Tea at the White House

I’ve had tea at the White House a couple times in the last few weeks.

Before you start thinking I must be politically well connected, no, I wasn’t in Washington sipping tea and exchanging pleasantries with Barack and Michelle at that White House. I was in Waterdown, Ontario at this White House.

Tea at the White House in Waterdown, Ontario

Tea at the White House in Waterdown, Ontario

Both times I visited Tea at the White House, I sat in the front room which surprisingly, given the size of the room, is able to seat 14 people. There’s not a lot of space between the tables, but considering the number of guests that came and went on both my visits, the tea room is a popular place and needs as much seating as can be squeezed in. (I’d recommend making reservations if you plan to visit, especially at lunch time.)

The menu can be viewed online. When we visited on Easter Sunday, I had the High Tea.

High Tea at the White House

High Tea (for two) at the White House

I’m not sure why it’s called High Tea as it’s actually an afternoon tea complete with sandwiches, scones, Devon double cream and preserves, loads of fruit, and sweets. Murray and I enjoyed it as an early supper, but if we’d visited in the early afternoon, we’d probably have shared a single order.


The scones are really good – very tender and with sugared tops. You can purchase scones to take home. I was tempted but managed to refrain, opting instead to purchase some loose tea – Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope Estate Black Tea and Gingia Assam Black Tea – in tin containers. (If you bring the containers back for a refill, you can purchase the next batch of tea at a discounted price.)

On my second visit a week later, I chose the soup of the day (a tortellini and vegetable soup) followed by the Devonshire Cream Tea – two scrumptious scones with Devon double cream and preserves. (Love those scones!)

I’d like to try the Gloucestershire Sandwich & Cheese Platter on my next visit. One such order had just been delivered to a table we squeezed past on our way out and the assortment of sandwiches, cheeses, crackers and fruit looked very inviting.

Tea at the White House is also a retail shop and offers loose tea, tea accessories, books about tea, and even tea-based beauty products for sale.

You can read reviews for Tea at the White House at Restaurantica.

Tea at the White House
279 Dundas St. E.
Waterdown, ON (on Hwy 5, north of Hamilton and on top of the escarpment)
L0R 2H0
Ph: (905) 690-9987

A few days of Florida sun and food. And a whole lotta wind!

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to exchange the cool spring temperatures in Ontario for a few days of warm but windy weather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Murray was on Spring Break so he went down a few days ahead to take in a Florida Panthers hockey game. Work obligations meant I flew down a few days later to join him.


The view from the balcony of the Canada House condo we rented in Fort Lauderdale. Not too hard to take!


The view the other way!

It was very windy every day! Perfect weather for kite-boarding. No, I did not attempt kite-boarding. I did not have a death wish or want to spend my mini vacation in the hospital. I was perfectly happy watching the kite-boarders ride the crashing waves and do flips and flops from my comfortable chair on the condo balcony.

Can you see all the kites in the picture below? The boarders were out en masse every day, all day.

How about those waves? They were much bigger than they look in this picture!

We did lots of driving about including a trip to West Palm Beach and down through the Keys all the way to Key West. Nothing like zipping about in a convertible with the breeze (more like gale force winds!) blowing through our hair!


A couple of pina coladas and a shared platter of calamari at Sunset Pier restaurant in Key West made for a perfect afternoon snack. This outdoor restaurant belongs to the Ocean Key Resort and Spa, which looked like a really nice place to stay. The views of the sunset from the pier would have been lovely.


Pina Colada (Sunset Pier Restaurant in Key West)

To make a pina colada, combine 1-1/2 cups coconut cream, 3 tablespoons crushed pineapple, 1-1/2 oz light rum, and 1 cup crushed ice in a blender. Process until slushy. Pour into a chilled glass. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry. Sip slowly….sitting on a pier on a warm sunny day….looking out over the Gulf of Mexico (or any other large body of water)….with not a care in the world!  I should really do this much more often…..

