This weekend I discovered a hidden treasure nestled in the country side surrounding beautiful Lake Alfred. Located about 65 miles East of Tampa, Lake Alfred is a quaint community in Polk County that was founded by snowbirds from Fargo, North Dakota in the early 1900’s. Peaceful and serene, I was captivated by the natural beauty of this friendly town.
With scenery that reminds me of my beloved Wine Country, I quickly fell in love with Lake Alfred. As I pulled into town on this beautiful Saturday afternoon, I felt like I was in another place. The sounds of birds singing and the warm rays of sunlight were much-needed after my hectic week. I traveled 72 miles to enjoy an afternoon at Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom and was really looking forward to an afternoon of good food and soothing tea.
Located at 430 N. Lake Shore Way, Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom has been a destination tea room in central Florida since 1989. Owned by Sehar and Hafeez Bajwa, this charming 1920’s cottage has become like a second home to many of their clientele. With gorgeous vaulted ceilings and Victorian décor, the Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom is a feast for the eyes as well as your stomach, as their food is made daily from scratch with local ingredients. When I began to walk up the front steps, I knew I was in for a special afternoon.
Open Monday through Saturday from 11 am – 3:30 pm, Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom features a hearty menu of tearoom favorites as well as daily specials. As I looked at their specials menu, I was delighted with the savory selections and knew I was going to have a hard time deciding what to order, as everything sounded fantastic. After my long drive, the Apricot Iced Tea caught my eye and would be the perfect beverage to start off with on this warm day.
Walking in, I was enticed by the Victorian décor and warm vibe. I actually took the photo below at the end of my meal since the place was quite full when I arrived. Everyone was so engaged in their conversations and I did not want to interrupt by snapping photos. I was warmly greeted by server extraordinaire, Joanna Musumeci, and she truly made me feel like a guest in her home. As she showed me to my table, I could not help but notice how incredibly friendly she was. I have dined at many places in my life and I was instantly impressed by her sincerity.
Joanna promptly brought me an apricot iced tea along with a savory duo of starters: Buttermilk Muffins with Italian Seasonings and Zucchini Sweet Bread. After spending the last 5 weeks on a restrictive eating program, I was ready to treat myself to these aromatic pieces of heaven. The muffins were fantastic and the addition of the Italian seasonings was a nice touch. I had to refrain myself from eating them all, as I knew I had more delectable items to taste.
Buttermilk Muffins with Italian Seasonings
Nothing quite compares to freshly baked breads and their Zucchini Sweet Bread was no exception. Baked goods are my weakness and after five weeks without them, I was in a state of euphoria nibbling on the zucchini bread. Truly baked with love, I savored each and every morsel.
Zucchini Sweet Bread
While looking over the menu, Joanna went over their specials, including their two Soups de Jour, Cream of Asparagus and Wild Rice and Mushroom. Since I could not decide, she brought me half a cup of each. How sweet is that! The Cream of Asparagus was like an asparagus lover’s dream, as it was thick, hearty and filled with pieces of fresh asparagus.
Cream of Asparagus
Just as delicious was the Wild Rice and Mushroom. I adore mushrooms and this soup was outstanding. The mushrooms were packed with flavor and blended beautifully with the rice.
Wild Rice and Mushroom
With so many enticing options of the menu, I was having a food lover’s dilemma. Joanna promptly came up with a solution and said she would bring me small tastes of their signature items. Delighted, I enjoyed my iced tea and tried my best to not eat the rest of the buttermilk biscuits. As promised, Joanna presented me with a stunning platter of six selections along with their house salad. As I looked at each little plate, I was filled with pure happiness and excitement. Each dish was so beautiful, I almost did not want to eat them. My first taste was of their Crepe Cosmel which consisted of a savory crepe filled with tender pieces of chicken breast in a sweet red sauce topped with melted cheese and sour cream. This reminded me of a chicken enchilada and was beyond delicious.
The next dish I tried. Crunchy Chicken, is one of their most popular items. A delicious blend of tender diced chicken breast baked into a casserole with rice, celery, and almonds in a creamy sauce with two kinds of cheese topped with crunchy potato chips, I can see why this is so popular. Comfort food at its best, this dish is phenomenal.
