BOOK CLUB, Bookclub Menus

Bookclub Menu: “The Forgotten Room”

The romance and elegance of the gilded age era Pratt Mansion and the original two joined hearts of Olive and Harry in “The Forgotten Room” inspired my table. Love letters, a large ruby filigree pendant necklace, artist’s brushes, paint tubes and an imagined mini portrait of Olive were represented. (See the post “The Forgotten Room” Inspired Bookclub Table)

The cocktail and menu were inspired by

Lucy, John and Philip’s generation in the 1920’s.

FROM THE 1920’S ERA: Philp invites Lucy to have a drink with him at a speakeasy. “The cat’s pajamas are the bees knees” was the password at the door of the bar. After a few drinks Philip tries to kiss Lucy. This caused Lucy to feel hideous shame. Philip Schuyler stared at her in genuine consternation. Or perhaps that was just the gin, slowing his wits, wrinkling his forehead. “I never thought – You’re a girl in a million, Lucy. Has anyone ever told you that? You’re the bee’s knees. The cat’s meow.” Grandly, he declared, “You’re the best secretary I’ve ever had.”

The Cocktail

It is our tradition to start with a little cocktail, so I searched for one on pinterest that referenced “the cat’s meow or the bees knees”. I found the recipe below, but it was extremely strong, much stronger that I know my group would appreciate. So much to the original mixologist’s displeasure, I added a lot more honey syrup, some grand marnier and tonic water or club soda to water it down before adding the champagne floater. I also strained the lime juice (not in the original instructions) to remove the pulp. I would suggest you make the drink ahead of time and test taste to ensure the flavors and strength of the drink will not be too overpowering for your guests to talk about the book or drive home safely! My guests said it was very honey forward, and tasty – they seemed to enjoy my doctored version.

Cat’s Meow Cocktail with the Bee’s Knees

Ingredients: (See my notes above for changes made)

  • 2oz (60mls) Appleton 8-year-old rum (I used Bacardi Golden)
  • 0.75oz (22mls) Lime Juice
  • 0.5oz (15mls) Honey Syrup
  • dash Angostura Bitters
  • Top with Champagne

Garnish with a sliver of honeycomb (I made a cocktail pick with little bees).

Add the first four ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, then strain into a coupe. Top with Champagne.

Cocktail picks made with Dollar Tree picks and craft store bees to and the “bees knees” flourish.

https://cocktailsdistilled.com/2021/09/29/new-on-the-bar-cats-meow-a-bees-knees-riff/

I made a pitcher full of the base cocktail before everyone arrived and place it in the refrigerator. This saved time when I was ready to serve and I just had to fill the glasses with the mixed drink and top it with a little champagne.

Soup and Salad

“Defiantly, Lucy ordered lobster Newburgh. If Philip Schuyler wanted a steak, he could have one himself.”

My meeting menu is usually composed of a soup and salad. As a nod to Lucy’s decision to have “lobster” at Delmonico’s, I served a small rich creamy bowl of lobster bisque with a citrus fennel salad as a fresh crispy bite to balance out the richness of the bisque. Each guest received a warm mini baguette straight from the oven.

Lobster Bisque and Fennel Citrus Salad

Lobster Bisque Recipe

https://cafedelites.com/lobster-bisque/

I used the recipe in the above link. In order to form 8 to 10 servings, I bought one fairly large boiled whole lobster and four uncooked tails. I found the lobsters on sale in the freezer section at my grocer discounted to make this affordable. The meat from the claws and larger tail on the whole lobster along with four other tails provided sufficient meat to fulfill the required servings.

I doubled the ingredients in the bisque. I cooked the lobster tails per the recipe and once all of the meat was pulled from the shells, I made the stock/broth with the shells from all of the lobster shells (except the body) along with a carrot, a celery stalk and half an onion.

I followed the recipe exactly up to pureeing the simmered soup. The bisque is so rich that I felt it needed some acid, so I added the zest and juice of one large lemon. I stopped at this pointed (without adding the cream) allowing the pureed soup to cool and then placed it in a sealed container and placed in the refrigerator until the meeting. (Two days later). An hour prior to the meeting, I placed the bisque in a large pot and added two cups of cream and slowly warmed. I placed the butter and garlic in a separate small skillet and slowly warmed (careful not to burn the garlic), then gently tossed the chopped lobster in the garlic butter. I was unable to find fresh tarragon, so I used fennel fronds (from the fennel bulbs used for the salad) to garnish.

