Cheese Tasting Notes: Old World/New World

At this week’s Cheese Tuesday, I brought together five couplings of a classic European cheese and a local cheese “inspired” by the European version.  We enjoyed dinner, wine and the cheeses with 25 guests. Here are the notes of the night.

1. Ossau –Iraty, sheep, Pays Basque, France
• This is an ancient style of cheese from the Pyrenees mountains that separate France from Spain. These cheeses are a product of the transhumance: the yearly springtime migration of shepherds and sheep high into the mountains, moving from one green sweet pasture to the next until the snows come again. The summers yield of cheese was used for both commerce and sustenance during the long winter when the valley villages were cut off from the world.
• The cheese is firm but slightly crumbly and grainy. The flavors are sweet and a tad sour (in other words, sheepy), buttery, nutty. It is rounder and not as edgy as the Verano.

Verano, sheep, Vermont Shepherd, Putney, Vermont
• David Major was one of the first artisan sheep farmers and cheesemakers in America.
• The Majors spent a season in the Ossau Iraty Valley learning from local cheesemakers.
• Originally called Vermont Shepherd, it has been in production since 1990. Now called Verano, Summer Cheese, it remains an all time favorite.
• It is slightly dry, with a pronounced sweet/sour tanginess that fades to a lush, buttery finish

2. Taleggio, cow, Lombardy, Italy
• Dating back to at least the 11th century, this washed rind cheese is another product of migration: cows leaving the Alps each fall were milked in the small towns through which they passed, and this bonus milk was made into cheese. It is also said that this milk, from tired cows, made the cheese tastier.
• A soft plush square with a gritty, moldy mottled orange rind, Taleggio is buttery and slightly earthy when young and much more assertive as it ages.

Tobasi, cow, Cricket Creek Farm, Williamstown, MA
• From a small farmstead producer in the Berkshires, this gorgeous raw milk cheese has an orange rind embossed with gothic tracery. It is meltingly smooth and slides easily to a spicy, lip-tingling finish.

3. Raclette de Savoie, cow, Savoie, France
• Raclette, made in both France and Switzerland, is the ultimate melting cheese. Tradionally, an open wheel of this orange/pink rinded semi-firm cheese was planted on a hearth. As it heated, a lava-flow of running cheese would be scraped onto a plate of boiled potatoes. It is also achingly delicious it its au naturel, unmelted state.

Reading Raclette, cow, Spring Brook Farm, Reading, Vermont (10.19.13)
• Spring Brook, well known for its Tarentaise, began producing Reading in 2010, utilizing the Jersey Cow milk of neighboring farms.
• It has long, drawn out flavors, is slightly denser than the French, and is endlessly smooth and sophisticated with a bright yellow paste and peach-glo rind.

4. Keene’s Clothbound Cheddar, cow, Somerset, England (11.19.12)
• An English treasure, made on the Morhayes Farm in Somerset since 1898.
• Densely textured in an almost clay-like way, the flavors start bright and lively before settling into a more domestic mood, with a touch of that basement (or should I say cave) mustiness that make English cheddars so memorable.

Vermont Clothbound Cheddar : Queen of Quality, cow, Grafton Cave Aged,
Brattleboro, Vermont (7.30.13)
• Although cheddar originated in England, it is arguable that bandage wrapping began in Vermont and spread east-ward across the Atlantic. The purpose was to hold the young, pliable cheese together, and to offer protection during the long aging process.
• Made and aged in Grafton’s state-of -the -art cave, this dense cheese is beautifully balanced, sweet and slightly caramelized, and a bit chewy. It has more of an “English” taste than I usually associate with American cheddars.

5. Gorgonzola DOP piccante, biologio, cow, Piedmont, Italy
• An erborinati, or parsley cheese, because of its green mold color, this cheese was originally made in the town of Gorgonzola when the Alpine cows, summer vacation over, returned to their flat-land winter homes.
• Moist and creamy, very smooth, with pronounced spiking to let air into the tight interior, allowing the green mold to grow.
• A lively start quickly morphs into a spice bomb of hot/cool flavor.

