One lovely, sunny mid-morning I arrived at the home of Emilie Schmidt to have a meeting with she and Diane Skinner to talk about the Tea-Quila Rose Club’s 6th annual travel tea. I was warmly greeted and shown to the dining room table where Diane was already seated. As I reached the table I started to smile.
For a moment, just a moment my mind drifted back to a time when ladies wore ruffled and lace dresses that just barely touched the floor, ropes of pearls, cameo rings, and wide brimmed hats adorned with flowers and silk ribbons upon their heads.
Why these thoughts? Emilie had set a beautiful table for tea with lovely tablecloths, china plates, teacups and flowers and the air was filled with the soft piano music. Emilie had prepared some of her famous moist and delicious scones that we enjoyed with wonderfully warm cups of fragrant Oolong tea. I was in heaven!
I must say it was hard to remain on topic as we enjoyed our tea and chatted away. But, I was there on a mission so every once in a while asked gentle questions about the trip and a few personal questions of these lovely ladies.
Emilie and Diane had chosen the St. Petersburg’s Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club as this year’s destination for the travel tea. I asked the ladies how they came to choose the Vinoy. Diane said that she had been going to the Vinoy for many years for family celebrations and suggested the hotel to Emilie. So Diane said, “Basically we did a girls day out and previewed the tearoom”.
They went on to tell me that they also choose this destination because it offered other attractions for the ladies to enjoy. They mentioned that within walking or trolley distance of the Vinoy are the Chihuly, Dali and Museum of Fine Arts museums as well great shopping along Beach Drive.
Curious, I asked the ladies when they started their love of going to teas. Diane said, “I started drinking tea with my mother and grandmother at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park, Maine”. “I love tea. If I ever go to a big city I go to tea,” she continued.
Emilie said, “Not so with me. The first tea was at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Michigan with my girlfriends. It was such a delightful experience”. “It was the Lilac Festival in 1995. I was just really impressed”.
At the end of the tea meeting I was even more excited about the trip to St. Petersburg.
The Vinoy is a beautiful hotel. Tea was served in a side room of Marchand’s Bar & Grill. The room was a beautiful setting for the tea with its high ceiling, beautiful woodwork, cream-colored walls and teal border overlooking the pool.
The tea was just wonderful and all the food wonderfully delicious! We were served individual plates of delicate tea sandwiches of egg salad, chicken salad, wheat bread with thin slices of pickled cucumber with sautéed red onions and a Mexican honey drizzle, and pastrami salmon on a bed of cream cheese and chives atop rye bread.
The dessert plate was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the palate. There was a miniature scone, banana macadamia nut bread, strawberry mouse with fresh berries, white chocolate mousse torte with hazel nut filling, and a very decadent chocolate cup filled with vanilla cream and glazed with very thin slices of fresh fruit.
I met two lovely ladies at my end of the table and had wonderful conversations with both. I enjoyed myself so much I forgot to take pictures of the food. All of a sudden it was time to leave.
We departed the hotel to venture off in many different directions. My friend Genny and I decided to just take a leisurely stroll down Beach Drive to see what we could see.
As we strolled we would pop in and out of the many wonderful shops along the way taking time to look at all the beautiful art in the shops. We stopped at the Hooker Tea Co. to look at the many teapots and cups upon their shelves and catch the aroma of one or two of their blended teas.
I bought two ounces of a tea called “Peachy Keen”. I was attracted to this tea one because of its aroma but it is also the I always answer the question, “How are you today?” I reply, “Just peach keen thank you very much”.
According to information provided by the shop the tea is, “a rare flower-scented white tea hand blended with the natural essence of succulent peaches; its infusion is delicate with soft, honey sweet notes of soothing jasmine, osthmanthus and fresh peaches”. All I know is that it is aromatic, smooth and wonderful.
We continued down Beach Drive and stopped in shops that to me were like being in mini art museums like Shapiro’s and Red Cloud. While in Red Cloud there was a gentle rain outside and I found myself straining to see through the rain drops at an object across the street and kept focusing to get a better look.
The more I looked I thought I was looking at a large sculpture of a dinosaur. I knew that the Museum of Fine Arts was on that side of the street and could not wait until we cross over.
What I found when we finally did was not a sculpture of a dinosaur but a beautiful water oak standing majestically on the front lawn of the museum. It was beautiful! I was fascinated and spent a considerable amount of time taking pictures of the tree as Genny held an umbrella over my head.
It was time to go so Genny and I headed back to the hotel. Once back on the bus I asked for a show of hands to see what the ladies had done with their free time.
Half of the ladies went on to the Chihuly Museum with half of those moving on to the Chihuly Hotspot workshop to watch a glass blowing demonstration. Caryle Rosenblat said, “It was very interesting and something we will not soon forget”.
It was unanimous that no matter where the ladies went they had a wonderful time.
Everyone settled down and quietly chatted on the ride back to Spruce Creek taking back with them lovely memories of a beautiful tea day.
(Note: Portions this posting appeared in my weekly column in the Daily Sun Newspaper, The Villages, Florida).