The lobster bisque is so rich that I made a light fennel citrus salad to accompany it. Nothing complicated…

Fennel Citrus Salad

2 fennel bulbs (shaved on a mandolin or very thinly sliced)

3 large navel oranges (segmented)

1 bag baby arugula

1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds

Shaved parmesan

Dressing:

2 shallots (finely chopped)

4 tablespoons rice vinegar (or until shallots are covered)

Allow the two ingredients to marinate for about 20 minutes

Whisk in:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Vigorously whisk until emulsified

salt and pepper to taste

I found mini single serving French baguettes at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t realize how small they were until I got them home and opened the package (of 6). They are the perfect size for each guest to receive one each and take only 8-10 minutes to warm up in the oven (frozen) or in an air fryer. Since they were hot from the oven, I made little paper napkin cozies to wrap around each so my guests wouldn’t burn their fingers. They’re perfect for one serving without the hassle of tearing or cutting a larger loaf into pieces and everyone having their hands on the loaf.

Chocolate Icebox Cake with Caramel Cream

“They stopped at a street cart for ice-cream sandwiches, Mr. Ravenel teasing Lucy for the dainty way she licked the ice cream from the sides first, so the melting treat wouldn’t drip on her gloves.”

Dessert was inspired by Lucy and John’s day spent together riding the carousel and eating ice cream sandwiches. I chose a vintage recipe from the 1920’s modernized by Zoë François, and served a slice with chocolate dipped strawberry hearts.

This is the chocolate wafer cookies and caramel whipped cream (after an overnight stay in a loaf pan in the refrigerator) before the top coat of vanilla whipped cream is added. The concept is for the whipped cream between and around the cookies should soak into the cookies overnight, softening the cookies into a cakelike texture. While mine set in the refrigerator for a good 12 hours, the cookies were still a little too crispy and make it difficult to cut, but I got exactly 8 slices. Regardless it was still delicious.

Below is the final cake with the vanilla whipped cream outer coat, shaved salted chocolate and chocolate dipped strawberry hearts.

How often do you purchase a container of strawberries 🍓 where every single berry is perfectly ripe and sweet? I always look forward to these beautiful Louisiana jewels from Baglio Farms, LLC in Independence, Louisiana. Simply cut the stem into a “V” to remove and then dip into melted bittersweet chocolate 🍫. Valentine 💘 hearts to simply eat or garnish a dessert.

What’s hanging from the chandelier??? First let me explain that I left the evergreen branches from the holidays there since Olive and Harry’s final days together were during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. My daughter saw this ornament idea that I couldn’t resist (after Christmas).

By this time all of its components were on clearance, so they cost nearly nothing to make. Inside are small replicas of the books my club read in 2022 (the year charm on top) by printing very small images of the cover for both the back and front of each book so that when it flipped is shows the same book cover. A sheet of foam (99 cents) was used to represent the pages. Unfortunately, when folding each little book to push it through the opening of the clear ornament, the paper crumbled. I told my group they look like worn out paperbacks (HA! HA!). Since we only read about 5 books a year, if I would have used thinner foam it would have been easier to insert the little books, but it would have looked like hardly anything was inside and they would have settled too flatly. I gave each of my members one of these at the end of this meeting.

Several years ago, I learned that the legendary chef and long time friend of Julia Child, Jacques Pépin published a book with sketches and art (from his hand) along the edges of the pages. When open faced the left page provides a place for guests to write a note and or sign and the opposite page on the right provides a space for noting the type of gathering and recording the menu. I host several luncheons and dinners each year, so I loved the idea of this book. Prior to each gathering I search for pages with art that in some way relates to our gathering.

Menus: A Book for Your Meals and Memories by Jacques Pépin.

It was fun to find this page with what resembled a vintage looking sketch of a couple that appears to be a bride and groom encircled by a heart. This of course was a great place to record our day for this book.

Our group enjoyed this book and appreciate the talented authors that composed this mind bending, hopeful, love mystery. I hope the ideas shared from this book club meeting with inspire you for your next book club. Remember to follow or subscribe to see future book club, wine club and entertaining inspiration! Thank you for stopping by!