West West Blue, cow, Parish Hill Creamery, Westminster West, Vermont
• Peter Dixon, Vermont’s illustrious itinerant cheesemaker and consultant to cheesemakers both new and experienced, is showing off his skills with this new blue and probably having a lot of fun in the process.
• Inside the natural rind (the Italian versions are gooey rindless, wrapped in foil) is a mottled ivory/white paste, each white patch centered with a fuzz of green mold. This is the product of mixing two days curd – the more acidified older curd provides a nice home for the mold to develop.
• The cheese is moist, gritty and bright, with a tangy start that builds to a nicely spicy finish. Beautiful and beautifully balanced.

Join us for an upcoming Cheese Tuesday: April in Paris on April 15!

Bonus Cheese Song (We love you, David Bowie!)

Cheese Odyssey
(Words by Louis Risoli)

Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
Let your udders fill get ready to milk now

Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
Commencing pumping switch is on
Milk is flowing we will have a cheesy day

Ten Twenty Thirty Forty Fifty Gallons: Milking accomplished

This is Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
Milk is flowing through a tube
It’s collecting in a great big copper vat
It is rich in flavor and in butterfat

This is Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
We’re adding rennet now
And your milk has turned to lovely curds and whey
It is molded and then it’s stashed away

For here
Is it sitting in a damp cave
Far beneath the earth
Mold will make it blue
And there’s nothing more to do

Now that it has aged for sixty days
It’s ready to be sold
So we’ll ship it from Vermont to Boston Town
The Cheese Tuesday folks would love to …scarf it down

Farmer Tom to Big Brown Cow
Your cheese is great, you should be proud
Let me milk you Big Brown Cow
Let me milk you Big Brown Cow
Let me milk you Big Brown Cow
Cow say:

Here am I standing in a meadow
High above the town
Field is green and sky is blue
Eating grass is what I do

The Madeira Meal Ender

This week, I had the great pleasure of dining at Veritas in New York. Considering that we were a table of oenophiles (full disclosure: I pretty much only hang out with wine people), we couldn’t help but mine their extensive list for gems and old favorites. The Veritas crew graciously poured us a glass of grower Champagne from Agrapart to begin. From there, we went to a 1er cru 2010 Chablis from Daniel-Etienne Defaix, then Bernard Moreau’s Volnay Santenots 2008. Each was a wine of distinction, and I was glad that I was not paying!

The highlight, however, arrived with cheese: the Madeira.  Why don’t I drink more of this stuff?!  Richly textured, yet incredibly refreshing, Madeira is the perfect completion of a great meal.  For us, it was the D’Oliveras Sercial 1969 and the D’Oliveras Boal 1968.  Toffee, salted nuts, candied citrus peel, ginger… there is a lot going on in these wines!  The Sercial was the showstopper for me.  The driest style of Madeira, it’s a knockout with cheese.
Lucky for us all, we have the 1969 D’Oliveras Sercial at L’Espalier.  Grab a friend, take a seat in the Salon, and select a mouthwatering assortment of cheese from Louis’s cart.  Add two glasses of Madeira, and I bet that you’ll float back out onto Boylston Street with the same glow that I had in New York that evening.

Weekly Wine Infatuation

We love our events at L’Espalier. For me, it’s an excuse to open new and different wines with guests having gathered, eager to share in the excursion. The sommelier staff here tastes a multitude of wines over the course of a week, and some seem in particular to take a tenacious hold of our minds.

This week, I can’t get enough of the NV Barth, Spätburgunder Rosé Sekt from Germany’s Rheingau region. The German language befuddles me as well, but we can decipher this as a sparkling (sekt) wine of pinot noir (spätburgunder) and wow, is it a gem with summer salads, as well as flying solo as an aperitif.

