The snow crunched softly under our feet as we huddled deeper into the warmth
of our bulky winter coats. Seeking solace from the crisp winter air, we
gingerly made our way up the path to Rutherford House en route to an
extremely civilized “girls’ night out”: Christmas tea was
calling and we were late.
Just the day before, Christmas seemed distant. The air was unseasonably mild,
the ground was depressingly brown and sporadic Halloween pumpkins adorned my
neighbourhood. Christmas was not the first, or even the tenth, thought
battling for space in my cluttered mind. However, at the last minute, I
thought a Christmas tea might be a good way to welcome in some holiday cheer
with my mom and daughters.
I awoke the day of the tea to fat, feathery snowflakes cascading down from
the morning sky. On the way, the nip in the air and the majestic, glistening
trees restored my spirits. We piled through the magnificent wooden doors and
into the striking entranceway of Rutherford House, a period mansion built in
1911. Sweet smells teased our nostrils, holiday music soothed our ears and
festive decorations delighted our eyes.
Although the purpose of the evening was to welcome in the season with
Christmas tea, first there was shopping to be done. Local artisans and their
wares were scattered throughout the house. Moving leisurely between rooms, we
sampled decadent Irish Cream fudge and inspected luxurious jewelry, unique
pottery and vibrant stained glass creations.
After poking around on the main floor, we descended the precarious stairway
and emerged into the Whatnot Giftshop. Whimsical angels, shimmering stars,
and diminutive wooden ornaments greeted us. My girls flitted between
displays, enraptured with each eye-catching decoration. A sparkling reindeer
and cheery snowman were carefully wrapped up for safe transportation to their
Shopping has a tendency to stimulate my appetite and this night was no
exception. The tantalizing smells were becoming unbearable as we made our way
up to the Arbour Restaurant for Christmas tea ($14/person). As we were
fashionably late, the tea room was already bustling with activity. A few
tables had already been vacated, with just a few tell-tale crumbs to hint at
the feasting and merriment that had transpired moments earlier. Most of the
tables were still filled with joyous revelers of all ages. The crowd was
predominately female but the rare fortunate male joined the fun.
We settled in, surrounded by warm jewel tones and the lively hum of animated
conversation. Our elegantly mismatched tea cups looked empty and forlorn, but
our cheerful waitress soon delivered a pot of the Arbour’s house tea
complete with strainer. My girls were intrigued and had trouble waiting for
the tea to steep.
After an agonizing wait, the tea was ready. My oldest carefully poured the
amber liquid through the strainer, leaving behind only delicate leaves. My
youngest opted for hot chocolate.
My mom and I found the tea delicate and refreshing. My daughter brought the
colourful cup to her lips and took a sip. Perplexed, she carefully put down
her tea cup and asked if she could have a hot chocolate too. She was
captivated by the process, however, and continued to refill our cups
throughout the evening.
We were leisurely sipping our drinks when my daughter’s eyes began to
expand to the size of the dainty plates adorning our table. Coming toward us
was an elaborate, three-tiered cake plate loaded with baked goods, fruit and
Christmas candy. The top tier held a pot of their legendary pastel pink
raspberry butter, showcased like a crown jewel.
Huge fluffy scones, dainty chocolate brownies, buttery lemon squares,
ginger shortbread, rich poppy seed squares and Christmas sugar cookies were
surrounded by luscious slices of kiwi and orange. Clusters of grapes,
Christmas Kisses and small candy canes were tucked amongst the treasures.
Thankfully, there was four of everything so we could take our time and savour
the treats without anyone missing out.
The sugar cookies had to be the most beautiful sweet on the tray. They were
cut out into snowmen, angels and stars, decorated with sprinkles and looked
(almost) too good to eat. I quickly moved on to the pale lemon squares that
were relentlessly demanding my attention. Slightly sweet yet still tart, the
creamy lemon filling was offset by a flaky, buttery shortbread crust. I
traded a sugar cookie for a second square to capture another fleeting moment
I was also won over by the button-shaped ginger shortbread, perfect for
dipping in tea. The warm ginger was vibrant yet not overpowering. I almost
wished they wouldn’t melt in my mouth so that I could savour them just
a bit longer. The brownies, adorned with a light dusting of icing sugar, were
rich, dense, and chocolaty. They were exactly what brownies should be.
Biting into a scone slathered with raspberry butter reminded me of the warm
days of summer; the tangy burst of fresh-picked raspberries and the rich,
creamy butter proved to be an irresistible combination. Although pleasantly
satiated, I couldn’t leave without trying a decadent poppy seed square.
The tiny smidgen I sampled escalated quickly until there was no longer any
evidence that the square existed.
We left our own few crumbs on the platters as the only evidence that a
glorious feast had taken place. The combination of tea, treats and fruit made
for a memorable evening. Indulge, enjoy, and make some memories of your own.
Brave the cold blast of winter and escape into a cozy, unique adventure. You
may even start a new Christmas tradition: I know we did.
Tue – Sun, 11 am to 3 pm
The Arbour Restaurant at
11153 Saskatchewan Drive