BOOK CLUB, Bookclub Menus

The Forgotten Room (Inspired Bookclub Table)

Is it possible that two souls that are meant to be together, will continue to seek each other out in future generations? If you are a hopeless romantic like me, you will love the way this book explores such a possibility. A beautifully, sometimes purposely confusing (with the mystery not cleared up until the very end), hopeful and romantic tale of the lives of three generations of women (Olive, Lucy and Kate) will take you on such a journey. As we draw closer to Valentine’s Day, The Forgotten Room by co-authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig offers a richly complex story of love that reaches far into the next two generations.

Olive withholds the secrets of an unforgettable love throughout her life leaving both her daughter (Lucy) and granddaughter (Kate) searching for answers after her death. Explanations were never provided from the past in regard to a gilded age mansion Olive (accompanied by her little girl Lucy) strolled by to simply stare at and a delicate filigree chain, weighed down by a prodigious crimson (ruby) stone, handed down to daughter and then from her daughter to her granddaughter, each without knowing exactly why it was secretly maintained by her or it’s significance.

Olive and Harry meet and fall in love in 1892. A forbidden love match, common for the gilded age and beyond where “financial status” suproceeds matters of the heart. The novel is peppered with three eras that could have easily inspired the table decor and menu for my book club luncheon, starting with the elegance of the gilded age, to the art deco style of the 1920’s and finally the turbulent aftermath of World War II of the mid-1940’s.

As I tried to imagine a theme for my table, “the forgotten room” in many ways a character all its own, remained a common theme throughout the generations and is after all the title of the book (while not at all forgotten by its characters). The title of the book should have been something like “The Room Where Memories Remain”.

After some thought, I decided the starting place and era of this love story deserved to be the theme. Olive’s first impression of “the room”. . . . . .

when she stepped through the doorway, she lost her breath. Olive turned in a circle, coated in moonlight from the long Palladian windows. The brick walls – they were like a secret garden. She gazed upward at the beautiful dome, a smaller version of the one at the top of the staircase, except this one was paned in clear glass, suspending her in the center of a velvet star-flecked Manhattan night. A beautiful and unexpected gift.

As I brainstormed to put this book club meeting and menu together, I was also in the process of planning an upcoming wine club meeting with a theme of “Starry Winter’s Night”. With the idea of projecting stars on the ceiling and walls of my dining room, I remembered a small projector that plays soft music that my grandchildren had in their rooms (in a turtle form) when they were younger. This one purchased on Amazon, also projects (if desired) a beautiful half moon and cloud and can be changed to different colors. When I recalled the caption of Olive’s first impression of “the room” and how she described the velvet star-flecked Manhattan sky… I realized I could use it for this gathering as well.

It’s not 7 stories tall, but this table lantern was used to represent the Pratt Mansion.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BJP7QV2S?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details

Placecards:

With a budget in mind, creating inexpensive props and points of interest pushes me to be creative. The mini portrait of Olive was also a recurring part of the story. If I were a graphic designer I could probably execute my ideas with a more professional result, but since I am not, I have to use my own resources of amateur design. I found an image of a gold oval frame online and just snipped it, then pasted it onto a blank Word document page. From there I had to play with sizing the image, including printing it a couple of times to achieve the size I wanted.

I was able to fit four frames on a 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. Next I worked to line up the names of my guests into the center of the frame. I’m sure there was a better way to do this, but I printed a page of frames and then re-fed the paper back through the printer to add the names. Some are slightly off center as in my example. I created the backing of the frame with card stock templates I made and then thread some narrow ribbon (just like a real frame) from the front of the frame to the back folding stand. I also found one sheet of dark floral paper that reminded me of the time period that I glued to the back side to give a finished appearance and hide the taped ribbon. Finally I bought teardrop ruby rhinestones to hot glue to the front (to resemble Olive’s necklace.)

A description of the miniature portrait as described by Kate…

“The woman appeared to be nude, her long dark hair tumbling around her shoulders, her only accessory a filigree gold necklace about her slender, pale neck, a perfect large ruby dangling from the center.

While the book did not provide a photo of Olive, I searched the internet for a portrait of a young, beautiful women with dark flowing hair (released from its hairpins) and bare shoulders attempting to get as close as I could to this imaginary character. I happened upon this glittered Christmas ornament frame over the holidays, with a slot for inserting a photo that perfectly displays the portrait with a gilded age elegance and added sparkle.

Those Pratt family dinners were unquestionably served in the ambiance of flickering candles, and the elegance of fine china, crystal and ornate silver. I placed my candelabra to one side of the table with soft cream lit candles to create a similar ambiance and hung the portrait to bask in the glow of candlelight.

