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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2007
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TeaTime food stylists and photographer prepare an autumn tea in Mary Puckett's Old Decatur home. These photos were taken in October 2006, but the piece is featured in the September-October 2007 issue of the magazine. 'Their photography is something,' said Janice Gaultney of Decatur. 'I remember them spending three hours standing in one spot, taking pictures of food.'
Daily file photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
TeaTime food stylists and photographer prepare an autumn tea in Mary Puckett's Old Decatur home. These photos were taken in October 2006, but the piece is featured in the September-October 2007 issue of the magazine. "Their photography is something," said Janice Gaultney of Decatur. "I remember them spending three hours standing in one spot, taking pictures of food."

It's tea time
Magazine uses Old Decatur homes as setting for progressive fall event

“A progressive afternoon tea is a wonderful way to socialize with neighbors and hearkens to the age-old Southern custom of the progressive dinner, in which participants move from house to house, serving as both guest and hostess. We could think of no better setting for such a tradition-drenched event than historic Old Decatur, which boasts an equal measure of gracious hostesses and exquisitely restored Victorian homes.”

Barbara Cockerham, editor, TeaTime magazine

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

You may spot familiar people and places, as well as elegant ideas for autumn teas, if you look at the latest issue of TeaTime magazine.

The September-October issue was photographed in several dining rooms in Old Decatur last October.

Neighbors, hostesses and The Decatur Daily watched as TeaTime food experts and photo stylists sought perfection while fine-tuning flowers, table settings and dishes for their photographer.

This wasn't just one tea party with teacakes and scones.

This autumn progressive tea even included a soup course with Corn Bisque topped with crabmeat and parsley served in antique glassware.

The three-tiered tea trays were filled with bite-size meat and vegetable offerings: Pork Tenderloin Crostini with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage, Smoked Sausage and Potato Quiche made with hashbrowns, Stuffed Roma Tomatoes with mushrooms, and Fennel, Leek and Spinach Spirals.

The breads and sweets featured include Pear Scones with Toasted Pecan Clotted Cream and Vanilla Honey Curd, Mini Toffee Apple Turnovers, Pumpkin Cheesecakes, and Fig Tassies with Orange Crème.

Along with recipes, the magazine dishes up advice on accomplishing a tea inspired by the progressive dinner tradition. Collaborate with neighbors so that each course is served in a different home.

"Have savories at one house, scones down the street and sweets around the corner," TeaTime advises. "Dividing the dainty foods among hostesses not only lessens the responsibilities for each person, but also gives several people an opportunity to open their homes to neighbors and friends."

Barbara Cockerham, editor of TeaTime, said the magazine decided to apply the principles of a progressive dinner to the tradition of afternoon tea.

"We put that challenge to the test with a group of ladies in a charming historic neighborhood in Decatur, Alabama. The resulting progressive tea was a lovely and restful afternoon, filled with great foods, hot teas and expansive conversation," Cockerham wrote in her column in the magazine.

The magazine gives an example of an invitation to "An Autumn Progressive Tea in the Old Decatur District," and if you look closely, you can see the names of local hostesses with their courses:

  • Harvest-inspired soup in the home of Mary Puckett

  • Autumn tea sandwiches in the home of Jill Stofel

  • Fall-infused savories in the home of Bonnie Prestwood

  • Golden baked scones in the home of Lisa Gilmore

  • Indian Summer sweets in the home of Janice Gaultney.

    The story of how Old Decatur got linked to TeaTime magazine is one of those you-never-know-who-you'll-run-into tales.

    Puckett’s daughter, Adrianne Irby Ritter, owns a tearoom in the St. Louis area. When Stacey Norwood, TeaTime associate editor and daughter of Decatur caterer and Simply Delicious owner Frances Norwood, arrived in Missouri to do a story on Ritter’s “Ladies of Lucerne Tea Room,” they realized they both grew up in Decatur.

    “Stacey found out I lived in Old Decatur and said the magazine was interested in doing a progressive tea there,” said Ritter’s mom. Then the magazine called to ask if Puckett would find four other hostesses within walking distance.

    “The magazine wanted to do it in real time — to hold the autumn tea in autumn, rather than stage it in July or December,” Puckett said. She enlisted neighbors as hostesses for Oct. 23.

    The magazine photo of a buffet with china teacups and autumn flowers was photographed in Puckett’s house.

    Gaultney said the magazine’s food staff used her kitchen to prepare the food.

    “Their photography is something,” she said. “I remember them spending three hours standing in one spot, taking pictures of food.”

    The neighbors liked the tea party idea so much that Margaret McCullough’s home was the site of a spring tea.

    “We are going to try to make a neighborhood tea party an annual event,” Puckett said.

    Hoffman Media of Birmingham is the publisher of TeaTime, along with Southern Lady, Taste of the South, Cooking with Paula Deen and other magazines. Its books include “The Tea Experience,” a book featuring Ritter’s tea room and recipes, plus 17 others across the country.

    For information and availability of back issues, see www.teatimemagazine.com or www.hoffmanmedia.com.

    The September-October issue of TeaTime includes the following recipes and is on magazine racks now.

    Corn Bisque

    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 cups finely chopped onion
    11/2 cups finely chopped celery
    4 teaspoons minced garlic
    6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    6 cups chicken broth
    6 tablespoons dry sherry
    8 cups frozen yellow cream-style corn
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 cup heavy cream
    Garnishes:
    Jumbo lump crabmeat
    Chopped fresh parsley

    In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Sauté onion and celery 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

    Whisking constantly, gradually add chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Add sherry and cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add corn, salt and pepper.

    Puree in batches in container of blender. Return to heat and add cream; simmer 1 minute. Garnish with crabmeat and parsley, if desired. Makes about 31/2 quarts.

    Pork Tenderloin Crostini with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

    2-pound pork tenderloin
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 French baguette, sliced
    1/3 cup butter, melted
    4 ounces cream cheese, softened
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
    1 recipe Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage (recipe follows)
    Garnish:
    Fresh thyme sprigs

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim skin and excess fat from pork tenderloin.

    In a small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub mixture on outside of pork loin. Place in roasting pan and roast 1 hour, or until meat thermometer inserted in center reaches 145 degrees, or desired degree of doneness. Cool completely, and slice thinly.

    Cut baguette into 24 1/2-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with melted butter. Place on baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, or until golden around edges.

    In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and thyme. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over all baguette slices. Layer prepared baguette slices with pork slices, and top with Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage.

    Makes 24 crostini. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired.

    Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage:

    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    3 cups finely shredded red cabbage
    2/3 cup chicken broth
    2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

    In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Sauté onion 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.

    Add cabbage and chicken broth; cook 5 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Makes 2 cups.

    Fennel, Leek and Spinach Spirals

    2 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped fennel
    1 cup chopped leek
    1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 17.5-ounce package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

    In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil until butter is melted. Add fennel, leek, garlic salt and pepper; sauté 6 minutes, or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 3 minutes. Add cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, stirring until melted.

    Roll one puff pastry sheet into a 13x11-inch rectangle. Spread half of spinach mixture over pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

    Beginning with the long side, roll up, jellyroll style. Repeat procedure with remaining puff pastry and spinach mixture. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap; chill 2 hours, or up to 2 days, if desired.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets. Cut rolls into 1/4-inch thick slices and place on prepared sheets. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

    Makes about 48 spirals.

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