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I discovered another Tea Room in the San Diego area and had Afternoon Tea there today. The Aubrey Rose Tea Room is located in the old town area of La Mesa, CA. I recognized the area as one where we (my sister, her husband and my son) had attended an Oktoberfest celebration when my son was little – many, many years ago. It is a large venue with retail products, like tea pots, tea cups, strainers and tea, bordering the old fashioned dining areas. It was a charming touch to have a personalized reservation card at my fully prepped table.

Personalized Reservation Card

Personalized Reservation Card

Queen Victoria Afternoon Tea

Queen Victoria Afternoon Tea

The Aubrey Rose Tea Room - La Mesa, CA

The Aubrey Rose Tea Room – La Mesa, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will say that each of the tea rooms I visited sat me in a chair I least preferred when dining alone. Understandably, most people will tea with a friend or several friends, but I was on this mission to peak my creative side by focusing on the mixed media books I was reading while enjoying warm and iced tea with finger foods. Almost every location had the table set for me to face a wall, while one of the four had me with my back directly to the door. I sat where I preferred and the service was easily moved, but in retrospect I wonder if there was any thought given  to the best of two options for seating. For example, at Aubrey Rose I was to sit facing an L-shaped tea display with my back to everyone else in the shop. I chose instead the seat in front of the display so that I could look at the other people and see my server approaching. Is it just me or do people simply not think through (or better yet try out) the best seat options at a table usually set for 2 or 4?

I opted for the Queen Victoria Tea which started with a broccoli cream soup with mini croissant. The soup was delicious, which was good because the croissant lacked any flavor, making me presume they were store bought not handmade. The savory bites included a baked artichoke and cheese crostini, a sundried tomato swirl bite and a mini biscuit like scone. None of these items were terribly exciting, but I do love me a tea sandwich and the cucumber cream cheese and egg salad were both creamy and flavorful. My favorite part was the sweet lavender and lemon scone served with the best cream I’ve tasted and lemon curd. I tasted the scone first alone, then the scone with cream, then the scone with cream and lemon curd and, surprisingly, thought the lemon curd overpowered and was too sweet for the scone. My Cheeky Peach hot tea was delicious, but for my second pot I needed to switch to decaf, so I tried the Decaf Apricot Peach.

The service was excellent and the owner’s husband, he jokingly talked to a table nearby about being referred to as her husband, handles reservations and ensuring that service is satisfactory. It is definitely a welcoming spot and they give every effort to having you as a return patron. I did find a bit of humor on their website, as the “Now taking reservations for Mother’s Day” in July is either very ambitious or simply outdated. And the photos on their menu page look marvelous, but maybe that is a special tea like for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to return with a group of friends and spend a couple of hours chatting and drinking tea. The parking is limited and metered, so the longest a meter will take is 2 hours. Which means making that your time limit or running out to feed the meter. Possibly why their customers refer to the Aubrey Rose as a “two-hour mini-vacation.” Regardless of the parking situation, my preference,  both here and the at the other tea houses I visited, would be to stick with just the tea sandwiches – like cucumber dill or watercress, and salmon spread – and sweet scones with cream and jam or lemon curd. These, with the tea, of course, are my favorites. Adding soup and savory bites didn’t seem to be worth the extra cost to me. The mini desserts don’t do much for me either; most are often too sweet, at least after enjoying scones with cream!

So, overall, the best venues were outdoors on the patio under the canopy with the nice cool breeze surrounding us at Shakespeare Corner Shoppe and Tea Room and the Aubrey Rose Tea Room. While I liked the Coral Tree Tea House being given a lovely window view, again with a nice breeze, being a historical house, it was not as accessible as other locations. The best tea? I think each of the locales served great tea, with many options. I actually bought the Apricot Black Tea at Tea Upon Chatsworth. And the best food overall? Hands down, my favorite would be Shakespeare because of the sauces, spreads and flavors in all of their food. Which really shouldn’t surprise me since I like Shakespeare Pub’s food, like bbq pork shanks and french fries with curry sauce for dunking… to quote Rachel Ray: “Yum-o!”

