Secret Garden tea room in Sumner

Some time ago a friend and I decided on a delicious quest – to eat our way through local tea rooms in search of the perfect High Tea. After a longish pause due to food intolerances, I’m happy to be back on this quest once again.

While the Secret Garden tea room in Sumner, WA might not be perfect, it is one of the best I’ve had and easily the best in the Northwest. One Friday afternoon I had some unexpected free time and we wandered down to Sumner. We were lucky enough to find a spot available in a few hours and after wandering local antique stores, we came back.

Located in a beautiful old mansion, the tea room was large and bustling with people. We took a peek at their gift shop, where we found charming items like a small set of mussy tussies, little fabric bags for holding a bouquet or sachet.

The menu has a good selection of options, I got the Hollyhock for ~$27 that includes a cup of soup, a small salad, unlimited scones and tea (!!), a plate of sweets, a plate of fruit and a plate of savory sandwiches.

First up was the unlimited scones and tea. It was wonderful, the tea was excellent and very hot. This is one of the most common and infuriating failings in a tea room, so high points on the tea. The cup was not heated (you can see my attempt to warm it), which would’ve been nice, but wasn’t a big deal.

I was a little dubious of the pumpkin with coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass but I was really hungry so I ordered it. What a pleasant surprise, a warming and fragrant soup served in a tea cup.

The scones came with as much Devonshire cream, lemon curd and strawberry jam we could stuff done. The scone was light and fluffy and not too heavy. The lemon curd was good but a bit sweet, more like Americans seem to love, so I piled mine high with the amazing cream and jam. Mmm!

Next up was a palate cleanser of mango sorbet, served in a pewter egg cup, which I really must do at home. The mango flavor was nice and strong.

And finally the main courses. So much food. For sweets there was pumpkin mousse, apple cake, truffles, hazelnut shortbread and chocolate-center cookies. Then fresh fruit alongside bacon bruschetta (yes bacon!), Gruyere pastry puffs and olive quiche. Lastly the sandwiches, cucumber on fresh butter, creamy chicken salad with nuts and cranberries, and a divine dill egg salad.

The bread was soft and firm, not at all mushy, and everything was incredibly fresh. It obviously was made mostly to order, and best of all we had a leisurely hour and a half to consume all these delectables over multiple courses.

Highly recommended!

Pasta vs. mashed potatoes

Sometimes life does not make it easy for trivial details like blogging, dinner or doing your laundry. You really have to choose your priorities.

So tonight we were scraping the barrel for dinner – a tub of frozen homemade Bolognese sauce made during my more leisurely time and some gluten-free pasta that turned out too terrifying to eat after cooking. Mashed potatoes to the rescue!

While frozen mashed potatoes would work, we had leftovers from yesterday’s shepherd’s pie. Just fry them up in duck fat, heat up the pasta sauce, and viola! A seemingly intentional dinner that’s pretty hearty. Mashed squash or other vegetables work equally well.

Mile high lemon meringue pie

The mile high lemon meringue really is mile high when you make it from Cook’s Magazine, a great magazine that not only tests recipes but details what they tried and the results.

You’ll need 1 (9-inch) pie shell, fully baked and cooled.

Lemon Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup of lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue later)
  • 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

Meringue Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling directions:

  1. Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large non-reactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture is translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
  3. Strain through fine mesh strainer into the baked and cooled pie shell and scrape off filling from the bottom of strainer. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine water and sugar in saucepan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium high heat. Once syrup comes to a rolling boil, cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside while beating egg whites.
  4. With electric mixer beat whites in large bowl at medium low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat gradually increasing speed to medium high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
  5. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into the whites. Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes shiny and thick, 5-9 minutes.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling making sure meringue touches the edges of the crust.
  7. Use spatula to create peaks all over the pie.
  8. Bake until peaks turn golden brown about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature and serve.

