Tag Archive | Life

New Blog Title

I’m still kind of bouncing around the thought in my head of starting a new blog devoted to afternoon tea, scones, treats, and fun facts about afternoon tea, scones, and treats. It sounds like a fun little side project particularly since I’ve stopped doing my book review blog (just not enough traffic to really make the time writing reviews worth it). But the hardest part is coming up with a name. I have some ideas…

The Crumpet Strumpet
The Clotted Creamery
Tea and Crumpets
The Cream Tea Dream

Any thoughts? Any more ideas?

Tea Room Review: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

I feel like my blog is having an identity crisis. It started out because I was going to England and needed a way to keep everyone back home updated easily and in a mass quantity. But I’ve been back from England for nearly a year, and sometimes I go for longish gaps without posting because, well, I’m not in England anymore. There are no new experiences every day, no traveling nearly every weekend, no crazy study abroad stories. There is just life.

Now life has some fun updates right now: engagement, new job, business, and birthday fun stuff coming in a later post (this one has a very specific purpose). But can these kinds of general life updates sustain a blog’s popularity? Am I too scattered to engage readers? Is it harmful that when you come to my blog you aren’t sure what kind of post you are going to get, or is that part of the charm? I’ve been wondering this a lot lately and since I don’t know a ton of bloggers–and the blogs I read myself are very specific topics like baking and cooking–I don’t know who to ask for their opinions. So if you have any feedback, I’d appreciate it. After all you are my reader and you are the best one to tell me whether or not you enjoy reading whatever I write. Let’s get interactive people!

In the meantime, I wanted to harken back to the England days with a cream tea review. I haven’t done one in a while because, again, not in the UK anymore and until recently I didn’t think there were a lot of tea rooms out here beyond where I work. It’s tough also when you have had the best cream teas ever in the UK and you make really good scones yourself to enjoy American style cream teas. Maybe that will be some of the fun of my new quest: the Quest for the Best Southern California Cream Tea…QBSCCT if you will.

First up: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

Opening statement: If it wasn’t for having a Groupon, I would have been more upset about my experience here. I have really high standards for afternoon teas, but I knew going in that Yelp reviews were mixed so I went in with automatically lower expectations, thank goodness.

Made a reservation easily for mid week, and when we arrived there was a table set for us, but we had to find the ONLY WAITER in the whole restaurant and ask if that was our table. This was their biggest problem I thought. The restaurant isn’t huge, but it’s enough tables and enough work per table to justify a minimum of two servers on the floor. A great server could handle the whole restaurant by himself/herself with only the two bussers but unfortunately today’s server couldn’t handle it. As a server, I felt bad for him so I didn’t deduct his tip because it isn’t his fault management understaffs.

The decor isn’t like a typical quaint tea house. It’s very minimalistic with a twinge of Asian (I’ll update with pictures soon). At least there were white tablecloths (funny story I saw one of the bussers “clean” a table by literally flipping over the tablecloth) and the place was very clean. Not overly girly either which can sometimes get to be too much.

Tea menu is overwhelming, but the overwhelmingness doesn’t come from it being extensive (because plenty of tea rooms have 100+ teas on their menus and are manageable) but from it being disorganized. Six different sections for Darjeelings, Assams, tisanes and the teas that most people are ordering were in the back, and the descriptions all said “a perfect breakfast tea” without much else to tell me. Plus, every tea was “tippy”…uh okay. The waiter gave me a weird look when I asked to smell the tea before choosing it, a pretty standard practice for those who know tea and I had told him upfront that I work at a tea room. I eventually chose the Raijin (Indian tea with lavender and roses) which was great plain, but my mom ordered Lavender Earl and it was too much lavender and it was overbrewed. Aisha got the Sencha Rose and she seemed to like it. Plus the teas were cold by the end of the service. And they were out of a lot of teas. Which was a problem when we went to order our loose leaf teas and they were out of our top three choices. We settled for the Raijin that I had and then Sencha Cherry that has a promising smell for an iced tea to break in my new iced tea maker (thank you Joseph!).