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I lived in the South for half-a-dozen years in the mid-1990’s. One of my BFFs at the time, Linda, and I used to have workweek lunch dates (until the extra pounds from all that luscious food pointed us in the direction of Weight Watchers!). I’ve recently been reminiscing about the Glenwood Tea Room in Shreveport, LA. The patrons were mostly women, although if a guy had lunch there you could almost always bet that he ordered the Chicken and Wild Rice Crepe, which was the most substantial item on the menu. Personally, I love the tea sandwiches, in particular the watercress and cucumber ones. The whole tea room experience makes me feel dainty and feminine, which is pretty impressive considering I often think of myself as a bull in a china shop. Being a clutz was why my mom started me in ballet classes, which helped, but only as long as I was on stage… I could literally trip heading off stage after performing ballet, tap, toe and jazz dance.Glenwood Glenwood2

Glenwood was my first tea room experience and the first time I tried devonshire cream, lemon curd and scones… and I’ve loved them ever since. Our local Trader Joe’s grocery makes a box scone mix that is easy to make, moist and yummy. They also sell a great lemon curd, even though I’ve made it from scratch, too. There’s probably a simple answer to where to find devonshire cream for my scones, but it’s definitely better I don’t know about it.

So, recently, I decided to find and try out the local tea rooms in San Diego, CA. My first reservation was for tea and scones at the Coral Tree Tea House in the historical 1887 McConaughy House in Old Town Heritage Park. I took an art book from the library and read almost two-thirds of it, enjoying my tea (kept warm in a lovely silver tea warmer) and scones and walking away brimming with creative mixed media ideas I couldn’t wait to try out. Their website says that Sunday August 7th is National Sisters Day…  My sister lives in the Midwest, but if yours is nearby plan your own celebration, maybe even Afternoon Tea?

McConaughney House

Coral Tree Tea House logo Cream Tea 1

I was inspired to make three textured fruit paintings from that lovely afternoon sipping tea and reading about art.

A couple of weeks later, I visited Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe & Tea Room who promote a traditional UK Afternoon Tea. I have to say that the chutney style relish for the Sausage Roll was a new favorite. Actually, I think they call it the Branston Pickle and I meant to see if they sell it in the Corner Shoppe but later forgot about taking a jar home. I did pick up a bottle of Ribena Black Currant Juice for topping off a favorite hard cider (as served in the Shakespeare Pub next door). I also thoroughly enjoyed the roast beef with horseradish, the cucumber and the salmon spread tea sandwiches, and the outdoor patio venue with the lovely cool breeze.

Shakespeare Logo Shakespeare Afternoon Tea Shakespeare PatioI realized while reading the mixed media book of my choice during this afternoon tea that with photos I had taken of pieces I’ve already sold, I can make prints on canvas to sell in my Etsy shop, therefore while my original paintings may be gone, they aren’t forgotten or gone forever! I’m trying metal prints as well as prints on canvas. These are intensely gorgeous and I love the metal surface!

Today I headed to Point Loma for Tea Upon Chatsworth’s Queen Tea. I’d have to say that I felt a bit rushed to “get through” tea and be on my way. I was not very impressed with the warm eats, the scone was dry and I took most of the desserts home to eat later, but the chocolate mousse was a nice touch and I loved the tea! I even bought a bag of the Apricot Black Tea to make at home. I had a pot of that warm and an iced German Ginger herbal tea. The pot did not have a warmer so it was lukewarm before the end of tea. This was disappointing as it was delicious warm, but I added it into the remaining iced ginger tea and was thrilled with how much the flavor intensified.

On a different note entirely, drinking all that tea usually means a trip to the Ladies’ Room and my advice is to be sure to take your cell phone with you! Weird, huh? Well, I remember a recently closed scrapbooking store, The Making Place, in Escondido, CA, that had wonderful knick knacks and vintage pieces everywhere. There was plenty of inspiration to snap photos of, particularly the vintage photos in the restroom. So I’ve actually found that unique little spots like these often have kitchy decor in the restrooms and Tea Upon Chatsworth did not disappoint. A hand crocheted holder for the spare toilet paper roll, a magazine sized book of the Top 50 fav Norman Rockwell paintings, and a couple of colorful tea drinker paintings on the walls. Think Klimt or Matisse meets Israeli artist Isaac Maimon or teenage artist Dimitri Milan… a vibrant visual feast!

Chatworth Chatworth2TeaonChatsworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

And today’s art book revelation was an idea of how to repurpose the slide frames (and the photo negatives inside) into separate 2″ pieces of mini art and then adhere those in rows on a canvas. Should be fun to play around with different techniques and patterns!

TeaPainting2


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The Spark is ReIgnited!

This past year had been a bit of a challenge for me, as it has for many of us. I see, for example, the last time I wrote on my blog was 2015 just after my brother passed away from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Since then, I’ve focused on taking care of myself, because, really, who else is going to do that for me, better than I will? I had a knee replacement and have been doing water aerobics and swimming laps several times a week. What a joy it is to be back in the water (must be the Aquarian in me?)!

Along with improved health, I’ve lit a fire under my creative side and have been happily creating new mixed media projects, many of which you can see in my Etsy online shop: CarlasCraft.etsy.com but, of course, I plan to share some with you right now – I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I enjoyed making them!