With the help of a craft store filigree gold chain and one of the ruby rhinestones, I created an imagined version of Olive’s necklace and displayed in on this similar era bust of a young girl I purchased from an antique store several years ago.

Olive lowered herself carefully onto the cushions, which were upholstered in silk and threadbare velvel and released a comfortable scent of dusty lavender as she sank among them.”

A red velvet table runner draped across the center of the table was used as the base of my table’s center. A set of old metal keys (similar to the opening page of the book), paint stained artist brushes and tubes of paint with an antique candle snuffer are randomly displayed over the cushion of velvet.

Harry led her to the wall next to the small fireplace, where a pile of angry coals hissed heat into the room, and pointed to three square tiles above the mantel. Olive hadn’t noticed, and them before, and now she wondered why: They were beautiful, full of color, depicting intricate heraldic shields on either side and a central figure of Saint George bearing his crimson white-crossed flag.

He released her hand and worked the bricks free from the mortar in a single irregular shingle, revealing the cavity within. “You see? There’s a hollow here, as if the builder forgot to put in a few bricks. Well, he didn’t forget. I got to know the architect a little bit, when they were building this place, and he showed me. I guess he like to do that when he designed houses, to put in some little secret. So, if you need anything, if you want to leave me a message of any kind, just put it in here. I’ll find it, I promise.”

Harry revealed a secret hiding place in the wall with loose bricks where he and Olive could leave letters for one another (shown to him by Olive’s father). We can’t have a romantic table without love letters! I recreated the stained letters with a calligraphy inspired font from the two letters written out in the book and then brushed the pages with a mixture of instant espresso powder and water to create a strong coffee. After about 30 minutes I then finished the drying process with a hair blow dryer. Following some examples for following letters from the time period, I folded and sealed the letters with a wax stamp. Two are crumbled, aged and slightly torn at the edges and displayed open on the table and with a few others that are unopened and sealed.

A beautiful heart with thin wooden flower petals I purchased on sale at Hobby Lobby, added a beautiful shot of red and drama to the table for a story that is clearly a matter of the heart.

Narrow dark red velvet ribbon was used to cinch the napkins.

I also used a piece of the dark red velvet ribbon to cinc the excess chain (for the necklace) at the back of the bust. At a glance, it resembles the back of a corset.

With the table set and ready to greet my group and discuss this complex love story filled with surprises and mysteries that require solving all the way to the end, I will pause here. A little note taking is recommended to keep track of all of the twists and clues. I’ve actually created a timeline family tree for each of the main characters to help everyone confirm if they sorted out everything correctly.

My next post will provide the cocktail and luncheon menu for this meeting. So come back soon! Happy reading!

BOOK CLUB, Bookclub Menus

Book Club Meeting: “The Master Craftsman” by Kelli Stuart

Vintage Fabergu00e9 egg illustration by The British Library is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

Our Social Writes Book Club selection for October 2022 was made by Pemmie. “The Master Craftsman” by Kelli Stuart is a beautifully written historical fiction novel highlighting Peter Karl Fabergé and his jewellery firm House of Fabergé, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Commissioned by the Imperial family, Karl supervised the many designers and craftsmen, including two women as they created the over fifty elegant jeweled Easter eggs from 1885 to 1917. The first egg of 1885 delivered to the Russian Tsar Alexander III was given to his wife Maria Feodorovna as an annual gift and continued later by Tsar Nicholas II.

Stuart injects an intriguing current day treasure hunt for a missing coveted egg that reconnects a daughter and her mother with her estranged father, who orchestrates the hunt from his deathbed. A last attempt to connect with his daughter during the limited time he has left. Unexpected twists and turns concludes with the true treasure of all in hand.

Pemmie will host this meeting for our group, and while the plan will be hers, I shared that Russian black bread and chai appeared in the book more than a couple of times. I’m always seeking for food notes in our books in order to introduce myself and group to the flavors and traditions within the stories we read. A small attempt to erect a little life from the pages.

