My friend Sharon and I attended a Mother’s Day Tea at Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY, in honor of our respective mothers, whom we both lost within the past several years. Sharon has been a fan of Hurd Orchards for many years, so much so that she hosted her wedding reception on the grounds of the orchard, in the 200 year old historic barn. Since then, a group of friends and I have attended various events there at her urging, including a Thanksgiving Tasting, a wreath-making class, and a Christmas tea.
So, I was happy to accept her invitation when she suggested that we honor our moms by attending this Mother’s Day event. Served at tables with starched linen tablecloths, fresh spring flowers, and delicate china, Hurd Orchard’s Mother’s Day Tea is an exquisite tradition. Tea sandwiches, spring soup, warm scones and cream, cakes and dainty pastries were served amid an orchard setting, making for an enjoyable and memorable afternoon.
Hurd Orchards is an almost 200-year-old family owned fruit and flower farm and canning company, located in western New York on the shores of Lake Ontario. Their farm philosophy centers around their love of growing fruit and their endless appreciation for the earth’s gifts. They use generations old recipes to preserve the tree-ripened fruits from their own plantings.
With an emphasis on preservation and wise stewardship of the acres of farmland, including orchards, forests, fields and meadows, they strive for sustainability. Susan Hurd Machamer, Amy Machamer, and Amelia Sidonio are the 6th, 7th, and 8th generations on this family farm.
As we waited in a grassy garden area in between the retail store and the historic barn, I took in the sights of this gorgeous backdrop. The venue looked like a post card from the English countryside, complete with blossoming orchards, gentle rolling hills, and a beautifully decorated wooden barn.
We couldn’t have custom ordered better weather for a Spring day in May in western New York. With perfectly straight rows of blossoming apple trees, grounded by blankets of green grass and topped with a perfectly blue and cloudless sky, I knew that we were in for a real treat.
I watched as groups took pictures in front of pretty bushes and apple trees and competed with the sun to view their photographic masterpieces. The scene inspired me to take a picture of the view, as shown below:
A light-hearted feeling came upon me in the decorated barn, filled with anticipation of things to come. Soft instrumental music provided an easy going backdrop to the din of multiple conversations among friends and family in attendance to honor their mothers. A cool breeze swept through the barn, coaxed by the large open doors on either side of the enclosed space. The delicate aroma of freshly harvested and cooked foods filled the air. Mixed with the floral scents of apple blossoms and peach blossoms, it was a celebration for the senses. My eyes quickly darted around the barn and the surrounding orchard, purposely taking in the beautiful touches which made this event such a pleasure.
I surmised that many of the approximately 75 guests were returning patrons, as I watched the owners mingle with the crowd and exchange familiar pleasantries.
The atmosphere felt like a warm family reunion or a gathering of cherished friends who hadn’t seen each other in far too long. Warm embraces and genuine smiles were the order of the day, proving the adage that strangers are just friends whom you haven’t met yet.
The inside of the rustic barn was just as beautiful as the weathered outside. Each group had their own table, decorated with unique fresh flower arrangements, layered cloth table coverings and name cards. My friend and I found our two-person table off to the side of the barn, next to the open barn door, allowing for a refreshing breeze and view of the orchard. I noticed the while tablecloth, covered with a pink tablecloth in a rectangular fashion. Shown here is the beautifully set table with a white ceramic pitcher of wild flowers and greenery.
Hanging from the walls and ceiling of the concrete floored barn were tied bunches of dried flowers, crafted wreathes, and antique farm utensils. A few hanging wooden adornments held pendulums of votive candles and flowers, gently swaying in the breeze. Serving tables in the front of the barn were already teaming over with pastries, cookies and a myriad of other sweet treats, as shown below.
The food was such a special treat at this Mother’s Day tea celebration. Our edible journey began with a blended tea called Spring Mix. It was a flavorful mix of Earl Gray with cinnamon and other flavorings, and is available for purchase in the on-premises store.
The tea is custom blended for Hurd Orchards by a company with whom they became acquainted at the Fancy Food Show a few years back. Served with lemon wedges, cream and sugar on silver service, it was a perfect start to the meal, as shown here. We happily indulged in refills several times. I suspect that this custom tea is a popular item for sale in their store!
The next course began with a bowl of asparagus and leek soup, served in concert with five triangular tea sandwiches, on lovely garden flowered china. The chunky soup was finished with a dollop of sour cream and topped with an edible flower. It was quite tasty! The only thing which would have made perfect would have been if it was piping hot. Unfortunately, it arrived at the table only lukewarm.
Shown in the picture below, the tea sandwiches were prepared as follows, from left to right:
- Spinach in phyllo dough, served warm with gooey melted cheese – one of my favorites because it just melted in your mouth!
- Chicken salad with basil on toast – not too much mayonnaise – just how I like it
- Sandwich of avocado and cucumber slices, served with cream cheese spread– refreshing and light
- Ham with jelly on a soft, moist scone – an unexpectedly delicious combination of salty and sweet flavors
- Carrot bread with nuts, topped with smooth cream cheese – just sweet enough to be my other favorite
After the soup and tea sandwiches, we were treated to multiple dessert courses. Repeat after me…Multiple. Dessert. Courses. We were first enticed with raspberry-rhubarb jam atop and almond-lemon scone, with sweet cream and an edible flower garnish.