Made in the traditional method of Champagne, it is fresh and bright – but my absolute favorite quality is that it tastes like pinot noir! Imagine that. Many sparklings (as much as we love them) do not express much varietal character. This one delivers in spades: ripe red berry fruit and a touch of spice.

It’s not even on the list yet, so this week’s attendees of Wine Monday and Cheese Tuesday had a sneak preview. Join us over the weekend to enjoy a bottle yourself!

Our upcoming theme for Wine Monday is Basque Country – one of my favorite areas of the culinary world. Not many wines make it to Boston from this small corner of Basque Spain and France, so come discover this unique line of summer refreshers. It will be a seafood-driven menu to complement the weather and the wines. Myself, I can’t wait, and hope to see you there!

Cheers,
Lauren
Wine Director – L’Espalier

Our Sunday focused Tea Tasting: Assam

On Sunday, February 24th was our monthly tasting, and this month we had the pleasure of exploring the northern Indian tea growing region of Assam.  Along the banks of the Brahmaputra River can be found the beautiful tea gardens that produce the distinctive, full bodied, bold, malty flavors with a touch of fruitiness that we have come to associate with Assam teas.  The classic Assams follow this flavor profile, but we also enjoyed some rare atypical examples of this region.  A highlight of the afternoon was a slow-cooked Masala style Chai, made of course with Assam.  Wherever you go in India, you will find marvelous examples of hand-made, slow simmered Masala tea.  Everywhere you turn, there will be a slightly different recipe for Masala tea (the word chai simply means tea, but in the US it has come to be commonly used for Masala style tea) each one a masterpiece.  Many versions are made by first simmering water, tea, and spices for a period before the milk gets added, others by simmering the milk for an extended period as well.  This second approach is my preference, and the one we served.  Most of the spices commonly found in Masala blends are fat soluble.  Slow simmering in milk allows a wonderful depth of flavor to develop.

Assam teas are grown at a relatively low elevation, roughly 500 feet above sea level.  This explains the bold, full-bodied Assams that go so well with the addition of milk and sweetener.  Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica is native to this region, observed growing wild in Assam by Scottish Botanist Robert Bruce in 1823 after attempts to grow the China bush, Camellia Sinensis Sinensis were meeting less than ideal results.  In India, and elsewhere, it can often be found hybridized with the more common Camellia Sinensis Sinensis.

Assam leaves may be finished as either Orthodox or CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl), with Orthodox style typically offering more complexity and CTC offering more assertiveness.  The teas that we enjoyed during the February tasting were all Orthodox style, but those of you who enjoy your tea particularly strong, to stand up to a LOT of milk, such as in Irish Breakfast blends, may enjoy exploring CTC styles of Assam teas as well.  Speaking of Irish Breakfast teas, that is the topic of our St. Patrick’s Day tasting on March 17!

As promised to our guests during the tasting, below you will find the recipe for our Assam based welcoming tea cocktail:

L’Espalier 24

1 1/2 ounces Assam Infused Beefeater 24
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1/4 ounce Absinthe (for rinse)
1/2 ounce ginger oolong simple syrup
3 dashes orange bitters

Pour Absinthe into chilled cocktail glass and turn to coat interior, pouring out any extra. Shake remaining ingredients with ice for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into the Absinthe rinsed cocktail glass.

Assam Infused Beefeater 24

1 liter Beefeater 24
2 tablespoons Assam tea leaves, or other full bodied black tea

Place 1 liter of gin in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves. Taste periodically until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 to 3 hours. Strain multiple times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until no visible tea remains. Store at room temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped fresh sliced ginger
1 wedge lime
1 tablespoon Oolong tea leaves, preferably a smoky high oxidation Oolong

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in lime and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and let simmer until a clear syrup is formed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir and let sit until cool. May be left overnight at this stage. Strain.

