Valentine’s Day Champagne Tea

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Valentine’s Day Champagne Tea
You already know about the British tea ritual. Properly done, it is nearly a meal in itself, with sandwiches, desserts, and of course, many cups of your favorite tea. Stop off at Brown’s Hotel in London, and you will never forget the routine. You might also, as I have done, get the right recipe for making a proper cup of tea. And you will start to get the notion that like fine wines, teas are graded and of different tastes and qualities. For Christmas, I was given a box of First Flush Darjeeling, the very best quality of first picked young tea leaves from one of the most famous varieties, grown in the Himalayas. Going around Darjeeling is like finding your way around the Pomerol wine countryside near Bordeaux – always full of discovery, with shadings of taste depending upon which part of land the crop is grown.             Tea for Valentine’s Day is an idea whose time has come. But let’s dress it up, and have a Valentine’s Day Champagne Tea. It will be more filling than you think, and take the place of your evening meal. Take some time, to set the mood. Do you have a fireplace? This is not the time for one of those artificial logs. Build a real fire, with kindling and split oak to cradle the kindling, and to put on top of the fire, once it is well underway. Plan for the fire to last at least an hour, and have another log or two within easy reach. The music is up to you.             Start with your basic tea and sandwiches, full of flavor and not overly filling. This is going to be a tasting meal, so that you will look forward to the various courses as they arrive. You’ve also got to have, along with the sandwiches, some scones and clotted cream and jams. My favorite is the Bonne Maman line of fruit jams, delicious and not overly sweet. You might also like marmalade, made with Seville oranges for a new and contrasting flavor.             Now comes the treat, as you segue into the dessert portion of your Valentine’s Day Tea. The champagne you serve, well chilled of course, depends upon you. Any good champagne is a bit of a splurge, but the value for nonvintage French champagne from a.good house in Epernay far exceeds the value you now get for an overalcoholized young wine bidding for a high point score. Just make sure, unless you have a strong personal preference to the contrary, that your champagne is Brut, a dryer variety that suits most American tastes. Don’t buy the Extra Dry, which despite the name, really is a sweeter product, too sweet for many.             Which champagne you pick depends not upon quality, but rather, upon the weight that you prefer. A very full champagne, such as Bollinger, is a great treat, but probably not at the end of a heavy meal. A good medium weight nonvintage champagne is Veuve Clicquot (although I think their vintage champagne is a far superior drink). You may prefer to stick to something a bit lighter, such as Moet et Chandon. The lightest in this quality league is Taittinger, always reliable in recent years, and the perfect accompaniment to your Valentine’s Day Tea if you have had your sandwiches and scones and are now turning to the desserts. These champagnes are in the $30-$35 retail range in the United States, and worth it.             And what if this is really a special occasion? Spend $100-$125 for a Dom Perignon, either 1995 (a glorious blend) or 1996 (extraordinarily high quality chardonnay). That creates an occasion you’ll long remember. The menu now includes strawberries dipped in chocolate, and our favorite, Royal Pecan Tarts with whipped cream.             Here are the recipes, and Happy Valentine’s Day!   Royal Pecan Tarts Ingredients: Filling –  3 eggs (beaten), 1 cup Karo syrup, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoonful melted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups fresh pecans. Make pie dough, and divide into 6 tart pans. Stir all ingredients until well blended – then add pecans. Pour into crusts. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven on a baking sheet for 40-45 minutes. Serve with real whipped cream.   Whipped Cream –  buy ½ pint. Add 2 tablespoonfuls of sugar and 1 teaspoonful vanilla. Whip until stiff. Serve separately.
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