Groupon was for afternoon tea for 4 and $25 of loose leaf tea. As we only had two people eating afternoon tea, we wanted to know if there were any alternative options. The waiter was very courteous and after he stopped being confused as to why we had a coupon for four people but there were only two of us, offered to package up the rest to take away. Great idea. Great point for service.

Food
Finger sandwiches were the best part. I liked how the bread was slightly toasted and the smoked salmon sandwich was awesome. Chicken and cranberry also good. Cucumber was odd since it was made with butter and a cream cheese/onion garnish. But butter can be traditional British.

Scones were somehow simultaneously sweet and flavorless. I’m used to the only scone flavor being plain or currant from my time in England, but Yelp reviews say that they offered flavors like blueberry or ginger, but I guess not for us. They were average sized. Unfortunately after eating the finger sandwiches, the scones had cooled and were hard as stale biscuits. Previous reviewers said to just eat the scones first while they were still warm and fluffy, but you shouldn’t have to eat the scones before the sandwiches. To me that says the scones are either not fresh or not properly stored. “Cream” was whipped cream (no idea why people keep calling this stuff Devonshire cream since it isn’t) and apricot jam. Had to ask twice for strawberry jam.

Desserts were dense and not tasty (mini carrot cake cupcake, pineapple upside down cake, two plain cookies). We left them there.

I also think that since they are located in California and more Americans are choosing gluten-free diets, I think they should have offered some gluten free options. The place I work does. Of course I’m only aware of this today because Aisha is with us and she doesn’t eat gluten so she had to have a salad.

Overall, I won’t go back there on my own dime, but with a Groupon deal it was worth trying. They really need to properly staff the place so that the poor service can give better customer service and not look like he wants to cry. I felt guilty asking for anything beyond placing our order because he looked that overwhelmed (and the restaurant wasn’t even full).

Pictures coming soon.

Disneyland’s Fantasy Faire

It’s a well known element of the restaurant industry: you never have or really want a weekend free. Weekends are prime time for the rest of the world eating out, so we humble waiters accept that we will be spending our Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays by our customers’ sides and at their service, rather than with our friends or family.

Sometimes, however, something glorious will happen and a server will get a “weekend” midweek. I was lucky to have Tuesday and Wednesday off this past week and it felt like a true weekend. Immediately I called up Mom and asked the most important question any person ever asks another…

“Do you want to go to Disneyland?”

Answer: Duh.

Disneyland recently removed the Carnation Plaza Gardens, an area…a restaurant…a garden…a stage for not Disney sponsored entertainment…you know what, I’m not really sure what CPG was to begin with, but I know what it is now. It has become a mecca of Disney Royalty, the Fantasy Faire.

The area is so well-decorated and quaint that not only does it blend in perfectly with the neighboring castle and Fantasyland, but it feels like you are straight out of Tangled or Beauty and the Beast. Which is fitting since the shows are based on those movies, but more on that in a minute.

The square is dominated by a twenty foot stone maypole carved into Rapunzel’s tower. It’s definitely a picture spot, probably the best outdoor spot for a photo, but other than architecture it doesn’t really serve a purpose, yet. I think they are planning on adding some type of maypole show eventually, but it isn’t on the Fantasy Faire schedule yet. Behind the pole and up against a stone wall is a little framed bench, another great photo opportunity for kids who want to feel like the characters and couples who want to look all cutesy. Next to the bench, though, is what I thought was the highlight of Fantasy Faire’s exterior look: Clopin’s Music Box.

Clopin is the gypsy from Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the favorite Disney character of Fantasy Faire creative director Michel Den Dulk (well, he is French). His music box has a wonderful hidden surprise beyond the crank and dancing Clopin and gargoyles. The background of the crowd is all Disney characters from other films! See if you can name them all becomes a cute little distracting game for us older children when there isn’t a line of kids behind you waiting for their turn to crank the box.

There is also the requisite princess dress gift shop and a snack cart called Maurice’s Treats, presumably Belle’s father selling French pastries that are really just chocolate, strawberry, or cheddar twists. And some slushy juicy thingy.

