The Tradition of Afternoon Tea

Sometimes all it takes is one contrarian action to change the course of the world. Such was the case with Anna Maria Stanhope, better known as the Duchess of Bedford and one of Queen Victoria’s Ladies-In-Waiting. Anna Maria is recognized in history for starting the delightful tradition of taking “afternoon tea” with all its accompaniments.

Back in the 17th century, dinner (the main meal of the day) was served between 11 am and 12 noon. It was a rich, heavy, alcoholic meal that could last up to 4 hours. During the 18th century, dinner was served gradually at a later and later time. In the early to mid 1800′s, the Industrial Revolution with its long working hours, pushed the dinner hour back to a very late time. Dinner was usually served between 7 to 9 p.m. and sometimes as late as 10 p.m. To fill the midday gap, an extra meal called luncheon was created. This new meal, however, was very light, and the long afternoon with no food or drink left people very hungry as they waited for their late dinner.

One afternoon, in 1840, the Duchess of Bedford experienced a sinking feeling in the middle of the afternoon so she asked her maid to bring her tea, bread and butter, cakes and biscuits with jam. This was considered a very strange request at the time so it was done in secret for fear of ridicule. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess felt so revived after drinking tea and having an afternoon snack that she bucked tradition and bravely started inviting her friends to join her for afternoon tea. Her friends enjoyed this new “snack time” and the Duchess started making it into a social event. Her idea was a hit. Soon high society and the growing middle classes started imitating royalty and holding their own afternoon teas, or “Little Teas” as they were called (because of the small amount of food served). This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880′s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.

Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Today, afternoon tea is not only a tradition, but is making a comeback in popularity. The Old Mill Toronto holds daily traditional afternoon teas and special evening “Twilight Tea” events.



Linguine With Roasted Butternut Squash & Crispy Pancetta

Pancetta is Italian streaky bacon rolled into a cylinder. Pancetta is cured, but not smoked, and comes sweet or hot, much like Italian sausage. Autumn squash has a deep orange interior and butternut squash is especially delicious when roasted.

1/2 medium butternut squash or 12 oz. (375 g) peeled squash
6 cloves garlic
6 to 8 oz (175 to 250 g) thinly slice pancetta, preferably not paper thin
1 lemon
1/2 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
1/2 tsp (2 ml) hot red chilli flakes
several grindings of black pepper
 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1 lb (500 g) dry linguine or fettuccine
4 cups (1 L) lightly packed baby spinach leaves
1 cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese 

1. Cut off narrow neck of squash just where it joins bulbous lower half; set lower half aside for another use. Cut off stem; standing up-right, thinly cut away peel. 

2.  Cut squash crosswise into 3/4 inch-thick (2-cm) rounds. Cut each round into irregular pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches (2.5 – 4 cm ) long. Peel garlic cloves; leave whole but thinly cut off rough end. Set Squash and garlic aside. 

3. Arrange oven rack just above oven centre. Preheat oven to 400 F (200 c).

4. Line a large, rimmed baking tray with aluminium foil. Lay pancetta, overlapping as needed, in a single layer. Bake above oven centre for 10 minutes; remove from oven. Pancetta has shrunk, arrange so slices are not overlapping. Continue baking, checking every 3 to 5 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove pancetta to drain on paper towels; leave fat on tray.

5. Place squash pieces on tray; so they are coated in fat. Arrange in a doughnut fashion. Place garlic cloves in centre; stir garlic so coated with fat. Roast 10 minutes; turn squash and stir garlic. Continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is golden and tender. Leave squash on tray to keep warm. Remove garlic to a plate; mash with a fork.

6. Meanwhile, zest lemon; set half aside for garnish. Squeeze 2 tbsp (30 ml) juice. Stir mashed garlic cloves into oil along with lemon juice, sugar, chill flakes, pepper and half of lemon zest.

7. Bring a pasta pot half-filled with salted water to a boil over high heat. Add linguine; boil according to package directions, usually about 8 minutes, or just until al dente. Scoop out about 1/2 cup (125 ml) of pasta water; then drain pasta.

8. Turn linguine into a large warm bowl; toss with olive oil mixture until coated. Leaving 12 pieces of pancetta whole, crumble the rest over the pasta. Add spinach. Toss, adding some reserved pasta water, if needed, for extra moisture.

9. Serve right away in warmed bowls garnished with roasted squash, pinches of lemon zest, a sprinkling of Parmesan and reserved pancetta pieces as garnish. Pass remaining Parmesan and a shaker of hot chilli flakes at tables.

Serves 6



Make Your Meetings More Productive

Keeping your audience engaged, energized, and ready to learn can be a bit of a challenge but a few key inclusions, will make all the difference with your meeting engagement and efficiency leading to a more pleasant and productive meeting environment.

