Category Archives: tea sandwiches

Eating my way through Natchez

Peoples of the South, I am stuffed. I do not need to eat another morsel for at least three weeks. After I have my seafood gumbo tonight. Not one more crumb. Except the peanut butter pie I’m having tomorrow at Weidmanns in Meridian.

So I thought I’d just catch you up on eating my way through Natchez. Let’s start with Mammy’s Cupboard, renowned for its sandwiches on homemade bread and its pies.


Here’s my chicken salad sandwich with vegetable beef soup and potato salad at Mammy’s. They bake the bread every morning. The locals mix the potato salad into the soup. I did not.



And the coconut cream pie. Yes. That is all.

The next day we had a catered lunch at Brandon Hall, which is a magnificent antebellum home off the Natchez Parkway. Hold on to your hats.


We had the tomato bisque soup. And the chicken salad, shrimp salad and tossed salad with blue cheese, pecans and balsamic dressing. And the croissants. And the bread pudding, lemon squares and brownie bites. I had seconds. I am ashamed.

I skipped the evening entertainment, but I had smuggled a couple of mini buttermilk biscuits and sausage patties upstairs from breakfast. They were quite delicious with imitation grape jelly. By the way, the Grand Hotel has a spectacular complementary breakfast. Some of the best grits I’ve had. If I could have figured out a way to get them upstairs in a napkin, I would have.

On to today. How about a little Brandy Milk Punch at historic Linden Hall to prime the pump?


In a silver cup, naturally. I have never had Brandy Milk Punch, which is kind of like a boozy vanilla milkshake. I rather liked it.  I had two servings. I would have had a third but I didn’t want to trip getting on the bus.

Lunch was at Routhland, another magnificent antebellum home that is privately owned. Yes, once again we crashed somebody’s private residence for a lunch from famed Natchez caterer Sissy Eidt.


Assorted finger sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit salad and deviled eggs with:


Chess squares and brownies. I had seconds and bought Sissy’s book – Ladies’s Legacies in Natchez, Mississippi – later in the day just for the recipes she serves at prestigious events and parties.

So, Peoples of the South, I am finding Natchez much to my liking. The people are unfailingly hospitable, the city is utterly charming and the food is irresistable. It’s a pity we have to leave tomorrow. After the seafood gumbo.


Leave a Comment

Filed under breads, breakfast, chicken, lamb, pasta, salads, seafood, sides, sweets, tea sandwiches

Nothing succeeds like excess

If Father Wesley Smith is at the rectory right now emptying a bottle of Tums into his gullet I would not be surprised. I believe, once again, the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have overdone it. Gleefully. We don’t know any other way.

Father Wesley is our interim rector at St. Paul’s. His first Sunday was today. He preached a fantastic sermon all from memory. The choir. Oh, my Lord, the choir. We were all in tears during the offertory anthem and almost burst into applause at the end, which Episcopalians do not do. Lots of God Moments going on this morning.

Because St. Paul’s is a historic church, we don’t have room for everyone at one service so we have four. And that meant four receptions for Father Wesley. And we’re not talking punch and cookies. We don’t do punch and cookies. We do full-on, blow-out-the-windows gala receptions. At all times. Hospitality chair Leslie Fraser coordinated all of them and I do not believe there was a single box of gourmet crackers or block of cream cheese left in all of Williamson County.

So here’s a little visual tour of the astonishing precision of the Women of St. Paul’s (including honorary member son Noah) and the fortitude of poor Father Wesley, who will probably need one of those 3-day detox cleanses in the next couple of days.

Father Wesley

Here he is. Smiling like the pro priest he is at the tail end of reception number two. I felt like the stranger stalker lady asking for a photo, but sadly for him, he’ll get used to it. St. Paul’s is some of my best material.

We had relatively (to us) small receptions after the 7:30 and 8:45 services. The Mac Daddy always comes after the 11. It is where Episcopalians come into their own because it is after noon and wine is served!

Cucumber Sandwiches

First, there are multiple tea sandwiches to be prepared and plated. Noah is allowed to assist in this endeavor. He told me today that as a child he was very intimidated by this whole process, as well he should be. It is serious business.

Ellen Kirk Cheese Plate

Ellen Kirk begins meticulously laying out layers of cheese on a cheese tray. Cheese is big in the Episcopal Church. And no Kraft singles.

Julie Drink Containers

There are no cartons of orange juice or jugs of tea at a St. Paul’s reception. No, no, no. All liquids to be consumed either have to be contained in glass dispensers or wine bottles. Julie Reinhardt completely understands this. Even though they are ridiculously heavy.

Cork screwSpeaking of wine, we have our own cork screws at St. Paul’s. They get a lot of use. Trust me.


All the flowers are personally arranged by Wanda Woolen.


