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Review: The Garden View Tea Room at The Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World’s The Garden View Tea Room at The Grand Floridian Resort

Afternoon tea is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Walt Disney World. You think of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, monorails, princesses, and Mickey shaped EVERYTHING. I expected that if there were a tea in WDW, it would be a character princess meal catering to the little ones. So imagine my surprise and delight when I learned that The Grand Floridian Resort—one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen—had a traditional afternoon tea! And of course, in Disney fashion, the tea quickly surpassed all previous teas to take the top spot of Favorite Afternoon Tea.

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First Impressions and Service

Apple Cider Scones

I’m going to Disneyland today! Confession: I go a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like “I am a Disney addict” lot. But today is a special trip because we are heading off to the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! It’s a special event made even more special by the sheer amount of cool people watching opportunities and the exclusive fireworks show. But about that people watching…

Apple Cider Scones

Apple Cider Scones

Normally I am not a huge dress up in costume kind of girl, but I love admiring all the guests’ creative costumes! My favorite are the full family costumes like the family I saw last year with the mom as the Queen of Hearts, the dad as the White Rabbit, the son as the Chesire Cat, and the little daughter was Alice. Cue the “awwww” moment. This year my mom and I are actually dressing up (last year I just made us Halloween hats) and I can’t wait to show off Mom’s amazing sewing skills with my dress 😀

Review: Funfetti Scones at Buttercelli Bakeshop

Funfetti scones are one of my specialties. I make them for every occasion, every holiday, every goodie basket of baked goods, and I’ll probably put them on every second tea tier until people yells “Stop! We are sick of Funfetti Cake Batter Scones!” Says no one, ever. Who could ever get sick of cake batter?

So when I stopped by Buttercelli Organic Bakeshop and saw Funfetti scones, I knew I had to try one and see how they compared. And come on, I’ll use any excuse to have sprinkles at breakfast. I ordered one gluten-free funfetti scone and a coffee and sat outside to conduct my taste test.

Funfetti Scones from Buttercelli Bakeshop

Funfetti Scones from Buttercelli Bakeshop

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

We definitely have enough recipes here to fill a second and third tier of an afternoon tea, but I do recognize that there is a…um…severe lack of first tier fillers? The dot dot dots and question mark are my writing way of giving you all a sheepish, almost embarrassed look. Whhhaaaaattttt? Yes, I’m sorry, but I love baking so much and am way more likely to recipe work mid-morning (when it’s too early for lunch and therefore tea sandwiches) or mid-afternoon (when I’ve already eaten lunch and therefore want dessert over tea sandwiches). So I blame the clock for the lack of savory tier recipes. You aren’t buying that excuse are you? Sigh. I tried.

Guess I just need to give you a tea sandwich recipe I’ve had in my back pocket for a little while now.

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

Ham and Swiss Tea Sandwich

White Chocolate Chip Scones

Basic doesn’t always mean plain or boring or bland or simple or unsophisticated or straightforward or adequate or unadorned or spartan or…okaaaayy I need to stop using the thesaurus because half of those synonyms aren’t even making sense anymore. I guess I just want to instill in you that an easy recipe of 6 ingredients with only a few minutes of real work can be amazing.  Because it can be. I only speak the truth 😉

White Chocolate Chip Scones

White Chocolate Chip Scones

Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Scones

Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Scones

Feeling a little inundated with cookies right about now? Between Christmas parties, office afternoon teas (is it just my dad’s office that does that?), your holiday traditions, and yes I’ll admit to some blame myself, you have been surrounded by cookies for weeks now! Cookies are delicious and traditional for this time of year, but I totally understand needing a moment to step away from the cookie sheets. I won’t judge. In fact, I’ll join you! I’ll join anything to have another batch of these pomegranate dark chocolate scones.

Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Scones

Pomegranate Dark Chocolate Scones

I mentioned EONS ago that I wanted to try these Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Scones with fresh pomegranate arils instead of the pomegranate flavored fruit jelly covered in dark chocolate. 

