This year's attendees were us, Dani and Monica, Mike, and the Maltzes. It wasn't a bright sunny day--it was snowing last night and when guests arrived. But the sun did start shining by the time people left.
Part of our traditional observance of this is a wretched excess of food, such that we're discarding food that we'd normally save, because we have no place to put it in our fridge. We managed to tone down our impulses a bit this year; we still had plenty of food, but we managed to keep ourselves from going too nuts.
Our menu, with commentary:
- Deviled eggs
We didn't actually make these, despite my hopes to use our deviled egg dish again. Maybe we can use it some time this summer.
- Chocolate fondue
As usual, we had a lot more bunnies than we needed. We had plenty of delicious fondue with one 6-ounce dark chocolate bunny, one 6-ounce milk chocolate bunny, a cup of heavy cream, and a splash of Grand Marnier. We have about four leftover chocolate bunnies of various sorts.
Dave Maltz did a splendid job of maniacal ranting while vivisecting chocolate bunnies.
The electric fondue pot is the perfect thing for chocolate fondue. It is leaps and bounds ahead of using a Sterno fondue pot; Sterno doesn't allow the right degree of low heat, so either the chocolate scorches, or the fire ends up going out. If you are buying a fondue pot for the purposes of chocolate fondue, I strongly recommend an electric version.
Our dippers were strawberries, pound cake, and dried apricots, all of which worked well. We'd intended to put out banana slices, but we didn't get around to it.
- Tuna salad sandwiches
We felt a need for some sort of savory to ballast the meal of sweets. We usually make egg salad sandwiches (and look for watercress to make egg and cress sandwiches); this year Lori made tuna salad instead.
- Lemon mousse tartlets
We hadn't made lemon mousse tarts for several years, usually going for lemon curd tarts instead. This year, I was terribly tempted to make the pastry shells from scratch, but I reluctantly chose phyllo shells instead in the interests of convenience. The lemon mousse was nice and light, but I didn't like the phyllo shells very much; they seemed a little dry and tough. Pastry crust shells would have been better.
Tea bags, mostly. We didn't buy tea for this, and discovered a great miscellany of teas in our cupboard, mostly herbal teas.
Lori made them from a mix. They came out nicely. (We used the Silpat baking sheet for the first time to make them, which worked out very well.) We didn't get clotted cream for the scones this year, but Lori mixed together some apricot butter (from butter and apricot spreadable fruit) that was very tasty.
- Parmesan rounds with lox
These turned out to be fairly quick to make. They were fairly easy when they worked, but they were somewhat failure-prone. It was very easy to overcook them; they seemed to require 3-4 minutes in our oven instead of the 6-8 minutes called for by the recipe. But the rounds of crisp melted Parmesan cheese had a very nice and rich flavor, which went well with the lox, sour cream, and sprigs of dill.
Since this recipe uses no grains, it would be kosher for Passover--and any other time when you find yourself without time enough to make leavened bread, but with time enough to ferment sour cream, make hard cheese, and smoke salmon.
- Elegant cheese grape cluster
Another new recipe from a Pillsbury cookbook. The idea is to wrap grapes in a mixture of cream cheese and gorgonzola, roll them in finely chopped toasted almonds, and then arrange them to look like a cluster of grapes.
Assembling the grapes turned out to be extremely tedious and messy. My fingers quickly got coated with the cream cheese mixture, so every time I rolled a grape in the almonds, almond bits would stick to my hands, and when I got a hunk of cheese mixture for the next grape, I'd get almonds in the cheese mixture. In the middle of this tedious process, the phone rang, and I had to wash my hands in a panic of speed that I'd be fast enough to reach the phone.
We didn't have the grape leaves to serve as a garnish, so our grape cluster looked not so much like a cluster of grapes as a vaguely elongated pile of cheese balls.
And I wasn't wowed by the taste. It was pretty good (particularly since the grapes turned out to be excellent juicy nuggets of flavor), but the cheese coating tasted less to me of gorgonzola and more of mild cream cheese; I had been hoping for the yummy combination of flavors I got from eating grapes and gorgonzola together during preparation. (On the other hand, Lori felt it had too much gorgonzola flavor for her taste.)
So my verdict is that it's not worth the bother. But other guests did like them.
- Salmon crackers
Monica brought two platters of crackers topped with cream cheese, lox, and slices of grape tomato. (The tomato slices were particularly popular with Lilly Maltz.) These were a very nice savoury treat, and very much in keeping with the tea theme.
Lori and I had both been kind of tired and busy going into this--we both felt disinclined to do it, and only the force of tradition brought us through. And I felt tired and out of sorts during the tea--I hope that it wasn't too evident. But despite these things, the tea really came off well, and I think it was a great event.