Wednesday, June 8, 2016

AfternoonTea with a theme at Charles Chocolates 4/16

We arrived early and had time to check out (and sample!) the chocolates before the tea began. Charles Chocolates always features a fun, seasonal "chocolate box." Yes, the box is created out of chocolate too! Delicious. As far as Tea Time can gauge, Chuck designs a new box for whatever holiday is coming up, then the old ones go on a slight discount. When you attend their afternoon tea, you also get a discount on cafe goods including bars and confections. Score!

Chocolates In A Chocolate Box
J.K. couldn't resist the Chocolate Covered Matzah. This is so much better than the supermarket brand! Our honorary Tea Time member Emily bought chocolate to take to her Mom that afternoon. It was time for sweet treats for everyone!
After we browsed the cafe and shop we went to sit out on the patio. The heat lamps are helpful, though the sun was out and it wasn't too windy the day we enjoyed our tea. We spent the time before tea chatting and our tummies were rumbling by Twelve. (Our one suggestion is to have water glasses and carafes on the tables–unless they can get the tea out faster. That would be most ideal.) We didn't get an announcement that tea would be starting late, but we started seeing platters arrive in front of hungry guests at about 12:15. Chef Vijitha gave us a verbal description of the menu, so we ate with our eyes before digging in with our forks, knives and hands. We have a bit of description from Chef Vijitha herself with the appropriate pictures.

"Masala Chai is an integral part of every Indian's day. Chai means Tea in Hindi, the most popular language of India. Since it is flavored with spices, it is called Masala Chai." Angela sometimes finds Chaflavored too strongly for her taste, but our group agreed that this tea was smooth and delightful. There are many types of Chai, so keep shopping around until you find one that fits your palate.
Steamy cup of Indian tea flavored with
cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and fennel seeds
Cheers to Chai!
Here's the lovely platter of Afternoon Tea we were served at this Guest Chef event.
"Sundal is nothing but boiled beans/lentils/legumes seasoned with South Indian spices and coconut. Marina beach is the second longest beach in the world and it is situated in Chennai, Vijitha's home city. The beach is popular for its food–the fire roasted corn or spicy green mango slices or sundal or bhaji. For this sundal, the Chef paired boiled green peas with green mango, carrots and cucumber along with South Indian spices, curry leaves and shredded fresh coconut. This dish truly captures the essence of Chennai."

Marina Beach Manga Thengai Sundal 
Iyengar Bakery Style Vegetable Puffs
Caramelized onions + potato+ paneer baked over puff pastry 
"Kara Paniyaram with Chutney. Rice dumplings are  seasoned with onions, curry leaves, ginger, cashews and mustard seeds. It will be made in a paniyaram chatti (appe pan)."
"Masala Vadai is a popular tea time snack from South India. It is very similar to falafel. Crunchy and delicious!" We all enjoyed this tasty cracker like treat a lot. It was especially good with the Chai.

"Gulab jamun, a popular Indian dessert, gets a makeover with cream cheese.: We were happy to take a few of these home when the plate of "leftovers" came around to our seats and many of our co-diners mentioned that they would love the recipe." Lentils are the main protein source for vegetarians in India. A lot of Indian dishes are made with lentils, legumes and beans. For the dessert on the bottom, Chef Vijitha made ladoos with paasi paruppu (mung yellow lentils), cardamom, sugar and ghee."
Gulab Jamun Cheesecake (top) and
Paruppu Ladoo (bottom)
Semiya payasamA dessert with milk and vermicelli
Time to dig in! No more waiting...
Tea Time enjoyed the information provided by Chef Vijitha although it was at times hard to hear over the chewing as we enjoyed her delicious creations. This region of India features well-balanced and flavorful foods. If you'd like to try recreating some dishes, check out spicesandaroma. Don't feel like dirtying up the kitchen? Look for Chef Vijitha at her next pop-up
Guest Chef Vijitha. Check out her delicious recipes at her blog.
Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates fame in the blue t-shirt on the right.
Emily, J.K. and Angela enjoyed the unconventional afternoon tea and take home chocolate. We left satiated and thinking new thoughts about the array of Indian food on offer in the Bay Area. Keep your eye out for Afternoon Tea events all over the city and let us know if we've missed any! You can find Charles Chocolates Afternoon Tea events on Eventbrite, Sundays at 12 p.m. Of course, you can stop by the Cafe and tasting room during regular business hours to get a chocolate fix.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Day 17-the road to Hana

This vacation has featured a lot of driving. You'd think that being on an island would limit your carbon footprint, but since it's our holiday we're trying to catch a bit of everything to see (and snorkel). So today we drive the Road to Hana. If you're interested you can pick up a cd to listen to as you drive along, one that tells about hotspots and local info. We chose instead to follow along with our old guidebook, new map and eyes, stopping wherever our fancy took us.

