Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday and Afternoon Tea at Secret Garden

Tea Time update-- The Secret Garden is closed for remodeling. Scheduled to open August 2017. We can't wait to see when the new look is unveiled! 

Welcome to your Secret Garden San Francisco! Hidden just opposite the southern edge of Golden Gate Park on Lincoln Way, this small storefront was a bright bit of Holiday cheer. Angela had been to the Secret Garden Tea Room previously, but J.K. had yet to experience its shabby chic style and homey warmth. We chose to come here for the Holiday tea, which is a special menu. Secret Garden has a wide array of tea choices on it's regular menu which includes a gluten-free option in addition to salads, sandwiches and sweets (although their website suggests to call ahead if you want something specific and make a reservation).

Happy Holiday Tea!
We arrived a few minutes after our reservation (due to typical SF winter weather), but there wasn't a problem. Once we dropped our umbrellas in the bucket by the door we sat down to a classic table setting. We perused the teas and made our selections, finally settling on Chocolate Truffle for addition to the the herbs and spice Holiday blend for Angela. We sat, sipped and chatted for a while until our tiered tray arrived laden with goodies.

Plates and plates of food.
We received two types of scones, which we shared. These scones most closely resemble biscuits. One cinnamon spice and one with dried fruit plus berry jam and cream on the side. Our sandwiches were a new experience, one was like a club sandwich (three slices of bread) but with different fillings. There was a creamy shrimp open-faced sammie where you flipped the second slice of bread on top to eat it. The "club" style was moist and meaty with sprouts as garnish. The other triangle sandwich was egg salad with a sprinkling of caviar on the edges. We also had two more finger sandwiches, one cucumber and one roast beef. Instead of salad or desserts on the top tier, we got more savory treats. This plate featured one crostini with melted brie, apple and a bit of sauce, plus a second toast with salmon, dill and a dab of cream  while the third savory was a mini pastry cup with creamy cheese and a bite of ham with herbs.

Scones with their spreads.

Five types of sandwiches artfully arranged.

Grapes plus more savories!

Desserts came with our choice of eggnog or apple cider as a final digestif. The creamy cheesecake slice and two buttery cookies were a festive end to our Holiday tea. J.K. ended up taking some cookies home so we could waddle out of there. Angela still wants to know how to make those checkered cookies! How is each one a perfect square? Do you know the secrets of the Secret Garden cookie? Please comment below....

Wow, cheesecake  and cookies were a hit.
An eggnog and hot apple cider.
The menu Tea Time chose is a special, available for only a limited time during the Holiday season. However, if you choose to visit the Secret Garden you'll find ample choices on their regular menu, or if you have a special occasion in your life, you can reserve the Garden Room (there was a bridal party enjoying themselves during our visit). Do you have a "secret" garden you enjoy? Is it a personal or public place? (or both?)

Flowers abound in the decor and displays.
Love their tea blends? Take them home year-round.
Afternoon Tea hats!
Knicks and Knacks for purchase.
The Secret Garden Tea House states on their website that:
Its about Love, Romance, Hopes and Sweet memories we are creating everyday. All the things we love to share, and the many little thoughts that are sparked by the tiny splashes in our tea cups.
Tea Time certainly found warmth and sweet memories during this holiday visit to their Tea House. If you want a nice cuppa and cozy, flowery ambiance then check out San Francisco's Secret Garden.


We returned to the Secret Garden on February 18, 2014 to enjoy their everyday tea offerings. We chose to simply drop in so we can share with you readers what they have available on a daily basis. Tea Time picked two  services from the menu including, The Bedford's Delight  (Enjoy Afternoon Tea like the Duchess of Bedford) and the dessert treats featured in the Sweet Surrender. Each service came with a pot of tea. J. K. chose the Afternoon Delight a blend with 20 flowers and herbs, while Angela chose Rooibis Lavender Lane which had a hint of lavender to it.

Ready for afternoon tea.
What a lovely cuppa!

Handy tea pot tags!

