Alice’s Tea Party, a work in progress

I have been obsessed with Alice in Wonderland since I first read the books as a child. I read the original when I was about six, and “Through the Looking Glass” not long after. I have yet to read “Exeunt Alice”, though it’s on my TR list at the moment. Unfortunately my TR list, along with my cycling gloves, 10 pairs of Bridgedale bamboo socks and all my nice underwear (plus two Valentino dresses that don’t fit me at the moment), is lost somewhere in my landfill of a sitting room.

Anyhow, the obsession only grew after I saw Heston Blumenthal’s Alice in Wonderland themed feast – though I wouldn’t agree with some of the things he put on the menu, and I have my doubts about the edible garden with insects; the mock turtle soup with pocket-watch “consommé” looked amazing, and the “drink me” potion was fascinating. I have the most beautifully illustrated Alice in Wonderland book – it’s more a coffee table book rather than a bedside table one, as it’s quite large – which is quite dark, and I always fancied having an Alice themed dinner party.

I’ve been to the Alice in Wonderland Café in Tokyo, which was fun but the food was pretty bog-standard. Yes it’s a gimmick, but it inspired me to go for a slightly Alice-tinged theme throughout my flat – mostly with unexpected pocket-watches hanging from the walls at the moment, but soon to feature murals and art, as soon as the walls and ceilings get sorted!

I’ve toyed with the idea of oversized vs. undersized with relation to my menu, and having thought about it have come to realise there are so many options without even having to fiddle too much with nature. I have read a few interesting blogs about Alice in Wonderland tea parties, especially this one, which totally inspired me.

I think I would serve a “drink me” potion before my starter. I wanted something less ordinary than wine glasses, so thought a cocktail of some description served in vintage apothecary bottles, labelled with “DRINK ME” in old fashioned lettering. I like the idea of mismatched bottles, plates, crockery. Food served in vintage tea cups and saucers maybe. So after my guests have finished their “DRINK ME” potions, I’ll be ready to serve the starters – which could maybe be quails eggs, baby carrot lightly steamed with their tops still attached, some roasted baby onions and a hollandaise sauce or a mousseline on the side, served in little bitty tiny jugs.

Next we would have an itty bitty mozzarella and tomato salad, made with tiny bocconcini mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes, with a bit of balsamic glaze and a sprig of basil.

For the soup course I would go for two different kinds – a mock-turtle soup served in dainty teacups with a cheap pocket-watch placed on the saucer (not as elaborate as Heston Blumenthal’s edible pocket-watch, but then again I don’t have minions), and a cullen skink also served in teacups, with small toast fingers cut in the shape of hearts or diamonds.

This would be followed by a small piece of cake – maybe carrot cake iced with cream cheese frosting and a tiny sugar carrot (I just found a box the other day). The piece of cake would be served in a vintage tea cup, and at a jaunty angle. My other possible idea was to bake a savoury cake somehow – I’ve not looked into it enough, but to have a savoury cake iced with…cheese maybe – with the words “EAT ME” in balsamic glaze or even brown sauce. I might even stretch as far as a small meatloaf or a wedge of focaccia. Thinking about it now, a savoury “cake” might be better.

This will be followed by a sorbet – not made by me, but I would love to be able to serve a scoop of Belhaven’s gooseberry ice with a sprig of mint in a tea cup and saucer – I just wish they sold the tubs of gooseberry! Maybe garnish with the odd poached gooseberry or two.

Then would come the next course, or my usual “second starter”. Following the “EAT ME” cake, the second starter would have to be oversized. One thing that comes to mind is possibly a huge pie – I thought it might be un to make two pies, one steak and ale and one chicken and mushroom with marmalade – my two usual suspects- but to make each one half of the pie. I haven’t thought this one through as much as I have the “mini” food.

The oversized course would be followed by a glass of wine or another cocktail, again in some interesting receptacle with the “DRINK ME” label. That would segue quite nicely into our first main course…

…the mini lamb roasts from Puddledub – one for every two people, so probably a total of 3-4 roasts, glazed with the amazing sweet chilli jam I got off a friend at work. These would be served with tiny potatoes, maybe cut to look like hasselback tatties with the smallest bay leaves I can gather up snuck into the tiny crevices. I’d serve alongside some baby carrots again, lightly glazed in orange juice, butter and honey. The entire lot would be served between a vintage cake plate and a glass cake plate, with a playing card placed between the two. I’ll garnish with a few redcurrants and a sprig of mint. Redcurrant gravy will be served alongside, and in teacups – I think one teacup for every two people would do. I’ll have one of those teacup and pot sets where the pot sits on the cup, with a horseradish cream from Stichill in the cup half, and some fresh mint sauce in the pot. A selection of chutneys will be laid out on the table in mismatched teacups.

The roast lamb would then be followed by a poultry course – a couple roast poussins, decorated to look like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and a couple roast quail per person, surrounding the poussin. I think I’d roast the quail very simply with plenty of garlic, rosemary and salt. The poussin I will do with lemon, garlic, rosemary and sage. I don’t want to do anything too fussy, but I’ll have a few sauces to go with both – a creamy sauce, one with cider, gravy…

For pudding I’ve fallen in love with this idea. Red velvet cupcakes with red frosting and white chocolate buttons, made to look like mushrooms.

Throughout the meal we will have wine and cocktails, poured from teapots of varying sizes. There will be tea and biscuits to finish, maybe shortbread in the shape of hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs.

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