Autumn Fruit Open Sandwiches

Autumn Fruit Sandwiches by Ayala Moriel
Autumn Fruit Sandwiches, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Fruit and cheese are a classic combination, though may seem unusual when you try it the first time.

Autumn harvest fruit make particularly good pairings: concord grapes, a seasonal symbol, go wonderfully well with the sharp decay of blue cheeses. Ripe crisp apples balance the earthy sharpness of aged cheddar, or even better - the smokiness of applewood smoked variety, which invoked burning leaves and wood-stoves. And of course you can't beat the classic ripe pear with Brie cheese, renown for its fresh mushroom-like nuances and elegant, neat round mushroom-like look.

For even more memorable versions of the sandwiches, here is my personal twist. Freshly baked sourdough bread are the best choice for open sandwiches; while whole wheat sliced tea-sandwich bread type that's pre-sliced with precision at the bakery for tea-time sandwiches. Crusts can be removed from (closed) tea sandwiches - or not - depending on how fancy you want this to be. I personally like the crusts more than any other part of the bread! The concept behind removing them is to make a finger-food snack that won't require cuttlery or messing up your fancy nobelty clothes (these were the only people who could afford an afternoon tea; which takes about 4 hours to prepare if you have servants; or more like 4 days if you don't). The crusts on most standard (aka non-sourdough) breads is rather thin and easy to bite through anyway... So I would save the extra bread bites if this is a lunch snack; and remove them only if you are serving a traditional afternoon tea menu.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).

FRUIT: 1 ripe yet firm pear (Bartlett or Spadonna are the best for this purpose; Bosc have too rough of a skin). Cut into half, core, removed the stem and slice into about 4mm thick slices.
BREAD*: These go best on a freshly baked baguette bread. I also like it on the cranberry semolina bread by A Bread Affair. You will need one loaf if you are feeding small crowd of 12 people or so.
CHEESE: 200gr Brie of a creamier nature, i.e.: St. Andre's. Slice as thin as you can without making a mess. Cheese knives are invented for these soft semi-gooey consistencies.
SPREAD: Cassis Dijon grainy mustard

50gr roasted whole hazelnuts, skins removed

- On each slice of bread, spread a thin layer of cassis mustard.
- Top with thin slices of brie cheese, just enough to cover the bread slice.
- Top with pear slices, neatly arranged.
- Sprinkle hazelnuts on top. If they keep rolling off you can gently press them onto the pear and cheese slices, which are rather yielding...

Suggested tea pairing: Cassis Noir from Soirette.

Ingredients (for a small crowd of 12 - use less if it's for fewer people, and reserve the remaining ingredients for the next day).
BREAD*: 1 loaf whole wheat bread (regular bakery variety, or wholewheat sourdough) sliced
SPREAD: 15gr or about 1 TBS Butter (at room temperature) or Mayonnaise
FRUIT: 1 Apple of choice - The sweeter Honey Crisp, Gala or Pink lady are a nice sweet contrast to the smoked cheeses; while the tanginess of Mutsu or Granny Smith balances the nutty earthiness of aged cheddar. Remember - they all make wonderful sandwiches as long as they are fresh and crisp! Core, quarter and cut the apples to about 2mm slices
CHEESE: 200gr Aged Cheddar cheese, or Applewood Smoked Cheddar Cheese - thinly sliced (about 2mm)
EMBELLISHMENT: 50gr raw walnuts, coarsely chopped

- Spread each slice with butter or mayonnaise
- Top with cheese slices
- Arrange apple slices
- Sprinkle with chopped walnuts
- If using regular bread, top with the other buttered slice, and cut into triangles. If using a wholewheat sourdough bread - leave open.

Suggested tea pairing: Cask-aged Ghorka Estate black tea from O5 Rare Tea Bar.

Bon appetit!

* If you are on a gluten-free diet, or simply want to cut down on bread - these two recipe go swimmingly well with rice cakes. The thinner ones are better, and are delicious as open sandwiches. I love them so much and eat them even more often than the "real" sandwiches.

Spring Fling Afternoon Tea

Tea Tray by Ayala Moriel
Tea Tray, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.

Sights, tastes and scents from my Spring Fling afternoon tea May 27th + a recipe for making your own Asparagus Mimosa tea sandwiches!

This tea party was a first Afternoon Tea & Perfume Sensorium: it's similar to my other afternoon teas, only that guests paid in advance for the afternoon tea and a perfume bottle. So all they had to do was pick which one to get! Personal fragrance consultations for each guest made the process really fun, especially with friends coming to the event together.
ArbitRary and Moon Breath roll-ons seemed to be a hit - as well as the ArbitRary candles!

Tea Cups

Beautiful vintage floral tea cups to celebrate spring: I was so thrilled to find tea cups decorated with strawberries, violets and narcissus in several antique shops and in Vancouver's flea market. The violet ones I've been hunting for a really long time to no avail; and the narcissus ones were a refreshing surprise - one of them is actually the exact same design as the violet I found later on... Tea cup collecting is a dangerous addiction... But at least they are useful!

