Saturday, March 17, 2018

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with tea from the Emerald Isle to the Florida Keys

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with Key Lime GREEN tea

Although green beer and Irish whiskey may be the  traditional  libations for St. Patrick's Day, there's certainly room for celebrating with tea considering Ireland is rated as the third highest tea-drinking country in the world according to the World Atlas.

Our visit to Ireland in 2012, every day there was a rainbow and a great cup of tea

While it's true that I never a bad cup of tea in Ireland when I visited in 2012, one does not  have to cross the entire ocean to get a tasty brew. In fact, you can find a delightful Key Lime green tea in Key West. the southernmost city of Florida.

Key Lime tea from Oliver Pluff tea company

My daughter. Rachel, recently returned  from a western Caribbean cruise where one of the day excursions was a stop at Key West.  Good person that she is, wherever she travels, Rachel  always brings her Mom back tea from her visits.

The packaging of the Key Lime tea looked familiar and upon further inspection, I could see that this tea came from the Oliver Pluff tea company of South Carolina. I had purchased  several of their delightful teas when we were visiting that beatiful state two years ago.

Oliver Pluff teas were among my South Carolina tea booty in 2015

The Key Lime tea is really, really good, even though it may not taste very key-limey.  It's a loose tea and made from green Pekoe tea, cornflowers and key lime flavoring. It smells divine and the aroma is where you pick up more of the citrus notes. Drinking it, I found it to be a flavorful cup of smooth green tea with hints of vanilla, giving it a light creamy taste.  I give it five out of five shamrocks!

Stopped in for Irish Breakfast Tea at Bewley's in Dublin

So, whether you celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea at Bewley's Coffee and Tea Shop in Dublin or Key Lime green tea in your kitchen, raise your tea cup to the day we're all Irish - and not much blarney required to convince us all of that!

Kissing the blarney stone
Blarney Castle

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Barb's O'Tea Shoppe!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

After a train show, where do you have tea? Visit No.VI in Novi, train stop or not

Hogwarts Express  "9 3/4" , not the only fabled train stop

My husband is a model train enthusiast, so last month, when a train show came to town, he was eager to attend. Taking place at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Chris asked if I would be at all interested in joining him.  Knowing No.VI, a coffee and tea shop I had been wanting to visit was nearby, I was on board.  Why not combine to two special interests of one household into a fun afternoon excursion? And, from local legend, I'd heard that the city Novi got its name from being the sixth stop (No. VI) along the stretch of railroad that ran through the western side of the state. What a great tie-in!

We'll be back at No.VI Coffee & Tea to try those scrumptious looking baked goods

Although the derivation of the city's name is a fun story, I have since found out, it's more folklore than fact.  According to the City of Novi's history page, there are nine theories of how Novi got it's name, from the reasonable, (it was the sixth township in Oakland County), to the ridiculous, (a well-known blacksmith/preacher who continually denied his wife Vivian's "spending suggestions", thus the oft heard, "No, Vi").

Nevertheless, after the train show -  which was pretty amazing, filled with a variety of elaborately set train tracks criss-crossing detailed tiny towns and rural settings, including a scaled model of Hogwarts Express and, like No.Vi,  the  other  fabled train station stop, 9 3/4 - we headed out for coffee and tea, just down the road.

Train stop or not, No.VI Coffee and Tea is a great place to visit

On a busy Sunday afternoon at No.VI Coffee and Tea, there was not a seat to be found. It's a good-sized tea room with a cozy vibe, featuring two fireplaces and lots of comfy chairs. Chris had a coffee and I, had an Earl Grey. They serve Harney teas, however, the courteous barista told me that that is going to change soon. So, stay tuned!

I'm planning to go back, perhaps on a weekday, when it's not quite so busy, and try some of the baked goods  that looked so scrumptious  and see what new tea they will be serving.

All aboard for the next adventure, and that's no myth!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Pot hole ice cream: Take the rocky road to Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream!

