Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy National Chocolate Day! Celebrate with Chocolate and Tea pairings from Barb's TEA Shop

Chocolate and tea:  great tastes combine for delicious pairings
It's National Chocolate Day! Although, perhaps not as well known as some of the other holidays, it certainly has a following and you can count Barb's TEA Shop in that fan-base. Long devotees of that luxurious dark confection, we have become more learned in the topic through seminars, lots of research, and best of all, in-home study. We've packaged it all up in a tea and chocolate pairing class we'd love to share with you!

In addition to classes and research, in-home study proved tasty

 At Barb's TEA Shop, we will supply the chocolate, the tea and our recommendations for the optimal pairings. It's like a wine tasting that brings out the best of both beverage and cuisine, but you won't need a designated driver to indulge!

Jody Dodson discusses the various stages of chocolate
 One of the chocolate seminars we attended this year was given by Grocer's Daughter Chocolate, located in Empire, Michigan. Co-owner Jody Dodson, with the assistance of store founder, Mimi Wheeler, presented "How to Taste Chocolate".  Sampling various stages of chocolate in its journey from bitter nib to decadent truffle was as enjoyable as it was educational. Jody told of first-hand experiences in Ecuador visiting cacao farmers in the Amazon. (They host Chocolate Trips to these regions, next one is April, 2014).

Chocolate tasting, as varied as tea. 

For a  tasty in-home party or scrumptious event at almost any venue, let us treat you and your guests to a wonderful sampling of chocolate, tea and fun! Call, email or message us on Facebook!

248-840-4356,, Barb's TEA Shop Facebook page

Half drink/half mousse, hot chocolate granache with cream. 
In honor of its special day, however, we're not afraid to take chocolate straight-up. Our ultimate foodie friend, Mr. D., prepared an exquisite version of hot chocolate granache with fresh whipped cream this weekend. Served in vintage English bone china, it was absurdly rich and delicious. Half drink/half mousse, you could sip or spoon or - as many of us did - do both to get every last bit. It's how to celebrate National Chocolate Day. .  . or next Tuesday! Cheers!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

House on the Hill: Toile and Tea kick off wonderful weekend in Northern Michigan

The Aspen Room has toile and a fireplace
For the past seven years (minus one), we have enjoyed a fall "color tour" weekend in northern Michigan with our good friends. We've mixed it up over the years, but we usually end up somewhere near Traverse City and along with the beautiful scenery, it usually includes fine dining, tea, wineries and sometimes golf. 

This year our friends planned a three-day adventure based on some of their favorite places, starting with The House on The Hill Bed and Breakfast in Ellsworth. This charming B & B has rooms in the main house as well as additional lodging in its carriage house. 

The latter is where our party stayed and I felt like I won the lottery when Chris and  I were shown "The Aspen Room".  As a toile fanatic (yes, I feel that strongly about it), this room had not only my favorite patterned fabric, but a fireplace and a balcony overlooking several wooded acres and a meandering stream. There was hardly a need to venture out, but, we found the strength to explore beyond the blue toile.

Delicious gourmet dinner at Rowe Inn

White chocolate brownie for dessert
After check-in and a warm up by the fire, we made our way to the Rowe Inn, a gourmet restaurant just a two minute drive from the House on the Hill. Here we all ordered the same thing - it sounded so good - roast duck.We finished the meal with my always favorite course, dessert and Rowe Inn's white chocolate brownie served with a hot cup of tea did not disappoint.

Lake view from our B & B. This lake is part of the Inland Waterway

Angela Macke of LOD teas shows where her tea plants grow
The next day started with a slight drizzle, but we could still enjoy the lake view from the B & B's front porch. After an amazing three-course breakfast which included fresh fruit and homemade pumpkin bread, and tea, of course, we piled into the SUV and drove towards Traverse City.

Our first stop was Light of Day, the amazing  tea store and farm in Michigan. Angela Macke, owner and operator, invited us on the tour of her new greenhouse where she is growing her own tea plants. (More of that in a future blog, but we did feature it in The Detroit Tea Examiner article: Light of Day grows its own tea plants in northern Michigan)

View from 2 Lads at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula

From the farm to the vineyard, we made our way up the Old Mission Peninsula to some of our favorite wineries. We always stop at Chateau Chantal and 2 Lads as they have the most spectacular views on the bay.

The last day of our extended weekend started with another delightful breakfast at our B & B. Fortified with eggs and croissants, we were ready to head out even further north to view the "Tunnel of Trees".

Good Hart General Store -  view from the car amid the heavy rain 
In our mission to find the glass pumpkin festival, we drove through Petosky, Bay Harbor and Harbor Springs, admiring the million-dollar views and the equally expensive "cottages" that accompanied them. Reaching Good Hart, we stopped briefly at the General Store with its interesting selection of merchandise, including a variety of homemade pies.

We then moved towards Cross Village, the site of the glass pumpkin festival noted in the local paper. We didn't see it immediately, so stopped in at the Leg's Inn, known for its authentic Polish Cuisine. The name comes from the inverted cast iron stove legs that adorn the balcony.

Outside the Leg's Inn. Note the balcony above.

Leg's Inn blintzes. Entrees disguised as dessert? No complaints!

I had a Blintzes-Nalesniki filled with farmer's cheese and apples. Dessert for lunch? Well, why not?

After that, we were diverted by signs pointing to a pumpkin farm. Like, Linus, wanting to believe the great pumpkin was near, we were misguided in our blind faith. Turns out, the pumpkin farm actually was a pumpkin farm. The glass pumpkin festival, we found out later, was right across the street from the Leg's Inn. It eluded us this year, but like that loyal Peanuts character, we've agreed to be back next year, sure to see the real glass pumpkin festival.

Amazing view of Mackinac Bridge, grande finale of a fantastic weekend

Our long weekend ended on a high note. Our friends lead us on a route that convinced me they were lost. We turned down several remote, winding roads ending up on a sloping dead end. Once we cleared the trees, we took in a spectacular view of the Mackinac Bridge.

Toile, tea, vineyards and lots of fancy eatin' along the backdrop of northern Michigan's natural beauty filled with colorful trees and water views. Exquisite interiors to match the great outdoors, and it all started with tea and toile.