Usually I don’t think of tea parties as particularily gluten-free friendly dining experiences. Oh, I know there are exceptions. Apparently at some very posh hotels in London, if you fork over an exorbitant sum, you can get a lovely gluten-free tea. But ordinarily, in the States, you just can’t find a place serving a gluten-free tea very easily. (I do hear that American Girl sometimes will offer gluten-free treats, though.) I hadn’t thought about it very much until I heard that an upcoming baby shower for a dear friend was going to be held at a local cafe restaurant that did a tea service. Luckily the party organizer (the expectant mother’s sister-in-law) didn’t mind contacting the owner about possibly providing gluten-free teas to two of the guests. In a cool coincidence, another guest was also on a gluten-free diet. Luckily, the owner was happy to oblige, and just asked that we bring some gluten-free bread for her to use for the sandwiches. Two nights before, I baked a batch of Whole Foods Gluten-Free Bread Mix at my friend’s house (the expectant mother) and the day before, I brought over the pre-sliced bread to the restaurant, along with a copy of the American Triumph Dining Card instructions for restaurants that explained such things as the problems of cross-contamination. I was excited about the party, but a little nervous about the food. The party was beautiful and went off without a hitch. The expectant mother enjoyed every minute of her party. We all wore lovely party hats, provided by the cafe owner, and played silly baby games. The mother-to-be posed for pictures, unwrapped lots of thoughtful and mini-person sized clothing and toys, and of course, enjoyed the tea and tea sandwiches. Me and the other gluten-free attendee enjoyed our own food as well. The first course was scones and jam for the glutenoids, with lots of thick clotted and whipped cream. We had fresh strawberries and a mountain of whipped cream- no scones, but it was still pretty decadent.
The main course was tea sandwiches. To my relief, the gluten-free bread had a decent texture, even untoasted, and its mild flavor went well with the delicate fillings. Despite some initial trepidation that the vegetarian offerings might be limited, the owner had really outdone herself and come up with three fillings for us- one, a traditional dill cucumber sandwich, two, a roasted zucchini,eggplant, and squash sandwich with mayonnaise and mustard, and three, a sandwich with avocado and sprouts. Mmm. To be honest, cucumber sandwiches tend to leave me a little bored, but the roasted veggie sandwich was extraordinary. I did find the portions to be a bit large, so I ate the fillings out of some and left some of the bread. Still, it was a real pleasure to enjoy the sandwiches with tea.
I thought the feast was over, and that was fine because i was really quite, quite full. But then the proprietor came out with desserts- little tea cakes for the glutenoids and, surprisingly- a lovely banana cream pudding with a two layer raw-foods style fudge. I was nervous about the fudge, until she thoughtfully told me all the ingredients- basically walnuts and dates, with raisins thrown in for fun. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually a delightful sweet treat. It was like a very, very fresh Lara bar. The pudding was also quite nice, although a bit sweeter than my sweet tooth is accustomed to.
Here’s a recipe for a vegetarian banana pudding (with eggs and milk)
a vegan southern-style banana pudding- just substitute gluten-free cookies or leave them out!
a raw-foods, gluten-free recipe for banana-choco banana pudding
And you thought tea and sandwiches were off the menu! No way. I am also happy to report that I didn’t feel so much as a twinge from the food- so they must have really taken the CC issue seriously. They did a great job of keeping me, and the other gluten-free girl (a third grader!) safe. So, who knows. The next time you come across a gluten-full event like this- try talking to the manager or owner and see if special arrangements can be made. Believe me, sometimes a little effort results in a lot of fun (and some great food!)
After I came home I was eager to recreate the yummy sandwiches in my own home, so I put together the below recipes for tea sandwiches. They aren’t QUITE as good as the ones at the tea shop, but they were pretty yummy all the same.Next time you feel like tea, scones, or tea sandwiches, why not make them at home- any lunch can be special, with a little extra preparation and a teapot full of imported tea brewing.
*Oh, and because we were visiting my friend over Easter weekend, we also dyed some eggs together- the natural way with vegetables and colorful spices. The eggs turned out great and it was lots of fun, so I included the recipe below in case you want to try it. Who needs artificial colors and cardboard boxes with bunnies on them? Not me, now that I know how to make my own super-food-safe coloring liquid. Enjoy and a Very Happy, if Belated, Easter.
Read about gladtobeglutenfree’s experience with a gluten-free tea service
Or, make your own tea treats from Milk for the Morning Cake’s roundup of gluten-free teatime recipes.
Gluten-Free Vegetarian Tea Sandwich Recipe
1/2 loaf of your favorite gluten-free bread, sliced, with crusts removed if desired.
Combine ingredients for all sauces in separate little rice bowls and reserve. Take your sliced vegetables for filling one, baste lightly in olive oil and chopped fresh herbs or your favorite blend, and grill them nicely until they look done. Season with salt and pepper. Prepare your bread and spread sauce 1 on two pieces of bread. Next, layer filling 1 on the bread and cut it into a cute triangle. Make your second sandwich with sauce and filling 2, and your third sandwich with sauce and filing 3.
Enjoy with hot, delicious black tea and a light salad if desired.
Naturally Dyed Easter Egg
1 quart water +2 tbsp white vinegar
You Can also try the following color elements:
To make each dye, bring water, vinegar, and color element to a boil, lower the heat, simmer 30 min and strain dye. You can boil eggs with dye or cold dip, for 5 seconds up to overnight, and dry on wire wrap. For Turmeric, you can just add the powder to hot water without boiling it.
Deep yellow- soak eggs in turmeric for a long time