Deep-fried calamari

Fried calamari with cherry pepper dip (Sunset Pier Restaurant in Key West)


Key lime pie (Two Friends Patio Restaurant in Key West)

The key lime pie at Two Friends Patio Restaurant in Key West was excellent! I also tried the conch fritters as they appeared on every menu and seemed to be one of Florida’s national dishes. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy them very much. Simply described, these are deep-fried fritters made with conch (a type of snail), flour, green peppers, and other seasonings. They were probably well made, but the texture and taste were just not to my liking.

A few other restaurants we enjoyed while in Fort Lauderdale –

* Flanigans Seafood Bar and Grille – great ribs!

* SeaWatch – great seafood and ocean view!

* Aruba Beach Cafe – great ambiance and ocean view, generous portions!

The Tea Room at Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

A couple weeks ago (the day after Valentine’s Day to be exact), Murray and I made the 50-minute drive from Kitchener into Mississauga (Streetsville to be exact) to have afternoon tea at The Tea Room in the Robinson-Bray House (223 Queen Street South, Ph: 905-542-7674).

Robinson Bray Tea Room in Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario

The side entrance to The Tea Room at the Robinson-Bray House in Mississauga, Ontario

The house was built in 1885 and owned by at least two families – the Robinsons and the Brays. In 1983, it was designated a building of “architectural and contextual value” by the City of Mississauga. It now houses several businesses including a gift shop, spa and The Tea Room.

The Tea Room is in the back of the building. You can enter either through the front or the side of the House. When we left through the front after finishing our tea, I noticed that a large room at the front of the house was vacant. The space had a lovely bay window looking out onto Queen Street. My first thought was that it would be a lovely area for The Tea Room to expand or move into.

But I’m ahead of myself. Let me share our tea experience.

You could order off the menu but we really didn’t give it much consideration as The Tea Room was serving a Valentine’s tea ($23 per person) which sounded really nice. It started with a delicious garden salad with sliced strawberries and cucumbers and pralined pecans. This was followed by a two-tiered stand filled with tea sandwiches, and heart-shaped chocolate chunk scones served with devon cream and preserves.

Sandwich Plate

The tray of tea sandwiches included (clockwise from top right) egg salad on a mini croissant (which turned out to be a roll as you can see above), chicken and brie on a slice of baguette with sweet mango chutney, a roast beef and horseradish mayo wrap with caramelized onions, salmon mousse in a phyllo cup, and a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich.

Then, because we hadn’t eaten enough yet (!),  it was time to choose a dessert. I don’t recall all the choices; the first couple our server described were all we needed to hear. Murray chose a Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries.

Chcocolate Crepes with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

Chocolate Crepe with Amaretto Cream and Mixed Berries

I opted for the Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle, served in a tea cup.

Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle garnished with a chocolate-dipped cooked and berriees

The Passionfruit and Mixed Berry Trifle was garnished with a chocolate-dipped cookie and berries.

A tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea.

Whipped cream, passionfruit custard, cake and berries - a tart-sweet ending to a delicious tea!

Everything was washed done with a pot of Earl Grey tea for me and Assam tea for Murray.

The Tea Room’s servers were friendly and attentive. The decor of the two-room tea room was nice enough, although nothing outstanding.  I’ll confess I wanted to straighten out the slightly askew picture hung off centre under a shelf on one wall of the room we sat in, but to Murray’s relief I managed to suppress the urge.

Other than the egg salad that was served in a slightly soggy mini roll instead of the promised croissant, the food was very tasty, especially the salad and desserts. Needless to say, we didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, shuts its doors and files for bankruptcy

COPIA - the center for xxxx in Napa, California

COPIA - the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa, California

Last February, I followed my nose – which is trained to sniff out all things chocolate – to Napa, California for Death by Chocolate, a day-long chocolate-themed extravaganza of tastings, classes, and cooking demonstrations, and a chocolate marketplace. The event was organized by and held at COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts.

