest bit of blue cheese, it makes them mysteriously interesting.) I find great eating (and catering) is often in the details: for this event I served only decadent Irish butter for smearing on the scones and muffins. Though these touches directly subtract from the bottom line (American butter is so much cheaper!), it's this attention to delicious, best-quality ingredients that differentiate good from f***ing fantastic. Why put in all that effort to turn out merely "acceptable" food? When people take a bite and I see their eyes pop out of their head because they didn't know it could taste so amazing, then I am successful.
So lastly here is yours truly, tired but pleased, shortly before the guests arrived. The flowers were arranged by Boriana, who I bet could trounce Martha in a Floral Goddess Smackdown any day. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a beautiful table; it makes the food more appealing and guests prettier when beside it. (And please note, dear reader, how my outfit matches both the decor and the food. Oh that's no accident, I think of everything. Thanks, obsessive tendencies!)
I served a fabulous smoky black tea from Edinburgh (oops! ran out of English) in mismatched teacups. Guests got to choose their own, and many had been in Debora's family for generations~ a lovely touch. What a pleasure to help celebrate love and families coming together.
Growing up I often felt I didn't have a culture, that mine was standard American WASP; it didn't feel like anything special, or different. Like being surrounded by trees and not recognizing you're in a forest, sometimes I can't see my life clearly until I'm outside of it. I didn't appreciate the excellent Englishness of all the showers I got dragged to as a kid until I put this one on myself. I saw people say, "Cucumber sandwiches?" with wrinkled noses, or "What are those triangles?" as they pointed to the scones. Then their faces would break into bright smiles and I'd hear, "Ooooohhhhh" as they nibbled; I thought yes, this is the food of my people. Thank you, stuffy ancestors, for all the deliciousness you handed down to me. Cheerio!