Once your budget has been determined, your meeting venue location selected, accommodation availability, healthy food and beverage selections, and downtime activities planned you can focus on keeping your audience inspired, which is essential in making your meeting successful.

Natural Lighting
Meeting rooms with windows that offer natural lighting provides a refreshing environment  that can keep attendees energized and engaged while also connecting them to the outdoors.

Mini Breaks
It is recommended that for every 50 – 90 minutes of seating you should be given a 10 minute break opportunity to move, stretch, smile and get energized and focused.

Healthy Snacks
Too many carbs can cause low blood sugar, resulting in mid-afternoon sleepiness. Fresh Fruit, yogurt, granola, red peppers with hummus all provide sustained energy. Make sure to always include vegetarian options.

Moving Meeting
A fun and productive alternative to regular meetings & events where you can incorporate physical activity leaving you feeling productive and refreshed. Use the walking meeting option as a break-out session for small groups to discuss a suggested meeting topic. 

Standing Meeting
Try holding your shorter meetings as standing meetings. Standing burns 30-40% more calories than sitting for the same amount of time. Your meetings get more efficient when you stand, so you’ll need less time to get through your agenda. 

Practice Meeting Efficiency
Effective, efficient meetings contribute to our health by creating a greater sense of engagement and improved well being leading to more productive meetings. Plan for success, create great agendas, technology is turned off, start and end on time! 

Whether your meetings are large or small, the Old Mill Toronto offers a unique blend of historical sophistication with well-appointed high-tech amenities. Featuring over 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, 16 distinctly decorated meeting and event rooms, an exclusive day Spa and a luxury Toronto hotel for accommodations, the Old Mill Toronto has the ambience to inspire and the insight to make your meetings and events the success you are seeking.   



Tea, Men & Romance

During a recent tea party the husband of one of the guests came early to pick her up. He was invited in and promptly the ladies started serving him tea and gave him some cookies and cakes, and put a napkin on his lap. He was chatting and had a great time and then left with his wife.

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras – that is, from 1837 right through to 1910, (the end of the Edwardian era), the idea of men sitting around at any party or social gathering and not constantly serving women would be unthinkable. A man’s character and social class was measured by his gallant treatment of women. Men were frequently invited to ladies afternoon teas and here’s why: Here’s a quote from an 1897 etiquette book for men.

Manners for Men – by Mrs. Humphry 1897
Gentlemen are in great request at 5 o’clock tea. Their duties are rather onerous if there are but one or two men and the usual crowd of ladies. They have to carry teacups about; hand sugar, cream and cakes or muffins, and keep up all the time a stream of small talk, as amusing as they can make it. They must rise every time a lady enters or leaves the room, opening the door for her exit if no one else is nearer to do it, and, if the hostess requests them, they must see the lady downstairs to her carriage or cab. With regards to the viands, a man helps himself, but not until he has seen that all the ladies in his vicinity have everything they could possibly want.

At any kind of social function, men always served women. For example at a dinner party, after the dinner was over, the ladies would rise to leave the dining room. The men sitting closest to the door would rise with the women, open the door for them, and remain standing at the door until all the women had left to go to the drawing room. Now, the servants would usually serve tea in the drawing room after dinner, and again, just as in afternoon teas, it would be the men’s job to take the empty tea cups from the women.

At a ball a woman would give her trusted man, like her brother or father, her gloves, fan, evening purse, and flowers to hold when she wanted to dance. Today, men would feel this was unmasculine, but Victorian and Edwardian men were honoured to be a woman’s most humble servant. 

Interestingly, the Victorian and Edwardian eras were extremely patriarchial. Women couldn’t vote until 1918 and 1920 in the U.S. A married woman could not own property. Married women were not allowed to make a will. A woman could not enter into a business contract without her husbands approval. A married woman who worked outside the home was not allowed to keep her earnings; her wages became the husband’s property. In short, a husband had the right to everything that was his wife’s, but she had no right to anything that was his.

Single women or “spinsters and old maids”, as they were called at the time, actually did have the right to own their earnings, widowed woman could also inherit property. In general, however unmarried women were looked down on, and had difficulty making ends meet unless they came from a wealthy family.

Here we have an extremely patriarchial society in which men are taught that real masculinity lies in worshipping and serving women. The truth was that Victorian and Edwardian men really did adore women, and they felt that having a patriarchial society would protect them. 

Men were so delicate and refined during the Victorian era that they would walk backwards when retreating from a room so as not to turn their backs on the ladies who remained. Men were required to bow slightly and lift their hats if they met a woman they knew on the street. Men were never allowed to push their attentions upon women unless the lady gave an invitation of some sort – through a card or mutual acquaintance.