My next taste was of their Cottage Pie which is a hearty blend of ground sirloin, cooked with herbs, spices, garden vegetables and then topped with fluffy mashed potatoes. Similar to a Shepherd’s Pie, this dish is simply fantastic. I love that it is not too heavy and the dollop of mashed potatoes is the perfect topping.
The next dish was one of my favorites. Beautiful in color and filled with exotic flavors, their Chicken Salad is one of the highlights of their menu. A sweet blend of homemade delicious chicken salad with sliced almonds, and pineapple in a tropical dressing surrounded with fresh fruit on a leaf of lettuce and served with sweet bread, it is absolutely divine.
When I think of tea houses, chicken puff pastry always comes to mind. Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom doesn’t disappoint with their Chicken Puff Pastry. Like a pillow of flavor, it is a beautiful mix of chicken tenderloin that is sautéed with herbs and broccoli in garlic cream sauce and served over a delicate puffed pastry. Buttery and flaky, the puffed pastry was the perfect accompaniment for the chicken. As I ate this, I closed my eyes and savored every bite. It was like a beautiful symphony of flavor.
Chicken Puff Pastry
I was delighted with my next taste, which was of their Chicken Curry. I am a big fan of curry and by just looking at this beautiful dish, I knew it was going to be special. A gorgeous medley of chicken tenderloin marinated in yogurt and lime, cooked in the traditional style and served over basmati rice, this little number knocked my stilettos off. The curry was just perfect and I have been craving this dish all weekend.
In the middle of my array of sample tastes was a beautiful serving of their House Salad. This really struck my fancy as it is made with a green bean and corn marinade. Refreshing and light, this is the perfect start to lunch.
Desserts are a highlight at Lavender n’ Lace Tearoom and are made from scratch daily. Owner Sehar Bajwa is an extremely talented pastry chef and I had the chance to chat with her while I enjoyed a cup of Cinnamon Orange tea and a slice of fresh Mango Pie. Her passion for cooking and baking really touched me and I am so honored I got the opportunity to sit with her during my visit. Having traveled around the world, thanks in part to her husband having been a ship captain, Sehar has an immense amount of culinary skills and knowledge. She is clearly living her dream with their amazing tearoom and the fruits of their labor are evident in the happy faces of their customers. As I looked at the fresh selection of desserts, I felt like I was at Manolo Blahnik and wanted one of everything. The first dessert to catch my eye was her Angel Pie which is a stunning blend of coconut chiffon, light meringue coconut custard, cream, a hint of almond flavor and fresh coconut. Garnished with a fresh strawberry, this ambrosial dessert is a must have. I plan on ordering this on my return visit.
Since I was trying to be good and was quite full from lunch, I had a slice of fresh Mango Pie. Sweet and creamy, it was the perfect finale for my wonderful meal. Everything about this dessert impressed me, from favor to presentation.
I could not resist photographing a few other desserts. Each one is like a work of art and made from scratch with love. As a chocolate lover, their Chocolate Ganache was so tempting to look at. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Another dessert that set my heart aflutter was their Orange Italian Creme Cake. I really want to taste this, as I am love anything with orange.
Orange Italian Cream Cake
Another tempting dessert is their French Silk, which is a decadent creation of a chocolate mousse filling encased in a pecan crust and drizzled with Amaretto chocolate sauce and topped with fresh whipped cream. WOW! Truly breathtaking!
As I finished sipping my orange cinnamon tea, I felt at ease and began to dread my long drive back. I wanted to stay and continue drinking tea while enjoying such a beautiful setting. I wish I loved closer, as I could see myself coming here quite often.
As I got ready to head back to Tampa, I took a stroll through their garden area and visited their gift shop. I also learned that weddings are often hosted at Lavender N’ Lace, and I can see why. With picturesque views and a serene setting, it is the perfect place to host a wedding.
My visit was beyond enjoyable and I can’t wait to go back. If you are looking for something to do outside of Tampa, I highly recommend taking the drive to Lake Alfred and visiting Lavender N’ Lace. You can also find them on Facebook by clicking here.
Have a wonderful week everyone!