 

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Last Sunday we said a fond farewell to our Holiday tea events with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for children of all ages.  It was quite well attended and as much fun for us as it was for our guests!  At the entryway, our White Rabbit guarded an assortment of rare first edition Alice and Wonderland books and other Alice items that added to the building excitement.

With Alice in Wonderland touches and ‘un-birthday celebrations’ throughout the room, it was not the typical Afternoon Tea experience.

For the adults, in honor of the occasion, the kitchen added a marvelous foie gras tea sandwich to the mix, but where things really notched up in excitement was on the pastry side!  The L’Espalier pastry department created lovely lingonberry frangipane ‘Eat Me’ cakes to accompany the ‘Drink Me’ bottles of our signature iced tea and fresh house made ginger-ale on each table.

Another highlight of the sweet delights were the handmade edible Bergamot tea cups filled with a delicate Nepalese Black Tea Chantilly cream.  The Mad Hatter would be proud.

Now as we all relax after the busy holiday season and get our breath, tea can still be a part of that relaxation.  For those of you who may have caught that nasty cold/flu that is making it’s way around, what better comfort than a classic, or not so classic Hot Toddy.  To aid us all on the road to recovery, or perhaps just to help us relax on these cold, cold days, we are looking forward to the theme for our next ‘Sunday Tasting’ on January 27th at 2PM which features an assortment of Hot Toddies sure to please every palate and chase away that cold.  In the meantime, I hope you all have the time to relax over a good cup of tea.

The Boston Tea Party tasting Event

As our December monthly tea tasting topic, we couldn’t help but take advantage of the fact that December 16th is the anniversary of the ‘Destruction of the Tea’ which was later renamed to ‘The Boston Tea Party’.  For our tasting, we enjoyed the teas that were thrown into the harbor on that fateful day.  Our teas were much fresher however and without a hint of sea water!  For our welcoming tea cocktail, we embraced a historic Colonial Tea Punch.  Punches in that time in history had a much more sophisticated flavor profile from the ‘day-glo’ versions that you may remember from your college party days.  They were also typically much stronger than modern styles, but this recipe can be adjusted to your sensibilities.  The very act of icing this punch down, something that was not readily available to our colonial forefathers, will of course reduce the alcohol content.  One of our guests on leaving the tasting commented that ‘it tasted like history’.  So enjoy a taste of history on us.

Fish House Punch shown with a Colonial Era Tea Caddie

Fish House Punch

In honor of the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, we’d like to share with you a colonial favorite.  ‘Fish House Punch’ was created in 1732 at the gentleman’s club, ‘The Schuylkill Fishing Company’ in Philadelphia.  This angling club, which is still in existence, was the first of its kind in the American Colonies, and claims to be the oldest social club in the English-speaking world.  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, as well as of course the Boston patriots, enjoyed Fish House Punch.  Who knows?  It may have been used to fortify the nerves and warm the bodies of the Tea Party participants on that fateful night. While the original 1732 formula is still secreted away at the ‘Fish House’ as the club is referred to, many recipes and variations have circulated over the last 280 years, through the colonies and beyond.

It is typically shown being diluted with either water or tea.  All written records of variations refer to either black or green tea (we used a Bohean black in our photo), which is what was available at that time, but to tease forward the flavors of the Peach Brandy, you may want to consider substituting your favorite Oolong.  The recipe shown is adapted from research by David Wondrich for Esquire Magazine.

Ingredients

1.5 cups superfine sugar

2 quarts water

1 quart lemon juice

2 quarts dark rum

1 quart cognac

4 ounces peach brandy

3 tablespoons full-bodied Chinese black tea leaves

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil and steep tea leaves for 5 minutes.  Strain and discard leaves. Set tea aside to cool.  In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in two cups of the water, and then incorporate the lemon juice. Add the spirits and the remaining water and tea to taste.  Place a block of ice into your bowl and let stand in a cool place for the flavors to develop for an hour or so before serving.  The ready availability of ice is a modern luxury.  Since our forefathers were typically drinking at room temperature, they would balance it with more water and tea than you might, as they did not have to account for dilution from the ice.