Pair a cup of warm tea with your frozen pot hole treat

 'Tis the season in Michigan for massive snow melts and caution on the road.  The warmer temperatures bring out not only sunglass-wearing natives in droves, but an expanse of newly created dips and ditches along the Detroit Metro highways. While most pot holes are hazardous and to be avoided at all costs, there's one that is sinfully delicious and happily served up at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream in Franklin.

Enjoying a cup of pot hole on the main level of the Farmhouse

After reading about this marvel in Tuesday's Free Press (Pot holes got you down?), I knew it was time for another visit to the Farmhouse for tea and treats.

A delicious pot hole you can sink your teeth into!

The label for Michigan Pot Hole boasts that this confection is comprised of  "thick black tar fudge, in chocolate ice cream, with chunky chocolate cookie asphalt pieces".

Ambiance is warm and cozy, main level, upstairs or outside

This is seriously good ice cream.  While it may hit your diet as hard as its namesake will wallop your tire rim, it is worth every rich and decadent calorie and a lot less expensive. In fact, the Farmhouse currently has a promotion running through the end of this month that will bring the price down even further. If you bring in a receipt of any car damage caused by a pot hole from February 1st of this year through March 25th, the Farmhouse will give you a scoop of Michigan Pot Hole for free.

Pot holes and tea (and there's no wrong way to do so, that's only for queuing up_ 

We paired our Pot Hole ice cream with a cup of Harney's Earl Grey. 

Farmhouse ambiance and service is warm and cheery

Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream is located in downtown Franklin, on Franklin Road, just south of the Cider Mill. The ambiance and service is as warm and cheery as a cup of freshly brewed tea.  It's a cozy venue with comfy seating available on the first floor, the upstairs loft, or - on a 60 plus degree day in February - the outside deck.

Whether you experience a real pot hole or are lucky enough to survive the rocky roads of metro Detroit, treat yourself to a heaping serving of  Michigan Pot Hole ice cream at Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream.

'Tis the season for warmer temps and pot holes on Michigan roads

For more information on Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream, visit their website or check them out on Facebook:  Farmhouse Coffee and Ice Cream.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tea Time Magazine's French-themed issue: A celebration of all things past (and repast)

Tea Time Magazine's March/April issue focuses on all things French, including tea rooms, china and tea!

French tea rooms, French tea and French china - the March/April issue of Tea Time Magazine is devoted to thé a la francais and nous l'aimons beaucoup! While learning about tea places in Nantes, it also brought back many wonderful memories of our visit to several favorite Paris salons du thés in the fall of 2008.

Afternoon tea at Angelina's

Bruce Richardson's article in this issue of Tea Time, "An Introduction to French Tea", highlights some of the top tea rooms in Paris including Angelina's anMariage Frères, two of my all-time favorite tea venues. The former is across the street from the Louvre and the century-old tea room creates its own delicious works of art in the form of French pastries which go so well with Angelina's Earl Grey. Bruce Richardson also notes Angelina's hosted many of the rich and famous, including Marcel Proust. So appropriate, while we're remembering all things past! 

And, while we couldn't bring back the scrumptious desserts, we did stock up on Angelina's tea and lined our travel bags with a number of the signature tea tins.

One of the Mariage Frere locations in Paris

And to this day, I still say Mariage Frères is where I had the best cup of tea ever. There are so many varieties to choose from, but it's not just the selection that makes this tea room so remarkable. The servers are schooled in expert brewing and each cup is a delight to sip. 

To this day, still the best cup of tea I ever tasted!

Bruce R. also talks about great day-trips from Paris, such as Giverny and Versaille. We were fortunate to experience both and take in some tea at each city, bien sur!

Giverny, the ponds and gardens where Monet painted and drank tea

Giverny is the home of Monet, where he painted all those beautiful lilies in ponds. We learned the artist enjoyed not only painting his his cultivated gardens, but having a cup of tea there as well.