Who then has a glass of Chardonnay because, well, it’s after noon for goodness sake.

Lemon cupcakes with blackberries

Needless to say, everything was impeccable.

Mini ham biscuits with floral flourishes

Perfection. That is the bar we set for ourselves. Father Wesley will be with us until we call a new permanent rector, which could take up to two years. I hope he is up for this.


1 Comment

Filed under appetizers, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches

What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain

Cheers from the Women of St. Paul's

Cheers from the Women of St. Paul’s

Yes, the Women of St. Paul’s are dressed in pajamas. Why wouldn’t you combine a pajama party and a wine tasting? What’s wrong with you?

IMG_3611Every year, the Women of St. Paul’s adjourn to Monteagle (otherwise known as “the mountain”) for a weekend of renewal, fellowship, eating and drinking. The first year there were about 50 of us, but the word got around and this year’s retreat numbered almost 100. We learned to arrange flowers, we made felt flowers, we practiced yoga, we belly danced, we learned a newfangled form of doodling, and we made appetizers. We ate every three hours whether we needed to or not. And we had a wee bit of wine, a few appletinis and maybe one or two shots of vodka. Maybe. I know, I know. Those of you ladies who don’t attend St. Paul’s are wondering, “Where do I sign up?”

The appetizers class made all the finger food for the wine tasting. While we swapped tales, told lies and gossiped. In the nicest possible, most Christian-like way.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato CanapesWe made Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Canapes.

Marinated CheeseAnd marinated cheese trays.

IMG_3624And adorable little mini shrimp cocktails in plastic shooter cups.

Leslie and garnishesOh, and Leslie taught our class how to make garnishes for the platters. Yes, we are Episcopalian. There must be garnishes.

Well, I will modestly say that everyone had a great time and our efforts were very well received.

Buffet 1Salami-rolled mozzarella sticks, shrimp shooters and marinated cheese…

Buffet 2Bacon, lettuce and tomato canapes…

IMG_3651Meatballs in a sweet and sour sauce…

Buffet 4Saltine toffee…

Nacho BarAnd the very popular nacho bar…

The Women of St. Paul’s had dinner not 20 minutes after the wine tasting ended. We are nothing if not troopers.

Becky and BeckyAlrighty. By now I assume you think all we do is carry on and tipple and eat. And belly dance. But you’d be wrong. I did a bad thing today. I took a picture in church during a service. That is so not correct. But I couldn’t help myself. Even with all our frivolous fun, the Sunday morning Eucharist is maybe the best thing that happens all weekend. Instead of a sermon, women tell their personal stories. Kleenex is abundant. The music this year was from an all-woman band. Amazing Grace. Who doesn’t cry while singing Amazing Grace? Not us. Instead of receiving communion from a priest, we give it to each other. Even if you didn’t know to say, “Body of Christ…Bread of Heaven” and “Blood of Christ…Cup of Salvation,” it was just fine to offer the wafers and wine with a “Here you go.”

Sunday Church“I’m gonna let my feet go dancing to my very favorite songs,

‘Cause I know my time for leaving is bound to come before too long.

And there ain’t no way of me knowing how tomorrow’s gonna be,

So I’ll just dance the shores of Jordan ’till the angels carry me.”

Shores of Jordan as sung by the Women of St. Paul’s on February 9, 2014.



1 Comment

Filed under appetizers, beef, cheese, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches

Game day recipes

So here are some fun Super Bowl food factoids (thank you, Reuters):

  •  Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for consumption of food and drink for Americans, behind Thanksgiving Day.
  •  Dips and spreads are the top choice of food to eat during the Super Bowl, followed by chicken wings and pizza.
  •  Americans will consume an estimated 50 million cases of beer on the day.

I don’t want to be a party pooper, but King Daddy and I are not Super Bowl Party kind of people. We are solitary football watchers. We don’t even watch games together as King Daddy’s incessant yelling upsets my delicate nature. However, if I were having a Super Bowl Party, I’d be serving mini BLTs, roasted red pepper dip with crudites and skirt steak quesadillas.

Now here’s a few of the dumbest questions of all time that reporters asked Super Bowl players on media day. I am sad to say I used to belong to this profession.

Question to Broncos Defensive End Shaun Phillips: “Is this a ‘must-win’ game?”

Question to Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald: “Who has the better hair, you or Steelers Safety Tony Polamalu?”

Question to Cardinals Quarterback Matt Leinart: “Can I measure your bicep?”

Sports Illustrated has got a million of them (well, 25 actually) right here.


Mini BLTs

Mini BLTs
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
  • 1 loaf of white bread, crusts removed, cut into 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter
  • Mayonnaise (Duke's)
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 2 containers cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
  1. To assemble the mini BLTs, spread mayonnaise on the bread rounds.
  2. Top each bread round with shredded lettuce, a couple slices of cherry tomato and crumbled bacon.

