Friday, May 26, 2017

Tonia's Victorian Rose Tea Room: New owner and updates to a Rochester favorite

Tonia's Victorian Rose has a new owner: Tonia!

For two decades, the Victorian Rose Tea Room has been a familiar fixture on Third Street in downtown Rochester. Known for its handsome vintage parlor rooms and delicious lunches, it was owned and operated by Loretta Curry for over twenty years. It changed hands last December when Tonia Cartson purchased the distinctive tea venue. After a visit this week, I'm delighted to say, with a refresh courtesy Tonia's touch, the tea room maintains both its charm and truly scrumptious menu offerings.

Front table, with my sistahs, Dianne & Kathy. In the background, Candy & Peggy.

Victorian Rose holds a special place for me - it was where I had my first tea presentation outside of home parties over ten years ago. (I have a picture from a newspaper article that I will share, once I find it. We recently moved and everything is in boxes!)

Over the years, I also came with friends for afternoon tea. The food was always amazing, including Loretta's legendary chicken pot pie with its generously stuffed savory goodness and gravy wrapped up in a delicate, flaky crust.

Asparagus soup, creamy goodness in a cup.

Frequent guests of the Victorian Rose will be thrilled to know, the chicken pot pie is still on the menu and it's still amazing. On my visit with my favorite cousins, Dianne and Kathy (aka, my "sistahs"), we sampled pot pie, cream of asparagus soup and chicken salad, the latter served up  with fresh fruit and a just-baked cranberry scone. Everything was superb!

Scrumptious chicken salad with fresh fruit and scone.

There were so many tempting items to choose from, it was hard to select just a few. But, we'll be back to try the crepes and afternoon tea offerings very soon.

Victorian decor with a French provincial touch

The tea is served in tea bags, but steeped in teapots brought to the table. We had our afternoon-tea go-to, Earl Grey, which worked well with our scones.

Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and on the wall.

The decor is still Victorian, but with a fresh, French provincial flair. Elegant chandeliers hang from the ceilings and the theme continues with a sparkling chandelier picture mounted on one of the lavender hued walls.

The sistahs in one of the three "parlors" in the tea room.

Each table has a unique centerpiece made of teapots, tea cups and silk flowers, which adds a bit of fun and whimsy to the setting.

Each table has a unique centerpiece.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tonia's Victorian Rose. Not only is the food and decor something to talk about, but you also meet the nicest people to talk to. We got to know  Candy and Peggy who were at a nearby table. They, too, were out on a "girls afternoon" and are great fans of Victorian Rose.

Tonia's Victorian Rose in downtown Rochester

Tonia's Victorian Rose (tea room and more!) is located at 118 W. 3rd Street in Rochester. Tea room hours are Tuesday - Friday, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 am - 2:00 pm (call ahead to be sure no events are going on during the weekends). Reservations are strongly encouraged.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

An Austentacious Tea with the Storytellers Guild

With members of the StoryTellers Guild and winners of centerpieces 

A most agreeable morning was spent with the StoryTellers Guild last Thursday at our "Austentacious Tea". We presented to a most delightful group in one of the elegant "assembly rooms" of The Community House in Birmingham.

BTS An Austentacious Tea program and display

In partnership with The Community House, the StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools with a team of volunteers who visit classrooms and read to young students. They also raise money to purchase and donate books to these same schools.

The StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools

An exceedingly amiable and handsome assemblage, it was an honor to be part of their esteemed company for the day.

Judy Walsh, Guild committee member raffles off prizes

I was invited to present at the Guild's May event by committee member, Judy Walsh. When she contacted me last year, I learned about this wonderful organization and all they do to encourage and support reading in schools. In turn, it was an easy choice which BTS' program to select for this group - I wanted to share my favorite teller of stories: Jane Austen.

In one of the cozy rooms of The Community House, the meeting space was transformed into a fancy tea venue, not unlike the Pump Room in Bath, where society gathered in Jane's day.

Tea Time and raffle greet guests outside the "tea room"

Guests were greeted with a "Tea Time" theme and book drawing in the lobby outside the "tea room".

Each table was set with pretty teacups and a program of the day's event. The centerpieces, which were raffled off to several lucky guests, were an assortment of tea cup planters set on glass pedestals. (something for our pinterest accounts!)

Beautiful tea cup centerpieces at each table.