Outside Versailles Palace, once home to Marie Antoinette

In contrast to Giverny's natural beauty, Versailles, the great French palace, and once home to Marie Antoinette, is over-the-top excess, but impressive down to every gold and crystal detail   We saw where Marie Antoinette slept and dined and the table where her custom-designed china resided.

Tea Time Magazine's French-themed issue also spotlights the country's exquisite china manufacturers, including Limoges and Bernardaud's. And, oui, I do have a tea cup from the Bernardaud's Marie Antoinette tea service collection (shown on page 53 of Tea Time's latest issue). It is a replica of the china used by the ill-fated Queen. It incorporated a few of her favorite things: pearls and cornflowers. (I purchased my tea cup back in 2007 at Bernardaud's on Park Avenue while on a New York tea tour with Elizabeth Knight.)

My Marie Antoinette china tea cup from Bernardaud's

The March/April issue of Tea Time Magazine, c'est merveilleux! It is full of fascinating details of the French way of tea and also a lot of great French-themed tea party recipes. A great read of new experiences, and, for some of us, of times past as well.

For the full, Proust-length blog of our trip to Paris, see Tea Tour in Paris, September, 2008

Monday, February 19, 2018

Babycakes, it's warm inside! Marquette muffin company serves tea and scones

Babycakes in downtown Marquette serves tea and scones

This past weekend, we headed over the Mighty Mac to Marquette to see the dog sled races, better known as the UP 200. With our extended family, aka the LP 9, we joined the crowds on Washington Street to witness the mushers and their eager pups start the upper peninsula's version of the Iditarod.  

But, that was not the only exciting thing we experienced on Marquette's main street. A cup of hot tea and fresh baked scones were waiting for us at Babycakes Muffin Company

The start of the UP 200 dog races on Washington Street

Babycakes serves up coffee and tea with a variety of muffins, scones and light lunch fare. Friday night the venue extended their hours and offered guests a place to warm up and refresh while remaining in the center of the action.

Rachel and Sean, part of the LP 9, enjoying tea-to-go at Babycakes

We sampled a few teas (Earl Grey and an herbal mango) and both were tasty. They offer sweet and savory scones and we chose the former, a delicious raspberry treat served up in a generous portion.

The atmosphere is casual and friendly at Babycakes

The atmosphere is casual and friendly and a great place to hang with friends, study, or watch a team of eager dogs pull their musher on a sled.

Generous servings! Raspberry scone was the day's sweet choice.

Although the UP 200 comes only once a year, Babycakes is open all four seasons. When in the Marquette area, a stop at Babycakes will refresh any time of year.

Seven of the LP 9 on Washington Street watching the dog races

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Gilded Age on PBS tonight and Newport Mansions: Part II

The Elms, one of the cottages of Newport from the Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is coming tonight on PBS and we've got unfinished business.

Tonight, on PBS (Channel 56 for Detroit viewers), The Gilded Age is airing at 9:00 PM as part of The American Experience series.

Of course, we're counting down the minutes. But, we're also inspired to go back to some of our Gilded Age journeys.

A year ago last October, we traveled to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the grand mansions ("cottages") that belonged to the benefactors of the Gilded Age.  We wrote our first installment, "My Gilded Pleasure: Newport Mansions and Vanderbilding" back in November, 2016. Today, we pick up where we left off with "Newport Mansions: Part II".

One of two tea rooms on the lawn of The Elms

Newport Mansions: Part II

The Elms, although not directly on the ocean, is located on the prestigious Bellevue Avenue, which was almost as important as being on the water. Built in 1901 by Edward Berwind, who made his money from the coal industry, The Elms was designed by Horace Trumbauer to resemble yet another Paris chateau.

However, the key to the design, was to make it look as though it ran by magic. Servants quarters were hidden behind a brick wall on the third floor (the facade gives the illusion of two stories, but there are actually three) and all staff entries and delivery stops were cleverly shielded by gates, trees and other decorative ornamentation.