Recipe copied from

Vegan coconut chocolate cupcakes

I’m always hesitant to tell people when my baked goods are vegan, because they tend to shy away. But I’ve made these cupcakes a few times now and they are fabulous. They’ll stand up to any cupcake, vegan or otherwise.

My friend and I made this recently with an interesting “textured” frosting – due to our lack of powdered sugar we used granulated. It was quite nice although next time I’d add some powdered sugar too. 🙂

The cupcake recipe comes from the Babycakes book and was shared via Gwyneth Paltrow’s site, I didn’t use their frosting recipe, but instead did one more like a traditional buttercream frosting sans butter.

Cupcake ingredients:

  • 1 cup garbanzo and fava bean flour
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 6 tablespoons applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Frosting for serving

Cupcake directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line one, standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.
  3. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and hot water directly to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth.
  4. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter into each prepared cup. This portion will almost fill the cup up entirely.
  5. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the tray 180 degrees after 15 minutes. The cupcakes will bounce back when pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. Remove from the oven.
  6. Let the cupcakes stand for 20 minutes. Transfer them to a wire rack right side up and cool completely.

Coconut vanilla frosting ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (or 2 cups powdered and 2 cups superfine)
  • 1 cup coconut oil

Frosting directions:

  1. Gently warm the coconut oil in a sauce pan or on low heat in the microwave
  2. Mix all the ingredients together with a spoon or in a mixer.
  3. When the cupcakes are cool, slice the top off and spread frosting in the middle. This allows for easier eating but does require you to open the cupcake holders slightly.


Host your own tea cup exchange

For my birthday this year I decided that in lieu of a traditional party, I wanted a tea cup exchange. I invited 14 people, more than I can comfortably seat at home, so I picked a restaurant with lovely desserts and drinks.

I wanted to do full afternoon tea and if it had been only women, I probably would have made everyone squeeze into the tiny seats at our best nearby tea shop. But there were 10 of us, including a few men that I wasn’t sure would enjoy afternoon tea, and the nicest tea shop that was also spacious is 25 miles away.

How to host your tea cup exchange:

  • Invite everyone to a group-friendly restaurant or your home. Include parking directions.
  • Include a few links to tea cups so that everyone knows relative price and quality.
  • Make tea favors – I filled old tea tins with inexpensive tea bag holders from Amazon and tea bags from my collection. I customized the tea for each recipient.
  • Have a few spare gift bags on hand if someone forgets to wrap their tea cup.
  • For guests who can’t make it in person, have them send or give you a tea cup in advance, and you can include it in the swap.

Rules (similar to a white elephant gift exchange):

  1. All the bags or wrapped cups are put on the table.
  2. Guests draw a number. #1 picks a cup first and unwraps so everyone can see it.
  3. #2 gets to either unwrap a new tea cup, or steal the first one.
  4. Each guest gets to open or steal a cup.
  5. Usually after a cup is stolen twice, it cannot be stolen again (an alternate is that on the third steal, it goes back to the original picker).
  6. Swapping is always allowed.

I highly recommend exchange parties, they are really fun and a good way to connect with friends or meet new ones.

Fancy finger foods

Fancy finger foods

Fancy finger foods

For the royal wedding, I had a lunch gathering of friends and family. We made bread, watched the interesting bits of the wedding and giggled at the hats. I made an assortment of fancy finger foods so that we, too, could feel posh.

Smoked salmon bruschetta:

  • Take small pieces of toasts or slices of crusty bread.
  • Spread with cream cheese or chevre.
  • Fold a piece of smoked salmon on top and cover with chives or flowers.

Roast beef bruschetta:

  • Make small half-slices of crusty bread, spread with butter (or mustard).
  • Top with water cress, or lettuce/spinach if you don’t have water cress.
  • Fold a piece of roast beef on top.

Cured meat and parsley bruschetta:

  • Take crackers (like La Panzanella) and cover with slices of cured meat (like San Danielle or duck breast proscuitto)
  • Top with parsley and, optionally, shredded parmesan.