Afternoon Tea

Spring Fling Afternoon Tea

The teas served:

Juniper Ridge's wild harvested Douglas Fir Spring Needle Tip: delicious, citrusy, refreshing and the embodiment of the Pacific Northwest spring!

Elderflower cordial - harvested and brewed by yours truly. Another symbol of spring in the Pacific rainforest. I picked them in Stanley park. Served chilled, with fresh mint sprigs and blueberries for a splash of colour.

Jasmine pearl - a classic, and a must for a spring celebration. A taste of the exotic that only a fine jasmine tea can bring. These are actually rolled silver needles (white tea).

Spring Tea Sandwiches

Tier 1: Tea Sandwiches
Fiddlehead open sandwiches on baguettes with lemon chevre
Asparagus mimosa (see recipe below)
Cucumber + Wasabi

Fiddlehead Sandwiches

Tier 2: Desserts
Triple lemon whoopies - sandwiched lemon cookies with lemon curd and limoncello cream cheese lemon icing
Korova Cookies (chocoalte icebox) with Rosemary & Fleur de Sel
Mini pannacotta with rhubarb flower compote

Spring Pannacotta

Malepi & Anise Scones

Tier 3: Malepi (Black Cherry kernels) + Anise Scones with wild harvested blackberry & rose petal jelly (by Wild West Coast Rainforest Products) and devonshire cream, of course!

Asparagus Mimosa

For those of you who missed it - you can enjoy some of the recipes on SmellyBlog and make these treats yourselves!

For the Asparagus Mimosa Tea Sandwiches, you will need:
1/2lb fresh asparagus
1 tsp salted butter
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tsp fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 hard boiled egg
Additional butter, at room temperature, for spreading over the bread slices
1 loaf of sliced sourdough bread

For the asparagus mimosa:
Steam the asparagus just until tender and easily snaps (do not overcook it!). It should be bright green, rather than turn into a rancid olive colour... Slice, and add a teaspoon of butter. Grate the hard boiled egg, add the chopped tarragon, and add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the tea sandwiches:
Spread softened butter on both slices of bread, sprinkle some of the asparagus mimosa mixture evenly in a thin layer (so that both slices can stick together).
Chop off crusts (if desired) and cut the sandwich into 3 pieces or cross into 4 triangular quarters. Cover in an airtight container up to one hour from serving.

Tea and Quiet

I'm immensley enjoying my winter vacation. No travels, no big scary dinners, and lots of catching up with sleep, the gym, my family and friends - all of which were sadly neglected in the past 2 months when I was practically hopping from one market to another with events at my local retailers thrown in for an extra measure of fun.

Now I am spending my days in quite, and my daughter insists that we do a "tea party" at least once a day (but preferably after every meal). We even made it to Shaktea twice within the past week. The name of the place alone is something to love - as a Hebrew speaker, it reminds me of the word "sheket" (quiet) and is so appropriate: this tea room is like a little tea temple.

Because it is not particularly close to where we live, so we don't get there very often. But when we do, it's a real treat on every level - the tea menu is fun reading material on its own, the desserts are spectacular, the savoury dishes are innovative and prepared to perfection. The ambience is quiet and serene and non-pretentious (as it often is in high-end tea rooms). Not to mention that the service is excellent, because it's privately owned by two fine ladies - Maria and Tanya. And they remember what you like or what your kids are not allowed to have too much of (sugar), and are equally passionate and knowledgeable about their teas.

Last week I stopped there in hopes of finding some tea bags to pack my excess amount of milky oolong and share it as Christmas gifts to all my tea-loving girlfriends, but ended up getting them new teas in little 50gr bags that Shaktea had just for the holidays (they usually sell loose leaf teas in bags of 100gr or 200gr). This enabled me to discover some interesting teas that I wouldn't have normally gotten for myself - such as a coffee-scented pu'er (!) with a very smooth aroma for my pu'er loving friend Tina; and a caramel-cream black tea for Monique, plus two minty concoctions (Moroccan mint, and another mint tisane) for two other friends.

Today I stopped by to say hi to the ladies before they take off on their annual buying trip to China and Taiwan, and also to bring Tanya some samples of light florals that I thought she'll enjoy while traveling. And I decided to use that opportunity to also take a sip of the teas that I was giving away (and see if I need to buy any for myself as well!). I ordered the Dream of Coffee Pu'er for myself, and it was so smooth you'd think there was milk and sugar in there. It had the richness of mocha (there is some cocoa essence in there as well), and the underlining rich earthiness of pu'er. Interesting way to enjoy the flavour of coffee and the benefits of tea (and probably a total sacrilege for pure pu'er lovers). I really enjoyed it and am curious to hear what Tina would have to say about it (she is so not a coffee person, so I was taking my chances with this one). I didn't get any more for home because I already have 2 different kinds of pu'er I rarely drink pu'er (only when Tina comes over, come to think of it).