The Royal Hall is to the right of the entrance, basically a covered queue to meet three of the Disney princesses at a time. Apparently the princesses stand inside this ballroom and little girls get to meet them and take pictures. It’s a good idea, except I know that if I had been a little girl I would’ve been upset not seeing the princesses I wanted and the princesses can sometimes change during the 45 minute wait.

The highlight is really the shows. Based on Tangled and Beauty and the Beast, the shows feature two characters from the movies and Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones narrating and playing the remaining supporting characters. There are actually a lot of funny “older” references that keep the adults laughing (more in the Tangled show which I felt was far better) and go straight over the kids’ heads. No worry. We all know they are just there to see Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and Belle.

Mom and I went first thing to Fantasy Faire, and saw the first Tangled show, then walked around the Main Street shops and Downtown Disney before making it back for the Beauty and the Beast show. And then we left. We have passes after all and the whole point of going was to check out the new area. I may also have been more tired from my five straight days of waitressing than I had thought. At times it felt like I could barely move my feet!

Basically, you won’t spend a ton of time in Fantasy Faire unless you are waiting in line to see the princesses, but it is a must see destination on its quaint merits alone.

The Ranks of the Unemployed

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. If you’re a Dodger, you don’t seem to be able to hit one, but for the rest of us non-athletes, we need to be able to adapt and duck when one comes our way so that we won’t get hurt. Why this has any relevance to the rest of my post, I am not entirely sure. But I started the post with the aforewritten sentence and it just kind of seemed to follow from there. What baseball has to do with my being temporarily unemployed is a mystery to me. Maybe I’m just a little more than a little upset at the Dodger’s season this year and I needed to get that off my chest before I told you that I quit my job this week.

Yes, I no longer work at Sake Bistro and Sushi as of last night. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I quit because that is unethical and honestly unimportant, but I am sure that I made the right decision. It was actually really difficult to do. My coworkers are the most amazing people and I hate feeling like I am disappointing people, yet how could I pass up these other opportunities coming my way? Maybe that’s what I meant by life throwing us curveballs. We really have no idea what is in store for us; just when we think we are aiming at a fast ball, the ball falls away to the right and we have to adjust our plan.

Oh yeah, I just got deep with you 😉

And now I get the luxury to think: what will I do with all my time off??? I can bake, I can scrapbook, I can sketch, I can travel, I can…start memorizing the information for my new job that I start training for on Tuesday night. So much for time off! But I have to save money for grad school and traveling (as always, donations are greatly appreciated).

But despite all the week’s focus on my job, that isn’t really what I was planning on talking about. I wanted to talk about dance. Shocker right? Jenna talks about dance. It should make the national papers it’s such a rarity. Anyways, I’ve been training at this new place by the Westfield mall (anyone else annoyed that Westfield literally owns nearly every mall in the country?) for some intensive ballroom and latin lessons. And oh my god is it intense. I’m pretty sure that we spent the first two weeks only working on Rumba walks. But it is AWESOME. I absolutely love being back in a studio and getting to move my body in a way that isn’t walking to and from tables carrying food. We’ve been working on Rumba technique as well as general ballroom technique. Last lesson we started samba. Just when I felt like I had a handle on this latin stuff, Todd throws this crazy Brazilian dance with psycho hip actions and bent knees and my brain literally leaks out my ears with contrasting information. It’s nuts: Brazil nuts in fact. Regardless I am having a great time 🙂

Yet ballroom and latin are not the only kinds of dancing I’ve been doing lately. Laura and I head out to Thousand Oaks every Wednesday night to go country line dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It’s wholesome and every one is super nice and friendly and so willing to help you learn the dances. I’ve been about 8 times and Laura’s been 5, so we are officially regulars and we are picking up the dances pretty quickly I think. It’s so awesome to get all cowgirled up (yes we both own real cowboy boots now), dance our little hearts out to “Blown Away” “Footloose” and “Stuck Like Glue”, and spend a ton of time in awesome best friend bonding over good music. We might be a little addicted…but only a little I swear!

So those are the basic updates for the moment. There are a few really cool things in the works right now, but I am not ready to share those yet so you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Over and out!