It was a sweet and tart combination that tantalized my taste buds. As if that wasn’t enough, the desserts just kept on coming; so much so, that my friend Sharon (a trained pastry chef) continuously posted pictures of our meal to Facebook throughout the afternoon, just so that we could torture our friends who weren’t there!
Before moving on to the next round of desserts, we refilled our hot tea and indulged in a cold cider beverage. Then it began again. The next round of desserts included a choice of a chocolate cake slice with cream cheese frosting, or a raspberry sauce sorbet served in a wine glass or a lemon pound cake with a light and creamy glaze. Choose? Why choose?
We both enjoyed two treats (chocolate cake and raspberry sorbet), and agreed that the chocolate cake was the more enticing of the two options we tried. It was quite dense, yet still moist and flavorful. The raspberry sorbet looked amazing but the taste didn’t quite live up to the presentation. It was a bit too sweet for both of us and a slightly grainy as well. Somehow, the lemon pound cake escaped our grasp!
With all of that food, you would think that we couldn’t eat another but, and you would be right. However, there was more to come, and we were determined to sample it all! The last round of desserts was served on tiered dessert plates, carefully presented at each table by the staff.
Shown below is an example of these pyramids of deliciousness. The confections included chocolate chip bars, petit fours lemon bars, thumbprint cookies and more. At this point, I began to fade into a sugar coma and could no longer identify the non-stop parade of dessert offerings, but you get the idea!
The high tea began with a short but interesting introduction by the mother and daughter duo who own this wondrous farm and cannery. Each one gave the group an overview of what they think makes this farm such a gem. I enjoyed listening to their heartfelt expressions of their love of fruit-growing and their appreciation for the earth’s gifts, as well as their pride in the heritage of the region and the beauty which surrounds each season.
Kind and knowledgeable servers brought each course to the tables, with a smile and a spirit of warm hospitality. Dressed in long skirts with lace and crochet accents, I admired their thoughtful charm and beauty. All of our requests were happily granted and all of our needs were cheerfully met, most even before we knew we needed them. They thought of everything, from mason jar lid coasters (echoing the sustainability theme) to lemon wedges and tea refills.
The only aspect which could have been improved was the service of a beverage other than tea. My dining companion scouted out a pitcher of cool cider on a far table and served us herself, more than one time. Perhaps pitches of water on the tables would have been a nice addition, or even water glasses available for refill, similar to the hot tea refills which were so plentiful.
A visit to the Hurd Orchards retails store is worth the trip on it’s own. Over flowing with local treats such harvest jams, pickles, apple sauces and jarred fruits, the store offers something for everyone. The culinary treasures found there are exceptionally fresh and flavorful, because they grow and tree ripen their own crops and cook and prepare them in small batches.
You will also find an assortment of gifts and keepsakes for the chef (of chef wanna-be) in your family, including garden themed place mats, ornamental boxes and baskets, utensils and linens. The Hurd family designs their own gift boxes, and their elegant Italian botanical wrapping paper is custom made especially for them.
I couldn’t resist the lure of shopping while I was there (shocking, I know). I came across a line of dried soup mixes which intrigued me. After waffling between several flavors, I finally decided on a mushroom soup and a bean soup. Look for the details of the dried mixes and the recipes to be posted on this blog in the next month or so!
If you can’t make the trip to western New York to visit this oasis of an orchard in person, then be sure to visit Hurd Orchard’s online shopping site at http://hurd-orchards-online-shopping.myshopify.com/
I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to attend this event with my friend Sharon, and I would most definitely recommend it to others. I would also attend similar events at Hurd Orchards again in the future. I am told that the menu changes each year, so that no two services or events are the same. I enjoyed the delicious food, attentive service, beautiful surroundings and welcoming atmosphere. It was really a wonderful way for my friend and I to honor our moms and enjoy the fellowship of a gloriously fresh Spring meal. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. You won’t be disappointed.
If you go:
17260 Ridge Road
Holley, NY 14470
(between County Line Rd/Ridge Rd W and Hurd Rd)
Online shopping site: http://hurd-orchards-online-shopping.myshopify.com/
Business Season and Hours: Open for private events from mid-May through mid-June and late July through the 1st weekend in September. Available for private events.
Cuisine: Seasonal appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, cakes and non-alcoholic beverages
Meals Served: High teas, picnics, elegant formal dinners and luncheons, casual gatherings and finger foods receptions
Events: Luncheons, Teas and Tastings, Floral programs, Children’s events, private events
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes, with a minimum purchase of $15.00
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Attire: As appropriate for each event
Requires Reservations: Yes
Table Service: Yes, depending on the type of event
Retail Store: Yes, on premises and online
Outdoor Seating: Yes, depending on the type of event
Parking: Limited but free in the adjoining stone parking lot and along the busy road
Valet Service: No
Alcohol: Does not provide any alcoholic beverage services. Licensed and insured servers are required for any function where alcohol will be served.
Coat Check: No
Date visited: Sunday, May 11, 2014, 11am high tea service