Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Check out my amazing recipes for cooking with tomatoes in!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Taste of Britain, Indeed: A Tearoom Review

Mmm tea. In scones, in my cup, in my blender, in my iced mug. I love tea all ways but none other than within afternoon tea. When I found out about A Taste of Britain in Wayne, PA, my fiancĂ© Stephen and I took a gorgeous Saturday drive to Wayne, and to enjoy a lazy, relaxing, delicious afternoon!

Owner Debbie Heth knows tea, and with delicious fresh loose leaf teas from prime tea regions, I knew that our lunch was going to be special. We arrived at this gorgeous restful place off Route 30, tucked among other cute shops and headed in.
When we first stepped in, the entrance was set up as an English country store, with delicacies and sweets not normally found in the US, only in Britain. Cadbury Milk Trays, Spotted Dick, shortbreads, digestives, treacle, pasties, clotted cream and specialty teas are all available for purchase, along with a special selection of tea ware and Royal Family items.
After being seated in a cozy table in a patch of sunshine, Steve and I viewed the menu. We both chose our teas, him with a hot pot of rich Assam, and me with the sweet and powerful white and green tea blended with pomegranate. The Assam is a full-bodied tea with hints of malt and when cream and sugar is added, is a delightfully smooth cup of tea. My tea exploded on my tongue with fresh, sweet, flavors. I didn’t even need to add anything to my tea! We each drank about three pots of our tea with our meals.
We both decided on the pasties for lunch. I chose the savory cheese and onion within a tender pastry and a salad, while Stephen enjoyed the rich ground beef and potato pasty with baked beans. This lunch was truly a savory, delicious experience.
For dessert, we enjoyed lemon scones, and an assortment of treats: sweet petit fours, mini vanilla cupcakes with sweet icing, fudgy brownie bites and tart lemon and raspberry bars.
The entire lunchtime experience was relaxing and delicious. One of my favorite places for sure!
A Taste of Britain also hosts many events per year- Mother’s Day Tea, Valentine’s Day Tea, Winter Tea, private parties such an birthdays or showers, and also does catering for an event within the shoppe or within your home.
You can find A Taste of Britain within the Eagle Village Shops, 503 West Lancaster Avenue, Wayne, PA.
Call for reservations at 610-971-0390


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fun and Elegance at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon Afternoon Tea

In my travels, I always go to Washington DC once or twice a year. The museums, the culture, the food- I love it all!

Recently my fiance' and I spent the weekend in DC, staying at our favorite hotel, the Ritz-Carlton! Impeccable service, gorgeous rooms, close by to the Mall and the downtown and longer stroll to my favorite neighborhood, Georgetown.

My focus of this trip was to see family, drink tea and relax with Stephen. I was on a tea-buying trip and wanted to experience different teas in the DC setting.

Our hotel offered some amazing tea. A special blend was send up for Stephen and I in the afternoon to refresh us, and we got to sample the special cherry blossom blend as well. At night, I still had an extra teabag so room service brought up a fresh hot pot of water so I could make ourselves a cuppa or two before bedtime.

Friday and Saturday we visited the museums and shopped in Georgetown where I bought several teas- oolong and black teas- and saw family in Arlington, then on Sunday before we left we enjoyed another delicious room service breakfast in our gorgeously appointed room.

Note- If you have never stayed at a Ritz, get yourself to the Ritz Carlton Washington DC. It is the ultimate in comfort and luxury! And the people- so professional and accommodating. I never ever stay anywhere else in DC.

So, on Sunday we headed back to Arlington to pick up Stephen’s two cousins and off we went to afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City, overlooking the Potomac River and next to the Pentagon City Mall.

We were seated in the cool, stylish dining room next to a fireplace with high comfy couches and a square low table. The kids, Anthony and Genevieve were very excited to be out with Aunt Christine and Uncle Stephen!

The tea began with us choosing our beverages- creamy hot chocolate for the kids and a tropical, woody, green Chinese Sencha called L’Oriental for Stephen, and a green tea with lemongrass, lime, ginger and lemon for myself, called The Vert Jasmin. All the loose teas are designed exclusively for the Ritz win collaboration with Damman Freres Premium Tea Makers. Stephen and I also enjoyed a glass of champagne.