Certainty of death? Small chance of success? What are we waiting for?

Exactly, my dear Gimli. What were we (and by we I mean Aisha and myself) waiting for before embarking on our epic quest? Not much thankfully, just the third member of our little Fellowship to arrive. While we were waiting for his arrival on a black horse I mean car, we may not have been sitting in the beautifully woodsy Rivendell, but we were certainly eagerly anticipating setting out towards our goal. And what goal was so lofty and ambitious that it required three of us to complete? None other than the Holy Grail of our generation’s Hollywood Epic Trilogy Challenges: the viewing of all three Lord of the Rings movies–extended editions of course–straight through in one day.

What’s the big deal about a triple feature day, you may ask. Well, let me put it into a bit of perspective for those of you who haven’t attempted to conquer this feat. There are three movies (hence, the trilogy) based on classic literature. No big deal? Not until you learn the total running time, a meager 11 hours and 23 minutes. Psh, easy peasy? NOT. With almost 12 hours of footage, more than 7 of those being battle scenes with vile looking Orcs and the remaining 5 hours being walking around or running around or riding horses chasing after something,  one must be prepared with a steely attention span. Thankfully the landscapes of New Zealand are stunning or else the constant traveling shots would burn holes where your eyes should be.

Yet every true fan of the Lord of the Rings movies has done the marathon viewing at least once in his life, and the three of us were no exception. Once, however, is rarely enough and we decided on Friday to all join together on our one common day off from our respective jobs and indulge our inner nerds. Provisions were laid, timing was set, ground rules were made.

1. Begin The Fellowship of the Ring at 9:30, 9:45 at the absolute latest.

2. Have extra pillows on hand since we were watching in our loft and thus were spending the whole day lying on the ground.

3. No pausing the movie for bathroom breaks, phone calls, ab workouts, water runs.  The only acceptable pausing is for the dinner hour and letting the adorable dog outside to eat and pee.

4. Carrots in ample supply. Thank the Costco gods for bulk quantities of this eventually stomachache inducing orange veggie.

5. Other sustenance must include peanut butter and Wheat Thins in some form. A peanut butter with cinnamon, raisins, granola, and peanut chunks is doubly appreciated.

6. Talking during the movie is allowed, especially for conversations regarding the severity of spider fears, gymnastic techniques and skills, deciding which character you would most want to be, where in Middle Earth you are going to live, and what creature you want as a pet. (Answer to that by the way: Aisha wants an Ent, Pej wants an Eagle, and I called dibs on Shadowfax.)

7. A picture must be taken with Hercules and all of the movie cases to commemorate the achievement.

8. It is completely appropriate to quote the movie to nauseating detail. Embrace the nerdiness of the entire day!

With us all being college graduates, we are definitely not accustom to failing, and we never fell afoul of these rules. And probably the most amazing part was how on schedule we stayed! We took exactly 12 and a half hours from starting The Fellowship to ending Return of the King. Last time I did this marathon with friends, I’m pretty sure we started at 8 am and only finished around midnight. Hence the creation of the ground rules from all of our previous experiences.

Sometimes there is nothing better than a lazy day with good friends and great movies. You can talk when you want to, or you can stay silent and just rest. What you want out of the day is entirely up to you and perfectly within your ability to do. Everything went completely according to plan and made for an awesome end to a very hectic and sometimes very stressful week. But after 12 hours of laying around, curling up in a ball, or sitting cross legged on a floor, I am looking forward to being active tomorrow and crossing my fingers that I’m not super stiff.  Still it was so totally worth it! Long live Middle Earth!!!

Quick! Call the Doctor!

Somebody take my temperature and get me some Advil because I have Olympic fever! It’s not really surprising since I am a full blown Anglophile and consider England my second home, so I’m kind of bursting with “national pride” as the city I love hosts these games. But I’m taking this year’s Olympic viewing to extreme levels compared to what I normally watch.