The Duchess' afternoon tea service includes: A Scone with Devon Cream, Lemon curd or Strawberry preserves, Eight delicious Seasonal Tea sandwiches, a sumptuous Savory, and a selection of three delectable Mini Tea Pastries, tea cookies and seasonal fresh fruits, and the seasonal sandwiches were Cucumber Hummus, Ham & Apricot Cream, Egg Salad & Sprouts, Sweet Curry Chicken with Raisins, Turkey & Cranberry, Mango Chutney & Cheddar, Apple Cinnamon and Vanilla Cheese plus Tuna Salad. Our scone was delicious, flaky and buttery with fresh fruits baked in it. Delightful. The dessert tray was a preview of the second tea service we ordered, the Sweet Surrender

Fruity, flaky buttery, you can't resist this scone!
Twelve seasonal sandwiches...

Dessert tier with fruits

Our Tea tray fit for a Duchess.
Now here's the Sweet Surrender. If you're in the mood for sweets, check it out!

It's simple to walk in at the Secret Garden when it's not the holiday season, so check out their range of tea services and enjoy.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What a pairing, Wine and Chocolates

Sea Salt Caramel in 70% Dark Chocolate
Holiday Greetings from Regusci Winery and Essence by Chocolate! Tea Time was welcomed by the amazing chocolate-covered caramels pictured above when we walked up to check-in for the private, invitation only Chocolate and Wine pairing event being held in the lower level of Bloomies.

essence by chocolate offerings on display.
Is this a party or what?

After getting a glass of the Regusci Proprietary Blend from the lovely Leslie we noshed on a few caramels and caught up with friends (plus eavesdropped on strangers) until a good-sized group had gathered. With introductions an interesting story unfolded, telling us of how Nicole from essence by chocolate got her start infusing wine and spirits into her delectable chocolates. She was referred to the well-established local winery Regusci by a friend, and once Nicole introduced them to her confections they were hooked. A partnership was born with them co-creating an exclusive tasting/pairing program. Leslie (a former pastry chef) and Nicole worked together to marry wine and chocolate in winning combinations. The guests who attended this event were lucky enough to taste two pairings from this union. 

Pairing 1

With or without Almonds on top*

Patriarch Proprietary Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) with Patriarch & Roasted Almond Truffle (ganache: 61% chocolate, butter & wine; hand-dipped in 61% chocolate) Nicole thoughtfully left some truffles nut-free for those with allergies. This is a great thing to remember with small batch businesses; they can easily customize for your needs! In fact, Nicole has a line of tequila infused truffles, and used the tequila co-owned by Carlos Santana to create these confections as a specialty gift for his birthday. Yes, Nicole crafts every batch by hand! So you get a bit of her love for chocolate and attention to detail in every delicious bite.

Pairing 2

 Caramel infused ganache inside*
Leslie said we shouldn't quote her, so we'll say we heard it through the grapevine that this wine is the Regusci Mac Daddy. Angelo's Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has big and bold flavor which is partnered with this Fleur de Sel Caramel Ganache (ganache: blend of 45% milk chocolate & 70% dark chocolate; hand-dipped in 70% chocolate).

More infusions: 1 Bourbon  2 & 3 Tequila
What? You don't think that's enough chocolate? Need more flavors? You got it! In addition to wine infused truffles, we got to taste two kinds of tequila (Mango, Chile Pepper & Blanco Tequila in Milk Chocolate enveloped in White Chocolate; Anejo Tequila-infused Chocolate -70% all the way through). Plus an awesome Bourbon-infused Chocolate (ganache: blend of milk and 61% enveloped in 70% chocolate). We agree with Nicole that your Grandma won't recognize these gourmet versions of sticky liquor-filled chocolate bottles that used to be de rigueur at the Holidays.

  Mango, Chile Pepper & Blanco Tequila flavors hidden inside.

Bourbon-infused Chocolates to tempt you.

 Anejo Tequila-infused Chocolate, 70% dark.

Tea Time had a lot of fun at this event. It was a merry way to kick off our holidays. We think everyone who attended had a most enjoyable time. Nicole and Leslie were open and eager to answer questions about their businesses and products. Guests who attended even got to take home items if their raffle number won. JK got a box of caramels, which Angela kept trying to claim! Everyone was jealous of the person who took home a bottle of the "Mac Daddy" wine.