Curious to see what was planned for Death by Chocolate 2009, I logged onto COPIA’s web site today, only to find the following message –

COPIA is currently closed. COPIA has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and is currently not open for business, visitation or future bookings.

COPIA is, or I guess I should say was, a venue created by American vintner Robert Mondavi to celebrate wine, food and the arts. It closed its doors on December 1, 2008. Up until then, it housed a food-themed gallery, Julia’s Kitchen restaurant (named after Julia Child), and edible gardens. It also played host to seminars about food and wine, photography and art exhibits, concerts and movie nights.

Although my connection with COPIA is limited to my experience at Death by Chocolate last year (which was great!), it appeared to me that the center served a vital role in the world of food and wine. However, it also seemed to be a controversial creation, not fully embraced by the local residents. It was also a victim of current economic conditions. And, no doubt there were many other reasons for COPIA’s demise.

You can read more about COPIA and its closure in the Napa Valley Register.

How did I spend my Christmas holiday? Mostly eating!

It’s December 27th.

I don’t go back to work until January 6th, so I wouldn’t say Christmas vacation is over, but once we get back home to Kitchener from Winnipeg, where we spend Christmas with our families, it always feels as if the holiday part is pretty much over.

We got home late on December 25th. Christmas is officially over.

So, how did I spend this holiday?

It was a pretty typical Christmas except for the start. We were scheduled to fly out of Toronto at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, December 21st. It was supposed to snow the night before our departure, so to avoid a slow drive from Kitchener into Pearson Airport in Toronto if the roads were bad – which could possibly mean missing our flight – we decided to stay overnight at a hotel near the airport.

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars

After a hectic day of last minute shopping and packing, we got into Toronto Saturday night, enjoyed a late supper at Moxies, then checked into the Toronto Airport Marriott where we snacked on Chocolate Almond Toffee Bars I had tucked into my suitcase at the last minute. We enjoyed a great night’s sleep under a cozy duvet with our heads comfortably resting on feather pillows.

The weather forecasters were on the mark as the next morning we woke to falling snow and slippery roads. We had planned to take the 7 a.m. hotel shuttle to the airport. Since we (unwisely) hadn’t built any extra time into our schedule (assuming that since we were so close to the airport, there couldn’t possibly be any delay getting to it!), when the shuttle hadn’t arrived by 7:10, we decided we’d better grab a cab.

Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport was a zoo when we arrived. There were long line-ups everywhere and those in line did not look happy. There seemed to be rampant confusion everywhere with frazzled passengers not sure what line they should be in. We already had our boarding passes and just needed to drop off our luggage. When we finally found the end of the line we were to be in, I seriously doubted we would make our flight. I had never seen as long a line – just to drop off luggage.

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Chocolate flows in Vegas

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

I was reminded of this by friends and colleagues at least a dozen times prior to my recent trip to Las Vegas to attend a conference. It was my first time visiting what some consider the entertainment capital of the world.

Well, this is one time when what happened in Vegas will be shared!

Any one who has visited this city of a gazillion slot machines and equally as many lights knows that Las Vegas is a place where things are more than a little over the top. Prior to my trip, I had read somewhere that inside the Bellagio Hotel on the Strip one would find what some consider the “8th wonder of the world” – – the tallest chocolate fountain on the planet! As a die-hard chocoholic, a visit to see free-flowing chocolate falling from the heavens was a must while in town.

The Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas - with dancing waterfalls!

The Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas - with dancing water fountains that perform every 15 minutes!

And so, one evening, after the day’s conference sessions were over, I made a pilgrimage to the Strip where I easily found the Bellagio.

On the lake in front of the hotel, the Bellagio’s signature dancing water fountains performed routines to music every 15 minutes. Amidst a throng of tourists, I watched a couple routines, then ventured inside the grand hotel to track down the chocolate fountain.