I found a recipe (in the link below) and told Pemmie I would give this bread a test bake, a little excited to see how it turns out. I’m a baker, but bread is not one of the techniques I’ve frequented. Fortunately this was basically a low maintenance version where the stand mixer did all of the kneading. (A bread machine would have simplified the process even further. ) I did not divert from the recipe, but I have noted a couple of tips from my experience.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7034/russian-black-bread/?utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social-share-recipe&utm_content=20220916&utm_term=7034

The hardest part of the process was finding the flours and caraway seeds. My pantry is filled with more things than the average person might have, but these ingredients were not among my inventory. I really didn’t want a five pound bag of bread flour either. After stopping into three or four different grocers, I found a one pound sack of both the bread and rye flours and a reasonable priced jar of caraway seeds. I tried to borrow some dark Karo syrup from a neighbor (needing only 2 tablespoons), but they didn’t have any. Karo syrup is one of those ingredients like molasses that ends up being used once and then the bottle sits in the pantry for years. (Much like this bottle of caraway seeds will also.)

The recipe was extremely simple, adding all ingredients except for the softened butter to the mixing bowl and using the dough hook, kneading for 10 minutes. Then the softened butter is added for another 5 minute kneading (again with the dough hook). The recipe didn’t warn what to expect of the finished dough, but I will say that it’s very sticky. It also didn’t rise as much as I thought it would.

BAKING TIP: Sometimes you learn a tip from a baker and if you don’t bake frequently, it’s easily forgotten when you decide to take a stab at baking again. This is a tip I remembered. When removing the paper from your softened stick of butter, fold the sheet (butter side) together and store in a zip bag in your refrigerator. When a recipe calls for greasing a bowl or pan, take out the buttered sheet at the beginning of the baking process – the butter softens quickly. Use the remaining butter from the sheet to grease your bowl or pan and while not wasting the small amount that remained on the paper.

The softened butter wrapper’s remaining butter used to grease the bowl and loaf pans.

TIP: I didn’t get a double rise out of my dough. It was more like a single rather than double rise of the original dough. I even let it sit in a warm oven for another 30 minutes (the recipe started with 1 hour so my total was 1 1/2 hours) and then when I prepared to cut the dough into two, placing half in each loaf pan, I had to use more than a sprinkling of bread flour to handle it. Make sure your hands are dusted as well as the surface. The dough is sticky. The second proofing didn’t look like it had much of a rise, so again I left the loaf pans in a warm oven (170 degrees F) for another 20 minutes to get the slight rise in the picture above. It filled the loaf pan more than rose.

While I was concerned that the bread would be a flop, it turned out beautifully. I should have used the bread splitter tool that I bought a year ago (that I forgot I had). The split would have formed at the top rather than the side, but it still turned out great.

After allowing it to cool for about 10 minutes, I used a serrated bread knife to slice a piece and was thrilled to see the airy soft texture and knew it was well baked. (Hopeful Paul Hollywood would agree- but not necessarily give me a handshake! Lol)

A warm steamy cup of chai latte’ (my favorite by the way) was all I needed to complete the black bread and chai experience. The black bread has a bitter slightly sweet note that comes from the combination of the small amounts of brown sugar, corn syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder and apple cider vinegar. The carraway, fennel seeds and rye flour add the savory note reminiscent of rye bread. Interesting ingredients and flavor.

One of my taste testers drizzled it with honey. The blogger said it was good with cheese, but didn’t state what kind of cheese. For now I’ve carefully wrapped up the second bread and placed it in the freezer until our meeting in early October. We will rewarm it on the day of the meeting and let everyone choose their own way to savor it.

While chai tea would be a good choice, I also found this chai cocktail made with chai and Russia’s beloved volka. The addition of Kahlua (a coffee flavored liqueur) creates a cocktail take on the dirty chai, where coffee is added to the tea with milk. My book club gals love a fun cocktail.

Use the leftover concentrate, by warming a half cup of concentrate and separately a half cup of milk – then foam the milk with a frother and top the concentrate in a mug for a chai tea latte. It’s the perfect fall morning drink with a big spicy morning inside hug. It’s my favorite!

In lieu of the chai syrup recipe in the link, I used the chai tea concentrate sold by most grocers in a quart carton by Oregon Chai , but there are other versions by Tazo and a small bottle that works perfectly sold at Trader Joe’s that works just fine and does the same job. If you don’t have a bottle of Kahlua – liquor stores like Total Wine, sell smaller bottles that will provide the amount you need and not leave you with a bottle that will sit around for years to come unused.

Cocktail recipe in the link below.

https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/vanilla-chai-tea-white-russian/

The rest of Pemmie’s plan will be a surprise, even to me, which adds an excitement and energy to the day filled with good conversation, laughter, food and spirits!

Pemmie’s table setting, not just because it is Fall, but because Russia is one of the biggest producers of sun flowers!