Men always stood up when a lady entered or left the room. If a man was smoking when a woman walked by he would have to remove the cigar from his mouth. When dancing with a woman, men always wore gloves so that his sweat would not touch her hand or dress. 

Men who didn’t respect women were actually more frightened of other men…Rudeness, especially to a lady, was the kiss of death in Victorian society. A rude man would get “the big chill” from other men. He would be ostracized from social activities; from the sacred men’s clubs and other men might even refuse to do business with him.

Interestingly, in an 1891 issue of the Ladies Home Journal magazine, women were asked to predict what life would be like for women in the year 2000. They said they were happy that our sisters in the future will probably have freedom, rights and independence, however they said we also fear for our sisters of the future. Victorian women predicted that feminism and women’s independence by the year 2000 might lead to a sexual revolution. They predicted that if women were promiscuous without marriage or any promise of solid commitment, men would no longer respect them and chivalrous behaviour would be unfamiliar to us. A very interesting prediction!

Tribute to Orli Kohn



City Of Jazz

Live Jazz in Toronto has changed immensely over the years. The abundance of high level talent has grown, providing awesome quality, diversity and exciting creativity.

In a city rich in jazz – where the best of the best from all over the world are showcased during the annual Toronto Jazz Festival, a musical extravaganza that resonates from outdoor stages, concert halls, and more than 40 jazz clubs and lounges for ten glorious summer days; where later in July, the Beaches International Jazz Festival powers up its annual salute to jazz in all its variations on the streets and outdoor stages throughout the city’s east end; the proud home to JAZZ.FM91, one of North America’s only 24-hour all-jazz radio stations, which provides unceasing support for emerging and established artists on air, in festivals, and in live jazz club performance; and some of the most hallowed concert halls and theatres in the world – The Home Smith Bar at The Old Mill Toronto takes pride in the prominent place it has consistently occupied for the past several years as a year ‘round participant in Toronto’s vibrant jazz community.

The jazziest weekends always begin at The Home Smith Bar (often long before the week actually ends) where the best performers on the Toronto jazz club scene entertain in the up-close-and-personal warmth of one of the city’s best-loved jazz lounges. From January through December, you’re invited to enjoy a continuous line-up of the leading singers and instrumentalists performing for your jazz-loving pleasure in formats ranging from solo presentations to duos, trios, and quartets…and often, gathering together around the baby grand piano to celebrate that music with a Jazz Party.

It’s guaranteed to get things off to a swinging start!



Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Some classic dishes never change and Shepherd’s pie is one of them. Simplicity is the key to success with this dish.

1 onion peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
900 g/2lb minced beef
1 tablespoon of bovril, dissolved in a little hot water
3 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs of thyme 
 1 teaspoon tomato puree
3 carrots, peeled and diced
400 ml /14fl oz chicken stock
chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
For the topping
1.3 kg/3lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
200 ml / 7fl oz single cream
1 20g/4oz butter
1 egg yolk 

In a large pan, gently saute the onion in the vegetable oil for about 10 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the mince a little at a time and cook until browned. Then add the Bovril water, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, tomato puree, carrots, stock and some salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 50 minutes, then transfer to a pie dish ready for the mashed potato.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, then return to the pan and add the cream, butter, egg yolk and a seasoning of salt and pepper. mash well, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Cover the mince mixture with the potato and run a fork over the top for decoration. Place in an oven preheated to 350F for 20 minutes or until the potato is nicely browned.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve. You can prep this dish in advance, leave to cool and then reheat later, although will need more time in the oven – about 40 minutes.



“Spring Weddings” Do’s and Don’ts

 

Springtime is synonymous with new beginnings. Flowers blossom, animals emerge from their winter hideaways (often with babies in tow), and people everywhere celebrate the dawning of a new, warmer season. It makes perfect sense that many couples want to use this time to celebrate their own new beginning, too: the beginning of their life as husband and wife.

But when you’re planning a spring wedding there are still a few things you need to keep in mind. From decorating tips to finding the perfect wedding date, here are a few do’s and don’ts for your special springtime day:

Do: Check The Weather

You know what they say: April showers bring May Flowers. Just because winter is behind you doesn’t mean there are only sunny days ahead! If you’re getting married in the spring, be sure to check your local weather forecasts for rainy days. This is especially important if you’re wedding is outdoors. Also, make accommodations for inclement weather, like a covered awning or tents in your outdoor area. This will give you a little bit of insurance should you meet with an April shower.

 

Don’t: Stick to Daylight Hours 

When you think “spring wedding,” the image that likely comes to mind is a beautiful, dreamy ceremony on a sunny, green day. But a spring wedding can be so much more than that. In fact, many couples are moving their nuptials after dark this year, creating a different sort of dreamy setting. String up some fairy lights and take advantage of the warmer nights. With an evening wedding, your wedding will be unique and memorable, not to mention tons of fun! 

