Thursday, July 28, 2011

Have a Little Lemon with Your Tea

People have been putting lemon in their tea for a long while.  In my last blog, I wrote about mouthfeel.  Lemons are sour and there is a mouthfeel to them.  Just thinking about the taste of lemon, makes the saliva in your mouth flow. The sour flavor component helps to perk up flavors in food.  Some people really enjoy the flavor lemon brings to tea-especially some black teas!

Drinking tea and pairing foods that have lemon as an ingredient can also create a wonderful balance of flavor and make for a very nice pairing.  At the Williams-Sonoma Artisan's Market in Atlanta, I brought home some wonderful lemon accoutrements to my tea experience.  A colleague of mine, Alisa Barry, owns the lovely Bella Cucina .  She has some of the most amazing artisan food products.  You might have seen her products sold at specialty food stores around the United States.

The first Bella Cucina item I chose was the Meyer Lemon Relish.  It is a delectable mixture of Meyer Lemons, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Shallots, Vinegar, Lemon Thyme, and Salt.  It is perfect to spread over a sliced baguette for a little afternoon snack.  It is lovely paired with a hearty black tea such as an Indian Assam or Kenyan tea. 

I also chose to pick up some of her delicious lemon curd.  I am a lemon curd girl from way back and LOVE it on my scones.  My kids LOVE it too, so I had to hide my stash from them until I was ready to eat it.  The lemon curd is a nice balance of lemon to sweet and perfect on a scone.  Below is my recipe for a basic scone that is calling out for some lemon curd to go with it. 

Basic Sweet Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or mixer until it looks crumbly. Add vanilla to cream and then pour into flour mixture and mix with hands until it forms a ball. Remove dough from bowl, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll out to about ½-inch thickness. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the scones will become tough. Cut with a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Makes approximately 12. (You may use different size cutters but be sure to adjust you cooking time if you do. The larger the size, the longer it needs to cook and vice versa.

If you live in the Atlanta area, you can visit Williams-Sonoma Artisan Market.  They will have them on August 6 and also September 3.  If you aren't in the area, you may order any Bella Cucina products online here.  Do you love lemon with your tea?

Happy Sipping a Little Lemon with my Tea, Lisa

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tea and Cheese-A Wonderful Pairing

Recently, I attended an Artisan's Market at Williams-Sonoma in Atlanta. I met up with some wonderful food artisans-some were friends of mine and some I met for the first time. While I was there, I bought some of my favorite products and have been trying them out in my kitchen!  I am thrilled to be featuring these small business owners and their products on my blog.

I LOVE cheese and I haven't found too many people that don't.  The first company I would like to feature is Sweet Grass Dairy.  They are a 140-acre family owned and operated farm in southern Georgia.  Their award-winning cheeses are made from the milk of their very own goats and Jersey Cows and delivered to you with our exceptional quality.

Some may be surprised that tea and cheese pair well together, but they do. You may be wondering why, so I will briefly explain.  The term "mouthfeel" is used by tea experts to explain the sensation that is going on when tasting tea.  Simply, mouthfeel is the way something coats or doesn't coat your mouth.  What makes tea and cheese such a wonderful pairing is the contrast between the astringency in tea (drying sensation) with the fat (coating) in cheese.  Tea's astringency refreshes the palate by giving it a stopping point and counterbalances the cheese. 

After trying several samples, I decided upon their Green Hill Soft-Ripened Cow Cheese.  It was even featured on the Martha Stewart Show.  I thought it would pair wonderfully with my latest shipment of tea from Darjeeling and IT DID!  The buttery rich flavor of the cheese and the muscatel tea with undertones of citrus flowers and peach=Perfect Pairing indeed. 

If you haven't paired tea and cheese together, this would be a perfect start.  Here's a recipe for a pastry encrusted cheese that is from Sweet Grass Dairy. While in the oven be sure to make a big pot of Darjeeling tea to go with it!

1 piece Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill, COLD
10 Sheets Phyllo Dough
Butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. If you are lucky enough to live where you have access to fresh phyllo dough, then congratulations! For the rest of us, bring phyllo to room temperature, unroll, and cover with a barely damp towel to prevent drying out.
3. Take first sheet, and brush lightly with butter. Repeat 5-10 times being careful not to let raw phyllo dry out in between layers.
4. Place Green Hill in center of phyllo, and cut dough into a rough square that is larger than Green Hill by 3” on all sides.
5. Begin to pull dough to center of Green Hill and continue in a circular fashion keeping dough as tight as possible to the cheese. When all dough has been wrapped around cheese, turn over onto sheet pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
6. Brush exterior with butter and place into oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the phyllo is just browned.
7. Remove from oven, let rest for 3-4 minutes.
8. Serve with fresh salad greens and/ or honey.

In my next blog, we will take a look at another great artisan food product! I can't wait to tell you about all my great finds and how they go wonderfully with tea!

Happy Sipping and Snacking on Cheese, Lisa

Friday, July 15, 2011

Darjeeling Tea & First Flush

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Darjeeling Tea

I have gotten some questions about Darjeeling tea recently since  I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was enjoying my First Flush Darjeeling that I received directly from the Glenburn Tea Estate.  Some of my followers wanted to know what kind of tea it was and why I love it.   

