Royal Tea Simply Gourmet
Flavorful teas, finger sandwiches, and fancy pastries line the doilied trays at the Royal English Tea Service every spring. Set inside a 1920s waterfront mansion, the events—created by Simply Gourmet Caterers—are an experience unlike any other culinary soiree in Sarasota.
Husband-and-wife team Larry and Jamie Barrett host the gatherings annually at the grandiose Powel Crosley Estate, at 1 Seagate Dr., 8374 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (in the exclusive upstairs living area of the mansion, overlooking the bay). This year, the teas will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 6, 7, 13, 14, 27, and 28, as well as on March 13, 14, 20, and 21. Tickets are $35 per person, by reservation.
“Jamie and I are always brainstorming new and interesting events, and the Royal Tea idea was truly serendipitous,” Larry Barrett says. “We were in the middle of a hectic business meeting and feeling a little stressed. It was afternoon and I suggested that we relax with a cup of Ceylon tea (we had a case left over from an event). Just sipping and enjoying the delicious aroma of that tea took us to a happy place. We looked at each other and, at the same time, realized that we should be preparing afternoon teas. It all flowed from there.”
Producing one-of-a-kind “culinary performances” like the Royal Tea is nothing new for Simply Gourmet. Chef Larry Barrett boasts more than 25 years of food-centric experience in New York City and Los Angeles, and he oversees all of the kitchen magic for the catering company. He and his wife have produced re-creations of the first-class dinner menu on the Titanic. They have also hosted several presidential state dinners and luncheons. Larry Barrett’s favorite combination to make is the meal served to Princess Grace of Monaco by President John F. Kennedy (crab mimosa salad, rack of lamb, and strawberries Romanoff).
Filling out the Royal Tea with a little theatrical panache was an easy feat for Larry Barrett, who formerly worked as an actor and producer in the Big Apple.
“What better place to stage the tea than at the Crosley Estate? We decided to use the upstairs area of the Crosley, which is never utilized. It was the living quarters of the Crosley family—cozy and classy. The rooms are beautifully appointed and the views are stupendous,” he says. “We created a great menu of homemade savories, sweets, and what I consider the definitive scone. The Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea rounded out the menu. Our wait staff has British, Australian, and Irish accents. This combination of food and atmosphere is really a type of performance art.” The event has sold out every year for the past six years.
“This event is special to us and to our guests. Folks just get together to catch up, wear a glamorous hat, and laugh a little while gazing at one of the finest views in Sarasota,” Larry Barrett says. “Watching the guests enjoy the savories and sweets is the highlight of the day for me. I can actually hear the guests purring with delight. It brings a smile to my face every year.”
For more information on Simply Gourmet Caterers, call 941-929-0066 or visit simplygourmetcaterers.com. For tea at the Crosley, call 941-225-9122 to reserve.