Assuming the chocolate shop would be in the Shops area, I followed the signs which took me through the hotel’s casino to a series of high-end stores. No chocolate store or chocolate fountain to be found. After some fruitless searching, I thought it best to ask for directions. I was advised to return to the lobby, then veer right into the Spa Tower. After retracing my steps through the casino (every path through every hotel in Vegas takes you through a casino!!) to the front desk, then wending my way down an elegantly appointed hall, I soon found Jean-Philippe Maury’s Patisserie.

Chocolate Shop in Bellagio Hotel

Jean-Philippe Maury's Patisserie in the Bellagio Hotel

Can you see the chocolate fountain on the right side of the picture? It’s quite a sight – an architectural and culinary marvel created by the Bellagio’s Executive Pastry Chef Maury.

The Patisserie sells chocolate (of course) and cakes and other baked treats as well as gelato and savoury dishes such as sandwiches, salads and crepes.

Triple Chocolate Fountain in the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

Nearly two tonnes of chocolate are pumped through this fountain.

Chocolate Fountain

The chocolate fountain is housed in a climate-controlled enclosure where the temperature is kept at 95 degrees F.

The chocolate fountain is a star attraction with many visitors stopping to admire the clever design. Nearly two tonnes of white, medium and dark chocolate circulate through six pumps and 500 feet of stainless steel piping. The chocolate rises 27 vertical feet from a lower level pump room. It is dispensed through six spouts in the ceiling, 14 feet above floor level, and falls into 25 handmade glass vessels.

The world’s tallest and largest volume chocolate fountain took two years to plan, design and create. Its creator, Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Philippe Maury, talks about it in this video.

The perils of in-flight dining

There are many reasons why airline food – when you can even get it – is often less than stellar.

Here’s one!

Overheard on a recent flight from Toronto to Las Vegas just prior to take-off:

Flight attendant #1: I’m not sure how long to heat the pizza. Any idea?

Flight attendant #2: I haven’t a clue.

Flight attendant #1: Think I’ll try 10 minutes on low. How does that sound?

Flight attendant #2: Works for me.

……a few minutes later flight attendant #3 comes back to the kitchen area just behind where I’m seated……

Flight attendant #1: I’m going to heat the pizza for 10 minutes on low.

Flight attendant #3: Oh no! It always takes at least 20 minutes on high.

Flight attendant #1: Really? I wouldn’t think it would take that long.

Flight attendant #3: Well, let’s compromise then – 15 minutes on medium.

I settled in for the 4-1/2 hour flight, thankful I’d picked up a sandwich and a cookie prior to boarding.

Tea time in Savannah, Georgia

Our recent trip to Georgia, U.S., included a short visit to the charming city of Savannah. One afternoon doesn’t do this southern belle justice, but it was all the time we had. I’d love to go back to Savannah and explore the city more thoroughly some day.

We arrived in Savannah about noon on a Friday in early August. We had booked a 3:30 p.m. reservation for afternoon tea at The Tea Room on East Broughton Street, so to make the most of the short time we would have in the city, the Visitor Information Center was our first stop. (Conveniently, we were able to park our car in the Information Center’s parking lot for a nominal fee while we toured the city for the rest of the afternoon.)

At the Information Center, a friendly attendant outlined a walking trip through the historic downtown that would enable us to see most of the 22 public squares. The Tea Room was on the route. (At the Information Center, you’ll find information on the host of tours available including a Paula Deen tour and a movie tour as well as suggestions for accommodations and dining.)

Savannah’s historic downtown contains beautiful homes and stately mansions, cobblestone streets, park-like public squares, lush foliage and greenery, and Spanish moss and oak trees that arch across the streets to form overhead canopies. There are also fountains, statues, hotels, restaurants, shops and boutiques….and lots of history. These images will give you a visual sense of the city and its rich heritage.