So, what is Darjeeling tea and what the heck is a First Flush?

The tea is named for the region it comes from.  The Darjeeling District is located in the northeast corner of India.  It is a beautiful area at  the foot of the Himalaya Mountains.  The tea grown there is at an elevation from 1,500 to 6,000 feet high.  It is known to many people as "the Champagne of teas."  I would have to agree with that!

Tea is similar to wine is so many ways.  One way that it is similar is what is called the "terroir."  The term was used to describe the taste of wine that encompasses the region, belonging to the specific appellation, sharing of soil, weather conditions, grapes, and wine-making savoir-faire which gives a specific personality to the wine.  Basically  this means that the taste of wine is influenced greatly by the "taste of place."  This is very true of tea as well.  The "terroir of tea" refers to not just a cultivar or specific variety although that contributes to the taste, but to many other things as well.  The climate, soil, rainfall, weather, and the traditions of the country where the tea is produced all come into play. 

So what is the "terroir" of Darjeeling teas.  The high altitude is part of it, but that is not all of it.  The area is known to have steep slopes that provide good drainage for the monsoon rains.  The rainfall, humidity, and the mist from the cloud cover have an effect on the taste.  The plant hybrid is a smaller leaf Chinese type known as Camellia sinensis sinensis which also contributes to the tea's unique taste.  The processing of the tea also comes into play to give the tea such a distinct flavor. 

It is important to know name Darjeeling tea is protected. Only tea that is cultivated, grown and produced in 87 designated tea gardens in the defined region of the District of Darjeeling can be called Darjeeling Tea. Darjeeling Tea has now been registered as a GI (Geographical Indication) in India. This officially places Darjeeling Tea in the esteemed company of a Cognac or Champagne - other famous GIs. The unique geographical conditions of Darjeeling help make its teas a rarity in the same way Cognac and Champagne are rare because they can only come from specific regions of France.

In Darjeeling, tea has "seasons."  The first pluck of the season starts in March after tea plants have been dormant through the winter.  This is what is known as a "first flush." It's flavor is described as light and bright, smooth on the palate with undertones of citrus flowers and peach and oh so delicious!   

So hopefully I have tantalized you enough to try some Darjeeling tea!  I love getting my tea direct from the plantation.  If you are a business owner, you can order directly from Glenburn Tea Estate too. I had the privilege of meeting the lovely plantation owners, Anshuman and Husna-Tara Prakash at a trade event last year.  I hope to visit their plantation in the very near future!

Did I mention that you can stay directly on the plantation? Well, that is for another post!

Happy Sipping Darjeeling Tea (of course), Lisa

(All photos in this blog post are courtesy of Glenburn Tea Estate and have copyright protection)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Best Fourth of July

I have been to many great fireworks over the years. However, one Fourth of July stands out among all the rest when I was 13.  My Dad who was a professional singer had to do a concert in New York City right before the holiday.  My mom and I were having typical mother-daughter issues and they thought some time away for me would be good.  So, they decided that it would be a great idea to take me with him on his trip. 

We toured the city including The World Trade Center which was an amazing building.  He took me to some wonderful restaurants too.  All of that was fantastic and I enjoyed spending time with my dad.  The only thing that I was bummed about was that we were leaving the night of the Fourth of July which meant I wasn't going to be able to see any fireworks.  Boy, was I wrong!

Our plane took off about 9:30 that clear evening. To my surprise, I was invited to the BEST fireworks display EVER! As our plane soared into the sky, I could see for miles all around New York City all the fireworks going off. It was amazing to be on top of the display. It seemed like there were over a dozen places that were having shows. The view from the plane was magical!

That trip made a big impact on me.  My husband and I decided that we would do trips with our children when they turned 13.  It would be their "welcome into the teenage world" kind of trips.  It allow time to bond with them alone.  We chose my husband to take our son and I was to take my daughter.  Our trips were COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to say the least.  Each child was allowed to choose (within reason) what and where they wanted to go. 

Zach chose to go to the mountains and take a trip to the Buford Pusser Museum in Tennessee.  Here is my husband Joe and son Zach on their trip.  My husband made friends with the workers at the museum  This allowed them some private access into Pusser's car.  It also allowed my husband to put on  a jacket that Buford Pusser himself wore.  Both of them are holding the Buford Pusser club which I am happy to say we are the proud owners of his and hers matching replicas."

Kate chose the beach and I was all in favor of that!

We went to the Charleston area and stayed on Seabrook Island.  The condo we rented was right on the beach.  Every morning we could wake up to the ocean, drink our tea on the deck, and then decide what we wanted to do. We ate girl food, sat on the beach, toured the city, and watch girl movies at night. The above picture was taken as a storm was rolling in.  It was amazing to watch it across the ocean.  Her birthday dinner out she tried escargot for the first time!  It was wonderful to spend time with her and my husband felt the same way about their trip

So as we celebrate our country, I hope that you will celebrate your family as well.  How about taking a trip with one of your children all by themselves-maybe for their 13th birthday or some other birthday.  It is never too late!  The memories will be precious.

Happy Celebrating and Sipping, Lisa