Articles

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.

IMG_1573

First Impressions and Service

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?

DSC04875

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

Tea Cakes vs. Coffee Cakes

Now that we know what teacake is, can we figure out coffee cake? As in what makes the two so different? Now don’t give me the rote answer of you serve teacake with tea and coffee cake with coffee.  We don’t like simple here, we have to go deep! So begins the battle of coffee cake versus teacake!

 

#1 Coffee cake is one kind fits all.

As we learned last week, a teacake can actually be one of three or four different foodstuffs: a cookie, a spice or sponge cake, a yeast bread, or a soda bread. But a coffee cake is always a cake. Sure it might have a crumble topping or a cinnamon swirl (drooling yet?) or added flavorings but it is always in cake form.

 

#2 Shape matters.

Even when a teacake is a cake, it usually is in a circular shape unless it was baked as a loaf cake. Coffee cakes come in squares, rectangles, bundts, circles, basically whatever shape pan the baker had available.

 

#3 Coffee has coffee but tea has no tea.

Coffee cakes can also get their name from being made with coffee, but teacakes aren’t made with tea (though you can make a teacake that is tea flavored, it is not a common thing).  Coffee isn’t in the batter of every coffee cake, however it is common enough that it might be worth asking the baker if they use coffee in their recipe. I know I’ve made a coffee cake with coffee granules in the cocoa cinnamon streusel.

 

#4 One is served at Starbucks and other coffee/tea shops. One is served at tearooms and teahouses.

Guess which is which? Coffee cakes are more likely to be sold in local or chain coffee shops, the kind you swing by for that convenient breakfast. I order tea at Starbucks (their Earl Grey is surprisingly good) but even if they serve tea I have never seen a teacake at a coffee shop. Now on the flip side, I have only ever seen any of the forms of teacakes at tearooms and teahouses. I’ve never seen a coffee cake at one of those, so maybe the makers of teacakes and coffeecakes agreed to keep some distance between them.

 

#5 Teacakes are world travelers.

Teacakes—in any of the forms we learned about—are seen in the UK, North America, Latin America, India, Australia, Sweden…basically they are well traveled and well known. Coffee cake seems to be a purely American baked good, only really seen outside the US in American style bakeries that happen to have made their way abroad.

 

Believe it or not, I’m not going to give an answer to which is better than the other, because I love both coffee cakes and teacakes of all sorts. But I definitely don’t believe that you can only have coffee cake when drinking coffee and teacakes when you are drinking tea. You can have anything when you’re drinking tea. Why should we neglect the poor yet delicious coffee cake?

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern

IMG_1266One of the best parts of afternoon tea is its link with tradition. You get to indulge in a practice that has been around for hundreds of years, connecting with the past through a simple teacup. And though afternoon tea is mostly considered a British tradition, it has also been an institution in America since the colonial era.

IMG_1265This is where Mrs. Campbell’s Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg comes into play. Marking the edge of Virginia’s historic colonial town, Mrs. Campbell’s Tavern allows you to step directly into an afternoon tea party held during the Revolution. So get ready to enjoy a splash of history with your tea!

 

First Impressions and Service

When Colonial Williamsburg claims authentic, they mean authentic. Every employee is dressed in period outfits, and the tavern is no exception. The only daily seating isn’t until 2:00 pm, but while you wait outside on the wraparound porch, Mrs. Christiana Campbell and her friends will come out to keep you company while her slaves and servants ready your dining room. Don’t expect to talk about iPhones or what happened latest on your favorite television show; I was roped into a lecture about why I wasn’t carrying a fan and how carrying a fan was of paramount importance if I ever wished to find a husband.

