The Getty Villa recently launched its Tea by the Sea, a special dining experience inspired by the Mediterranean herbs, vegetables and fruits that grow in the well-tended gardens at the Villa. This weekly event continues every Thursday at 1 p.m.
Review by Pauline Adamek
Anne Watson and Michael DeHart, supervisors of Grounds and Gardens at the Getty, treated a small group of us to a tour of the Roman-inspired herb gardens. An avid horticulturist, DeHart was unabashedly enthusiastic as he led us on a lively tour of the pleasingly symmetrical grounds, animatedly pointing out the various herbs and describing their ancient applications as well as their modern uses. DeHart explained that antique literature and archeological evidence indicates that the ancients began experimenting with using herbs in their cuisine but mostly used them for flavoring drinks and making liqueurs. Lemon balm, in particular, was one herb that was used to attract bees for honey manufacture, which they also used as an expectorant and to flavor teas.
One garden bed that DeHart claimed was his favorite housed a cluster of “Egyptian head onions.” These are commonly known as “walking onions” for their remarkable tendency to propagate from the top of the stem, where the bulb resides, and bending over to the earth to start a new plant. DeHart spoke fondly of having acquired some plants from his late mother”™s East Coast garden, nurturing them at his home over a few years until he had enough to start a bed of them at the Getty Villa. Such is the dedication behind the splendid results of these avid gardeners.
It was fun to watch DeHart tip-toe through a garden to reach up and show us a bush with caper seed buds forming. “Who on earth had the idea to take these flower buds and pickle them to make a tasty food accent?” he excitedly mused.
DeHart pointed out the yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and soft, furry leaved verbascum bombyciferum that he says proliferated on the battlefields as these herbs were used to stem blood flow from a wound.Â He mentioned that sage was legendarily used by Cleopatra to dye her hair black.
Also available at the Getty bookstores and online is the new book Gardens and Plants of the Getty Villa, whichÂ isÂ co-authored by DeHart.
In this informative book DeHart provides informative descriptions of the growing habits and characteristics for each of the plants, citing medicinal, culinary, and ritual uses for many of them.
Tea by the Sea is a lovely and gastronomically delicious way to enjoy the exquisite gardens plus an opportunity to enjoy a multi-sensory experience at the Getty Villa, which is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The menu of the afternoon tea blends quintessential elements of Mediterranean cuisine, with items such as quince paste, tarragon aioli, and fig scones, all based on herbs or fruits that are found in the Villa”™s gardens, which are authentic re-creations of the grounds of a first-century Roman villa.
Diners at Tea by the Sea are invited to deepen their understanding of ancient Roman cuisine by signing up for the culinary-inspired garden tours offered to Villa visitors on Thursday afternoons at 2:30pm. This is a hands-on exercise designed to engage visitors of all ages with instruction on the ancient practice of using herbs.
The new Tea by the Sea is also partly inspired by visitors”™ fond memories of the Villa”™s beloved tearoom, which closed in 1997 when the Villa underwent renovation. The new incarnation will be served in the Founder”™s Room, an elegant space featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Villa.
Further inspiration from the days of old comes in the form of Mrs. Garrett”™s popular carrot cake that was served when the Getty Villa originally opened in 1974. Jean Garrett, the late wife of the J. Paul Getty Museum”™s first director Stephen Garrett, was well known for her culinary skills and often catered parties and luncheons at the Villa. Her carrot cake became a favorite and signature dish, and using her personal recipe, the Villa”™s pastry chef will create Mrs. Garrett”™s Original Carrot Cake as part of the tea experience.
Tea by the Sea at the Getty Villa is $36.00 per person.
From June 18, 2011 Tea by the Sea will also be served Saturdays at 2 p.m. in addition to Thursday at 1 p.m.
A free, advance ticket is required for Villa admission.
Tickets for the Villa are available here or by phone at (310) 440-7300.
Reservations for Tea by the Sea are available here.
Visiting the Getty Villa.
Hours for the Getty Villa site and galleries:
Closed Tuesdays and on January 1, July 4 (Independence Day), Thanksgiving, and December 25 (Christmas Day).
Admission to the Getty Villa and to all exhibitions is FREE. An advance, timed ticket is required.
Each visitor to the Getty Villa must have an advance, timed ticket; separate parking reservations are neither required nor accepted.
Please note that visitors must approach the Getty Villa from the south. Access to the Getty Villa entrance is only from the northbound right-hand lane of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Turning left across PCH is illegal and any attempt to enter the site via Coastline Drive is not permitted.
More info here.