This afternoon, on Christmas Eve, I had the pleasure of going to afternoon tea at the St. James Tea House here in Albuquerque. I was invited by my friend Guylaine and it was just a heavenly retreat for the soul.
The St. James Tea House is an English Tea House that serves traditional afternoon tea, complete with a three-tiered tray of exquisite foods to tempt the palate and complimented by various teas. The ambiance takes you back to the mid-nineteenth century to a place where drinking tea is not only a special event, but is met with tradition, elegance, etiquette and courtesy.
The menu at St. James changes every month, and this month, being the special month that holds Christmas so near and dear to the heart, the menu was a Charles Dicken's event for the taste buds. We were served Traditional Beef Wellington, Ebeneezer's Cheddar Chutney on a Pate Brisee Star, The Crachit's Roasted Vegetables with Sherry, and Fezziwig's Fidget Pie, and the traditional tea sandwich: Walnut Cream Cheese on Cinnamon Raisin Bread, all of which was served with Indian Assam Traditional Black Tea.
For the breads, we were served Cranberry Bundt, a traditional Cream Scone, and Cranberry Curd with Clotted Cream. The tea, which perfectly complimented the light and delectable breads was Sparkling Sugar Plum Scented Black Tea.
For dessert, we were in for a real treat: Tiny Tim's Sticky Toffee Puddings, Marley's Chocolate, Raspberry Rugelach, and Christmas Present Honey Spice Trifle. Our dessert tea was Cranberry Blush Scented Green Tea.
The food overall was just incredible. The pastries were light and puffy, the vegetables rich and savory, the breads were amazing and the clotted cream and Cranberry Curd was so amazing. The Curd and Creams weren't too sweet and perfectly balanced the breads. My taste buds were just in heaven!
My favorite part of the whole experience, which I absolutely loved, was the solidarity and quietness of the whole experience. It is true we live in an extremely busy world. Even though I don't work and I try not to have too many things vying for my time and attention, as far as outside-the-home duties go, the fact is that I have very little quiet and relaxing time. I have three children three years old and younger, so quiet is not very commonplace in my life. Not that in this stage, there should be a lot of quiet. I want my children to be children and not feel like they have to be seen and not heard. I don't agree with that philosophical mind-set and never have.
That being said, I do crave quiet from time to time. And it's hard to find in our society. I have actually started avoiding the usual restaurants that have sprung up in chains across the country (Chili's for example) because they are so loud, it's hard to hear Mike (or anyone else) across the table. I'm soft spoken and I just can't compete with that kind of din and racket that come from tables placed close together to get more people seated and the meal being rushed to get more people turned over.
The St. James Tea Room was the exact opposite of that. We were seated at a quiet table and there are curtains drawn between the tables to invite a warm, cozy and intimate ambiance that welcomes quiet conversation with the competition of the neighboring tables. The seating area was truly a place to welcome conversation. Guylaine invited four other ladies besides myself, two of whom I had never met and one whom I hadn't had a chance to get to know very well. The ambiance of this cozy nook was perfect for getting to know the ladies and we reminisced stories of romance, talked of literature, shared personal stories and generally got to know my fellow [wo]man.
I didn't realize how much I needed such a respite for my soul, and it was wonderful. I can truly and honestly say that I loved every minute, from the time I walked through the arch leading through the garden to when I exited. I can't wait to take Mike - he would love it! I am so incredibly thankful to Guylaine for thinking of me, and inviting me - it was such a generous blessing, a Christmas blessing.