Red pepper dip
Roasted red pepper dip
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until creamy.
  2. Chill for 30 minutes.


flat iron flip

Skirt steak quesadillas
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • A few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 1-pound skirt steak
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 6-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  1. Combine the vegetable oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and hot sauce in a small bowl. Put the skirt steak in a large plastic bag, add the marinade and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium high.
  3. Sprinkle the green pepper and onion with a little olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables until they are nicely charred and crisp/tender. Reserve.
  4. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Salt and pepper the steak and grill it for 5-6 minutes with the grill lid up. Flip and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the steak is 140 degrees (if you press on the steak it will feel like a half-deflated tennis ball).
  5. Remove the steak and let rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Cut the steak into thin strips against the grain.
  6. Cut the reserved green pepper and onion into thin strips.
  7. Heat a large frying pan on medium high on the stove. Assemble the quesadillas with the vegetables, steak and cheese on one half of each tortilla. Fold and brush one side with oil. Fry the oiled side until the tortilla begins to brown. Brush the other side with oil and flip to brown the other side.


Leave a Comment

Filed under appetizers, beef, dips, snacks, tea sandwiches

We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.



Filed under appetizers, beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, dips, eggs, lamb, pasta, pizza, pork, salads, sauces, seafood, sides, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches, turkey, veggies

The two sides of the English Tea

The English Tea, presented by the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church every December to universally rave reviews, is a study in contrasts. Otey Hall, which is turned into an elegant tearoom, is serene and soothing.

IMG_2989The back hall, from which thousands of sweets and savories emerge, is orderly and precise. The menu this year: orange cranberry scones, cucumber sandwiches, Blue Moon sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, chicken salad in phyllo cups, smoked turkey and arugula mayonnaise sandwiches, sugar plums, lemon curd tarts, chocolate mint mousse cups and French almond macarons. All  homemade, naturally.

IMG_2983But the kitchen? Let’s just say that if you wanted to have the best fraternity/sorority party in the country you would not go to a university of any kind. You would come to the kitchen at St. Paul’s. There is alcohol involved. A few photos from this year and years’ past.

GeraldLeslie and KatieTomEnglish Tea 2012 036CheersYou will look at these photos and you will assume it’s just one big boozy lovefest in the kitchen. And it is…kind of.  But there’s a lot of pressure involved and – you know the old saying – if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. So we have a dedicated crew that’s used to the heat. There will be yelling (quiet yelling – we have two seatings of 125 guests not six feet away). Hope you are speedy. We have 500 plates to assemble in 45 minutes for each seating. Then we have to wash all of those plates in an hour and a half. Plus the silverware. So you have to be the kind of person who can wear multiple hats, never get flustered, never say “I don’t know what to do” (it indicates fear – not allowed), and cheerfully undertake any job including emptying the garbage. Here’s a recap of a previous year. There’s recipes for my favorite tea sandwiches there.

So we earn our Pino Grigio. Because after we have it, we have the toughest job ahead of us. Cleaning everything up. Nobody wants to stay for that part. But they all do. Cheerfully.





Leave a Comment

Filed under sweets, tea sandwiches, turkey, Uncategorized

Tea sandwiches have no calories

Or at least that was my thinking apparently. Every year, the morning of the English Tea, I vow, as food chairman, I will not partake of the tea sandwiches and sweets even though the Women of St. Paul’s make extras precisely because they know the kitchen crew and servers will pilfer a few here and there.

So here’s how it went this year.

9 a.m.: Pick up chocolate-covered strawberries from my beloved Publix. Buy a bag of carrots to eat during the day so I will not dip into the tea sandwiches.

The Cucumber Sandwich Express - 600 in about an hour and a half

9:30: Head down to Founder’s Hall to help assemble 600 cucumber sandwiches. Snatch just the tiniest piece of shortbread from the sweets trays to ward off hunger pains I am imagining.

10:15: Cucumber sandwiches done and it’s obvious we have more than 600. Quality control must be maintained. I eat two of them.

11 a.m.: Help Marida Stearns with the chocolate mousse cups topped with peppermint sprinkles. We’ve never had these at the tea before so, once again, quality control must be maintained. I eat one.

Noon: We begin plating scones. We made them last week and froze them. How did that work out? I eat half a scone just to make sure. Delicious. Katie Faulkner helpfully admonishes the kitchen staff to eat some lunch so our blood sugar doesn’t take a dive during service. She is a nurse so we feel obliged to take her advice. I move the bag of carrots in the fridge to get to the turkey and arugula mayonnaise sandwiches. My finger happens to graze an egg salad sandwich in the process. I have touched it. I must eat it.

