Big Pink is not for the faint of heart. It is a flavor monster — sticky sweet topped with a richness from a classy yellow cake topping. Big Pink's signature hue derives from one of those blessed 1950s' era conveniences: a packet of strawberry jello. I'm all for natural, organic, and sensible, but sometimes you've got to go with the recipes that tickle your heart strings and make you feel like a kid. Upon tasting one bite of this ridiculous, decadent dessert, I was instantly transported to my 7 year old self. Feet dangling off the swing in the back yard, curls bouncing atop my head, end of summer twilight colors and a bag of Sour Patch gummy candies clutched in a death grip in my paw. This cake tastes like that moment. It's sweet, sour and totally my kid fantasy.

What better to top off the nostalgia dream than with the beloved tea from my childhood? Peppermint tea is the perfect compliment to Big Pink -- it refreshes and cleanses in order to simply survive the absurd sweet/tartness of the cake. You've probably got some lurking in a cabinet right now. Since it's just an infusion, not a caffeinated tea, kids can join in on the teapot too. Everyone can enjoy!

Big Pink Strawberry Cake
makes one 9 x 13" cake

 for the cake:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt  

for the topping:
4 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 sugar
1 package strawberry jello
3 cups miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start with the cake batter and cream the butter and sugar together. Mis in the egg yolks, milk and vanilla until combined. Finish up with the dry ingredients and stir until uniform.

Cover bottom of a 9 x 13" pan with sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar, followed by 1 package of strawberry jello mix. Top the strawberry/jello layer with the marshmallows. Pour cake batter on top of strawberry-marshmallows and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown. Allow to cool before serving. Garnish with creme fraiche, whip cream, ice cream or whole vanilla yogurt.

Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is a common herbal tisane -- not really a tea at all, more of an infusion. You can make peppermint tea with a bunch of fresh mint leaves (as they do in parts of Northern Africa and Spain), or you can buy your favorite brand to have around as you need it. Personally, I love the flavor of Celestial Seasonings' Peppermint Tea. My Mom always used to have this in the house and I grew up assembling tea parties with my stuffed animals and little friends; and served this brand with plenty of sugar and lemon. It's fresh and flavorful.

A Cuppa With Shelby Brakken

Shelby Brakken works as a brilliant lifestyle/wedding photographer, is a mama of two of the most inspiring, free spirited kids and all-around hipper than hip lady. She's an amazing listener and always offers up a cuppa while allowing me to spill my guts -- THANKS MAMA! We met over a 20 dollar, dusty white dresser on she put up on Craigslist. I bought that thing then invited myself into her world, Shelbs was so adorable and outgoing, I had to make her my friend. I'm real glad I did.

What is your favorite tea and how do you take it? My tea is black tea: PG tips with a little sugar and a splash of milk.

How does tea punctuate your day? I wake up and I think: tea. tea? tea! where are you??!! I need you now. Then I proceed to drink a few cups of black tea. I have to make myself stop, but I always want more.

My tea accompaniment of choice is: with my tea i eat: a piece of sourdough toast with butter, sharp cheddar cheese and raspberry jam.

My British haute headwear is on . . .  when i'm having tea -- usually in the form of a black fascinator.

I first started really drinking tea when . . . in a British sort of way, when I quit the coffee, which was only a few years ago. But I feel like I have known tea all my life.

My dream tea party would include . . . a unicorn, some yellow high heels, a little Beatles on the radio and a mountain of Russian tea cakes.

When I sip from my tea cup . . . I always talk in a thick and heavy British accent.


An Almond Crescent evokes musky, exhausted afternoons in Marrakesh, where I first dunked a version of this cookie into a chilled glass of mango juice poolside at an upmarket hotel in the middle of a desert. This combination is sublime, but my gastronomic memory needed an update. Black currant tea is that fruity, jubilant antidote to the floral, seemingly exotic flavors of almond and powdered sugar.

For now, these basic shortbread treats are being held just long enough in my tea before disintegrating into the bottom of my cup. A little whisper of sandy cookie is welcome though, closing the circle of story and sweets --back to the striking vastness that is North Africa. Meandering the seductive, endless souq with my father 20 years ago-- all purple high top converse, crooked teeth, legs and unbrushed curls. Sand, wind, leather, dirt, spice -- the elements seeped deeply into my young bones. And wait, what's this? "Dad, there's a monkey on my butt!" A little friend attached himself to my fanny pack (forgive forgive the fashion choice) and wouldn't let go. It was a scare and a delight.

Almond Crescents
makes about 2 dozen cookies

There is a version of this simple, powdered-sugar drenched shortbread cookie in every culture. For me, these take me to Morocco where I first encountered them in this distinct shape.

1 cup unsalted butter (I like Land o Lakes for baking)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (plus more for garnishing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 cup blanched almonds (or crushed almonds, any type of almond you like really!)

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream the butter and sifted powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the salt, almond and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Stir in the flour and almonds until dough just comes together.

Form small crescent shapes from about 1 inch round balls of dough. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet on 350 for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are just golden. Dust in powdered sugar and serve with tea.

Black Currant Tea
I buy my Black Currant Tea locally at the Tea Zone Camellia & Lounge. The staff is informed on their many teas and will make recommendations based on your likes and dislikes. All their teas are sealed in the most beautiful gold and black packages, so it's a rather lovely experience just picking out teas to try. Black Currant has a subtle fruitiness reminiscent of Ribena juice. It's a flavor we don't encounter often in the States, yet currant is prominent in many other parts of the world, especially England. Mixed with whole cream and a spot of brown sugar, this tea is positively lady like.