Then came a tiered tower of treats for us all- gooey brownies and gingerbread teddy bears for the kids, lemon tarlets and exquisite chocolate rolls for the adults. The chef came out and personally thanked the kids for coming in, giving them each a wrapped tower of specialty cookies in flavors such as mint chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, and chewy cinnamon oatmeal raisin.
(I got cookies too. I asked ☺) 

The Pastry Sous Chef Steven Sechoka said he creates everything from scratch, and wants each patron to enjoy their meal in the freshest way possible. For afternoon tea, he works with the tea makers to pair the tea seamlessly with the edible delights he creates daily. This man is a true artist!

We also enjoyed mini scones in lemon and chocolate chips, with savory sandwiches of tuna, cream cheese, cucumber and more. Each sandwich was more delicious than the last!

Alas, tea came to end and we were given more treats and bottles of water for our ride home. 
After dropping off the kids to their parents and hugging everyone goodbye, we began our trek back to PA.

What a gorgeous weekend! We’ll be back, DC!

You can enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton on Saturday: 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. and
Sunday: 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at 1250 South Hayes Street in Arlington, Virginia.

Special thanks to Michele Klarman and Nicholas Hines!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19 Pantry Challenge!

Tonight I'm embarking on the Pantry Challenge! First, turning 3 pounds of tomatoes into homemade sauce to freeze, then.... Utilizing several ingredients in the freezer and pantry for dinners this week! What will I come up with.....!?!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

DAWES – Classic, modern, and accessible

DAWES plays Mount Hope Winery (site of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire), July 23, 2014
Review by Special Guest Music Blogger Stephen M. Trimble
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state up front that Dawes, originally from the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles, is far and away my favorite band. Ever since I discovered the perfectly constructed, moving, emotional song “A Little Bit of Everything” on Sirius Satellite Radio, I’ve devoured everything the quartet has produced to date, and been delighted at every turn. 
 DAWES Photo by Noah Abrams,
Led by songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes has a distinctly minimalist sound, allowing their alluring melodies and Taylor’s soulful vocals to play center stage. Rather than relying on fuzzy distortion to muddy the waters of their superb musicianship, Dawes’ approach is to let the emotion of their songs come to the fore. This creates an accessibility and connection with the listener that is sadly absent from many modern rock bands. 
Griffin Goldsmith, Taylor’s younger brother and the band’s highly underrated drummer, provides a solid and driving backbeat without overpowering the melodies. He also sings strong harmonies, his voice blending well with his brother’s. Wylie Gelber, bass, offers interesting lines that meld perfectly with the attitude of the music. And Tay Strathairn, keys, has a Steve Winwood-like affinity for the keyboards that offers up tasty notes on the Hammond organ and evocative piano that in many songs leads the melodic charge. 
The show in Mount Hope, PA, on July 23 was only my second live Dawes experience (second of many, one hopes). The first, in York, PA at the Strand Theater, was disappointing. Although the band itself had a stellar performance, the sound was mixed in an amateurish manner and thus was almost unlistenable. The bass and drums were mixed so high that you could almost see each note, and as a result, the vocals had to be pushed to the point of distortion, and Tay’s keys were nearly lost in the deplorable mix. 