In Jane's words, "if a book is well written, I always find it too short". To paraphrase, I'd add, "if company is so agreeable, time spent with them is way too short". Such is the case with the Storytellers Guild.  We'd like to thank them for letting us be part of their special May event.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Icelandic Herbal Tea from Reykjavick

Iceland is filled with natural beauty. Geyser near Reykjavick

One of the perks of having a daughter who loves to travel is the different teas she brings back for me to sample. Last year, it was some delicious chai from India, this month, it was herbal tea from Iceland.

Icelandic Herbal Tea is made up of moss, birch and angelica

In April, Rachel spent a week in Iceland - a country that, despite it chilly temps, has become the "hot spot" for tourism.  It has a population of just over 300,000, but 1.7 million come to visit annually.

Herbal tea fully brewed in front of a Puffin wine holder, also from Iceland

The country is known for its natural beauty. It's terrain is comprised of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. It's not a stretch to conclude that in a country with an abundance of natural resources, it would have an amazing herbal tea. And, it does!

Icelandic Herbal tea from Islensk Hollusta is made up of Iceland moss, birch and angelica. The latter, as I learned from Wikipedia, is an herb native to temperate and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere and is used for flavoring and medicinal purposes. It's also referred to as "wild celery".

Icelandic Herbal Tea leaves  ready to be brewed

According to the Icelandic Herbal Tea package, the moss is nutritional and has soothing and stimulating properties. It's also an antioxidant.

Overhead lighting in an Iceland cafe. (my cup of tea!)

The birch leaves make it a diuretic tea and the angelica is said to aid with digestion and promote energy.

Aside from the health benefits this tea proclaims, it's a delicious non-caffeinated drink - earthy and hearty, but no bitterness. It's got a little mix of northern woods with grassy tones,  slightly reminiscent of a green tea but with a forestry kick. Two mittened thumbs up to Icelandic Herbal Tea and an appreciate warm hug to Rachel for bringing this tea home.

Rachel, with her Mitten State hat, in Iceland

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Easter from Barb's Tea Service! Wishing you lots of great tea and very good chocolate in your basket!

Easter basket filled with Bon Bon Bons

 After filling your Easter basket with jelly beans, peeps and brightly colored eggs, choose the ultimate chocolate treats from our favorite Michigan chocolatiers:  Bon Bon Bon and Mindo, (and, rather exclusively,  my friend, Pam).

Enjoying Earl Grey bon bon with Earl Grey tea

When Easter falls in April, I get more of my share of goodies, since it's also my birthday month.  I love sweets, but chocolate is on the top of my list, as any readers of this blog know, I write about chocolate almost as much as tea. Of course, holidays and birthdays are a good excuse to indulge (it's worth a few more steps on the daily dog walk).

Key Lime truffle, incredibly delicous!

 Last week, my son, Matt, gifted me with a dozen bon bons from Bon Bon Bon. I've been enjoying one (or two) a day with a cup of tea. There were some I hadn't tried before and they were as amazingly delicious as all my old favorites. Key Lime Pie is incredible - it even has a little crumble crust between the key lime mousse and the chocolate shell.

Earl Grey bon bons created with help from BTS

Included in this dozen bon bons was my go-to truffle to accompany my go-to tea, Earl Grey.  When Rachel and I took the truffle-making class at Bon Bon Bon last summer, we assisted in making those fabulous Earl Grey chocolates.

Barb, Alex (owner of Bon Bon Bon) & Rachel

Mindo Chocolate is another great place to stock up on holiday treats for your Easter basket. Barb's Tea Service worked with Mindo in a recent chocolate tasting event. You can see the ingredients just bursting out of every bar and they are simply scrumptious to eat.

Mindo offers a variety chocolate bars  We love the dark chocolate and sea salt.

The ingredients burst out of every bar!

Pam and Barb with Dana from Mindo Chocolate

Finally, and I know it's not available everywhere, but if you are lucky enough to have a friend who makes you homemade fudge, there's really no equal. My birthday treasure-bath this year included a box full of espresso fudge from my very good friend and tea associate.  #thankspam  #extralongwalksthismonth #worthit

Delicious homemade fudge part of birthday treasure bath

Whatever you find in your Easter basket: peeps, jelly beans, sinful chocolate or, best of all, lots of good times with family and  friends, we at Barb's Tea Service wish you a Happy, Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tea gifts for Easter from Adagio Teas!

Joyous Easter package from Adagio Teas includes tea mug/infuser and two teas from the Spring Collection

Looking for a springtime tea treat to fill an Easter basket? Adagio Teas has the perfect Easter tea sampler specially packaged for the holiday.