 Another Bellevue Mansion, Rosecliff, is equal to its neighbors in luxury and style. Originally built in 1902 by American heiress Tessie Fair Oelrich, whose father amassed great wealth in silver mining. When Tessie married Herman Oelrich, they purchased the property from historian and diplomat George Bancroft. Bancroft was also a horticulturist and developed the American Beauty Rose.

Rosecliff is known for its heart-shaped staircase, grand ballroom and spectacular views of the ocean. It is also the location of many movies, including the Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford.

Our last tour was of Chateau- sur -Mer, which means, castle of the sea, but, today, it is no longer on the water. Its great landscape once reached to the ocean, but it was parceled out to other family members and other beneficiaries. It was built in 1852 by George Peabody Wetmore and was designed by William Morris Hunt. Chateau-sur-Mer was erected during the first wave of wealthy migration to Newport and it was the biggest home in the town in its time.

It suffered from some "remodeling" on the second floor by Wetmore's two daughters, Edith and Maude, who never married. It has slowly been restored to give visitors a glimpse of mid-19th century decor.


The Gilded Age may be over a century old, but it'still a time that captivates.  We'll be watching tonight and keeping up our "Gilded Pleasures"!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Gilded Age is coming in 2019 and we are so ready!

We've been waiting for the Gilded Age for quite some time.

"The Gilded Age" is coming in 2019 and we are so ready! In fact, we've been immersed in this fascinating time period for the past several years in our travels, reading, and, yes, even attire.

According to last Thursday's edition of the New York Times ("The Gilded Age, a Downton Abbey Follow-up. . ."),  Julian Fellows, writer and creator of Downton Abbey, has a new show coming to NBC in 2019. It's a ten-part series set in New York in the 1880's: an era where the nouveau riche began to infiltrate the long-established old money society.  

Marble House in Newport. The family cottage.

The story will follow the fictional family of George Russell, railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, Bertha, as noted in Country Living last week. 

The Gilded Age saw many new-money families break into society, where barriers to entry were high and controlled with a tight fist by Caroline Astor.  In many "cash-for-class" transactions, rich upstarts would marry off their daughters to Lords across the pond. Seen as a win/win for both sides, the newly minted millionaires would get a title in the family, thus bumping up their social status, and the  strapped-for-cash aristocrats would get an infusion of American dollars to maintain their lavish estates.

Rachel at Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey. Cora and her money were very attractive.

If this is ringing as many bells as the downstairs corridor of Downton Abbey, you're remembering this is the story of Lady Crawley (nee Cora Levinson).  It was the Levinson family money that saved Downton Abbey when Cora and Lord Grantham were betrothed. Eventually, though, their story was a happy one, in that love reigned supreme.

Alva Vanderbilt's portrait at Marble House. Is she the inspiration for Bertha Russell?

However, not all "Dollar Princesses" like Cora Levinson fared so well. The real-life story of Conseulo Vanderbilt proved not all such arrangements were happy.  At the unyielding domination of her mother, Alva, Conseulo was forced to marry the Duke of Marlborough and whisked from her comfortable life in New York and Newport, to Blenheim Castle, one of the largest "homes" in England. The castle was impressive, but in much disrepair as was the relationship from the get-go. Both bride and groom gave up their true loves for an arranged marriage that benefited only their families.

The room at Marble House where the Duke proposed to Conseulo

Over the last few years, we've followed Conseulo's journey, visiting the Vanderbilt estates in New York and Asheville (her uncles' abodes), as well as the family "cottage", Marble House in Newport. It was here that Lord Marlborough proposed to Conseulo.

Hyde Park NY, home of Consuelo's uncle

In May, we'll continue the saga when we visit Bleheim Castle. To be sure, we'll be writing up more on the Gilded Age this year, so stay tuned! (We'll also pick up some of the unfinished blog stories from our Newport trip in 2016).

We've also ordered a new Gilded Age dress and pair of gloves, so our wardrobe will readily challenge any closet of the Gilded Age American Heiresses who shopped at Mr. Worth's (well, close enough).

We can't wait until 2019 for The Gilded Age to begin. We've been ready for quite some time.