One of the house staff

One of the house staff

Once inside, you are served by Mrs. Campbell’s small household staff in three courses. Service is pretty limited to taking your tea order and delivering the food, but you are more part of a presentation than a customer. Throughout the meal, Mrs. Campbell and her friends wander through the dining room telling stories of the current events and daily lives of the colonists. One person sings songs about the Boston Tea Party, and you really wish she wouldn’t. Mrs. Campbell instructs you on the proper etiquette of tea including how to properly hold your teacup. I tried her way, and although it is wrong I’ll stick to mine!

 

Décor

Restored to look as exactly like it did in the 18th century as possible, the dining room is all wood paneling and plain paint. Thank goodness the tavern didn’t use the eyesore bright colors you’ll find in the wealthy homes in Williamsburg. Considering you are partaking in a meal, those bright colors might have upset your stomach.  The tea set and other table settings are all accurate recreations of what would’ve been on your table in Revolutionary America.

Untitled

Tea Selection

The teas are all done in bags, and here is where I’m not sure how authentic the selection is. You get two tea bags (so you can do both the same kind of tea or two different types) at the start of the meal and they bring hot water out again halfway through. Mom chose the Earl Grey as always, but since I had a cold I went with a mango green tea. I really enjoyed mine, but I wish they had brought out more hot water when I asked because I was drinking my tea like there was no tomorrow. You’ll have a few options of black teas, a few green teas, and a few tisanes and herbal teas.

 

Food

The server reviews with the room as a whole what is served in each of the three courses. Unless there is an allergy the menu is pretty set. Instead of a tiered stand, each course is brought out one at a time and once the room has finished eating, it is cleared away and the next course is brought out. This takes pacing almost completely out of your hands, making you feel a bit rushed if you aren’t quite ready for the next course (I eat slow at tea time). But as it is more of a meal and a show, pacing is kind of determined based on the performance and less of your own stomach.

Sandwiches

Since only one of the offerings is really a sandwich, it’s almost incorrect to label the savory course as sandwiches, but I am always one for consistency. Only one of the four pieces is a vegetarian option, but since no one in our sitting was a vegetarian I have no idea what they do to accommodate vegetarianism.

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart

There was an asparagus tart with some sort of mayonnaise or mustardy cream and a few pieces of yellow carrot. Not the most appetizing option, the creamy filling overpowered any vegetable taste and the crust was a simple butter and flour pastry.

Smoked Ham on Puff Pastry

Smoked Ham on Puff Pastry

Next was smoked ham salad on a puff pastry. Between the smokiness of the ham and the relish and pickles, this one really reminded me of BBQ. Did they have BBQ in the colonial era?

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

It almost seems a requirement that there be a chicken salad on a croissant. I have the usual complaints (mayo) but the croissant was nice and buttery and the chicken was in chunks not pureed which is always a plus.

Salmon on Cucumber

Salmon on Cucumber

The salmon was less of a sandwich and more of a piece of salmon rolled on top of a cucumber slice with some dill. When salmon is involved, bread is superfluous anyway right?

Scones

The scone course had more than just a little scone on it; there was also a berry muffin and a cranberry tea cake. A dollop of TRUE clotted cream (you go Mrs. Campbell!) and red fruit jam rounded off the plate. The scone was small but had a perfect scone texture. The flavor was a but reminiscent of a buttermilk pancake, so I think they made the scones with buttermilk, but buttermilk pancakes are preferable to sugar cookies any day.

Scone Course

Scone Course

In the usual contradiction: Mom liked the muffin while I liked the tea cake. The muffin tastes like a cupcake with some fruit mixed in the batter and a sugary streusel topping. It is very moist but definitely sweet as a cupcake. I love how there were actual chunks of the fruit and not just fruit jam stirred in. The tea cake is your requisite pound cake; it was also moist and fresh. Not as sweet as the muffin, the cake had pieces of dried cranberry in it.

