Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Revisiting St. James Tearoom (Albuquerque)

I recently had the opportunity to revisit the St. James Tearoom in Albuquerque, NM.  It's my favorite tearoom in large part due to the emphasis on well-made tea, excellent and creative food, and the superior service.  And also for sentimental reasons.  Over many cups of tea at the St. James I have dreamed, nurtured friendships, celebrated and even cried.  It was here that my friends bid me farewell from NM 10 years ago and it is here that I return whenever I'm in the Land of Enchantment.

Here's a tour and I hope you enjoy!

Above: The portal to a world of beauty.  Below:  The hallway that leads to the tea nooks.  I really like this hallway, especially the light with the directional signs.


You can choose a hat along the way.

This little welcome card awaited us.  Thoughtful small touches like this make a big impact.

In addition to lovely traditional china cups and saucers, the St. James now has its own custom china. Each cup and saucer showcases one of the St. James values with words like beauty, civility and excellence.

My dear friends who gathered for tea.

The Chronicles of Narnia provided the inspiration for this month's menu. It's worth noting, the St. James has provided a gluten-free option for afternoon tea since long before it was mainstream.  The gluten free menu is lovingly prepared and as substantial as the 'main' menu.  


Savories: Alsan's turkey apple pate, Pevensie's parsnip pear latke, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver's cottage pie, Magical wild rice and butternut squash.  Served with Sir Philip Sidney traditional black tea.


Scones: The amazing St. James cream scones (the best, according to me!) and Professor Digory's apple scones,  with apple curd and clotted cream.  Served with Caramel Delights scented tea.

Sweets: Upside down chocolate nut cake, the White Witch's cranberry compote pavlova and chai custard ice cream with chocolate spice cookie. Served with Charleston green tea.



My heart is full of warmth and fond memories from my visit to this special place with special friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Days in the Desert




I haven't blogged for a week as I've been in the desert, nourishing my soul. I spent time there with women from this amazing community:  Women Writing for (a) Change, Bloomington.

 In fact, we've been basking in the sun in Georgia O'Keeffe's desert at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.  In the photo above, the flat topped mesa toward the right is called Pedernal, but it's also known as Georgia's Mountain because she painted it regularly and her ashes were scattered there.



Time to write, time to hike and time to go horseback riding.  Life is good!  Socks was my trusty steed.


On the last day, three women and I set out on a sunrise hike to Chimney Rock.  It may sound like a cliché, but it truly was a spiritual experience hiking with the sun, greeting the moon and climbing to the top where we whooped with joy and then offered our gratitude and prayers.  


Joy in the beginning
Joy throughout 
Joy in the end


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Toasting Spices for Cider


Cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and star anise

It's apple cider season and I love this annual treat!  My favorite way to drink it is spiced, and I use my recipe for chai spices, shown above, along with coriander and fresh ginger if I happen to have them. I go heavy on the black pepper.  And here's the secret:  Toast the spices in a dry skillet and then crush them (in big pieces) in a mortar and pestle.  Place them into a cheese cloth and simmer in the cider for at least 20 minutes.  Aaahhh.



Friday, October 31, 2014

Tea and Toast for Halloween

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

Happy Halloween!

I do love this day of imagination, playfulness and embracing childhood delight.  I also love the reverent side, the Day of the Dead observations and family remembrances.  I recall with fondness my time in New Mexico, seeing the graveyards decorated and people spending time there to honor loved ones that have passed.  May we all find both sides of our spirits today.

A little more fun...

From The Nightmare Before Christmas

"Dr. Finkelstein:  
That's twice this month you've slipped deadly nightshade into my tea and run off.  

Sally:  Three times.  

Dr. Finkelstein:  You're mine, you know!  I made you with my own hands."


And this one:

"Doctor, I made your favorite brew, just the way you like it - six ounces of lemon tea, and three-quarters of an ounce of frog's breath, plus three-quarters of an ounce of worm's wort!  And I definitely did not add three-quarters of an ounce of deadly nightshade."



Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Hundred Indecisions and Revisions

Meet Ribbit, my newest tea pet

Ribbit was given to me by a sweet and generous tea friend.  He's a tiny little guy - the scale is misleading in this photo because the teacup is also tiny.  He's the size of a pebble and he's adorable!  Small but mighty, he is. Ribbit and I have been doing some thinking and talking together.  We've discussed this poem:

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea.
    ~ T.S. Eliot


It's amazing to me how the poems I need find their ways to me at the right time. I've needed this poem.  

Aforementioned friend and a few other precious ones are helping me with a special tea project which has been brewing in my head and heart for 9 months.  Interesting timing.  :-)  I've been making a hundred indecisions and a hundred visions and revisions.  

I've learned about giving space to those hundred indecisions and revisions.  I'm normally a tackle and resolve sort of person when it comes to getting a project done.  This project is demanding its own time table and my patience.  It's requiring me to soul search and that was unexpected, but in the end rewarding.   I'm learning a lot, yes I am.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Camellia Sinensis with Effusive Blossoms



As you know, "tea" comes from the camellia sinensis plant.  And here's what that plant looks like, in case you have not had the pleasure to see one.  This plant came to me as a gift from Marmalady about three years ago and, thanks to the green thumb of the DH, has been thriving.  This year it bloomed effusively.


"Cami", as I call her, has been living for the past year on our north balcony.  The plant seems to be thriving within a large pot (I think this is pot #3), well-drained soil and the level of light in that space. It's not a full day of sun.  We had Cami on the south balcony for a bit and it was too much direct sun. The DH also provides an occasional fertilization and has done some shaping of the plant, as well. 


If you have a tea plant that is doing well, what tips can you share for its healthy growth?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baozhong: Lunch

Shiuwen, of Floating Leaves Tea, is writing a series on her blog about five major categories of Oolong tea from Taiwan. This is based on her recent presentation at the NW Tea Fest and I'm honored to have been able to help with that.  She begins with Baozhong tea - read the story here.


Farmer Chen

For the duration of this series, I thought I'd share a few side stories.  Today I'll talk about a fantastic lunch we had in Pinglin. We had been visiting and tasting teas in Farmer Chen's shop. When it was lunchtime, we walked to the restaurant that his wife operates and were treated to a feast!  


Walking through town


Farmer Chen's wife
The lunch menu:  apple soda, chicken on the bone, pork fat sandwiches on sesame buns, red rice with dates and pork, river shrimp, shrimp with apples and guava, whole "fragrant fish", fried mashed potato balls with egg and corn, chicken broth soup with goji berries and dates, greens, tea jelly.  Here are a few images.


Chicken broth with dates and goji berries 


The meal included several types of fish

Shrimp with apples and guava


Fried river shrimp


Meals always included greens


Tea jelly

This was our first full day of adventuring in Taiwan and we were welcomed with such generosity! I continue to send thoughts of thanks to Farmer Chen and his wife.  And thanks, too, for the great tea you make!