by Lauren Mote
(all photos by the gifted Melissa Gidney of Melissa Gidney Photography)
Although completely inspired by Lewis Carrol’s book, the adventures shared on June 06 were hardly of a predictable fashion. In fact, take the concept of Alice in Wonderland, put an adult spin (well a brunch appropriate adult spin) and you’ve got likely one the most interesting parties I have ever been involved in. Congratulations to a gorgeous couple, Lena Millard and Tyson Villeneuve.
The pictures and recipes follow…
Welcome to the tea party! Inspired by regionally popular teas, these infusions were among some of the finest I have produced. After having a 3 hour tea sampler at Tea Leaves on Broadway, I quickly produced some “short” infusions to make sure the proportions worked, and the flavours were working in symmetry. Each tea had a different base spirit, and cocktail inspiration.
All the cocktails were presented with words from the Alice in Wonderland “tripped-out” lexicon, and presented as phonetic dictionary definitions – a cool idea!
Additionally, I was asked if I could produce a cocktail to put in “Drink Me” bottles – something of a PISHSALVER (the word used to describe the potion Alice drinks to make her shrink and fit through that little wee doorway….). I used the Fairfarren cocktail, removed the egg white, and added some pear cognac – it was delicious – and 120 people engaged in a toast simultaneously pouring the vials down their throats, staff included.
Finally, the “Eat Me”s.
This was one of the coolest things I’ve created. With the help of a brilliant coconut marshmallow recipe from Jonathan, I manipulated the ingredients to satisfy the flavour profile I wanted. These marshmallows are super fragrant, soft in texture, an essence of tea and violets, and a long absinthe finish. Here’s the recipe:
Absinthe Marshmallows (makes 200 1″x1″x1/4” squares)
1) Prepare 2 standard sized baking sheets with un-scented and un-flavoured oil sprayed on the bottom, followed by a layer of tin foil on top – also hosed down with oil
2) Bloom 26g gelatin in 250mL water – let stand uninterrupted for at least 5 minutes in a stand-up mixer bowl.
3) In a pot with a candy thermometer combine the following over medium heat:
For liquid, I used 230mL Absinthe and 40mL Violet water*
1360g white sugar
For sugar, I used 400g Tea sugar* and 960g white sugar
620mL organic corn syrup
Cook gradually to an internal temperature of 240ºC (soft ball stage)
DO NOT COOK PAST 240ºC or the marshmallows will be ruined! Be mindful of the temperature.
DO NOT MIX OR MESS WITH – the only way sugar reaches the stage that it needs to is WITHOUT stirring.
4) Make sure to have a pastry brush and bowl of water on hand to brush the sides of the pot while the sugar is cooking, without creeping up the sides, and crystallizing. Candy making is tedious and takes a lot of patience – cooking out sugar is also extremely dangerous, so make sure it’s the only thing you’re doing for the next 45 minutes without distraction.
5) Using extreme caution (please make sure you’re wearing shoes….) slowly add the hot sugar mixture to low speed gelatin water. After all sugar is in, mix on low for 5 minutes. Afterward, increase speed to medium-high and be careful it does blow over the side. The more aeration the mixture gets, the more it adheres to itself… does that make sense? After about 10-15 minutes, the mixture turns from dark caramelized sugar colour to white white white! In this case, the mixture has gorgeous flecks of tea powder…. :)
6)Pour the mixture into prepared pans, and place in the refrigerator over night.
7) The following day: combine together and sift over cutting surface and over the marshmallow slabs as you remove the foil.
100g sugar icing
MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY of marshmallows – keep everything dry, keep everything covered in starch/sugar – including the knife you’re using to cut them.
When storing, make sure they’re not touching one another, on trays wrapped in plastic wrap. A cool dark place doesn’t hurt either!
1/2 cup candied violets
let stand for 60 minutes
strain away flowers
low and behold, violet water (slightly sweetened)
120g pre-infused tea strained away from alochol
dehydrate on a baking sheet for 12 hours on 100ºF
blitz in food processor until tea reduces in volume
add in 325g sugar until quite well combined and granular
push mixture through a fine chinois or tea-strainer
reserve the same way you would regular sugar