Food Column: Celebrate the fourth season of 'Downton Abbey' at this tea


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The fourth season of "Downton Abbey" premieres Sunday evening, Jan. 5, on PBS, but 40 fans will get a jump on the big event by attending a Downton Abbey Tea at 2 p.m. that afternoon at Peters Township Public Library as the library kicks off its 2014 Fun for Foodies programs.

All 40 guest slots filled within 48 hours of the tea's announcement on the library's website.

"It's not my cooking," Carrie Weaver, public relations director and coordinator of the library's cooking club, quipped. "I think it's the show."

Bella Howard, owner of Bella's House of Fine Teas and Gift Shop in Bethel Park, will discuss how to serve a proper cup of tea, and attendees will bring their own tea cups because a proper cup of tea is obviously not served in paper or plastic.

Finleyville's Quilter's Corner will display items created with a new line of Downton Abbey fabrics, and each person attending the tea will receive a fabric tea bag holder.

There also will be a "Downton Abbey" trivia competition with prizes Ms. Weaver ordered from PBS, and attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite characters or at least to wear hats and gloves. Ms. Weaver plans to come as Lady Carrie and has been scouring thrift shops to find just the right apparel.

She also bought mini loaves of Pepperidge Farm bread and informed her husband that they would be having tea sandwiches (see recipe) for dinner on a recent weekend so she could test recipes. She'll prepare all the food for the event, which also will include mini scones and other British finger foods. Some of her recipes will be taken from "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook" by Emily Ansara Baines, Ms. Weaver's Christmas gift from her son last year because she's such a devotee of the series. Bella's will provide the tea.

"I knew this would be a guaranteed hit with our patrons" because the series DVDs are constantly checked out of the library, Ms. Weaver said. "And with Prince Harry and the new baby, everybody is excited about the United Kingdom right now."

Future Fun for Foodies programs will include "Food, Love and Chocolate," a program by "Food Mood Girl" Lindsay Smith (foodmoodgirl.com) in February and a St. Patrick's Day theme in March.

Although the tea is already sold out, those interested in future Fun for Foodies events can sign up for the e-newsletter on ptlibrary.org (click "Sign Up" on the right-hand side), or e-mail ptplcookingclub@gmail.com.

More beverages

Tea isn't the only beverage flowing in the early New Year. Check out these events:

Healthy Happy Hour: Drink fresh juices made from cold pressed raw vegetables and fruits while learning new physical and mental tips for a "New Year, New You." 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 9 at Fresh From the Farm Juices, 1330 Bingham St., South Side.

Pittsburgh Brew 'n Chew: Food and beer pairings, games, tailgating tips and live music. 1 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11 at Monroeville Convention Center. $35; $15 for designated drivers. 21 and up only. goodtastepittsburgh.com.

Hard Cider Tasting Dinner: Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar in Lawrenceville provides the cider; Hartwood provides the food pairings. Jan. 16 at Hartwood Restaurant, Glenshaw. $50; reservations required. 412-767-3500.

Charitable

Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation Wine Tasting Gala: More than 40 global wines, hors d'oeuvres and exclusive auction items. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at Consol Energy Center, Uptown. $250. 412-255-1952 or pittsburghpenguinsfoundation.org.

Classic cucumber sandwiches

8-ounce cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

24 slices white bread

12 sprigs dill, for garnish

Blend cream cheese and mayonnaise in a blender until smooth, being careful to scrape down sides and blend thoroughly.

Stir in cucumbers. Combine cream-cheese-cucumber mixture with garlic salt, white pepper, and chopped dill. Spread mixture on top of 12 white bread slices, and garnish with dill sprigs. Cover with other bread slices to form sandwiches. Cut and discard crusts from bread, then cut sandwiches into quarters.

-- "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook" by Emily Ansara Baines (Adams, 2012, $21.95)


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