 

Do: Get Creative with Confectionery

Weddings in 2017 are becoming much more individualized. Rather than settling for the good old traditions, many couples are creating their own wedding moments, from specialized entertainment to unique dessert options. Don’t like cake? Don’t worry! Some pretty macarons or an elegant croquembouche can really make a stunning statement on your dessert table. Just like a gorgeous wedding cake, other dessert options can be tasty and beautiful – exactly what every couple wants on their wedding day!

Don’t: Settle For Spring Pastels

Ever since you got your first Easter Sunday outfit, you’ve been told that spring equals pastel colors. But here’s a little secret: it doesn’t have to be! In fact, wedding trends this year are leaning more towards bright and colorful decor, from flashy wedding accessories to tropical floral accents. This bold look is both romantic and energizing, a great combination when you want the party to last well into the night! Play around with oranges, pinks, turquoises, and greens – or, if you want to soften some of those bold colors, use grey or brown as an accent. You’ll find that your final look is one that will be breathtaking! 

Of course, the most important do and don’t of a spring wedding is this: do what will make you and your future partner happy, and don’t do something that won’t. If you want to buck tradition, go for it! You want to decorate your venue like a Jackson Pollock painting? Get out the paint (but get permission first). Above all, make sure this day is one that you will remember fondly forever. 



West Indies Chicken with Mango Salsa

This dish is a fresh rendition of Jamaican jerk chicken. Traditionally ‘jerk’ means to dry rub, marinate and grill meat with a combination of scotch bonnet chilli and fragrant spices. The quick curry powder marinade stains the chicken a vibrant gold. Serve it with the mango salsa for a fresh summer meal, but it’s so good any time of the year.

prep time 10 mins / marinating time 1 hour / cooking time 10 mins / serves 6

12 skinless chicken thigh fillets, vegetable oil for brushing, coriander (cilantro) leaves, for garnish. Tabasco or hot pepper sauce, to serve.

Jerk Marinade
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 French shallots, chopped
1 long green chilli, seeds removed and chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime 
80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
 

Fresh Mango Salsa
2 firm ripe mangoes, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 large handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot pepper sauce
juice of 1 lime 

Jerk Marinade: Place the ingredients in a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms. Place the chicken in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, pour over the marinade and coat well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Fresh Mango Salsa: Place the ingredients in a non metallic bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Preheat a barbecue to high and lightly brush with oil. Place the chicken over direct heat and cook for about 5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Scatter over coriander leaves and serve with mango salsa and Tabasco Sauce.

 



Mini Meatloaves with Roasted Tomato Thyme Sauce

This stylish meatloaf had a little makeover by baking it in individual ramekins. A topping of sweet tomato and thyme keeps the meat moist. Make this for a casual winter get-together or when ever your craving comfort food.

prep time 20 min / cooking time 1 hour / makes 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
300 g (10 1/2oz) minced beef
300 g (10 1/2oz) minced pork
60 g (2 1/4 oz / 3/4cup) fresh breadcrumbs  
170 ml ( 5 1/2 fl oz / 2/3 cup) tomato passata (pureed tomato)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
200 g (7 oz) mini roma (plum) tomatoes, halved
3 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar, for sprinkling 

Preheat oven to 170 c (325 f). Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until softened. Remove and transfer to a large bowl. Add the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, half of the passata, Worcestershire sauce, egg and half the thyme to the bowl, season with salt and pepper and gently mix with your hands until well combined. Divide among six 10 x 5 cm (4 x 2 inch), 300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) capacity ramekins and spoon over the remaining passata. They’ll seem very full but will shrink during baking. Top each with a handful of (plum) tomato, 1/2  teaspoon sugar and season with salt, pepper and remaining thyme. Bake for 50 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Top with thyme springs to serve.

Pairs great with chive mash potatoes and a side salad. You can also serve the meatloaves in the ramekins on a plate with a small napkin folded underneath.



Valentine’s Chocolate Fondue

Enjoy a delicious flirty and fun Chocolate fondue. It’s hip to dip so share with a group of friends or surprise your sweet heart this Valentine’s.

Ingredients:
12oz bag of your favourite good quality chocolate chips (You can use milk chocolate or semisweet)
1/2 cup up to 2/3 cup half and half cream
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Dipping ideas:  Fruit (strawberries are a must), other fruits work too like pineapple…yummy or graham crackers, red velvet cake pieces…

Directions:

 Over a double boiler melt the chocolate and half and half together.  Once the chocolate melts, stir in the vanilla and cinnamon.  Place in a fondue pot to keep warm.  Serve with dipping ingredients. 

Enjoy.