The Food Column: How about a nice spot of tea?


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Fancy ladies around town are brushing off their hats and brushing up on their British accents in preparation for a "Delectably Downton Tea" to be held June 18 at a large Williamsburg Colonial home in Fox Chapel.

Symphony North usually hosts a fall fashion show that raises about $14,000 annually for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, but this is the first time the group will hold an authentic English tea as a second fundraiser.

And an extravagant afternoon it will be. The two-hour event will feature "Abbey Vignettes" -- narrated period-piece sketches by costumed actors, which will be staged periodically throughout the afternoon at the ringing of a little bell -- as well as a strolling flutist, a pianist and other music courtesy of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony.

"The ladies are excited," Symphony North president Mary Ann Craig said. "They're looking forward to getting dressed up."

Hats, according to the invitations, are optional.

The crowd will not be comprised exclusively of ladies. Some of the costumed vignette actors will be men, as will the butler, to whom guests will present their calling cards at the door, and the footman, who will assist guests from their cars when they pull into the circular driveway.

There also will be a dowager and countesses, reminiscent of television's popular "Downton Abbey."

Oakland's Twentieth Century Club will cater the event with a menu that could have come directly from the queen's table. Tea sandwich fillings will include shrimp salad; chicken salad; asparagus; cucumber with cream cheese and dill; and egg, capers and watercress. Raspberry and blueberry scones will be served with clotted cream and lemon curd. Other little bites will include strawberries, mini key lime pie bites, chocolate-dipped profiteroles and lace cookies. English breakfast tea, iced tea and sherry will be served.

Guests will take home favors of demitasse spoons with attached chocolates and poems.

The female principal players from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have been invited.

For this first year, Ms. Craig would like at least 75 guests, though the house could hold more than 150. She hopes the tea will raise a few thousand dollars for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the City Music Center of Duquesne University.

Tickets are $75 and must be purchased before Tuesday, June 11. For tickets or more information, call 724-625-2014 or e-mail smbreedlove@gmail.com.


Strawberry festivals

It's that time of the year again, folks: Local strawberries are in season. Here's some info about three farms' strawberry festivals.

Soergel Orchards: Strawberry desserts, hayrides, pony rides and berry recipe contest. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at Soergel Orchards in Franklin Park. soergels.com.

Triple B Farms: Hayrides to the pick-your-own strawberry patch, strawberry pancake breakfast, strawberry smoothies, other refreshments, tube slides, inflatables, farm animals to see and feed, and more. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, June 8-9, as well as June 15-16 at Triple B Farms in Forward. 724-258-3557 or triplebfarms.com.

Trax Farms: Festival food, children's activities and pick-your-own strawberries. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14-16, at Trax Farms in Library. traxfarms.com.

Garden parties

Floral Notes: Jazz in the Garden: House-made sangria and spritzers, small bites and live jazz in the Outdoor Garden. 6:30 p.m. June 18 at Phipps Conservatory in Oakland. $49.99 ($8 off for members); register by Tuesday, June 11. phipps.conservatory.org.

Urban Garden Party: Live entertainment, open bar, fare from more than 40 food vendors, silent auction and dancing in the garden at The Mattress Factory, North Side. 7 to 11 p.m. June 21. $100 per person; benefits Mattress Factory artistic programs, exhibitions and education outreach. mattress.org.

Classes/demos

Quickie Cocktails: Brunch Edition: Chef Elizabeth Schandelmeier Gilgunn shares brunch cocktail ideas from Bloody Marys to breakfast sangria; class includes tastes of all drinks (including two nonalcoholic varieties) and recipes. 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Pittsburgh Public Market, Strip District. $10 per person; ages 21 and over only. Register ahead: pittsburghpublicmarket.org. (Note: Chef Gilgunn also will be the featured guest on Chef Tom Totin's weekly "Cookspeak!" podcast, recorded live at 11 a.m. each Sunday at the market; see talkshoe.com to listen in.)

Alton Brown: The popular host of Food Network's "Good Eats" returns to Giant Eagle Market District stores on June 22 for free demos. 11 a.m. in Robinson and 4 p.m. in Pine. Tickets are limited; register ahead at marketdistrict.com.

Whole-wheat raspberry ???ricotta scones

PG tested

Although we didn't succeed in getting the Twentieth Century Club's raspberry scone recipe, we did discover this sublime twist on raspberry scones from "Smitten Kitchen."

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bottom of a large, wide bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Add butter and use pastry blender to cut butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. Toss in the raspberries and use pastry blender again to break then into half- and quarter-berry-size chunks.

Using a flexible spatula, add the ricotta and heavy cream to the butter mixture and stir them in to form dough. Then use your hands to knead the dough gently into an even mass, right in the bottom of the bowl. Don't fret if the raspberries get muddled and smudge up the dough. This is a pretty thing.

With as few movements as possible, transfer the dough to a well-floured counter or surface, flour the top of the dough, and pat it into a 7-inch square about 1 inch high. With a large knife, divide dough into nine even squares. Transfer scones to the prepared baking sheet with a spatula. Bake scones for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden at the edges. Cool them on the pan for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool partially before eating.

-- "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook" by Deb Perelman (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)

food - recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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