My favorite day of the year is Valentine’s Day—well, technically, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. Each year, my mother, assisted by my father, stages a gorgeous English tea to celebrate the day. I truly look forward to this event through the entire year, and, this year’s version certainly did not disappoint my very high expectations.
Our annual Valentine’s tea reminds me of the proper English teas we enjoyed visiting London’s Belgravia and Mayfair, especially at the stunning Basil Street Hotel (now, sadly, closed—the building converted into offices). Hours and hours (days) of preparation goes into this tea each year, and I genuinely appreciate it.
Let’s take a look at this year’s festivities.
With the table beautifully set with sterling, antique pink crystal and lace linens, my mother's Royal Albert made it's finest annual appearance.
Of course, there was tea. We enjoyed Fortnum & Mason’s special blend which was created especially for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in addition to my favorite, Lady Grey. In addition to tea, pink champagne was served with beautiful raspberries floating in each flute.
What’s tea without wee sandwiches? I can’t even count how many sandwiches they made. Dozens upon dozens. Chicken pate, blue cheese, boiled eggs, pancetta, tomatoes (both sundried and otherwise), olive tapenade, ham, roast beef, turkey, apple, cucumber, lovely assorted cheeses, spinach, arugula, avocado—all in myriad combinations on a variety of lovely breads. Sheer perfection!
Homemade scones made with lemon and dried cherries were served with freshly whipped cream.
Freshly-made banana bread (Bertie’s favorite) was layered with strawberry cream cheese.
And, then—the pastries. Oh, the pastries!
Brownies dotted with chocolate chips and baked on a cookie-crust were frosted with dollops of pink icing and adorned with candy hearts.
Towers of gingerbread dusted with sugar and decorated with mocha swirls were surmounted by candy hearts.
Strawberries wore luscious coats of dark and white chocolate.
Luscious meringue puffs melted in our mouths to reveal sweet chocolate.
Homemade chocolates with colorful sprinkles took the appropriate shape.
Tarts! Gorgeous tarts! Some small some large—held custard on perfect crusts and were adorned with whipped cream, some with fresh cherries, others with blueberries, others still with raspberries and blackberries.
And, finally, imported from Fortnum and Mason—the only item on the dessert table which wasn’t homemade—was a dense King George Cake of fruit and cherries topped with thick, hard Royal icing in the English style.
It was the perfect day, and, will remain in my mind and heart as one of many wonderful teas shared with my family. I sincerely hope all of you enjoy such a wonderful celebration.