In my articles section, you’ll find “A Tea Party’s Most Important Ingredient“. If you read it, you’ll learn that I believe the beverage you serve is more important than the food you serve. HOWEVER, the food runs a close second, especially if serving tea is your business.

Over vacation, I read the story of Alice Waters and her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. (If you’re in the food business, this is a must-read). Her philosophies have revolutionized the way many of us think about the food we eat. She says the food we eat is no better than the quality of its ingredients. If you are buying your tea food at Cost-co and it’s filled with corn syrup, white flour, and chemicals, it will taste like it. More and more people are experiencing and in return demanding a higher quality.

When planning your tea party food, think seasonal, freshness, and quality over quantity. What fresh fruit is in season? Use it every way you can. Same with the vegetables if you are planning salad or soup.

Remember the Ritz? Yes, Americans may balk at smaller portions initially. (Maybe a sign in the window that says, “If you want to feel stuffed for cheap when you leave~here’s directions to the nearest Sizzler” is out of the question). But just as customers need education on tea, learning the value or quality over quantity will take time, but can be done, none-the-less. Be sure to read Alice’s book for inspiration. She knew what she believed about food and never, never compromised.

Now the Fourth of July is not exactly the holiday that makes one think of hosting a tea party. However, at our annual family and friends picnic tomorrow, I will bring many quarts of my Cherry Iced Tea, so it qualifies, doesn’t it? Here’s the rest of the menu I decided on after pouring through some of my favorite books~the ones that organize menus by events, seasons, or holidays.

  1. Appetizer~gourmet crackers spread with Chevre (a goat cheese) and topped with roasted peppers and fresh basil.
  2. Side~Taking advantage of all the wonderful summer fruit and preparing a salad with raspberries, blackberries, nectarines, strawberries and honeydew melon. I will make a light dressing for it with honey and fresh-squeezed lime juice.
  3. Main~Oven-fried chicken because it’s a holiday and a little indulgence that I don’t relish in the rest of the year is a requirement. 😉
  4. Desserts~Yes, there’s two. Maybe. Remember, I don’t bake, but I do receive accolades for cookies. So if I decide to do the work, I want to try a recent recipe I found for malted milk ball cookies (vs. the traditional choco-chip). Middle son is with Grandma frosting a fun-fetti cake as a back-up (yes, Alice, I’m sure you don’t even know what a fun-fetti cake is).
  5. Beverage~Quarts and quarts of cherry iced-tea.

It isn’t easy to plan a menu that avoids wheat and dairy as much as possible (confirmed allergies in our family), stays within budget, and helps everyone feel like we’re celebrating. But it is great fun to think about how the food can be the best of our current season. We all can’t be Alice Waters, but using local and seasonal food whenever possible adds so much richness to our menus and delight to the tastebuds.

Are you able to visit local Farmers’ Markets? Does the season-of-the-year affect your menu plans?