Bird’s Milk Cake (Ptichye Moloko)

https://momsdish.com/recipe/210/birds-milk-cake

BOOK CLUB, Bookclub Menus, Uncategorized

Something in the Water Bookclub Meeting

One January afternoon, my book club met to discuss this tropical murder mystery. “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman. Catherine is a British actress who played Mabel Lane Fox on our beloved Downton Abbey. It also was one of Reese’s Book Clubs first book selections.

Another member in my group selected this book, and at the last minute wasn’t able to host our luncheon – so I pulled together a quick table decor and menu.

I served tropical chicken salad with crackers for a light lunch.

For the table I filled blue wine glasses with white sand and candles; used shell and coral printed paper napkins I purchased to create a table runner, added palm leaves from a plant in my yard; and used a wood platter to assort shells, starfish and coral that one of the other members and I had in our home collections.

I greeted my guests with sunset cocktails made with pineapple juice,grenadine and prosecco. The Bora Bora styled umbrellas were created with regular cocktail umbrellas affixed with circles cut from brown paper bags. I glued a couple of layers around the top center and then cut strips around the circle to create the thatched fringe affect.

For dessert I made bananas foster cake, banana ice cream (from frozen ripe bananas that are pureed in the blender), and a dehydrated fresh pineapple slice to garnish (that everyone ate as a crispy treat).

BOOK CLUB, Bookclub Menus

The Christie Affair (Bookclub Menus)

“The Christie Affair” by Nina de Gramont was a quick and entertaining read. What I enjoy the most about historical fiction (this one also with a mystery appropriately crafted from the eleven day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926), is that the facts about the real story can be easily searched and viewed on the internet. Whenever the final conclusion of a mystery is not completely and clearly solved, it affords writers the license to create their own imagined version of what may have happened.

Reminiscent of “The Timeless Mansion”. Candlelight, dinners of tinned meats, tea, bread and wine while the rest of the country was vehemently searching for Agatha Christie.

Ms. de Gramont’s version is told from the perspective of Archie Christie’s (Agatha’s husband) lover and then second wife Nan O’Dea. [Nancy Neele (1889-1958) was the lover, and eventually, second wife of Archibald Christie. They had a son, also named Archibald, in 1930.]

I also enjoy drawing inspiration from books and create a themed luncheon. When I finished the book, the memories that stood out were those of Nan’s homeland of England and her love for Ireland where she met Finbarr. With that in mind I decided that an English-Irish fusion menu would be appropriate.

Irish Leek and Potato Soup and Irish Guinness Stout Bread.

While Finbarr and Agatha nourished on loaves of bread, apples, and tea – your guests may better appreciate this Irish inspired menu formed from Finbarr’s homeland and the place where Nan fell in love with both Ireland and Finbarr.

Above is a simply prepared potato leek soup made with a combination of both pureed and small chunks of potato, garnished with crispy bacon and chopped spring onions or scallions. If my chives were blooming I would have added a chive blossom, but it’s not quite Spring yet. (recipe in the link further below)

Also above, a Guinness Stout Bread. Very easy and quick to make. No rising or kneading required! I purchased a stout with coffee and chocolate notes – very interesting and delicious with both bitter and sweet notes. I decided this might be more flavorful than the traditional Irish Soda Bread – but maybe not. You choose. https://www.platingsandpairings.com/guinness-beer-bread/

https://thedeliciousspoon.com/wprm_print/4533

https://themondaybox.com/lemon-shrewsbury-biscuits/

NOTE: My variation to the above recipe was using the zest of an entire naval orange, adding 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste and two pinches of kosher salt. Otherwise follow the recipe exactly.

For the dessert course, I brought in Nan’s English homeland with Lady Gray tea (that has citrus notes) and made these English biscuits scented with orange. While it’s appropriate for the English, it also reminds me of the Timeless Manor candlelit moments of meals created from tinned meats, bottles of wine, loaves of bread slathered with marmalade and hot steaming cups of tea.

I read so many books, and as an entertainer can’t help but imagine how I would create a themed table and menu after finishing each book.  “The Christie Affair” by Nina de Gramont was selected by Reese’s Bookclub and sparked my interest.  Ironically, just this past weekend there were two Agatha Christie movies on PBS this past weekend – one with Agatha having disappeared with a very different story line.  I hope for those who are interested in hosting book club meetings will be inspired by the ideas I will share in this new series on my blog – “Bookclub Menus.” Happy reading!