A Garden Tea Party in Celebration of Friendship (Menu and Tips Included!)

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One of the greatest joys of my thirties has been the new friendships that come along with being a mom. There is something so special about the bond formed over shared parenting and life experiences. I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing women over the years in Brooklyn who happen to have kids around the same age. These friendships make parenting easier and a whole lot more fun. They’ve helped turn what can be a solo and sometimes lonely experience into feeling connected to a real community working to raise kids together. One completely unexpected downside to these friendships has been the heartache suffered when one by one, friends start moving away. I realize it’s an inevitable part of both the transient nature of our lives and choosing to try and make it all work in the city. I know some of these friends are life long friends and despite the new distance, our friendship and the friendships of our children will remain in tact.

I’ve recently been in total denial of the impending move to the suburbs of one my closest friends in Brooklyn. Our daughters met in their first year of preschool and she not only became one of my closest mom friends but my “person,” the one I could text at anytime of day or night who would drop everything to be there for me or my family. I soon realized that she wasn’t that person to just me but to a multitude of other girlfriends as well, some of whom I had never really gotten to know but knew how special their friendships were as well. I decided to use the occasion of my friend’s departure as an excuse to throw a party in her honor and in celebration of these special friendships. As moms with busy lives, I felt it was far time to host a real ladies luncheon, like the grown up kind where I could set the table with the china I never have the excuse to use and finally pull out my prized possession, my mom’s tea cup collection.

The assortment of china tea cups originally belonged to my Grandma Syl who passed the collection along to my mom. The forty or so teacups now split between my sister and I span generations and continents. Some of the cups belonged to great grandparents, others were more recently acquired through our family trips around the world. My mom set the table with tea cups on special occasions including holidays and fancy dinner parties. With my own two young kids running around the house, I have kept the tea cups stored away high on a shelf wondering if I’d ever have the opportunity to host a mature enough occasion to bring them out. A ladies luncheon to say farewell (but not goodbye) to one of my closest friends was the best excuse I could think of for a Tea Party!

Planning the menu was half the fun for this gathering which I am happily sharing below with links to all of the recipes I used and notes on any changes I made.

The table setting included a printed menu featuring an image I used on the invitation

Tea Party Menu

To Drink:
Hibiscus Ice Tea Sparkler (I brewed a pitcher of Hibiscus ice tea the night before the luncheon and served it with optional sparkling water or Prosecco. I skipped the mint leaves and strawberries).

To Start:
Radishes with Herbed Salt and Olive Oil (I soaked radishes the day before to take out some of the bitterness. I sliced and served along side a small dish of really nice olive oil and a separate small dish of coarse sea salt mixed with dried oregano and thyme).

Arugula and Edamame Crostini (I replaced the fava beans in this recipe with frozen edamame. The toasts can be made the day before and the mixture was easy to prepare the morning of).

To Eat
Mixed Greens with a Simple Vinaigrette (this Julia Moskin Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette has been my recent go-to and can definitely be made the day before. I also rinsed the greens the day before and left in the fridge wrapped in a dish towel).

Pea and Little Gem Salad with Farro and Pecorino (My friend and I often meet up at East One Coffee in Brooklyn and order their grain bowl which usually features the season’s freshest vegetables and a tangy cheese. Their spring version with peas and mint is my favorite and I was inspired to prepare something similar. I prepared the farro the day before and rinsed and trimmed all the peas the night before while relaxing with a glass of wine. Don’t underestimate how long this task can take!)

Best Chicken Salad (For some reason when planning a ladies luncheon the first thing I thought of was chicken salad from the Silver Palate Cookbook. It is a real classic and always reminds me of parties my grandma and mom used to host. I found a version of the classic Silver Palate chicken salad on NYTimes Cooking, again by Julia Moskin. What I loved about this version was the method of cooking the chicken. It basically guaranteed chicken breasts to stay moist by poaching them in boiling hot water and then letting them rest in the pot for a couple hours. My favorite kind of unfussy cooking allowing me to continue multitasking. For some reason I couldn’t find fresh tarragon so replaced it with fresh basil from our garden).

To Indulge
Lemon Cake (This Barefoot Contessa Lemon Cake is my absolute favorite! It was actually prepared and brought by one of my other friends, also one of the best bakers I know. One hosting tip I have tried to embrace is letting other guests bring something if they ask. It can sometimes be hard especially when curating a specific menu and when you have a clear vision for what you want. But allowing others to contribute really does free up time and can make the meal feel even more special).

There you have it, my complete menu and tips for a real Ladies Luncheon! I set the table outside, using my mom’s china and tea cups. I didn’t really serve tea, it was too hot but did offer cold brew coffee which I kept on ice. Thankfully the weather cooperated and it was early enough in the season we weren’t chased away by mosquitos. It was one of those perfect afternoons where we could eat, drink, relax, and enjoy the company of good friends before saying farewell (but not goodbye)!!

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