Our conclusion was that the Road to Hana is pretty touristy. We got to dip into a few waterfalls, which was fun, but it was a lot of driving to get to Hana. The best part was the drive on the back road around the tip of the island through the lava fields standing in the jeep and feeling the breeze in our hair. There is always someplace beautiful to see on these islands, and Maui doesn't disappoint. If you don't have a lot of time to drive, skip the Road to Hana and go get another shaved ice while you watch the sunset.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lobster Me

I was searching the food court at the San Francisco Centre for something interesting to eat when I spotted Lobster Me, a fast food lobster restaurant. Lobster Me serves Maine lobster in many different forms. And they are really fast! My lobster roll was ready in less than five minutes.

You can see the menu more clearly on the website,
but some items are not available in some locations
I'm from Connecticut, so I like my lobster roll with butter, not mayonnaise. The rolls are served with coleslaw and house-made chips. The platters at Jimmies of Savin Rock come with cole slaw and fries, but Jimmies is a little out of my trade area these days. Lobster ME provides the closest to an authentic experience as I'm going to get, and I will definitely  be returning. Besides, if I'm in Connecticut in the right season, I order the soft shell crab platter at Jimmies.
And for dessert, a scoop of Belgian Chocolate at Haagen-Dazs. This flavor is available only at Haagen-Dazs shops.

UPDATE:  Belgian Chocolate is now in stores as part of the Destination Series. If you don't see it, ask your shopkeeper.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kitchen Table Bakers at the 2016 Fancy Food Show

If you've ever made Cheese Crackers at home, you know they can be delicious. Great for salads, Crudite platters, and whenever you're feeling snacky Cheese Crackers are a hit! Kitchen Table Bakers brand crackers are popular because they are Gluten free and have a good cheesy taste.

Monday, May 9, 2016

HAMO Fundraising Tea

Help A Mother Out is a wonderful organization that provides diapers to families in need. Diapers, which are so essential, are not provided by other agencies, governmental or private, that help the needy. In addition to other fundraising efforts, HAMO hosts a fundraising tea every year.

This year's tea was held at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in downtown San Francisco. We arrived at 10:00 to pick up our name tags, and were treated to bottomless mimosas, which continued to be poured during the tea, which began at 10:30. Afternoon tea makes an intriguing brunch.  Dan Kelly, Director of Planning of the San Francisco Human Services Agency, was presented with the Community Impact Award, and a video was shown, presenting three mothers whose lives were changed by the gift of diapers.

Seating was assigned, but the Eventbrite registration form asked who invited us, so Mel (remember Mel's Daily Cuppa?) and I, and our two guests, all sat together. The tables were set with a three-tier tea tray, with sandwiches, fruit and scones, so there were no growling stomachs waiting for the waiters to get to their table.

The program was emceed, as usual, by Kristen Sze of ABC News. She did something a little different this year: She held a live auction of a behind-the-scenes tour of her workplace, which raised $1,000 for HAMO.

Condiments were on the table. There were three sets of everything on the table, so no one had to resort to a "boardinghouse reach."
Close-up of the food
Close-up of the condiments

There was an assortment of teabags on the table. Waiters came around frequently to pour hot water.
And refill the mimosa pitchers when necessary.
The mimosas kept flowing throughout the tea
A generous assortment of desserts followed the savories. The whole service was generous. Despite the fact that our table included two men, there were a few sandwiches and desserts left over.
The format of this tea varies from year to year, but it is always elegant, and supports a good cause.

On my way to the bus after the tea, I was offered a t-shirt in return for having my picture taken with a pair of Beats by Dre headphones. They were draped around my neck, so they didn't have to be sanitized after each wearer, but it wasn't a very popular promotion. I checked their Facebook feed later and discovered that I appeared to be their only taker for the day.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lunch With Beth at Buckhorn Grill

Beth had a BOGO for the Krispy Chicken & Avocado Salad (crisp romaine tossed with honey lime dressing, topped with crispy chicken, avocado, tomatoes and bleu cheese crumbles) at Buckhorn Grill so we decided to give it a try. These salads are currently $10.99, so this was a great opportunity to check it out at a reduced price.

As you can see, these salads are well worth the price.  Everything was very fresh, and there was a lot of everything. The tomatoes are minis, so if you can't finish the whole salad, they won't make the leftover salad soggy.

Buckhorn has several locations that you can check out, including the basement of Westfield Mall. We went to location on Drumm Street.

Beth's Salad With Dressing
J.K.'s salad with dressing on the side

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day 2016

Ben & Jerry's free cone day is a long-standing tradition with Tea Time. Unfortunately, this year Angela couldn't get there in time, so she asked J.K. to eat one for her. Being the excellent friend that she is, J.K. finished her own cup of ice cream and rejoined the line to get one to eat for Angela.
Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Chocolate Ice Cream With Fudge Brownies.
The Chocolate Fudge Brownie was very filling, so she decided to get something a little lighter and chose the Greek Frozen Yogurt. Yes, the sorbet would have been lighter still, but we can make that ourselves in J.K.'s vintage Salton Ice Cream Machine.
Greek Frozen Yogurt
Banana Peanut Butter
Banana Greek Frozen Yogurt with Peanut Buttery Swirls
After all that, J.K. waddled home and made sure to finish her 10,000 steps for the day feeling thankful for the generosity of Ben and Jerry. Maybe Tea Time will have to try out some of the recipes for B&J classics in their ice cream cookbook! Hurry summer, hurry.