The Fairmont Empress on the inner harbour in downtown Victoria is always stunningly beautiful – but it’s even more so in the fall, when the ivy-covered walls begin to change colour.
The Empress hosted the launch of In the Dog Kitchen yesterday with a tea paw-tea for dogs and their owners; it was a blast, albeit a rainy one. We had dog treats (Elvis’ bacon & peanut butter cakes! Turkey dinner doggie biscotti! Grrrranola bars!) made by the chef, and a photo booth with a wee replica of the Empress and little dog-sized fascinators, pearls, mink stoles, bow ties and vests for them to dress up with. So much fun. (My new iPhone won’t let me send photos from my phone to my computer to post here, but you can see all the evidence and hilarity on my twitter feed.)
I love the big Fraggle Rock-esque trees on the front lawn.
And what else do you do at the Empress in the afternoon but have high tea?
Tea with milk, egg salad on tiny croissants, scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
If you can’t find your own clotted cream (it’s difficult to find, and expensive for those tiny jars) you can make your own – but I prefer defaulting to crème fraîche, which is far easier to make.
You’ll need a starter – buttermilk or good quality plain yogurt. Stir a heaping tablespoonful of it into 2 cups of heavy (whipping) cream, stir well, pour into a glass jar, cover with a lid and let it sit in a warm spot on the countertop overnight. That’s it. After 12-24 hours, it will have thickened into this wonderful, slightly tangy crème fraîche which you can serve right away or refrigerate until you need it.
And if you can’t make it to the Empress, here’s the recipe for their famous scones.
Fairmont Empress High Tea Scones
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup raisins
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, rub together (they say “crumb”) the flour, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, raisins and cream, and mix until you have a smooth dough.
Roll out to one-half inch thickness and cut to desired size, brush with an egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water – this is optional – and you could always brush the tops with cream instead) and bake for 25-30 minutes.