The opposite was true at the Mount Hope venue. The sound was mixed perfectly, allowing the audience full enjoyment of this outstanding show. The venue itself is on the site of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire—on the outdoor Human Chessboard stage. There is plenty of room to get up close to the stage, making for an intimate experience. For audience members who prefer to sit and watch the band, pew-like benches are arranged to the rear of the audience section. 
In all, about 400 people braved a blustery thunderstorm just before the show and were not disappointed.  The weather let up almost to the minute before showtime, and just as the last of the rain fell from the unsettled sky, the band appeared and opened with one of my favorite tracks: “That Western Skyline” from their first album, North Hills. The story of a young man who follows unrequited love across the country, the tune evokes sadness juxtaposed with an empowering declaration of returning home and resuming life. 
From there, the band launched into stirring renditions of “Most People,” “Just Beneath the Surface,” “From the Right Angle,” and “From a Window Seat” (from their latest album Stories Don’t End); “Fire Away,” “A Little Bit of Everything,” “Time Spent in Los Angeles,” and “Coming Back to a Man” (from their sophomore album Nothing is Wrong); and “Peace in the Valley,” also from North Hills. Notably, they also played fan favorite “When My Time Comes,” with Taylor turning the mic over to the crowd for the third chorus, to which the audience replied lustily. 
The band also offered up three new songs: The fantastic “Right on Time,” “Things Happen,” and “Can’t Think About That Now,” all from their upcoming fourth album, which is yet to be recorded. 
Dawes is a band that makes its living on the road, and had returned to the US only one day previous after a European jaunt opening for Conor Oberst at several shows. Despite this, the band showed no signs of fatigue and delivered a soulful, energetic performance that engaged the crowd and had us on our feet. In addition, my fiancĂ©e and I had a chance to meet Taylor after the show, and he could not have been nicer or more patient as we posed for a picture. This was despite the 40-person line behind us waiting to meet him. 

In short, if you have not yet encountered Dawes either recorded or live, make it a priority. Their combination of strong songwriting, superb musicianship, soul, and approachability make this a special band with the power to endure long after their contemporaries have faded with nary a whimper. And I hope that the Mount Hope folks continue to book concerts at this excellent venue when the Faire is dark (it runs from August to October each year), because it’s a perfect outdoor setting to see a favorite band. 

Special Thanks to Candace Smith of The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Don’t miss the opening of the faire August 2!

Stephen Trimble is a freelance writer in the Philadelphia area. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

#500DaysofBeauty Guest Post- Sun 365 Self Tanner by Kristi

Hey everyone! Happy Spring! I've got a whole host of fun exciting summer essentials, but before those warm rays brown you bronze, get a little bit of help from self-tanners.

The problem, however is the scent, the application, the orange... how to combat this?

My friend Kristi says she has found a decent product:

"I finally found a self-tanner that no-shoot-honest-to-god DOES NOT SMELL. This is monumental, people. My legs will *not* be the color of raw chicken this summer!!"

Plus, after Kristi had it on for a few hours, she said: 
"Ok, now that it has bonded with my skin for a bit I am catching a hint of self-tanner smell. However, it is very faint/tolerable and the color is perfect and has not collected/made dark spots on rough areas.
If you're a fair to medium-skinned gal, this is for you."

There you have it folks- from a lady who has decreed it shall work!

Additional Note: 6 hours later, Kristi did detect the Self Tanner Smell, but it still had great coverage! So during the application process there isn't a smell, which is a bonus!

Have you tried it? What do you think? What kinds of self-tanners do you swear by?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Victory Tasting Dinner Was a Huge Success!

In case you missed it, T Burke Gastro Pub hosted it's first ever Victory Tasting Dinner with Victory Brewing Company at the Valley Forge DoubleTree by Hilton! Four courses of deliciousness! 

The atmosphere that night was perfect- cold and rainy outside, warm and cozy inside. 

We began with a lovely duck confit over leafy greens and a goat cheese croquette, paired with the Swing Saison, the savory duck commingling with the fresh peppercorns and spicy citrus of this refreshing beer. This one was my favorite beer. 

We then moved on to delightful pan seared salmon paired with Golden Monkey, which has 2 imported row malts, coriander seed, and whole flower European hops. This tasted so amazing with the salmon.

The third course found Rach and I getting a little full, but we were ready for the next course! They brought out beer-braised short ribs with Hop Devil, a Victory IPA favorite with whole flower American hops. This was the perfect meal for this evening, with stick-to-your ribs meat and potatoes. This was the end of the savory meal, and next was dessert. 

Dessert was a chocolate brownie created with the Storm King Imperial Stout! Topped with a caramel beer drizzle and frosty vanilla ice cream, we were in heaven! Amazing!

So, don't miss the next one when it comes around!!