One of my favorite shows this year was Victoria on PBS Masterpiece Theater. I am a fan of period television and movies, and I love all things British. Victoria’s life and reign as Queen is quite a story, and I have enjoyed learning more about her. I am very excited season two of the show is coming in January. My friend and I got the idea to re-watch season one and have a Victoria party with others who might like the show. I set up a schedule over a few nights this fall and last night we kicked off our party series with seven of us taking in episode one!
In addition to the show, I put together a Victorian-inspired dinner, complete with vintage dishes, cocktails and a Victorian-style paper cone filled with homemade goodies. The elegant food and beautiful table settings of the period make dining an event. In fact, the decorative patterns found in clothing, decor and dishware during that time are still timeless today. I respect the craftsmanship that artisans put into ornate serving spoons and chiseled candlesticks. My husband’s parents passed down silverware and dishes from their family since the 1800s, many engraved with monograms or dates. It is family and a connection to those we never knew who came before us.
It was a great time with friends and a fun way to try some new recipes. The buffet choices were true to the type of foods they ate in Victorian times, just updated a little for our times. No oxtail and beef tongue at this Victoria party, but meats, eggs and vegetables done with simple ingredients. (Apologies to Sonja for the photo faux pas and cutting too close).
Many cocktails in Victorian times used hard liquors like whiskey and gin. But they did serve champagne, which is more to my liking. These rounded bowl-style glasses were in keeping with the style of the champagne glasses then. Our champagne cocktail was updated with a splash of Pomegranate juice.
Victorians ate bread … lots of it. These mini sweet breads (banana and sour cream style) were a light compliment to the other flavors on the table. The beautiful plate holding them (that came to us from my husband’s parents) is Elite Limoges porcelain china from France, circa early 1900s. The mark on the back matches those dishes produced between 1890 – 1920.
Here is another beautiful china set I have from Tom’s parents. It is Haviland china from France produced in the early 1900s. I have four sets of this cup/saucer dish and use them for sauces or melted butter on seafood night. I must admit sometimes having the “save the china for special occasions” syndrome – I should use them more.
New recipes are always welcome in my house. The Victoria Party gave me reason to search out new flavors. This stuffed tomato recipe is going to be a staple around here. Goat cheese, honey, parsley, scallions and flavorful Campari tomatoes. They were a hit. The leftovers I hid were found and quickly eaten by my teenage daughter who usually says no to goat cheese, so I didn’t tell her what was in them (Ha!).
Victorians had a love of meat and bread. We enjoyed some traditional tea sandwiches including radish and chive butter, turkey or ham with apple and cheddar cheese on pumpernickel, and ham and goat cheese with arugula on cinnamon raisin bread. All delicious!
Having a guest show up to your party in themed attire is so wonderful – Sonja embraced the theme and was definitely the best dressed!
For dessert I served the traditional Charlotte Russe Cake with a recipe from The Bossy Kitchen Blog. The recipe is very old, based on the Eighteenth-century European aristocrats love of an elegant mold filled with thick custard or Bavarian cream which is then flavored with fruit, spices or brandy and covered in ladyfingers. It is still a very popular cake in Europe.
It does involve working with gelatin, making custard and whipped cream, and bathing ladyfingers in simple syrup. But please, do not let the steps turn you away from this cake. The end result is delicious. It is sweet, flavorful, full of textures and definitely something that temps you to eat more. I had trouble finding ladyfingers and substituted angel food cake for the bottom and sides, so I iced the whole cake in whipped cream and it was just heavenly. This would make a perfect cake for Christmas time.
I gave each of my friends a Victorian-styled paper cone filled with mini muffins to take home. It’s easy to roll the paper with 18th-century-era patterns on it into the cone and add lace and ribbons for a festive gift. A silver ice bucket held them until time to leave.
To get ideas and plan for my party, I started a pinterest board, and you can check it out for other ideas if you’re thinking of a vintage party. This is my go-to way to find and store ideas for party food and decor. Since I have four more watching dates coming up, I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this board.
The hosts this evening say Cheers! (Amelia on the left, Meredith on the right).