Fort Wayne – Inside Sweet Violets Tea and Antiques, sunshine fills the dining areas. A picture of Debbie Woodroof’s grandmother hangs above the fireplace in the corner. On the mantel is a lamp. The tables have been given names of past relatives.
That one is Esther (Shoppell), Woodroof says, adding that Shoppell was her maternal grandmother, the woman in the photo over the fireplace.
Woodroof, 57, runs the tea house at 503 W. Wayne St., where patrons can be served an array of flavored teas, classic teas, soups, salads, quiches and pastries.
Continuing, she says, She passed away when I was 4. She worked at the original Wolf & Dessauer tea room. She was a cook. The roast beef salad sandwich is the original W&D recipe. I got my cooking genes from Esther.
Another table has been named Thelma.
Thelma was her baby sister, Woodroof says. She painted that stem of the lamp on the fireplace.
Woodroof, who shares her Allen County home with her mother, Marjorie Woodroof, is retired from Wells Fargo Bank with 26 years of service. Asked how she ended up running a tea room, said she came across an ad in an online newsletter after attending a tea seminar.
My (bank) position was eliminated at the end of 2010. Looking for other opportunities, I’ve always enjoyed tea and baking and cooking. I take a magazine, Tea Time. I saw in the back a seminar run by Bruce Richardson (Elmwood Inn Fine Teas). He’s a tea blender. He’s my tea provider for here.
I went to tea school in the spring of 2011. (Then) I saw the email and thought, oh my.’ I didn’t want to move and I was looking at different places. The ladies here wanted to retire. I opened here in 2012.
Because the holidays are so busy, she encourages people to make reservations. She’s already booked for Valentine’s Day.
I do a lot of baby showers, bridal showers and birthday parties (for little and big girls), says Woodroof, who notes that many downtown employees frequent her business.
Q. Do you have any hobbies?
A. I love to do cross stitch. I love to read and garden; herb garden, actually. Chives, dill, basil, parsley and tarragon, the more common ones. I also have lavender. I cook with lavender. I’ve been involved with the Downton Abbey event at the library – I have a lavender sugar cookie. The next one is March 1. It was booked faster than the February one.
Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?
A. Aside from the family recipes I use down here, my new recipes come out of Tea Time magazine. I do have cookbooks I got from Elmwood Inn. I pull recipes from magazines – Southern Living and Midwest Living. And I get recipes from the newspaper.
Q. What do you do to keep meals healthy?
A. I do most of the cooking at home. We don’t use prepackaged food. At home, we don’t eat beef or pork – except I am a bacon junkie. When I started here, I had to learn again how to cook a roast. We eat chicken and fish. I love salmon. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruit.
Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?
A. A rubber spatula, because it’s versatile and you can really clean out what you’re using, like a bowl.
Q. What advice would you give beginner cooks?
A. Don’t be afraid to experiment. I would encourage them to start simple. Don’t try to make a three-tier layer cake as a first thing to bake. And taste as you go.
Q. If you were stuck on an island, what food would you want?
A. I would probably say apples. I just love the taste of apples. I do like them crisp – not mushy. I like the taste and the crunch. They’re good for you.
2 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Beat egg whites and gradually add sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil. Drop by teaspoon onto sheet. Place cookie sheet in oven and turn oven off. Leave cookies in overnight or at least 4 hours until firm. Gently peel off of foil. Makes 24 cookies.
Red Turkey Chili
1 pound ground turkey meat
1 medium onion, diced
3 to 4 stalks celery, diced
1 to 2 (15 1/2 -ounce) cans dark red kidney beans with juice
1 to 2 (15 1/2 -ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (2-ounce) package French’s Chili-O seasoning
1/4 cup brown sugar
Brown the turkey meat in a Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and cook until semi-tender. Add Chili-O seasoning package and stir to incorporate. Add kidney beans in their juice and the diced tomatoes. Add the brown sugar to cut the acid and the spice level. Bring to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. May serve with grated cheddar cheese and crackers. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Stroganoff Meatballs on Parsley-Buttered Noodles
1 (12-ounce) package frozen egg noodles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh snipped parsley
1 pound ground turkey meat
1/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
1 (10 3/4 -ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Combine ground turkey, rolled oats, egg, ketchup, onion and salt. Mix thoroughly and shape into 24 1-inch balls. Place on nonstick foil-lined cookie sheet and bake in 450-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until done.
While meatballs bake, cook noodles, uncovered, in a large amount of boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain thoroughly. Melt butter in same pan; add cooked noodles and parsley. Toss to coat noodles with parsley butter; cover and keep warm.
For sauce, combine soup and sour cream in medium sauce pan. Stir in milk and paprika; mix well. Fold in the cooked meatballs. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, till hot. Serve over the parsley-buttered noodles. Makes 6 servings.