2 p.m.: The first seating is over and the tiers come back to the kitchen. Oh, dear. There are three cucumber sandwiches and four Blue Moon’s on one of the plates. I eat one cucumber sandwich and two Blue Moon’s (a jacked up pimento cheese) because I haven’t tried them yet. Plus a lemon curd tart.

Cranberry Orange Scones

4 p.m.: Second seating starts and that means it is 0-wine-30 in the kitchen. I pour myself some Pinot Grigio and since I have not broken out the carrots yet and have very little food in my stomach, another turkey and arugula. And another chocolate mousse cup.

5:30 p.m.: Second seating ends and the leftovers come back to the kitchen. We offer some to the servers who have been very brave during the seatings and have not snatched a single sandwich off a guest’s plate. The number of leftover cucumber sandwiches is beginning to dwindle. I have a slight panic attack and eat two.

7:15 p.m.: I head home with several baggies of sandwiches and shortbread. And my carrots.


Leave a Comment

Filed under tea sandwiches

Artichoke tea sandwiches

So, of course, I’m obsessing about the English Tea, of which I am the food chairman, all this week. Forgive me.

The line-up for the savories is always the same. Much-beloved recipes that, like our children, defy picking a favorite. We simply cannot do without the curried chicken salad, the Blue Moon’s, the egg salad, turkey and arugula mayonnaise, and the all-time winner, the cucumber sandwiches. It is slightly embarrassing that the kitchen staff gazes longingly at the cucumber sandwiches as they’re placed on the tiers, hoping against hope that someone out in the tea room is allergic to cucumbers. Would we eat a “used” cucumber sandwich that came back to the kitchen? Why, yes we would. Without shame.

If we could ever figure out a way to cram a sixth sandwich on the plate, it would be this one. The recipe is from Saveur and these sandwiches are ridiculously easy to make. But so seductive. So unusual. We will use bigger plates for next year’s tea.


Leave a Comment

Filed under tea sandwiches

Cheddar and chive scones

There are issues that weigh heavily upon me. Global warming. The economy. How to make a really good scone.

This scone issue is serious because the Women of St. Paul’s have lost their professional baker of scones for the English Tea. I thought I had scored a triumph when I obtained her recipe. Then I read it. It’s from England. All the measurements are in grams. I don’t do grams.

I started getting agitated. If the scones suck, everyone will blame me. Oh, they won’t say anything. They’ll just give me the look. The pitiful look that will convey, “The tea would have been a complete success but for the scones. Oh, well.”

But then I started thinking about it. A scone is nothing but a biscuit with fluted edges. And what makes biscuits light and flaky? Buttermilk. So I found a recipe from Nigella Lawson, decided to make savory scones so Mark would help me eat them, and gave it a whirl. By George, I think I got it. The scones turned out light and moist and were really quite spectacular with a few well-placed pieces of crispy bacon sandwiched in the middle.

Cheddar Cheese and Chive Scones (with liberal thanks to Nigella Lawson)

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter

2 tablespoons very cold Crisco

¾ cup shredded Cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons snipped chives

1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to combine.

Cut the butter and Crisco into small cubes and add to the work bowl. Pulse until the cubes have become the size of peas (you may have a stray large chunk, but we’ll fix that in a minute).

Transfer the flour mixture to a mixing bowl. Gently sift through the mixture and if you encounter a large chunk of butter or Crisco just rub it with your fingers to break it up. Add the Cheddar cheese and chives, mixing gently but thoroughly.

Add 1 ¼ cups of buttermilk and mix gently until a dough forms. If the mixture seems too dry add the rest of the buttermilk.

Lightly flour a cutting board and pat the dough until it is about 1 ¾ inches thick, Cut out scones with a biscuit cutter, preferably fluted, and place fairly close together on a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake for 12 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 scones.

1 Comment

Filed under breads, snacks, tea sandwiches, Uncategorized

BLT tea biscuits

Alrighty then, here’s an easy one for you. Mini BLT’s nestled atop a half a tea biscuit. Is this a Southern thing? Perhaps.

If you are from the South, you know what a tea biscuit is. It’s a mini version of a regular biscuit that, I believe, was invented entirely for shaved ham sandwiches served at most receptions, funerals and cocktail parties. It is also the perfect platform for those end of the season cherry tomatoes, some good bacon, ribbons of romaine lettuce and Duke’s mayonnaise.

You don’t need me to tell you how to make these, do you? Just look at the photo. It’s not rocket science. If you can’t find tea biscuits in your neck of the woods, use a small baguette. If you can’t find Duke’s, use Hellmann’s. If you can’t find bacon, lettuce and cherry tomatoes, then there is absolutely no hope for you and you need to move to France.


Filed under breads, pork, tea sandwiches