Joyous Easter comes specially packaged for the holiday.

Adagio's "Joyous Easter" collection, includes two Spring teas and a pretty, pastel pink tea mug with its own infuser.  The latter does double duty as cheery over-sized cup to sip from as well as a steeper of loose tea.

A great Easter treat to open and savor!

The two teas included in the Joyous Easter package are "a-tisket, a-tasket", a green tea blend comprised of lemongrass, sunflower petals, citrus peels and lemon and vanilla flavors and "bushel and a peck", a mix of black and jasmine teas with orange peels, chamomile flowers and orange flavor.

Both tea blends offer a taste of Spring with abundant citrus-y and flowery notes.

In keeping with the theme, even the tea tins are miniature gardens with yellow and white blooms displayed on the front of the green and yellow boxes.

"Bushel and a Peck", one of the two tea blends included in Joyous Easter

This lovely holiday package isn't limited to Easter. Adagio sells similar packages for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day.  They come in loose tea or bag tea options.

Treat your tea enthusiast to a tasty treat this Easter with Adagio's Joyous Easter.

Spread the joy of Easter with the "Joyous Easter" tea collection from Adagio. It's a great gift for all the tea enthusiasts on your list - including you!

Note:  Although the front of "a-tisket, a-tasket" tea tin states "loose leaf black tea", it is green tea. 

Product review disclaimer:  I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free or a discounted price. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Etiquette Program "Eating Various Foods" at the Townsend: Take our Quiz - Fingers or Forks?

Eating Various Foods: Dare to take on more!

Coming soon to The Townsend Hotel, the third in its Dining Etiquette Series, featuring Barb's Tea Service.  We will cover "Eating Various Foods". You don't always have to play it safe with grilled chicken breasts and cooked vegetables.

If you've ever been stumped by which foods are eaten using fingers or forks, we've got the answer. Take our quick quiz below to assess your skill! (answers below).

                                               Fingers or Forks?

                                               a)  Asparagus                    
                                               b)  Bacon                        
                                               c)  Olives                          
                                               d)  Corn on the Cob          
                                               e)  French fries                   

Etiquette presentation is part of Afternoon Tea at the Townsend's tea lobby

We'll cover the art of mastering a variety of challenging foods as well add in a few tea etiquette tips - all in the most beautiful setting,  Townsend Hotel's afternoon tea lobby.

We hope you will join us for a delightful afternoon tea featuring the Townsend's delicious savories, scrumptious scones and tasty desserts, all served up with bottomless pots of expertly brewed tea!

Join Barb's Tea Service for Dining Tutorial at the Townsend

Answers:  a) fork unless you are in Europe, b) fork, unless extra crispy, c) fingers, d) fingers and e) fork and knife, unless served with hamburgers or hot dogs.
Five correct: Master Diner, Four correct: Honorable Mention Diner, Three correct:  Pretty good Diner, Two Correct:  Almost Pretty Good Diner, One Correct: Almost Pretty Good Diner in Training, Zero Correct: Diner

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Meadow Brook Downton Days: Photo Album (Part II)

As part of Meadow Brook Hall's "Downton Days", Barb's Tea Service presented "A History of Tea and Cora's Story" during afternoon tea on February 23. "Cora's Story" is what we refer to as the Downton Abbey Prequel, an era where  Gilded Age Americans and British aristocracy came together for mutually beneficial unions. In the spirit of such a sumptuous lifestyle, we donned our  best Victorian dresses and, against the elegant backdrop of Meadow Brook Hall filled with handsome guests, our professional photographer, Karri Brantley, captured the event beautifully. Here are just a few of the photos from that special afternoon.

Barb's Tea Service (Barb and Rachel Gulley) present in the Christopher Wren dining room at Meadow Brook Hall

Presenting "History of Tea/Cora's Story" in Christopher Wren Dining Room

 Lynn Anderson, Doreen Raynak, Rachel, Barb, Shirley Moon Koebbe, Donna Kenske, Connie Sonnenberg, Gail Raynak

Having a cup of tea in the Sun Porch

In the Living Room of Meadow Brook Hall

Meadow Brook Hall Sun Porch

Sharing a cup of tea in the Sun Porch 

A wonderful afternoon shared with delightful guests at the beautiful Meadow Brook Hall - amazingly captured by Karri Brantley, of Karri Brantley Photography.

All rights reserved.  No part of this blog, including photographs, may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without permission of  Barbara Gulley/Barb's Tea Service.