Dear Foodies,

‘Tis the season for entertaining, family visits, and gift exchange get-togethers. Instead of fretting over what to prepare and slaving the day away in the kitchen, why not enjoy and treasure these priceless moments at one of our charming “Tea Rooms” here in the Valley?

Have you noticed how many have been opening up lately? I think its great! My husband’s past time is golf and mine is “visual therapy.” There is nothing like enjoying a peaceful setting where my friends and I leave our cares behind, for just a little while. I’m also entertained visually by admiring these tea room’s creative touches and beautiful items sold — unfortunately, I can’t leave without buying a little something.

The Vintage Tea Room by Betty is a true find. I was invited by my daughter’s elegant violin teacher, Janna Cantu, who also happens to be my dear friend. She had been studying all day for a test and I had been busy doing domestic work around the house, so we both needed a little break. Stepping into Betty’s was like being in a candy store. I was in sheer heaven! Antique hounds will love to pop in and gloat over their latest find, and those of you who are in search of unique home accents and accessories will be amazed at the prices which seem to be rolled back to earlier times.

Janna and I savored a delicious slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of whip cream ($3.50) and our full - bodied Earl Grey tea ($1.50) with a little cream. I promised to come back for lunch (a week later) and try their “Trio Sampler” which includes three different varieties (1/2 a sandwich of each) of their homemade chicken salad sandwiches on whole wheat bread.

Well, I kept my promise! My partner in crime Mari Rodriguez and I decided to go and look for Halloween costumes and treat ourselves to a nice lunch. I began by ordering a glass of peach tea (very refreshing) and the Trio Sampler ($9.50 includes chips, pickle, beverage and dessert) which hit the spot. I tasted the” Lucky Pickle” chicken salad, the “Hawaiian Elvis” (pineapple) and the “Marilyn” (grapes and apples) which happened to be my favorite. Then, of course, we had to order a fresh cup of coffee ($1.50) that was served in a dainty porcelain cup along with a light and tasty fruit parfait ($3.50) which consists of fresh strawberries (seasonal fruit) vanilla yogurt and granola. The glistening array of china and glassware used for such a simple yet delightful lunch really makes ordinary occasions seem special.

Corina’s Tea Room is a whimsical hidden treasure. If you’ve already been there you’re lucky! Corina has created an ambiance that’s cheerful and inviting offering a respite from the hurried and stressful pace of our lives. This tea house also has a delicious variety of sandwiches and salads which of coarse are quintessential when having a formal tea, but wait till you try their soups! When you’re in the mood for a mouth watering soup made from scratch (weekly variety- $3.50 cup, $4.50 bowl) — come on by! For example on Mondays they serve a creamy chicken and broccoli, on Tuesdays there’s a hearty Italian beef soup and on Wednesdays they have an exceptional ranch chicken soup.

Another highlight at this venue is their homemade jams, jellies and preserves. These preserves will entice you to try fabulous pairings of seasonal fruit, as well as preserving using wine, herbs or edible flowers. Indulge your taste buds with Corina’s: Rose Petal Jam, Pineapple Papaya Preserves, Prickly Pear jelly, Dried Apricot Wine jelly and more. These beautifully decorated canning jars filled with fruit sensations make great gifts; perfect on any tea or breakfast table. Foodies, take time to visit and unwind over a cup of their cinnamon orange tea ($1.50) which scents fill the air and refresh your mind. There’s an excellent assortment of fine teas and scrumptious (homemade) desserts available.

Both of these Tea Rooms are ideal for tea/birthday parties, showers and reunions. There’s really no need to decorate or worry about entertainment. These venues allow you and your guests to browse among many antiques and original gift items; each doorway leads to another surprise. What a delicate pleasure!

We taste with our eyes as well as our mouths. — Chef Aaron Patterson

Tea’s the season,

Madame Gourmand

Corina’s Tea Room, 505 E.McIntyre Street, Edinburg. 956-383-2646. Open Monday — Friday, 11-3 p.m. *Open: Saturday upon request

The Vintage Room by Betty, 4202 N. Jackson Road, Pharr. 956-664-8255. Open Tuesday — Saturday, 11-4 p.m.