Note: To learn more about the history of Punch as well as modern variations, see the fall issue of TEA Magazine, or the excellent book Punch, The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl by David Wondrich.

Photo courtesy of Julian Landa.

A Not So Lazy Summer at Apple Street Farm

As the weather cools and the green wilts, we reflect on the summer past.

To be a chef is to appreciate product – not only those with a high price tag, but also those we use everyday; the onions, carrots and lettuces of the world.  We are lucky here at L’Espalier to work with a Chef who takes his produce seriously, so much so, he grows it himself.  Chef Frank has been working the fields at Apple Street Farm for several years now with the help of a small farm crew and the occasional cook-turned-weeder.  From their labor we, who toil in the flame rather than the dirt, reap the benefits of a tomato ripened in the morning sun and served before that same sun sets.

Nathan, one of many chefs from L’Espalier to offer his labor at ASF, transfers seedlings in the greenhouse.  A very tedious job indeed.  All of the plants, not directly seeded into the ground start here.  They are raised to the required size and transferred to their permanent home in the fields.  At least once a week, but never enough, we visit the farm to plant, weed, harvest, forage, and slaughter.

From seed to seedling, to plant, and ultimately vegetable.  The amazing truth of the green world…from one seed infinity can grow.

Over the course of the growing season we are able to purchase up to 80% of our produce from ASF, during peak production.  This translates to 500-1000 pounds of fresh vegetables a week, with deliveries coming sometimes up to 5 days a week.  Of course, shear volume is not enough to satisfy the discerning chef; variety and quality is what we are truly looking for.  On any given delivery we would sort through up to 50 different varietals; everything from eggplant to onion, tomato to potato, tatsoi to sheep sorrel, strawberries to nasturtium and everything in between.  This produce drives our creativity and ultimately our daily menu.

Above our “Walk through Apple Street Farm”, a cool salad comprised of 100% ASF vegetables, lettuces, flowers, and herbs; below, “This week’s harvest with Ibérico and brown butter”.  Both with strong Bras overtones.  Both a real joy to prepare during the height of the season.  Both an expression of the best ASF has to offer.

Beyond fruits and vegetables, ASF grows many varieties of edible and decorative flowers.  Nasturtium, Bachelors Button, Calendula, Borage and many more graced the plates and tables of L’Espalier this summer.  One of my favorites, sunflowers, for their shear beauty, cut flowers, seeds, and the edible flower head once past its bloom.

And of course there is honey from the hive, a task only Chef dares to undertake…

Apple Street Farm also supplies us with dozens of multicolored eggs, heritage chickens, and Berkshire pigs for everything from charcuterie to whole roasted for our farm dinners.  As I think back to those happy summer days I wish I could have done more with the vegetables I received.  As I plan for next summer’s bounty; I hope that my creativity can match that of mother natures.  A task I am sure to lose…

A Tea Blending Event

As part of our holiday season tea events, earlier this month we had the pleasure to host an Afternoon Tea combined with a tea blending class.  Our guests all arrived to our bright and sunny Corner Room ready to create their own signature blend.  We discussed why tea blends are created, both historically and currently, as we tasted and discussed our chosen base teas.

The base teas we played with were a classic Earl Grey, scented with bergamot oil, a full bodied and rich Chinese Keemun, a bright and aromatic Darjeeling and a Chinese Green tea, Chun Mee.  We tasted each of these individually, then started to combine them in different proportions.  Once everyone decided on their base tea, or base blend, it was time to start playing for real!

We had a variety of different dried fruits, spices, flower petals and more for scenting and flavoring our signature blends.  Initial blends were all made one cup at a time so that the test blends could be tasted and tweaked as much as desired.  When a success was reached, then it was time to formalize that tea with a recipe and a name.  A new tea was born!  After each perfect blend was named, local artist and photographer Julian Landa did a calligraphy label of the tea and then a quarter pound of the new creation could be blended, packed and sealed.