By 3:30 p.m. we had made our way to The Tea Room. Reservations are required by 11 a.m. for full afternoon tea ($25.00 per person) which includes quiche and sorbet along with finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, preserves, dainties and tea. Not aware of the 11 a.m. deadline, I had called to make our reservation just before noon. We would have been fine with afternoon tea ($20.00 per person) but the woman who answered the phone at The Tea Room graciously allowed us to book for the full tea.

Murray chose Assam-Mangalam tea which he quite liked. He prefers to drink full-bodied black teas which can stand a good splash of milk and generous dose of sugar. The Assam-Mangalam was exactly this kind of tea. I chose the house blend, Emperors Bride, a blended tea (Assam and Ceylon) with dried pineapple and orange bits. It was also a good choice.

We enjoyed tea at a table for two in the “library”. There is also seating outside the “library” just beyond the retail area where teas, books, and tea accessories are sold. I had been looking for a copy of the latest issue of Tea A Magazine and was pleased to find that the magazine was sold at The Tea Room. I was also tempted to buy some books on tea, but it was nearly closing time, and it was threatening to rain outside so I didn’t linger long. My recommendation, however, is to be sure to save some time for browsing before or after enjoying tea should you visit The Tea Room. You can also shop online.

In addition to various afternoon tea options, The Tea Room’s menu includes salads and quiches. You can view the menu on The Tea Room’s website. For reservations or information, call 912-239-9690. The Tea Room is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

The Tea Room in Savannah, Georgia

The Tea Room in Savannah, Georgia

Full afternoon tea at The Tea Room was delicious and filling.

Full afternoon tea at The Tea Room was delicious and filling.

Dessert plate completes full afternoon tea at The Tea Room

A flower-garnished dessert plate completes full afternoon tea at The Tea Room

A really bad hair day! Just look at what a little rain does to spiked hair!

During the mile walk back to the car after tea, the heavens opened and the rain POURED down. Unfortunately we were caught unprepared and without an umbrella!

We could have ducked into a store to wait it out, but it looked as though it was going to rain for a while, and we needed to get back on the road. It had been a hot afternoon and the rain almost felt refreshing. Of course as soon as we reached the car, the rain stopped!

It was a memorable afternoon in Savannah!

Niagara-on-the-Lake – a great place to visit, dine, watch theatre, be pampered, shop…..

Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) is one of the prettiest towns in Ontario, and one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon, a day, or a weekend. With orchards, wineries and restaurants in abundance, the area is paradise for food and wine lovers. For me, the attraction is also the Shaw Festival, billed in promotional material as “one of the world’s great theatre companies”. From April to November each year, the Festival showcases plays by Bernard Shaw and other great playwrights.

After finishing up a work obligation at the Niagara Culinary Institute in NOTL last Saturday morning, Murray and I went into historic NOTL for the afternoon.

We lunched on the outdoor patio at The Epicurean Bistro where I had no trouble polishing off a grilled vegetable (eggplant, onion and sweet pepper) panini and Murray noshed on a turkey sandwich. The desserts were enticing – they included a mile-high pecan pie that looked like each slice weighed more than my miniature poodle and contained enough calories to fuel me for at least two days – but we were going for tea later in the afternoon so I refrained from indulging. I had to keep the tea in mind a few minutes later when we strolled past the large windows of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Everything is covered in chocolate in that place, including huge apples that, after their chocolate coating, get rolled in nuts, sprinkles, smarties, marshmallows……

It was a beautiful day and the sidewalks and shops were busy with tourists. We had tickets to a matinee performance of The Little Foxes, a play by Lillian Hellman. We were happy not to have to fight the crowds for sidewalk space, or a place in the line-ups for ice cream.

The Shaw Festival has a great roster of plays again this year. The Little Foxes, which we quite enjoyed, was the third production I’ve seen of this season’s offerings. Getting Married by Bernard Shaw was also good (lots of talk, little action) as was An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly (a great mystery and thought-provoking ending).

Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Enjoying afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel

Victorian elegance is evident in the guest rooms at the Prince of Wales hotel.

