If you know anything about me, you know I love to host. I love elaborate, delicate, precise dinner parties that require way too much thought and preparation. But none of it would be possible or even FUN without my army of lady friends who spend hours prepping with me beforehand.
This Christmas Tea has been on my mind for well over a year. I received my grandmother's silver for our wedding last September, and I also received her china. I have always been a huge fan of afternoon tea! Tiny, beautiful tea sandwiches - flavorful little scones with lemon curd and clotted cream - Earl Grey tea with honey and a "spot" of cream...I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it!
This event took quite a bit of prep, and I'll tell ya why.
- Setting the Table (Friday night)
- This took me 2 long hours! Not only removing each piece of china from its carefully padded storing container, but unwrapping each piece of silver from the individual soft fabric wrap and figuring out the proper way to set the table. I also had to take both leaves out of the table, rearrange some things so that it would actually fit in the room (service for 12), put the pads on the table, find the right size table cloth, and then actually set the damn thing. When I set up for a dinner party, I always like to label each platter with what will be going on it so I don't get lost and crazed during the final rush. I did not do this on this occasion because I wasn't exactly sure what was going to fit!
- Grocery Shopping (Saturday mid-afternoon)
- Usually I don't struggle so much with this, but it took me over 2 hours to go grocery shopping. It was difficult to find a handful of things (clotted cream, mango chutney, CAPERS!) and to be honest, I really wasn't feeling well.
- Prepping (Saturday night)
- I am a big proponent of prep work. For too long did my poor guests wait until 11:30pm to eat their dinner because we simply weren't done yet! I've made huge strides in serving food at the promised time, mostly because I prep as much as I can beforehand.
- Even though I wasn't feeling well, I was able to prep the 4 different cream cheeses and make the brownies. Karina, one of my amazing friends and cooking buddies, made the Russian tea cookies beforehand.
- The Big Day (Sunday morning - starting at 8am)
- 8:30am: I started by making the egg salad so it had time to chill
- 9:30am: I moved on to the scones, which I had never made before but were actually quite simple! The recipe said it only made 4 scones, but since I obviously needed many more, I just cut them into tiny triangles and ended up with about 15 little scones. I made 2 batches of currant tea scones and 1 batch of the plain sugar scones. I also prepared Grandma Dora's shortbread cookie dough so that it could chill for a couple hours.
- 10:00am: Cece arrived and Karina came up to start helping. We knew by 12:30pm we would need to start cleaning, slicing and preparing the veggie crudites so by 1pm we could begin the sandwich assembly. At this point we started making the desserts - cutting out the brownies that I made the night prior and dusting with powdered sugar and rolling out Grandma Dora's cookies and getting those in the oven.
- 10:30am: While Karina and I were preparing the cookies and brownies, Cece started on the punches so they could sit for a few hours.
- Everything was taking a bit longer than anticipated so we started on the veggies around noon. They took way longer than we thought, because even though we let the cream cheese come to room temp so that it was easier to pipe, it really wasn't sticking well to the wet veggies. We made due but it did take longer than we thought.
- 1pm: Sandwich assembly time! We made an assembly line: Cece spread cream cheese on the bread, Karina put toppings, and I cut and plated the sandwiches.
- We ended up sitting down and eating at around 3pm. This was in part due to the sandwiches taking longer than planned, and part due to one lovely guest being a bit late.
- Every single thing ended up being delicious and I would make it all again!
Here was yesterday's menu (click for recipe!):
Cucumber Sandwiches with Dill Cream Cheese
Smoked Salmon Sandwiches with Caper Cream Cheese
Ham and Gouda Sandwiches with Dijon
Vegetable Crudites with Beet Horseradish Cream Cheese or Wasabi Cream Cheese
Grandma Norma's Cold Cucumber Soup
Russian Tea Cookies
Grandma Dora's Shortbread Cookies
Champagne Punch (note: 1 bottle of champagne didn't seem to nearly cut it; we added another bottle of champagne, 1 bottle of rose, and a bottle of gin)