Scattered throughout a downtown Mesa tea parlor are objects once belonging to Candice Sims’ grandmother. White gloves, lace handkerchiefs and a China teapot are part of Tea Rose Place’s Victorian decor.
Charmingly fussy, the parlor speaks to a time when pretty was everything and social form was strictly followed. Large floral prints, silk flowers and lots of teamobilia are Sims’ addition to the collection.
"I’ve always loved beautiful things," Sims said. And she’s long appreciated good food. Sims grew up in Northern California, the daughter of gourmands. Good food was a much part of her childhood as boxed macaroni and cheese is for today’s kids. Her food experiences, coupled with the style influences of a loving grandmother, laid the foundation for her jewelry-box tea parlor.
"We used to go clamming," Sims said of a popular family outing, "and it would become a whole weekend party. "We always ate so well. I didn’t realize that until I got older."
To this day, Sims adheres to the "from scratch" philosophy. Even at home. "If I want cinnamon rolls, I get out the yeast," Sims said.
And when she’s making bread pudding, lemon pound cake, raspberry almond torte for her tea parlor, she goes to ingredient drawers, not boxes. There are no shortcuts in Sims’ kitchen.
"This has become a passion for me," said the former caterer. The more she researched tea traditions, though, the more she saw a parlor in her leaves. Last December she opened Tea Rose Place at 124 W. Main Street. And happily the operation has been successful — particularly with ladies and for children’s parties. She also teaches a class in afternoon tea traditions for Mesa Community College.
Q: With whom would you most like to "do lunch"?
A: My mother, Bette Wagner. She’s my dearest friend, an amazing woman. I remember hearing people talk about her as "a real lady" when I was a child, and I never understood what that meant. I do now.
Q: What is your favorite dish to make at home?
A: I love to make Chinese food, and when I do I make it all from scratch — even down to the egg rolls.
Q: What culinary gadget could you not cook without?
A: My pastry blender. The one I use, I broke it once and my father carved a new handle for it for me.
Q: What three ingredients could you not cook without?
A: Butter, cream and eggs.
Q: When it comes to eating, what’s your guilty pleasure?
A: Breyer’s ice cream. I won’t eat any other kind of ice cream. And I like vanilla.
Q:What is your favorite restaurant?
A: I go to a lot of Chinese restaurants for different things, but there is no one I like best. Where my mother lives, in Grass Valley (Calif.) it would be Apple Fare. It’s girlie, cutesy, sweet — a nice place to have lunch. I love going there.
Q: What one cooking tip could you offer readers to make their time in the kitchen easier?
A: Always read the recipe through and have your ingredients laid out before you start.
Q: What is the biggest mistake you ever made while cooking?
A: There was once — only once — where I got the day wrong on a catering event. I thought the wedding was on Saturday and it was on Friday. So I went out to lunch with my daughter and then about 3 p.m. (Friday) I realized I had made a mistake. It could have been disastrous. But I called and got a lot of help. The bride never knew.