A Cuppa With Robin Bisio

Robin Bisio is a choreographer of environmental dance, filmmaker, and bon vivant living a block from the Pacific Ocean. She's also an amazing stylist, gathering all her materials from nature and on the road. Her home is her palace and tea the reigning beverage of the motley group of friends and kids constantly breezing in from the surf, mountains or a far flung locale. 

What is your favorite type of tea and how do you take it? My favorite  is Earl Grey tea from Twinnings, loose leaf with milk and white honey pipping hot! I need a special cup (not too thin and not too thick-- my current is a Christmas commemorative last of the set) and good mountain spring water and a particular brew time to get the tea strong enough while staying really hot! Ok I am fussy about amount of tea ( a lot because I like strong tea), kind of strainer, kind of cup, kind of water and kind of honey. It is one of the few areas of my  boho hippy life where I am like this!!

How does tea punctuate your day? First thing when I get up before I go swimming to get through the work out and then when I come home with breakfast and the NY Tmes. I dream of tea and cannot leave the house without it!

My tea accompaniment of choice is: Brown bread with thick honey a la Greek.

Right now the fog horn is calling out its mournful lament . . . when I'm having tea.

I first started drinking tea when . . .
I stopped drinking coffee which I overdosed on after a year in Paris and college.

My dream tea party would include . . .  tea sandwiches by a body of water with a book immersed in nature solo -- I am half Mayflower English so this scene suggests a happy hedgehog out of a Beatrice Potter storybook. I also liked the idea as a child of making a campfire out of sticks and boiling water for a makeshift tea with my young adventurous but cozy cohorts.

When I sip from my tea cup . . .  I  connect to all the tea drinkers everywhere in the world (especially in ancient cities that still stand) who love their tea and are particular about it.


Pineapple for dessert can be better than chocolate. Bold statement right? It's one of the many surprising truths I learned in Southern India. We have to be talking about a GREAT pineapple, granted, but it's possible to bite into a slice of honey-sweet, perfumy, jasmine-laced, yellow fruit and be bowled over by heady romance and tropical grandeur. Rare, but possible.

When I'm just being, in our Portland Palais in the clouds, I like to help recreate this sublime, sub- continent sentiment with the aid of coconut oil, a little chili dust, lime zest and brown sugar. And to accompany a plate of pineapple, a mess of coconut cream (vegan nirvana!), a tall glass of icey Hong Kong style Milk Tea. The rich, meatiness of the fruit, its flavors further concentrated by a quick roast in the oven are best washed down with a smooth glass of Milk Tea. The swishy coconut cream takes this whole dish to legit proportions. This is the stuff theater and unforgettable afternoon snackin. It's all over the top.

Hong Kong style Milk Tea has many different modes and manifestations.  The basics are a strong black tea combined with evaporated or condensed milk, sweetened to taste and foamy from pouring back and forth between cauldron to pot, the attuned process creates signature smoothness and slight bubbles. Some will claim only the addition of evaporated milk is tradition, others balk and prefer sweetened, condensed milk. The only rule is that there are no rules to the tea drinking soul, just inclination and personal enjoyment. I love Milk Tea iced as a midday treat. There should be some heft from whichever milk you choose and a great bitter tickle at the end of the sip, due to the strength of the black tea you've got on hand.

Roasted Chile Lime Pineapple with Coconut Cream
serves 2-4

for the Pineapple:

1 pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch disks
coconut oil
pinch of chili powder
pinch flake salt
brown sugar
zest of one lime 

for the Coconut Cream:
1 can whole fat coconut milk
agave syrup to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub each piece of pineapple with a little coconut oil (may have to warm it a bit with your hands). Arrange on baking sheet. Sprinkle both sides of pineapple disks with a touch of chili powder and generous handful of brown sugar. Turn pineapple over and do the same, evenly coating both sides with the aforementioned ingredients. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping pineapple at the 10 minute mark. Allow pineapple to cool to room temperature and sprinkle with lime zest.

Refrigerate coconut milk (in can) overnight or for at least 6 hours. Open and scoop the solid coconut mass into a bowl (or a bowl of an electric mixer), discarding the coconut water. Add the agave, vanilla and touch of salt to the bowl. Whisk on high speed for about 2 minutes until a smooth, uniform cream is created. Refrigerate until ready to plate.

When serving, pile the coconut cream and pineapple on top of each other, garnish with extra lime zest or a little toasted coconut flake if you have it.

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
serves 2

This recipe is hardly that, just a collection of loose ways of how I prepare this tea. It is infinitely variable to your own tastes and how you take your tea.

Boil 2 cups of water in a medium size pot. When water comes to boil, add 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite black tea (I like Ceylon for this), 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 2 heaping tablespoons of sugar to the pot. Bring mixture back up to a boil, turn off heat, cover and allow to steep for another 3-4 minutes. Now strain mixture into another pot, going back and forth a few times to create a slightly foamy texture. Pour from a tall height (as high as you can go!) into 2 tea cups. Sweeten more if desired. Serve hot or over ice.

Have you ever declared pineapple a dessert? If so what do you sip with it? And how about roasted pineapple?