Desserts

Lavender Shortbread

Lavender Shortbread, Cake, Truffle

It would seem like you just had a dessert course, but apparently cupcake-muffins and pound cake didn’t qualify as dessert back in the days. Instead you get a lavender shortbread cookie with a delicious dipping of white chocolate, another cake topped with almonds and glaze and with a hint of marzipan flavor, and an absolutely decadent chocolate truffle that you will try not to eat the whole thing but won’t be able to stop yourself. None of the portions are unreasonable, so you can totally clean your plates and still be hungry for dinner by 8.

 

Extras

As I said, this is basically tea and a show, so be prepared for a history lesson along with your cup. But that is kind of the entirety of Colonial Williamsburg, and that is definitely part of its charm.  You’ll kind of wish that you were in colonial attire too, so luckily if you’ve bought tickets for entry in the main street of Williamsburg, you can rent some costumes for the little ones at least.

IMG_1284

Mrs. Campbell’s Tavern is a must experience for anyone in Virginia, but particularly if you are at Colonial Williamsburg. You won’t find another afternoon tea like this one!

 

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern 101 South Waller St., Williamsburg, VA, 23185. (757) 229-2141. Reservations required. Cost per person $23.95 tax and gratuity included.

 

Where Have the Reviews Gone?

I know it’s been a few weeks since I posted a tea room review, and unfortunately it might be another few…but I promise it’s for a good reason!

See a few weeks ago I decided that it was finally time to go back to graduate school, which means that I am currently cramming for a big standardized test known as the dreaded GRE. Tea facts are usually a quick little write-up, and recipes go hand in hand with baking being one of my big stress relievers, but writing the reviews takes up quite a bit of study time. So I’m sorry for the missing reviews, but I also promise they’ll be back soon!

555230_662815340418741_755615740_nSee? I even have another tea room visited while I was in Laguna Beach, just haven’t has the chance to write it up. But know that I’m hard at work for all of us!

xoxo

Review: Teaism in Washington, DC

I was on vacation! As many tearooms as I have found and intend on visiting all around Los Angeles, it was exciting to have the chance to expand to another coast. And surely with Washington DC being closer to England than is LA, afternoon tea would be a common find.

Teaism Penn Quarter

Teaism Penn Quarter

Not so much.

But I was able to find an Asian tearoom just north of the Mall for a quickie review. Teaism was conveniently located, yet there was the one hiccup of my dad and brother being along for the trip and they were adamant that I was not dragging them along to an afternoon tea. I told them it was for a good cause—you—but they continued to refuse. So due to time constraints, I was only able to pop in for a glass of tea and a scone taste; even from this seemingly meager sampling, though, I think I got the measure of the place.

 

First Impressions and Service

I had to relook at my map because this store didn’t seem like a tearoom that serves afternoon tea. I mean, there was a takeaway counter and the menu printed above the cashier. Eventually I saw the stairs leading down, so although I doubt there is a formal dining room a la Langham Pasadena, there is probably enough seating there to serve the proper number of courses.

I can see it being a popular lunch spot.

I can see it being a popular lunch spot.

Nothing was what I expected at all. You have to order at a counter and they call out your number when your food is ready. I don’t know if that is how they serve afternoon tea as well, but for a make-our-own cream tea the kitchen rang a bell when our scones were plated. Service is pretty nondescript. I asked a few question; the cashier made adequate answers. There was no warmth to the place at all.

 

Décor

There is a second floor below; maybe it's more formal?

There is a second floor below; maybe it’s more formal?

Everything is painted in nice, cheerful colors of yellows and oranges, pleasant but not too much as to burn your retinas. Bright woods and gray stone complement the design. The main room is laid out just like you would expect in a lunch café: basic tables and chairs spread out with no real rhyme or reason. The menu is in removable slats above the cashier and doesn’t have any descriptions of what you are eating; they have printed menus that are more detailed. Despite being an Asian tearoom, nothing is over-the-top Asian decoration. It just looks like a nice escape from the humidity of DC.