Many of our guests chose to bring home multiple bags of their signature blend when it occurred to them that a pouch of their own tea blend would make a wonderful holiday gift.  Homemade gifts are always appreciated, and this was far more unique than a batch of holiday cookies and of course can be enjoyed for weeks to come.  For our guests that chose to leave with their one quarter pound of tea, I hope they still have the opportunity to share their tea with their holiday guests, pot by pot.  Here at L’Espalier we are always blending up something new and are featuring our Holiday Blend tea for this month only.  Visit L’Espalier while it is still available!

Posted in Tea

Tea Cocktails at the DeCordova


On the rooftop of the DeCordova Museum. What a view!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of leading a seminar at the DeCordova Museum on the evolution of the modern Tea Cocktail.  Before the event began, we had a chance to relax, chat and taste some teas on the beautiful roof-top deck of the museum. What a beautiful place to enjoy a cup of tea!  We sipped on a variety of L’Espalier signature blend teas as well as tasting one of the teas that we would later be enjoying blended into a Colonial style tea punch.  As much as we were all looking forward to tasting tea cocktails, it was hard to leave that beautiful open space to settle into a more traditional lecture space!

 

However, with the promise of Tea Cocktails, I headed on down into the museum to help the bartender set up for the event.  Arguably, the first tea cocktails could be considered the Hot Toddies of Scotland.  They were originally created to make the taste of Scotch more palatable to women.  Although tea in it’s early days was a medicinal, these early Hot Toddies were not the cold remedies of your grandmother!  Far away in the British East Indies, Punch or Paantsch was being created by the  British East Indies sailors and ‘tea men’.  Now this punch was a far cry from the day-glow overly sweet versions that many of us remember from our college days.  The punch of our forebears was a complex and well-balanced drink.  The name derives from the Hindi word for five, and refers to the five elements of a true Punch.

  • Spirit.  In Colonial New England due to the local rums that were available, this was often rum, but historically, many different spirits were used.  The most revered being Batavia Arrack from the East Indies (now Indonesia)
  • Sour. The preferred sour initially, especially with the sailors at sea was lime.
    n England, lemon and orange were preferred.  In colonial New England, where citrus could be hard to come by, we often used vinegar or verjus as well.
  • Sweet.  Sugar in the colonies was quite different from our modern refined white sugar.  It was a coarse raw sugar in block form which was ideal for using to scrape the
  •  zest off of any citrus that they were fortunate enough to have!
  • Water
  • Spice.  Spice was often interpreted as tea, but the tea could be used instead of the water component as well.  In fact, although these are two of the critical five, more often than not they could be added as one in the form of hot tea.  Another traditional spice that was often added was freshly ground nutmeg.

For those of you who are curious about what a traditional colonial Tea Punch tastes like, or would like to learn more about the teas of the colonies, I want to draw your attention to the December Tea Tasting.  As you probably know, we offer a guided tea tasting on a particular theme each month.  In December our theme does not represent a particular tea growing region, but it is focused on the December 16th Boston Tea Party.  We will be tasting the teas that went into the harbor on that fateful day! 

Join us on Sunday December 16th at 2:00 for our Sunday Tea Tasting focused on the Boston Tea Party.

 

But, back to the DeCordova.  We went on to taste and talk about Tea Sangrias which are a lighter, more modern version of a Tea Punch, and then modern tea cocktails.  The cocktail that we enjoyed was the Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail currently on the menu at L’Espalier.

 

The Southern Earl Grey, a champagne Tea Cocktail. Photo by Julian Landa

Here is the recipe for the Southern Earl Grey:

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce Earl Grey infused Bourbon
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon Green tea and ginger syrup
dash of Orange Bitters
Prosecco

Add first four ingredients to a champagne flute. Fill with Prosecco or your favorite
champagne. Optionally garnish with a curl of orange zest.