Interesting conversation.
Introducing the pairings.

Any tips of the trade?
A smorgasboard!

This event was put together by Housewares & Culinary Expert (our title) Constance Austin. If you're interested in getting more info about Bloomies events and demos, you can contact her by email or simply stop by the lower level and sign up on her contact sheet. If you do stop in you may get a sample of something delicious as well as a chance to ask about all your pressing holiday kitchen needs... rubber spatula? Got you covered. Place settings? Here. Free snacks? Sometimes! 

Nicole, the brains and beauty of Essence.

Our lovely wine expert Leslie.
The number one thing that Tea Time took home from this event was the admonition to have fun with wine! Focus on the smell and taste, and these chocolates enable you to do that without distraction. So don't host a boring wine party this Holiday Season! Make it interesting with wine and chocolate pairings. Whether you're prepped by professionals or do-it-yourself, please take time to have fun with friends and enjoy yourselves!

Let the good times roll!


Nicole has added a series of video tasting adventures to her website. An introduction to the series is here and the series of videos is here.

*some pictures used in this post were taken by and given to Tea Time for their use in this blog post by Nicole of Essence by Chocolate. Thanks Nicole!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Food Blogger Holiday Auction 2012 with LifeTastesLikeFood

If you've been following our blog (please say yes!), then you caught our post about the Food Bloggers dinner at Bar Tartine. (recap:Yummy and Good Conversation!) Stephanie was our hostess (and Meetup leader) for the evening and Tea Time thought her idea of having an online auction was brilliant. The proceeds will go towards the leukemia society and her friend, who is currently battling the disease.

Angela is donating a jar of homemade vanilla bean extract plus a fashionable MMM for H&M staff apron.

J.K. is donating three cookbooks from her collection. She will miss them, but she knows this is a good cause. You can find out more about the blog Life Tastes Like Food (and BID) here, and also learn more about who the auction proceeds will benefit.

Tea Time wants to share the super easy recipe for making your own vanilla bean extract. Don't be fooled by the stuff in the store. Make your own at home that can last Forever if you feed it.

(you need)
1 glass jar with lid (I like salad dressing jars, like in picture)
3 vanilla beans
1 bottle hard liquor (vodka or bourbon are both good choices)
a knife and cutting board

Take your knife and slice the vanilla beans down the long way, spreading apart the bean as you go.( If seeds fall out, just save them and put them in the jar too.) Once you have all 3 beans split, then place them in your jar. Fill the jar with liquor and slap on a label. How easy is that??

Just born today.

Born in September 2012
Once you have your beans sliced and in the bottle with your liquor, agitate it for a minute. After shaking your new baby, slap a label on it, so that 6 weeks from  now you'll be able to start adding it to your baked goods and/or cocktails! If your vanilla extract is not extremely dark, like commercial brands, please be aware that they macerate the entire bean to create an 'instant' extract. You will be extracting the flavor which will give you a pure flavor without demolishing the vanilla pod itself.

In order to 'feed' your extract, you will simply need to top off the jar once 1/4 of your extract is used. Add a bean after using 1/2 the bottle, which would be the second time you top it off. Keep agitating the bottle whenever you think of it/use it in order to release more of the vanilla seeds. Feel free to taste test the Vanilla at any time. In fact if you want to infuse a whole bottle of vodka this way, you can!! Then you'll have some for baking And some for drinking. (Keep the stuff for drinking in the freezer After it's done steeping for 6 weeks.) While it is steeping/extracting keep your jar out of the light and preferably at room temperature. Enjoy!!

Here is a bit more info about the cookbooks J.K. has donated to the auction. Please check out all the great stuff donated by many different bloggers and readers around the USA. You may find the perfect gift And you'll know the money is going towards helping a real person who is going through a tough time.

Three from the Joy Of series:  Pastry, Chocolate and Cookies. Pastry and Chocolate are hardcover and have their dust jackets. Cookies is paperback. All three were previously owned when J.K. collected them.