 

Tea Selection

They have a fair number of teas (and also beer and wine if your interested) in all the major categories. They put more of an emphasis on straight, nonflavored teas but there are some options if you prefer a taste of something other than straight Silver Needle. Everyday they offer unlimited refills of a house chosen black tea, green tea, and tisane. Washington DC was ridiculously humid so Mom and I both went with the Berry Tisane.

Daily Special: Unlimited Berry Tisane

Daily Special: Unlimited Berry Tisane

Lightly sweetened and mildly tart, the berry drink was so refreshing it was perfect. Of course, at that point anything iced might have made our taste buds do a happy dance. We attempted to be objective and both agreed that the dash of lime was very brightening and enjoyable.

 

Food

They offer an extensive meal menu, very PanAsian cuisine. For afternoon teas served only between 2:30-5:30, there is an Asian menu and a traditional menu. Again due to time constraints we couldn’t partake in a full service, so we stuck with tasting their only two scone flavors: ginger and carrot cake.

That’s right, no plain or cranberry scones here. No clotted cream either, you are served with butter and orange marmalade and honey. The ginger scone was rather bitter, not like the ginger scone from The Scarlet Tea Room, and texturally tasted like the scones had been baked the day before. Stale and crumbly, this scone was left abandoned on our plate after only a few bites. We just discovered that we like ginger scones, so it was quite a disappointment.

Ginger Scone; Carrot Cake Scone

Ginger Scone; Carrot Cake Scone

The carrot cake scone at least tasted fresh and moist. And it did taste like a cross between a carrot cake and a scone. I know, you say duh isn’t that the point? But so many baked goods or candies that are supposed to taste like a different type of baked good or sweet just don’t come close. These did. They weren’t overly sweet, had just enough spice to evoke carrot cake, and there were actual shreds of carrots in them. I think that carrot cake requires cream cheese frosting, so this might have actually gone well with clotted cream (or just give me cream cheese frosting in an IV and I’ll take care of the rest).

 

It may seem like saying we are glad we didn’t come for a full afternoon tea is a hasty answer, but between the unwelcoming staff, fast-food fast-meal atmosphere, and only one good scone, we doubt that an afternoon tea here would’ve been anything special. But some of their lunch offerings sounded tasty so I’d be willing to try the full service just for the experience.

 

Visit Teasim at 400 8th St. NW, Washington DC, 20004 (202) 638-6010.

 

Review: Scarlet Tea Room

IMG_0670Yet another street in Pasadena, California…yet another tearoom. I swear Pasadena has more tearooms per capita than any other city in the country. Guess that just means I’ll have to make plenty of trips out there, and if I run out of tearooms I can always come back to this gem.

 

First Impressions and Service

The Scarlet Tea Room gains immediate points for its red glass door. I mean, how much fun is that? It bathes the entryway in a red glow that quickly dissipates in the airy interior. The place was pretty packed, and the hostess was obviously stressed out because every party that came in asked to change their table. Apparently no one wanted to sit in the entrance room (where we ended up being seated), but as many of the tables were blocked for reservations changes weren’t able to be accommodated without a lot of effort. People were not happy but that definitely wasn’t the hostess’s fault.

The problem was caused by their reservation timing being off. I don’t know if it was because they use OpenTable to make reservations online and over the phone, but the restaurant would be nearly empty, fill up within fifteen minutes with a rush of reservations, and then empty out again all at once. For their servers’ and their hostess’s sake, they should have staggered those reservations more. Having these waves of people put the tea brewers behind, the kitchen behind, and thus the servers behind and the guests complaining.

Our server, Rebekah, was absolutely fantastic. Even though she was busy, she was sweet, friendly, funny, and very knowledgeable about tea. I really like when servers actually know about tea! Particularly when the name of the restaurant says “tearoom” I feel it is important to have at least some focus on tea and tea knowledge. Rebekah was also attentive, checking up on us frequently and making sure our drinks were never empty. When you make your reservation here, request Rebekah for the best experience.

