My good friend Jo-Ann just got married to a very caring man. They are a perfect match, and Nash is a lucky guy. Both of them are playful and sentimental. I always smile when I see their goofy photos copying a statue’s pose while on vacation, jumping at the beach during sunset, and Jo-Ann dipping Nash for a romantic kiss (a second after the shutter clicked, they both probably toppled over). I have known Jo-Ann for almost 10 years since she first moved to New York City. I vividly remember the first time we met. I was waiting in front of a bar on a warm summer night. My friends were inside as I peered down the block looking for the young woman my mom told me about. She had been my younger cousin’s high school teacher in the Philippines. When my aunt Janet found out that Jo-Ann was moving to New York, she connected Jo-Ann with my mom. Jo-Ann joined my mom at a church ballroom dance social, and my mom’s friends quickly invited her out again. Luckily, I have a modern mom. Rather than attending prayer group meetings with older women, my mom thought J0-Ann should be out having fun with people her age. And so I found myself waiting for my blind date.
Fast forward through years of happy moments, times of sorrow, and crazy shenanigans…I find myself waiting for Jo-Ann again. But this time I was not alone. Nash was gazing down the Conservatory Garden in Central Park also waiting for his beautiful bride.
Photo taken by Roxy Woods Photography
A week before the ceremony, I had the pleasure of throwing Jo-Ann’s bridal shower along with her friend Daisy. In my mind, bridal showers are the perfect excuse for giggling girls to gather over afternoon tea. Except this time, instead of imaginary tea and scones we get to indulge in the real thing. This time, I could actually use the oven. (I always wanted a light bulb powered Easy Bake Oven as a kid, but never got it.)
Daisy took care of the games, which had us rolling with laughter, while I planned out the menu for our high tea: lemon coconut cupcakes, classic madeleines, salted peanut butter truffles, cranberry scones with orange honey butter, mango cake (care of Jo-Ann’s friend), mini quiches, basil chicken finger sandwiches, and cucumber dill finger sandwiches.
The delicate finger sandwiches are so easy that if you can boil water and mix a few things in a bowl, you can assemble them. The best part is the fillings can be prepared the day before. Dill is a very light herb that is often paired with seafood. It also complements other light ingredients such as refreshing slices of cucumber. On the other hand even though chicken is a light protein, it is hearty enough to pair with many different herbs. If you do not like basil, feel free to combine the chicken salad with another fresh herb such as thyme, finely chopped rosemary, or tarragon.
In afternoon tea, scones are often served with clotted cream, lemon curd and a fruit jam. Rather than buying or making all of those spreads, an easy yet equally impressive alternative is to make orange-honey butter to serve with the scones. I will share my recipe for Cranberry Scones with Orange-Honey Butter in the next post. In addition to Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes, or Cinnamon-Apple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting I will show you even more cupcakes that you can make for a bridal shower in future posts.
Photo from the Chambre de Sucre website
For drinks we offered an array of black and herbal hot teas along with gorgeous handmade Sucre Carré sugars from Chambre de Sucre. Each sugar cube has a beautifully hand-painted flower. I also love giving Chambre de Sucre sugars as creative hostess gifts instead of the typical bottle of wine or flower bouquet.
Since it was the middle of summer, Jo-Ann’s friends brought chilled Muscato (a sweet white wine). We also made iced tea along with a refreshing Rose Raspberry Spritzer. I adapted this from the Rose Raspberry Spritzer that I tried at the “Celebrating Spring” Recipe Test Nest dinner hosted by Amber Henrie. She in turn adapted a Martha Stewart recipe and replaced the rose wine with white grape juice to create a non-alcoholic drink. I just loved Amber’s white grape juice and raspberry combination. The hint of rose water and bubbly seltzer elevated this from just juice to an elegant cocktail. I was one of the ones Amber mentioned who did not like chewing on the raspberry seeds so I used raspberry puree instead. Definitely check out Recipe Test Nest. I had such a great evening with Amber and the rest of the testers. The funny and thought-provoking conversation was just as good as the food (that’s high praise for my fellow diners since I love food). I also plan on using basil infused whipped cream for something in the near future. It was so delicious on her strawberry shortcake with basil.
Photo taken by Roxy Woods Photography
In a bridal shower, guests typically give their advice to the bride-to-be or fill in a sign-in book. Jo-Ann adores photos, so I opted for a hi-tech version of the tradition. I printed out one or two words on letter-sized pink card stock. Each guest wrote her advice incorporating the words in the beginning, middle or end of the sentence. It was a sort of reverse mad-libs (an old-school game that kept my sister and I occupied for hours on long car rides). We then photographed each guest holding up her advice so Jo-Ann could have a visual memento. The guests received Earl Grey Sable Cookies as favors so that each of them could take home a piece of the high tea bridal shower. Keeping happy memories is just as important as celebrating happy occasions…and Jo-Ann’s bridal shower and wedding gave me so many more memories to cherish for the next 10 years of our friendship.
Basil Chicken Finger Sandwiches
4 bone-in chicken breasts or thighs
1/3 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
16 slices white bread
Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot and simmer the chicken on low heat for about 30 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.
Remove the chicken from the pot and discard the water (or use it as chicken broth for another recipe). Remove the skin and shred the chicken using two forks.
Add 1/3 cup mayonnaise and the champagne vinegar with the shredded chicken. Mix well. If you prefer a more wet chicken salad, add and mix in an additional 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise at a time until your reach the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
The filling can be made the day before and refrigerated.
Wash the basil and pat dry with a paper towel. Rip the basil into small pieces and add it to the chicken mixture. Ripping the basil prevents it from browning as much as when you cut it with a knife. Carefully mix the chicken and basil mixture.
Spread the chicken and basil mixture on half of the bread slices, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Cover with the remaining bread slices. Slice off the crust on the four sides of each sandwich. Slice an X into each square, creating 4 small triangular finger sandwiches.
Cucumber Dill Finger Sandwiches
1 1/2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened (12 ounces total)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons cup chopped fresh dill (wash, pat dry then chop)
1 long hot house cucumber (these have edible seeds and are often sold wrapped in plastic)
20 slices white bread
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon, mix the cream cheese until it is smooth. Alternatively, you can use a mixer. Add the garlic powder and mix well. Add salt to taste and mix well.
Add the dill and carefully mix into the cream cheese mixture.
The spread can be made the day before and refrigerated. The day of the event, set out the cream cheese mixture 1 hour before using to let it soften.
Wash and pat dry the hot house cucumber. Peel the cucumber and slice it very thinly. The cucumbers can be sliced the day before, Wrapped in paper towels and placed in an airtight container.
Thinly spread the cream cheese mixture on all of the bread slices. On half of the bread slices, lay the cucumbers along two vertical rows, each cucumber overlapping slightly with the the next cucumber in the same row. Cover with a slice of bread, spread side down.
Slice off the crust on the four sides of each sandwich. Slice each sandwich in half, in between the two vertical rows of cucumbers.
Rose Raspberry Spritzer
1 pint raspberries (2 small boxes), plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons rose water
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups grape juice, chilled
2 cups seltzer, chilled
Place the 1 pint raspberries in a blender and puree. Strain the raspberry puree by placing a small amount at a time in a fine mesh strainer and pushing the raspberries through with a spatula. The seeds should be left behind in the strainer.
The raspberries can be pureed the day before and stored in the refrigerator.
Combine the raspberry puree, rose water and sugar in a large pitcher or bowl. Mix to dissolve the sugar. Add the grape juice and seltzer. Garnish with whole raspberries.
Adapted from Recipe Test Nest