Happy Holidays from Tea Time, we hope you get the chance for a little downtime during this stressful time of year. Take a break and enjoy a cup of tea whether it's by yourself or with good friends/family. Keep your eyes on our blog as we'll have new Holiday Tea adventures coming your way this month!


The auction was a great success. We raised $3,000 in total.  Tea Time was responsible for $85--$45 for Angela's contribution and $40 for J.K.'s.

Lovejoy's Tea Room

We love Lovejoy's!

 (There, we've said it.)
Pots of tea are steeping,
Really this whole posting could be summed up in the words above, because we really do *love* Lovejoys. Even though our lives change, including the upgrade from High Tea to the Queen's Tea, Lovejoy's is a constant. If there is anywhere we could be considered 'regulars' this might be the spot. That's not to say that we go every week (although we can dream!), usually we appear every other month, like homing pigeons coming in to roost.

Lovejoy's Tea Room serves us great tea, delicious food and a comfy atmosphere with plenty of personality. All this plus sweet service staff make it a destination to show off to people from out of town. Tea Time always gets the Queen's Tea, which includes 2 sandwiches (your choice), green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing, coleslaw, fruit, scone, crumpet and sugar cookie Plus Double Devon Cream, lemon curd, and berry jam. An amazing array, accompanied by a bottomless pot of tea. We chose their mango black tea (an old favorite), plus their holiday special, a cranberry black tea.

Queen's tea for 2.

Four types of sandwiches.

Clotted Cream and Lemon Curd spread on Lovejoys patented scone.
Tea Sandwiches and mixed greens salad, plus coleslaw!
Remains of crumpet with berry jam smear.
Our Petit Four choices of the day! Delish.
Tea Time craves Lovejoy's sweet raisiny scone, which is similar to an American-type biscuit. We aren't the only people who feel this way, we spotted one customer getting bags of scones to go (and thought it was a Brilliant idea). These scones are made for being drenched in Double Devonshire cream with jam and/or lemon curd. We each chose 2 types of sandwiches which are included in the Queen's Tea Service. Ham with mustard and Cheese with chutney for JK, and then Angela picked salmon with cream cheese and pear with Stilton. When you elect to be a Queen here at Lovejoy's you also get a warm crumpet served midmeal and get to pick your favorite petit four at the end of your meal. (Tea Time has discovered that Dianda's Bakery on Mission also serves these petit fours a la carte so don't worry if you get addicted, or just need some for your homestyled afternoon tea service.)

When you wander through the main room of Lovejoy's there is a lot to see, and you may experience sensory overload. There is mix and match china on each table along with walls full of art. A journey to the bathroom in the back leads you past a wall full of love letters to the tea shop along with various tea related articles, nearly anything you can think of... Some of what you find in the main room is on sale, and this is definitely the best spot in town to purchase your Double Devon Cream.

Tea ephemera abounds.
Afternoon Tea, a relaxing celebration for any occasion.
Did Matilda like tea?

Amp up your celebrating with a glass of  sparkling wine! Cheers.
Your tea awaits, m'lady.

A bit of sun, a bit of tea, a lot of good conversation.

Easy to spot on the corner!

Lovejoy's is an SF institution. It's been around for 20 some years and in addition to their tea house, you can visit Lovejoy's Attic. It's here that you can purchase the wide variety of loose leaf teas they serve across the street, in addition to More tea goodies, such as strainers, teapots, cookbooks, local honey, special occasion vintage hats, cards and even broken china for crafting.

Find a favorite tea at Lovejoy's Tea Room? Take it home!!

More tea and cups to serve it in...
A tea pot for every personality.

Give someone a gift from Lovejoy's Attic and they'll smile year round.
You can usually sneak in for a seating without a reservation, but make sure you arrive At (or minutes before) 11am when they open, or you may be waiting, especially on the weekend. Regularly closed on Monday and Tuesday, Lovejoy's currently has extended holiday hours, call them for details. By hook or by crook, Tea Time hopes you can make time for tea at Lovejoy's this holiday season.