Following the play, we headed to the Prince of Wales Hotel to enjoy Afternoon Tea in the drawing room. We had made reservations for 5 p.m. but they would not have been necessary as there weren’t many guests at that time. (Tea is served daily from noon to 6 p.m.)

I ordered the Traditional Afternoon Tea and a pot of China Green Jasmine tea and Murray had the Prince of Wales Afternoon Tea and the Golden Tippy Assam tea. Tea for one includes sandwiches, scones, dainties, preserves and cream, and a full pot of tea. Murray’s tea included a basket of assorted crackers and a plate of cheeses and fruit. It will set you back about $35.

We had stayed at the Prince of Wales for a weekend in early April as a surprise birthday destination for Murray. It’s a charming hotel, well appointed and very victorian in its decor. Not cheap, and definitely not the type of lodging we typically choose, but nevertheless, a nice change and definitely a treat.

During that visit, we dined in the Churchill Lounge (great steak and frites) and ate breakfast in the Escabeche Restaurant (the poached egg breakfast was very nice). We also ate at the Tiara Restaurant, located in one of the Prince of Wales’ sister hotels, the Queen’s Landing. The Tiara offers a tasting menu which we didn’t have time to enjoy that evening (our server suggested three hours were necessary). We put this on our list of things to do in NOTL on another visit.

As part of that weekend’s itinerary, I had booked a couples massage at the Secret Garden Spa at the Prince of Wales. Murray was not keen about having a guy as his massage therapist so I promised that if one of our therapists was male, I’d ask him to work on my sore muscles so Murray would have a female as his therapist. Unfortunately for Murray, we never discussed what to do if both therapists were guys!! You can guess how this story ends!

There’s lots to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake whether you enjoy shopping, golfing, visiting historical sights, wining, dining, or reading a book in the pretty park across from the Prince of Wales Hotel. Fun foodie stores in the historic town include Greaves Jams and Marmalades, Cheese Secrets, Pairings Specialty Food Market and Kurtz Culinary Creations.

Words to live....ah, eat by....on the walls of my kitchen.

Sadly, the Dansk Factory Outlet, a great place to pick up interesting dishes and kitchenware (and where I bought foodie signs for my kitchen last fall), was having a 50% off closing out sale. Well, nice if you were looking for a deal, but too bad the store is closing. On future trips to NOTL, I’ll be watching to see what appears in that space.

See you in NOTL some time!

Quebec City – a diner’s delight!

Last week I spent four days in Quebec City. What a great place to visit! I count it as one of my favourite spots in all of Canada. For the many tourists who flock to the city (especially this year, the city’s 400th anniversary), its special charm is the area known as Old Quebec with its European-style architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, old brick buildings, boutiques, galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.

I stayed in the stylish Hotel 71 in Old Port and enjoyed casual dining at St. Alexandre Pub and Le Conchon Dingue, and a more formal meal at L’Echaude. The sugar pie at Le Cochon Dingue, a cheese burger at a small restaurant in the Petit Champlain district, and chocolate noisette gelato at a nearby confectionary, were favourite taste experiences.

Cheese burger and fries
Cheese burger and fries

Quebecers enjoy eating out and take their food seriously. There are plenty of restaurants, many offering table d’hote (you can choose a meal from a set menu at a fixed price). I found serving portions appropriate and my meals tastefully prepared and garnished. Since you “eat with your eyes” before actually tasting what’s set before you, a garnish definitely adds to the pleasure of a meal. The cheeseburger and fries platter I enjoyed at a small restaurant in the Petit Champlain area of lower Old Quebec (unfortunately I don’t recall the restaurant’s name) was garnished with a small salad made of long thin carrot strings, cucumber slices with the edges artistically notched, tomato slices, rings of onion, and strips of sweet pepper perched above a bed of lettuce. My late lunch looked appetizing, and since it was raining outside and I was inside and dry, seated at a table by the window watching the world scurry by, it tasted c’est délicieux!