Infused Bourbon

1 liter Makers Mark Bourbon
1/4 cup of Earl Grey tea leaves

Place 1 liter of vodka in non-reactive container. Add tea leaves, taste periodically
until desired strength is achieved. Probably around 2 hours. Strain multiple
times through cheesecloth or coffee filters until completely clear. Store at room
temperature or chilled.

Oolong Tea and Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups white sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1 wedge lemon or orange
3 tablespoons Oolong tea leaves

Place sugar and water into a saucepan. Stir sugar up from the bottom, squeeze in
citrus and add ginger. Place over medium-high flame and bring to a boil. Turn
down to low and let simmer until a clear thick syrup is formed, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, add tea leaves, stir well and let sit until cool. May be left
overnight at this stage. Strain.

 

Pairing Tea as you would fine wines. A seminar from the World Tea Expo.

I recently was once again traveling away from L’Espalier to attend the World Tea Expo where it was my great pleasure to again teach a seminar on Pairing Food with Tea.  This is one of my favorite topics to speak on.  Pairing tea and food as well as cooking with tea are areas which I believe deserve much more attention and exploration.  Camellia Sinensis is a flexible botanical with diverse culinary potential that is just beginning to be appreciated.
It was an exciting and hectic trip as this class overlapped with the certification level Specialty Tea Institute classes that I was also teaching, meaning that it was a mad dash back and forth!  The concepts in this class discussed tasting teas to deconstruct them into their basic elements in the same way you would look at wines to pair them.  Once you have looked at the teas flavors, aromatics and textures, you can then pair them for compatibility, contrast and/or balance.
Wine is of course an ideal complement to most meals, and L’Espalier is known for it’s exceptional wine list, but for a variety of reasons, you may not always want to be consuming alcohol.  Fine teas give you the opportunity to offer an ideal pairing of food and beverage to elevate the dining experience on the days that wine does not make sense for you. This class was a fun and tasty one where we nibbled on various fruits, cheeses, chocolates and even some tea cured salmon and talked about why certain teas paired well with some of these items and others did not.  Although my goal was for all the students to leave the class able to taste teas with an eye towards proper pairing, and develop ideal pairings on their own, this was still a much more relaxed and casual class than the certification level classes for STI.  There were no exams involved with this pairing class!

I’ve been away from L’Espalier quite a bit lately for various classes and conferences, not to mention a recent trip to Nepal, but I am not planning any more trips in the next couple of months as we have so many exciting tea events coming up here at home!  If you want to find out more about our upcoming tea events, you can look on our website, but for a quick summary of what will be keeping me here in Boston for the next couple of months, and happily steeped in tea:
November 18th, our monthly guided tea tasting focused on Darjeeling.  We’ll be enjoying some classic Darjeelings as well as some very rare and unusual ones.
December 2nd, we’re having ‘A Tea Blending Party’ where we’ll talk about how to blend teas and then get hands-on!  Each of our guests will leave with a pouch of their own signature tea blend.
December 9th, our ‘Princess Tea’ geared towards our younger tea lovers with a variety of special treats and tiara’s and crowns for all of our special young guests!
December 16th, the anniversary of the historic event that led to the American Revolution!  We’ll be tasting the teas that went into the harbor on that fateful day as well as a colonial style tea punch.
December 23rd and 24th our Holiday Tea Celebrations with a lively Holiday theme and special holiday treats.  A great family event.
December 30th, a Tarot Tea.  See what 2013 has in store for you!  Enjoy a classic Afternoon Tea experience, including L’Espalier fortune cookies many of which reveal special prizes, then have your cards read.  What a great way to finish off 2012.
January 6th, A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Come unveil your favorite hats at a very special tea party for children of all ages!
Photos courtesy of Julian Landa.
Posted in Tea