Tea for two and a half

My daughter Leslie and her husband, Ben, were here for the holidays from Hawaii. Their visit was particularly meaningful because she is six months pregnant with their first child.

And I couldn't be happier that I'm going to be a grandma for the second time. P. S. It's a girl.

During Leslie's visit, I made reservations at the Camellia Rose Tea Room in Plant City. We were both excited, since it was our first visit there, and the 30-minute drive was worth it.

A glorious gift shop greeted us as we entered the historic downtown building.

We were seated at the Ruby Jean Redman table. Tables are all named after past Strawberry Festival Queens. Ruby's picture from her 1953 reign was close by hung on the wall.

We ordered Camellia's Afternoon Tea. I chose the White Champagne with Raspberry, and Leslie chose the Sweetheart Black Chai, just two of the 70-or-so loose teas brewed at Camellia Rose.

First served was a small ramekin of beef tenderloin topped with a swirl of mashed potatoes. It was wonderful.

The fairyland, three-tier serving tray came next. On the bottom plate, we discovered freshly baked, apple-raisin scones served with southern-style Devon cream; the middle plate featured curry chicken-salad tea sandwiches edged with finely chopped pecans, a dainty phyllo cup filled with a bite of Gruyere cheese and cranberries and a heart-shaped cucumber and cream cheese sandwich. The top dish held a piece of red-velvet cake topped with cream cheese frosting and little mice with chocolate-kiss heads and chocolate-covered cherry bodies, stems for the tails and two slivered almonds for ears.

The food was delicious and the teas satisfying, but the greatest pleasure of Camellia's was the atmosphere. It's a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the moment, especially with your daughter or close friends - and sip slowly.

Camellia Rose Tea Room & Gifts
120 North Collins Street
Plant City, FL


Makin' a list of gifts for the kitchen-minded?

My favorite gifts to get and to give are things for the kitchen, many of which last a lifetime. I've used a measuring cup set my high school friend Penny bought me as a wedding gift 33 years ago. It's one of my most prized kitchen tools.

Southern Grace Gifts & Home Accessories in Ruskin is a favorite place for picking out practical, unique and affordable presents for the holidays, or any host or hostess.

Something as simple as a set of salt and pepper shakers can generate so much excitement.

Southern Grace
301 US Highway 41 South
Ruskin, FL
(813) 641-0004


For a barrel of taste, roll out this barrel!

While visiting my family last week over Thanksgiving, I had my first sampling of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. The inviting aroma of this seasonal brew and its creamy, smooth taste — with an intense taste of chocolate, charred oak, vanilla, caramel and smoke — immediately won me over. I absolutely loved it!

My stout was from the 2008 batch, which sported a white label. I noticed from Goose Island's Web site that the label on the 2009 batch is black.

You've got to try this beer. It's almost like cognac, in that it has to be sipped. The Web site claims it goes well with cigars.
I don't do cigars, but I can tell you it went great with an insanely decadent piece of chocolate torte, during a chilly Georgia evening in front of a blazing fireplace. Cheers!