Pumpkin Spice Shortbread

Scottish shortbread is one of my favorite cookies, which is super bizarre because I am a card-carrying member of the Soft Cookie Club.  But for some reason, Scottish shortbread makes me forget all soft cookies in favor of shortbread’s buttery sweetness. Top it with strawberry jam or lemon curd and I may just choose shortbread over scones (shocking, I know, but it’s a distinct possibility).

Pumpkin Spice Shortbread

Pumpkin Spice Shortbread

The problem best part about this British cookie is the tradition behind it. Quick history lesson? Scottish shortbread is believed to have come from the medieval “biscuit bread”. Leftover bread dough was left out in a low oven to be twice-baked and covered in sugar and spices. Eventually the biscuit bread’s yeast was replaced by butter and supposedly Scottish shortbread is born. 

Peach Crumble Bars

It’s October! Or at least I think it is. You don’t always believe the calendar when you live in California because, let’s face it, it’s frequently hotter in Fall than it is in Summer. Don’t believe me? It was 102°F today! Fall is supposed to be the season of sweaters and pumpkin spice everything (yes I am a full charter member of the Pumpkin Spice Obsession Club so be prepared), not short shorts and tropical fruits. But, that’s California for you! So let’s indulge in a couple more summery desserts before we give in to all things pumpkin and cream cheese covered.

Yes, everything with pumpkin requires cream cheese frosting.

Peach Cobbler Bars

Peach Crumble Bars

Review: The T Room

It all started when some friends and myself needed food after a round of mini golf and found ourselves driving past a tearoom that wasn’t on my To Review list. So when my best friend and fellow tea aficionado came back from a trip to England, what better way to catch up than over afternoon tea at this little find?

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First Impressions and Service

Review: Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Welcome to an alternative Victorian age, where the Industrial Revolution has permeated society’s machinery and the supernatural may or may not exist. Welcome to the Steampunk Movement. Originating as a sub-genre of science fiction, steampunk has become an entire culture that combines Victorian styles with accents inspired by machinery and steam-powered anything. Think Sherlock Holmes (not the BBC version with the beautifully voiced Benedict Cumberbatch), The Time Machine, the 1999 Will Smith movie Wild Wild West, and the new stage show at Disneyland “Mickey and the Magical Map”. Oh, and it’s the name of one of my favorite local coffee shops that hosted its first afternoon tea.

 

Owners of Steampunk

Owners of Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

First Impressions and Service

I’ve been to Steampunk in its usual coffeeshop/delicious brunch incarnation multiple times, so I already knew to expect very talkative, enthusiastic, and friendly people. Even though the tea was put on by an outside company, my expectations were met! All the servers and chefs were dressed in true steampunk fashion. Their costumes were incredible, and almost felt like a Hidden Mickey hunt because so many of them had Disney Steampunk pins as accessories. Steampunk and Disney is a much more common combination than you’d think!

Steampunked Servers

Steampunked Servers

The tea was scheduled to start at 4:30 and I arrived exactly on time. This may have been an event that it was better to arrive fashionably late as they weren’t quite ready for tables to sit yet. A few of the tables in the back of the restaurant were still being used for sandwich assembly. It made it pretty confusing as to where to sit or what to do. There wasn’t a hostess and no assigned seats despite the tea being a ticketed event. Things felt a little chaotic. Easy solution for next time is to preassign tables or have one employee play hostess once people arrive to direct/explain things. Other than that, throughout the two hour event (and after it was officially over but we all stuck around talking) the servers were amazing and engaging and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

 

Décor

Steampunk (if it’s capitalized assume I mean the coffee shop not the style) already has a very distinctive décor every day. The walls are a bright blue that somehow manages not to blind you or be too obstrusive and serve as an eye-catching backdrop for works by featured artists. On a non-tea day the artwork alone serves up hours worth of talking points for you and your friends over Mexican Mochas. The tables are mixy-matchy complete with pipes for legs. Lots of that bright blue, lots of bronze, lots of brass, and lots of fun. There was no added décor for the tea event, but the patrons dressed up in their finest steampunk attire alongside the employees almost felt like extra decoration! It also can get pretty loud in there (all that metal doesn’t really absorb sound) but that actually made it feel more exciting and fun and you can still hold an easy conversation.

Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen

Steampunk is very much a coffee shop and café, not a tearoom. But as long as you aren’t expecting a ton of lace doilies and floral arrangements, you will find it a fun location. Remember, this is a themed tea! I’d have been really disappointed if they had broken away from their roots in the steampunk movement.

 

Tea Selection

Chef Justin Bastian (owner and head chef of Midsummer Night’s Confections) creates his own tea blends and served five of them throughout the event. Tea is brewed loose leaf (1 point!) and the servers walked around with fresh pots of all different teas, ready to immediately refill your cup. If the server at your table didn’t have the tea you wanted, they went and got a fresh pot of the one you did! A few times the teas were overbrewed and the servers would tell you it was one tea when it was really a different one (quite a shocker to drink a lemongrass tisane when you were anticipating a raspberry black tea). Those are just kinks that will be worked out at the next event. As for flavor, the teas were all amazing! I tried all five and had a hard time making up my mind as to my favorite. I might have had 12 cups of tea over the meal. Each tea was a unique twist on a traditional tea flavor and were made up of tea leaves, dried fruits, herbs, and other flavorings. Nothing was artificial. Everything was delicious.

A quick rundown of the teas:

  • Lavendar Grey: Earl Grey Moonlight, Irish Breakfast, Assam, Lavendar, Marigold flowers, a very robust black tea that was one of my favorites. Lavender is a very pronounced flavor in this tea.
  • Gaslight Floral Chai: Pu-erh Tahiti, Chocolate Chai, Spearmint, Hibiscus, Cornflowers, another robust tea, strong chai notes are mellowed out with the spearmint and flowers, excellent with a touch of sugar.
  • Viscount’s Strawberries and Cream: Assam, Wild Strawberry, Cream, Rosehips, another favorite, more mellow black tea, strawberries and cream flavor very pronounced. The chef said some people actually mix the clotted cream into this tea! I wasn’t adventurous enough to try that. Excellent dessert tea!
  • Minerva’s Raspberry Caramel: Ceylon Sonata, Caramel, Rooibos, Jasmine, Orange Peels, Raspberry, an unexpectedly delicious combination, great option for a dessert tea, enjoy as is or with cream and sugar.
  • Chamberlain’s Tisane: Chamomile, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, a good caffeine free option, but I don’t like chamomile so personally didn’t like this tea.

 

Food

IMG_5247When I say everything on this menu was homemade, I mean everything, down to the mayonnaise in the chicken salad. The theme of the food seemed to be “Slight Twist on Tradition” mixed with “What Flower Can I Put In This (insert food item)”. Everything was well balanced in flavor, fresh, and well-portioned. This tea was a set menu of savories, scones, and desserts. All the food was brought out at once and it was up to your discretion as to which order to eat everything.

Sandwiches

Ham and Apple

Ham and Apple

The ham and apple jam on squaw bread was a nice change from the more common pairings of ham-and-cranberry-sauce and ham-and-cheese. The apple jam stood up to the heartier ham slices and the squaw bread was soft with the right amount of flavor. Personally, this sandwich felt too large, but really that is only because it was a pure half of a sandwich instead of two fourths. Mathematically the same, presentation not so much. While tasty, this was the most forgettable item on the menu. It was more of a standard fare that just filled up a slot on the menu.

