Afternoon Tea Party [Mini Cucumber Sandwiches]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I follow a lot of blogs, and if they post too much for me to keep up, I follow them on twitter. Most of them are awesome design, DIY, and food blogs that fill my little head and pinterst board with all kinds of ideas. Lately I have been wanting to throw a party of some sort where I actually plan and prepare everything, everyone else just comes and enjoys. Normally when we have big dinners or parties, everyone brings something and I wanted to actual host a put on a party, decorations, food and drinks.  I have come to terms with the fact that a dinner party is really out of the question given the size of my apartment and the number of people I would want to invite, I’m not good at leaving people out or picking the people to leave out. Some how I got the idea of a tea party in my head. I figured it was something I could easily handle preparing for and it would be the perfect setting for a bit of silliness and cutsie decorations.

The Theme/ Color Scheme/ Decorations

Last year or so, I read the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and I love the illustrations by John Tenniel. Since this was not going to be a serious tea party, I felt the Mad Hatters tea party was perfect inspiration. I am a bit obsessed with cardboard or paper bag colored paper right now along with gold and silver together, so I went with those and added some pink as an extra pop for my color scheme. To decorate the back yard, I strung natural colored twine and pink twine back between the fire escape and back fence. From the natural colored twine I made little paper flags from gold and silver to hang down. I meant to use butcher paper as a table cloth, but I forgot to get some on Friday, so I just cut open some paper bags and laid them out, with all the food and drinks on top, you really couldn’t tell so much. I found this printable pattern for a Mad Hatter hat and made one regular size and scaled it down to fit an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper to make three others. I ended up cutting of the triangles on the top of the hat and gluing/taping in the top part, the paper was maybe too thick to fold the triangles down. Either way, it worked fine. I also made little labels for all the food using cardboard paper and little black labels and pink twine on the ones with holes punched out. All the “platters” and serving pieces I stuck to white or clear with the occasional pink  piece. There were a few other things/ideas that I wanted to as well, but I ran out of time, and it looked pretty good with out them anyway.

Tea Party Decor

The Invitations

I sent out real invitations. I mean waaaaaay back in the day, didn’t you normally get a note from the lady of the house that she would like you to join her for tea? I sent a suspicious email to everyone asking for their addresses. Some wondered if I was moving, if I was pregnant (no thank you!)  or if I was some how engaged (hahahahaha!). Nope just your typical afternoon tea invitation. I printed them on card stock in black only and added some gold and sliver with gel pens. I also printed a tea cup on the envelopes and addressed them all in white ink. There were only a couple people who knew what I was actually doing, so pretty much everyone told me how much they liked getting something in the mail. I do love mail that’s not a credit card offer or bill. Normally the only things I get are little things from my mom or grandma. Other kinds of mail are so fun.

Tea party invitation

The Teas

I agonized over what teas to serve forever. I mean forever. There are a lot of boozy teas recipes out there. I decided to narrow my search down to drinks that only had one kind of alcohol in them that I might actually drink later. I don’t really go through liquor too fast, I rarely drink at home unless there is a party and we often drink beer instead. I don’t need a bottle of some random liquor that I bought for 2 tablespoons. I also decided that I didn’t want them to be too fussy, so that shortened the list even more. I ended up with two kinds of boozy chilled tea. One was this Bourbon Mint Tea from The Bitten Word and the other was this fruity Back Porch Tea. Both were very easy to make and delicious. I used Earl Grey tea for the Bourbon Mint Tea and a mixed berry tea with pear for the Back Porch Tea. Since the recipe for the Back Porch Tea was a single serving, I prepared it the same as the Bourbon Mint, boiled the water, steeped the tea and let it cool before adding the gin and seltzer. For the hot teas, I decided to have a variety of teas so people could make their own tea and add whatever kind of alcohol to it they wanted, or not. Since the sun disappeared to the front of the building, the hot tea was a big hit and my little tea kettle was working nonstop.

Tea party tea

The Snacks

One of the things that excited me most about a tea party was the little finger foods I would get to serve. I had so many recipes tagged tea party in my Evernote, I didn’t know how I was going to pick only a few.  In the end I decided based on time and difficulty. I also didn’t want to have a ton of leftovers to munch through the week, and was really happy that my limiting it to six different things worked out really well. I made four things from scratch, a cheese platter with olives, grapes and strawberries, and these delicious little thin cookies from Trader Joe’s. The Raspberry Ricotta Scones, I could make early, freeze and bake that morning, making them an easy choice. The others were trying to balance the sweet and savory out while not being messy, true finger foods. I always have bananas and chocolate chips, so that made the mini banana bread loaves easy. The last two were new recipes for me. One was Sundried Tomato, Olive and Goat Cheese Palmiers from the queens of bite size foods, Spoon Fork Bacon. This was really tasty and I would have doubled it but pastry dough is a bit of bitch and I didn’t pay close enough attention to the first one as it thawed, so it was useless. I am probably just going to bake it as it as the the mess it is and load it up with strawberries and whip cream. Anyway, be warned.

My favorite item, which I have been wanting an excuse to make for years,seriously, was mini cucumber sandwiches. I went through various recipes on the web looking for the perfect one. I thought about trying them on rye or pumpernickel bread, but when I mentioned this to an English friend the night before he said, “I’ve never heard of them,” so that ended that. I landed on this recipe and didn’t really change much except using whipped cream cheese that I saw in a different recipe. I also doubled it to use an entire loaf of bread. They were a big hit if I do say so. I also have another seedless cucumber to do something with. Those things are huge. Any suggestions?

Tea party food

The Party

Everyone had a really good time (I think!). The weather stayed warm enough to stay in the garden and it didn’t rain. Several people brought their big hats, most had on some sort of springy dress and we even had some white gloves and a parasol. I even got a few hostess gifts which was just way to sweet and something I never think of but should. I lost count of how much tea I actually drank. It was a lot in several different forms of hot and cold. Earl Grey tea with a bit of milk and coconut vodka is an excellent choice. So is African Red Bush tea with bourbon. Just a few suggestions for you. I’m so happy that pretty much everyone I invited was able to come. There were 15 people in my little garden all enjoying the theme and tea. The best part is, I actually pulled it all off and had a good time myself. I was pretty tired of standing by 6PM, but it was definitely worth it. Now I need my next big task, maybe I’ll find something to invite the boys to as well, something they can appreciate too.

Top photo thanks to Silvia!

Top photo thanks to Silvia!

Mini Cucumber Sandwiches

makes 40 little sandwiches

  • 8ounces whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried dill
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 slices (one loaf) good-quality white bread with the crust cut off
  • 3/4 large English seedless cucumber, about 12 inches, thinly sliced
  1. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, fresh dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
  2. Lay the slices of bread on your work service and distribute the cream cheese evenly among each slice, spreading into a thin layer.
  3. Arrange the cucumber slices in rows over half slices of the bread.
  4. Top with the remaining bread, and cut into four triangles.