Anyone who knows me knows that I love Downton Abbey and most things British – the culture and traditions fascinate me, I enjoy listening to the accents (I even set Gabby to talk to me in a British accent when giving me my GPS directions), and the history is so interesting! It might be because my ancestors were English – my Great Grandmother was the most recent generation born in England. I also love tea – especially as a calming treat on a chilly night, but really just about any time! Well, today I had an adventure that plays right into all these things and I had a BLAST!!! It was such a lovely day to spend with friends and enjoy the very English tradition of proper high tea……right here in Albion, NY, USA!!!
A few years ago – I believe about 2006 or so – Tony McMurtrie, a Scottish native who, by the way, is a real sweetheart and insanely funny and enjoyable to talk to, began to renovate an old run down mansion here in Albion. His efforts resulted in The Pillars Estate on County House Road – an elegant banquet hall and bed and breakfast that, until recently, catered to special events. Earlier this summer, Tony opened up the estate to the public for lunches and his friend, Cora Goyette, opened a proper English Tea Room two days a week for high tea. Cora is a native of England and personally ensures the integrity of the offerings in her Tea Room, as well as makes the pastries fresh each morning.
Today, my dear friends, Cathy and Judy, and I finally got together and went to check it out…….and we were totally impressed! Everything was delicious, Cora was delightful, and the atmosphere was lovely. Cora enthusiastically explained each stage of the experience with references to British traditions and entertaining stories along the way. I, of course, could not resist donning a hat and white gloves to enhance my experience — after all, what is a proper high tea without a lovely hat and gloves?
So, here is my attempt to use the photos I took to help me walk you through the experience…..I hope I make it sound as incredibly awesome as it was!
Cora explained that the purpose of high tea is to help bridge the gap between lunch and dinner – in England and Scotland, dinner is served rather late in the day, so there is usually about a 6 hour gap between lunch and dinner – high tea provides an opportunity to have tea and a little something light to eat. They wouldn’t typically eat as much as was served to us, but Cora serves samples of most of the most typical types of foods selected in a proper tea sitting.
Each table was adorned with beautiful dried roses and heather
I was especially drawn to the incredible chandeliers in the tea room
The fine china serving dishes and patterned linen table cloths were so pretty
First up was proper English tea served in a beautifully adorned sterling silver tea pot
We were then served our choice of finger sandwiches – traditional English recipes complete with the crusts removed and cut into small servings
They were all delicious – my favorite was the egg salad made with English salad cream – YUM!!!
I also really enjoyed the cucumber sandwiches with a spread made of cream, whipped butter, and Dijon mustard – VERY GOOD!!!
Cora served the sandwiches on a silver serving tray with engraved silver tongs
The next service included English sausage rolls and mince pies – OMG – to die for!!!
And, finally, we were served delights for our sweet tooth!
Carrot cake muffins, mini chocolate cake with fresh strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and cream puffs
My favorite photo of the day….my gloves and the desserts with tea!
I wish I had a better photo of this…..Cora telling the story of this flag that was in Tony’s family and actually flew over Buckingham Palace!
Sadly, today was the last day that high tea will be served for this season…….but, it will return next year in the spring or early summer! I can not wait! Watch for it to come back and experience it for yourself — I’m sure I didn’t do it justice — you won’t regret it!!! I ADORED IT!!!
Beginning October 3rd, they will be serving Friday night dinners from 6:00-10:00 – call 585-283-4341 for reservations.
Click these links to discover other great things about The Pillars Estate , like that it is on the Haunted History Trail of NY, they hold an annual Titanic Ball, they put on some really fun parties and special events, and they have a gorgeous grand ballroom and grounds that provide an incredible setting for weddings and other private events. For more information about The Pillars Estates and the Friday night dinners, call Tony at 585-283-4341.