Cucumber Cream Cheese

Cucumber Cream Cheese

Every tea has to have a cucumber sandwich, right? This cucumber sandwich was perfection. There was the perfect ratio of cream cheese to cucumber; the cucumbers were cut into thick slices so you actually felt the freshness and taste of cucumber instead of those watery shreds so many tea sandwiches use. The bread was a beautiful, thick French bread that had an actual crust to it! Yes tea is supposed to be a light food affair, but sometimes the airy white bread that is normally used with cucumber sandwiches makes you feel like you are eating…well…air. This sandwich had substance and therefore has my approval. Oh and the cream cheese, I could eat it all day. In the flower theme, the cream cheese was a rose-mint cream cheese that wasn’t too floral or too herbaceous or to tangy, just well balanced and not overpowering to the cucumber.

Strawberry Chicken Salad

Strawberry Chicken Salad

Alert the presses because I had chicken salad, with mayonnaise, and LIKED IT. With so many examples of my anti-mayo rants in these reviews, I am as shocked as you that I had no problem with this chicken salad. The mayonnaise is a housemade olive oil-based mayo which probably explains why I liked it. Strawberries added to the chunky chicken salad was an inspired touch, and the fresh basil leaves add that floral plant note more sandwiches should have. The bread was a white bread, but it had more weight to it than a Wonder Bread. It was still light enough to let the chunky chicken and fresh chopped strawberries shine. I would have liked more strawberries though!

 

Brie and Apricot Croissant

Brie and Apricot Croissant

The coup de grace was the warmed croissant with thick slices of fresh brie and homemade apricot jam. I can’t describe the cheesy, tart, sweet, buttery fantasticness (a new word I am coining only for this sandwich) with enough justice. They broiled or baked the croissants before they delivered them so the cheese was all melty and the jam was beginning to caramelize and now I’m craving it all over again. This was the standout savory options by far!

Scones

Currant Scone

Currant Scone

Out of the three courses, the scone course was the weakest, though still better than some of the other places’ I’ve been to that shouldn’t even call what they serve a scone. The first was a small currant scone that was a little overbaked. The bottom was too brown and the rest was a little too dry, but the flavor was spot-on British. There were nice layers to the scone as well. Bake a little bit less and it would be perfect. The second scone was a pretty big lemon-lavender scone that I know my dad would have loved. The lavender was almost too subtle (I really like floral flavors though) and the lemon was robust both in the scone itself and the lemon glaze poured on top.

Lemon Lavender Scone

Lemon Lavender Scone

This texture was better, lighter, and not overbaked—a good combination of dense and light. The clotted cream is the closest thing you are going to find to authentic, British clotted cream in an American kitchen. It was thick, creamy, not sweet, and a perfect accompaniment to the scones though the scones didn’t need it. The chef’s partner is Welsh and wouldn’t let him use the sweetened whipped cream so many teahouses claim is clotted cream. I approve of her, and of his clotted cream. Gold Star!

Desserts

Neapolitan Cupcake

Neapolitan Cupcake

Cutest thing ever was the Neapolitan cupcake baked directly in a teacup.  One of the moistest chocolate-vanilla swirl cupcakes I have ever tasted, swirled through with fresh strawberries and topped with the perfect amount of chocolate-vanilla-strawberry frosting. I have nothing to say about this other than pure perfection that I could eat everyday.

Butterscotch Cookies with Salted Caramel Frosting

Butterscotch Cookies with Salted Caramel Frosting

The second dessert was a butterscotch shortbread sandwich cookie with salted caramel frosting. The cookie softened over the course of the meal so by the time you bit into it it was soft and firm at the same time. And the frosting wasn’t too sweet at all! In fact, considering the main flavors were butterscotch and caramel, this cookie wasn’t a cavity-inducing sugar high in the slightest!

 

Steampunk and Chef Justin did a phenomenal job with their inaugural afternoon tea event. The food was fantastic, the setting eclectic and fun, and the people were so personable and friendly that I walked out of the tea feeling more like I was family than a customer. I can’t wait to see this event continue to improve and become one of the must-do events of Los Angeles.

Steampunk

Steampunk Coffee and Kitchen

12526 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607

818-508-1276

$25 per person, but prices subject to change with the event’s popularity

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