Usually the summer games have only three big draws: American swimming, women’s diving, and women’s gymnastics. That makes me seem like I am feminist and American supremacist, but hey during Olympic season we call that nationalism. This year (okay granted it is only three days into them) I have already watched swimming qualifiers and finals, men’s and women’s gymnastics qualifiers including those heats that did not include the USA team, diving, a little bit of volleyball, and the men’s and women’s road races. Seriously, the road races! And those road race coverages are not like snippets of the races interspersed with other events; we are talking four to six straight hours of nonstop cycling through London and Box Hill. I’ve never even heard of this event and yet was so utterly engrossed with my mom and brother trying to figure out the etiquette of cycling and why teams would help out each other and where on earth they came up with the name of peloton for the massive pack of riders behind the leaders. I was actually rooting for the Brits in those races, but watching a 38-year old man win was pretty cool as well.

And don’t even get me started on my swimming and gymnastics obsessions.

I sat here on my couch late last night, trying with all my might to figure out why I suddenly found all of the Olympic events and interviews engrossing. Was it my love of the country and “homesickness” for anything relating to England? Was it a newfound national pride in American athletes? Was it my improved understanding of the sport of gymnastics since my best friend is an Olympic level gymnast? Was it all the giant guys in swimsuits?

Conclusion: It’s finals week.

Yup it’s my last week (hopefully) of UCLA classes, which means two final exams and two presentations and a whole lot of procrastination. Who wouldn’t use the Olympics as an excuse to not stare at information on gladiators or gender psychology? Um no one!

Can I get my finals waived with a doctor’s note for Olympic Fever? Highly dangerous and contagious illness!

Ode to the Stand Mixer

School has been taking up the majority of my time here over the last four weeks, so once again I am at a loss of what interesting stories to tell you. I could tell you about the time that I ran into a friend from Oxford wandering around Westwood, or catching a foul ball at the Dodger game on Monday, or my booking a skydiving trip for next month. I could tell you any of those stories, but then I’d be lying and lying isn’t really in my nature, despite all of those stories being more interesting than my life has been this month. I get bored sitting in my lectures (okay we do learn some really interesting stuff) and through my exams and reading my textbooks, so I won’t subject all of you to the same plight.

But I also don’t want anyone to feel abandoned, because no one like to be abandoned. It’s not fun either. In fact, my Hollywood Myth of the Romans class would definitely be more fun than being abandoned. At least in class there are some really over keen classmates to silently giggle at and interesting factoids about Rome to absorb for later random knowledge uses. There is none of that in being abandoned. Being abandoned is just…awkward. And awkwardness is even less fun than being abandoned! So the moral of the story is that sitting in my classes is better than being abandoned which is better than being stuck in an awkward situation like the one I probably just made you all stuck in.

So I’ll make it up to you with some baking. Everybody loves baking, right? I mean baking is better than sitting in class which is better than being abandoned which is better than being in an awkward situation! Best of all four worlds! And there has been a lot of baking going on in the house between this weekend and then today.

Despite having a paper and a midterm early in this week, I forced myself to find time to de-stress by baking. (Took a lot of forcing 😉 ) Let’s see, it all began with Friday afternoon tea with almond scones, or as they are adorably being called almond bliss scones, since everything needs an adorable name. The recipe is posted at the bottom of this post. They may have been some of the best scones that I have ever had! And Mommy loved them too, which is always important for a sous baker to approve of the goods being baked as well. These scones were surprisingly sweet and moister than the others–probably a result of my undertaking them a tad–with a slightly crunchy and slight chewy texture from the chopped almonds permeating the dough. Yup, no almond extract in these delights, just pure all natural almonds. Served with some unsweetened freshly whipped cream, the scones made a special treat out of our normal cream tea in the afternoons.

Saturday’s baking was a new one for me: a cake. This cake was actually my mom’s brilliant idea, and it utilized plenty of math skills, proving the age old adage to stay in school. That might relate more to staying away from drugs, but since this cake might be a little bit like a chocolate drug, I’d say that it’s an apt expression. Think about it…four layers, each getting progressively more chocolatey, light with a moist crumb, glued together by more chocolatey buttercream frosting, and decorated with a rich brown chocolate buttercream with my first ever white piping decorations. Drooling yet? Yeah, thank my mom for that one! It took forever to bake the cakes, freeze them, assemble them, and frost them, but it allowed me to get a lot of studying done in the resting time so that the weekend wasn’t an entire wash other than the dishes.

