Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Irish Tea Room in Niagara-on-the-Lake: Warm, inviting and delicious!

Niagara-on-the-Lake is well known for its Shaw festival and many picturesque vineyards, but for those looking for a great cup of tea and delicious food with an Irish flair, the Irish Tea Room, on the town’s main street, is a must-stop destination.

Last month, my husband and I stayed overnight at NOTL on the way back from our cousin’s wedding. We had had many testimonials from family and friends (including said cousin) that this was a destination worth seeing, especially for those of us who are patrons of the arts and wines. But, through the internet, I also found there was a tea room downtown and from reviews and pictures, I knew that it would fit in nicely between the galleries and the vineyards.

With an early start and a hearty breakfast, we traveled the Lake Ontario shoreline and stopped at a half a dozen wi
neries. There is a distinctive taste to the Niagara-produced wine that I found I really liked. In fact, it was much like the comfortable fall day we were there - cool and crisp with just the right amount of zing.

But, I digress. . . after the self-directed winery tour, we drove to town and found The Irish Tea Room in the back of the Irish Design store on Queen street, the town's main avenue. The tea room's lace curtains, hardwood floors and shelves stocked with goodies make guests feel immediately at home and comfortable.

We met owner, Pat Henry, who is as warm and charming as her tea room. Originally from Ireland, she came to the America over twenty years ago. A degree in culinary arts and many years of catering experience, her dream of opening up her own tea room came seven years ago with the Irish Tea Room. Everything in the store is made on the premises. Pat told us, with a smile, "I make everything served here but the dishes".

We sampled the tea rooms scones which were amazing - perfect blend of delicious taste and light consistency - not to mention that the portions are extremely generous.We paired it off with a simply wonderful cup of Earl Grey although there's more than tea to choose from. The menu offers a wide range of beverages, including gourmet hot chocolate, specialty coffees and even a selection of the region's fine wines

Aside from scones, the tea room offers a wide variety of tea fare, including Guinness Steak Pie and Irish Whiskey Cake. In addition, the Irish Tea Room sells its own brand of packaged scone mix. We, of course, purchased a few to take back with us to go with our box of Barry teas - and a few Niagara wines we had purchased earlier in the day.

To learn more about this delightful tea room in NOTL,continue reading The Detroit Irish Tea Time in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Cheers to weddings, mini-vacations, and charming Irish tea rooms!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tea Travels North of the Border: weddings, chocolate, shopping and lots of tea in Canada

While still sorting out photos and mementos from tea travels in London this past July, we set out on another international tea-filled trip, although this time, not quite so far away. Heading north of the border, my husband, Chris, and I drove from Detroit to Kingston, Ontario two weeks ago for our cousin's wedding. This mini-vacation combined all my favorite things: family, friends, weddings, vineyards, shopping, tea rooms, and, of course, lots and lots of tea.

Saturday morning - the day of the wedding - we went to the Farmer's Market in downtown Kingston. Lucky for us, Cha Cha Tea was in attendance and we were treated to a sample some of their delicious green tea. The good folks from this Kingston tea store prepared matcha tea in the traditional fashion,whipping it into a frothy lime green concoction with a bamboo whisk.

From the open air market, we walked down Brock Street to Cooke's Fine Foods. In business since 1865, this store offers a great selection of gourmet foods, coffees and teas in charming vintage Victorian decor. We were so transfixed on their shelves of tea, we totally ignored another cousin who had, unbeknownst to us, entered Cooke's around the same time we did. After apologies erupted and, as quickly, graciously accepted, we moved next to the candy area. Here we found another tea treasure: Roger's "High Tea" chocolate bar.
Another Canadian treasure, Roger's Chocolate began in the back of Charles "Candy" Rogers' grocery store in 1885 in Victoria, British Columbia. Today, with their own master chocolatier, they continue to create new and tastey chocolate treats. I'm not sure who to credit the High Tea chocolate bar to, but it successfully combines the very sweet taste of chocolate with the bold flavor of black tea. It also proved to be a great emergency snack on the way home as we experienced the familiar traffic slowdowns through Toronto on the Canadian autobahn, the 401.

Our cousin's wedding on Saturday night was what you hope for all weddings: it was beautiful and filled with joy. And, this union joined not only bride and groom, but a blended family of five daughters. The genuine affection of the family was so touching, I found I was, once again, outfitted with an inadequate amount of tissues.
The next day, the newly married couple invited us all to their home for a lunch buffet. Our hostess served us tea in generous-sized mugs, which inspired a "tea-scape", an abbreviated tablescape (top right). The tea was as warm and inviting as our hosts and we are so happy for them - and for the chance to have been a part of this big event.

Fortified with tea and munchies, we started back home, but with a slight detour to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Well known for its Shaw-themed theaters and abundance of wineries, we'd been interested in checking this place out for some time. I can tell you, we weren't disappointed. Our next blog will feature an amazing tea room we found on the main street of NOTL. Keeping with our international theme, we were back across the pond while still at our neighbor-to-the-north. And, still drinking lots and lots of tea!