My daughter wanted green tea, so I got her the Moroccan Mint, which is a gunpowder tea blended with Nana (aka spearmint). Ideally, one would use fresh sprigs of spearmint for this concoction. But this is an excellent alternative when my balcony's spearmint is on winter hybernation. She let me have a sip and so I decided to take a bag of this home with me, and we had more of that after dinner. It was delightful - on its own, as well as with a hint of sugar and a sprinkle of orange flower water (a trick I learned in the Moroccan restaurant in St. Germain quarter in Paris). And of course we dipped the jasmine-osmanthus shortbread cookies in there for an extra measure of decadence. I think that recipe is going to make it to my cookbook.

I also got to take home with me some other samples of tea - a very fresh osmanthus and the French Earl Gray that smells delightful and floral (and is used in some of the fruit preserves served on the Shaktea tea sandwiches and toasts, which are a must try if you are there - I think I like them even more than the pastries - which is quite unusual, especially since the pastries at Shaktea are exceptionally wonderful). Will tell you more about them after I steep and brew.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tier 1 & 2: Sandwiches and Savouries

Eggplant and Polenta Appies, originally uploaded by So Misguided.

Here's a closer look at the assortment of savoury canapes and tea sandwiches we served at the party. At the bottom: curried egg salad sandwiches (with a bit of raisins - that was Lucy's idea!) on fluffy brioche; Smoked salmon tea sandwiches with capers, dill and chives (a classic!) - made with Russian rye bread; and behind them (you can't see them) - smoked cheddar & gala apple sandwiches, on multigrain bread.

2nd tier featured roasted eggplant rolls filled with chevre and fig pesto (recipe to follow); and wheat & dairy free "bruchetta" - polenta slices with tomato, basil and black olives drizzled with the lightest sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. The olives makes a good substitute for cheese (this would more typically be served on bread with a sliced of bocconcinni - fresh mozzarella cheese).

8 dried figs
1/2 cup red wine
12 dry black olives (pickled in coarse salt, rather than brine), pits removed
1 cup walnuts
2 Tbs. fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. walnut oil
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak figs overnight in red wine. Strain, remove stems and chop figs up. Blend with other ingredients in a blender until a chunky pesto-like consistency is achieved.
This pesto can be used on breads, cheeses and appetizers as well as pasta sauces.

Sniff or Treat Halloween Tea Party + Lucky Draw Announcement

Here are some of the highlights of the Sniff or Treat Halloween Tea Party that occurred yesterday afternoon. Hopefully the sights and the stories will convince you to be among our guests next time (if you happen to live or visit in the erea).

But first of all, let me announce the lucky winner among the guests who signed the guestbook - who will receive a 5ml travel roll-on perfume oil of Black Licorice perfume.
We numbered the guests based on the order they signed the book, and than got Random.org to pick them. The lucky winner is guest no. 8, who's no other than (drum roll)...

James Sherrett!

Congratulations James, I hope you will enjoy the sweet smell of Black Licorice and come to many more parties!Black Forest cupcakes (left) and Spider Eggs (right) which really are almonds covered with dates and rolled in roasted black sesame seeds.

Pomegranate tarts, with strawberry creme fraiche or lime curd; and fig tarts in a match-cream cheese filling.

Pumpkin tarts with lavender-orange shortbread crust.

Blue Cheese & Concord Grapes scones, Fennel & Golden Sultana scones, served with Devonshire cream and various jams and preserves, such as:
Bluebarb by Karin Brauch of Preserved BC Sunshine
(created with Vancouver unsprayed rhubarb, wild Cloverdale blueberries and married with a hint of Okanagan white wine).

Spiced Eggplant Confiture
(I made them myself based on a Morrocan recipe)

Raspberry Jelly by Naturally Rooted

Tea sandwiches: in the picture you see the tarragon-orange-fennel tea sandwiches, made with organic cream cheese and freshly grated orange zest and tarragon herb, and finely sliced fresh fennel bulb.
We also made cucumber-wasabi sandwiches, carrot-ginger, and deviled-egg-salad ones.

Fresh Mission figs and homemade biscotti (anise-almond; chocolate-hazelnut)

Kurogoma cupcakes, with black sesame cake and a matcha-cream-cheese frosting.

Teas served:
Hulnejan (the witche's brew)
Roses et Chocolat
Lapsang Suchong (ArtFarm)

And last but not least - the presentation touched on the connection between the spirit world and incense and plant essences; how incense was and still used to communicate with the spirit world and with loved ones that passed away, and smelling some of the essences of resins and woods used from ancient times for making incense: opoponax, myrrh, frankincense, costus, agarwood and more. We also smelled cade oil, which has a smoky, camp-fire scent and is similar to the Lapsang Suchong we drank in the party. And lastly, we burned a Japanese Kyara incense stick (the highest quality of oud) of the kind that is burnt on a daily basis in home-shrines for the family ancestors, and myrrh resin because of its connection to earth and embalming the dead in Egypt.

And below are some pictures of the guests at the party:

  • Page 1 of 2
  • Page 1 of 2
Back to the top