Now you’d think that between the incredible almond scones and the Everybody’s Happy cake (see? cutesy name is a must) I’d be acknowledging that I needed to spend some time studying or else I’d fail my midterm. Right? WRONG. Baking is an addiction, I swear. And with my parents off doing their own things around the house on Sunday, I had no one to distract me from my homework except for Peyton and Byrne, the authors of my British baking book that I ordered as soon as I came home to the States. Hence the second attempt of the Lemon Curd Swiss Roll.

Second attempt, you say? Why weren’t you made aware of the first attempt? Well that answer is easy: it failed. And not in an “Oh I used salt instead of sugar in my apple pie filling but luckily I haven’t baked it yet so I can just rinse off the apples and redo the filling and crisis is averted” fail. It wasn’t even a “Darn my macarons came out wrong, guess I’ll just throw together some Eton Mess and pretend this didn’t happen” fail (that hasn’t occurred yet but I know it will when I finally get around to trying to make macarons). This was a used the wrong size pan, forgot I had a stand mixer, didn’t grease the inappropriately sized pan properly, baked the cake in this said wrong pan for too long, and ended up being able to hold the cake up in front of me like it was a piece of cardboard. Absolutely nothing salvageable, but absolutely embarrassing to behold. It was quickly thrown away and I vowed never to speak of it again. But apparently that part of the event failed as well since I just spilled my guts.

However, I REDEEMED MYSELF! I made the same cake on Sunday but this time with a stand mixer and a properly sized and properly greased pan. And while it may have been a very challenging and time consuming cake to make, it came out perfectly. No mistakes. Some filling gushed out the side when I rolled it out, but according to people who have made similar cakes before such a thing is typical. And the reviews…they warmed my heart on the dreary Monday. According to my mom the entirety of my dad’s office raved about it, a few even went so far as to talk about hiding it so that other office mates wouldn’t finish it off before they had seconds, and I have two requests for the recipe lined up already. That is really the best compliment a baker can get, and I am super lucky to have willing taste testers so accessible.

Riding high on that success, I was placated in my baking for a whole two days, until today. For some reason, I thought today was a good day to not only make blueberry scones, but also Mommy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies AND a new banana cinnamon chip oatmeal cookie recipe. Why? Because I had spare time before my dad was ready to watch Gladiator with me for my film class and I’m hanging out with some friends tomorrow night and nothing says party like freshly baked cookies. Looks like the Office Ladies are going to be subjected to more sugar tomorrow, so I hope they all went for a run today!

Oh and I guess I never did explain why I would want to write an ode to a stand mixer. That little appliance is the hardest working appliance I have ever seen besides an air conditioner in Las Vegas. Seriously, it was invaluable in making TWO batches of cookie dough today, as well as THREE cakes this weekend! When I think back to the days of this last year at Oxford, creaming butter by hand and attempting to fold chocolate chips into a gigantic blob of cookie dough, I am even more in love with my mixer and wonder how I ever lived without it last year. The cookies came out so much better since they didn’t have to rely on my lack of elbow greasing ability to properly blend!

Almond Bliss Scones

 

Almond Bliss Scones

200 g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
50 g soft brown sugar
70 g ground almonds
200 mL double cream (heavy whipping cream)
teeny bit of water
Preheat the oven to 220°C (450°F). Sift together into a medium mixing bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the ground almonds. Rub in the cream. Add only enough water to bring all the mix together (barely a teaspoon!). Knead until almost smooth, about 5-6 times.
Place on a heavily floured surface and press down to desired thickness (1 cm). Cut out into desired scone size (5 cm). HINT: dip the scone cutter into some flour before cutting dough for easier removal.  Place scones on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake about 8 minutes until lightly browned or until you lack self control anymore.
Serve with plain, unsweetened whipping cream.
* additional ideas: add in chopped dried cherries when add in almonds.