 

Décor

IMG_0649The décor is nice and light, simultaneously airy and rich from the combination of creamy paint and dark woods. They have a bar area where they brew the tea to order and a piano near one of the windows. Think a fancy like a hotel but traditional like a tearoom. The space is subtly divided into three rooms: the entrance room in front of the bar, to the right a columned area, and to the left a mirrored and more ornate dining room. IMG_0650Everyone wanted to sit in that mirrored room, but again reservations were given priority.

 

Tea Selection

They have an entire page of tea offerings including black, green, oolong, white, and tisanes. All their teas are brewed loose leaf and they add hot water half way through your tea service to keep it warm and not bitter. The tea descriptions list both where the tea is from and some tasting notes to help you make a selection. But this tea page is only for their hot teas; they do have one or two iced teas prebrewed for the day if you would prefer cold tea to match the weather. Mom chose the iced Peach and Mango green tea and thought it was very refreshing.

Brewed loose leaf with a strainer

Brewed loose leaf with a strainer

I went with the Mademoiselle Grey—a twist on Earl Grey that added roses to the traditional bergamot and lavender—and absolutely loved it.  Another point in Rebekah’s favor was that she knew to recommend which teas with milk and which ones without it.  You can purchase any of the teas for $4 an ounce to take home.

 

Food

Three Course Afternoon Tea for Two

Three Course Afternoon Tea for Two

Apart from a lunch menu serving salads and sandwiches, Scarlet Tea Room has two levels of traditional tea service. The five-course menu consists of a sorbet, scones with cream and jam, finger sandwiches, berry Romanoff, and little desserts. We had the three-course menu of just sandwiches, scones, and the berries. I bought a little foursome of petit fours to try at home as well.

Sandwiches

The sandwiches are done in a you-pick-four manner and are each pretty sizeable, so if you come with a friend it is doable to choose eight different sandwiches and cut them in half. So many of them sound tasty that you’ll want to try them all! UntitledEach sandwich’s garnish is like a little homage to the overall ingredients of flavor of the sandwich, making for a delightful presentation.

Cucumber Watercress

Cucumber Watercress

The refreshing cucumber watercress has thick slices of cucumber! Since the cucumber is fresh and not pickled, thicker slices are the main way to achieve any cucumber taste when it is placed against cream cheese. But this sandwich not only had the perfect size cucumber slices and a light amount of cream cheese, it also had actual leaves of watercress. This meant you could taste the watercress, something that eludes most cucumber watercress sandwiches despite their supposed ingredients.

Walnut Pesto Chicken

Walnut Pesto Chicken

The walnut pesto chicken had a strong chicken flavor even though the chicken was minced. Maybe that flavor was able to come out because the chicken wasn’t pureed into a paste? The pesto was very heavy on the basil, and chunks of walnut gave a crunchy and chewy texture contrast.

Brie, Walnut, and Watercress

Brie, Walnut, and Watercress

Unfortunately, the promising Brie, walnut, and watercress sandwich needed a stronger flavor to stand out among the overall creamy taste. This sandwich is the perfect example of when a texture becomes a flavor note. Perhaps if they had added a fruit, like sliced grapes, this sandwich would’ve been bolder and worked better.

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Cream Cheese

Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Cream Cheese

The mozzarella and sundried tomato cream cheese spread was my favorite. There were thick slices of mozzarella to sweetly contrast the tangy sundried tomato, but it all melded together in this savory splendor. Add the basil leaf garnish and I could’ve had a few more of these finger sandwiches easily.

Proscuitto and Roasted Red Pepper

Proscuitto and Roasted Red Pepper

Mom’s favorite was the prosciutto and roasted red pepper. She loved the red pepper slices and how they were not overshadowed by the salty prosciutto. Most of the sandwich’s flavor essence came from the pepper, which meant that the kitchen had struck the perfect balance between savory and sweet.

Salmon and Chive

Salmon and Chive

The salmon and chive also had dill, and we all know that I consider dill one of the finest herbs to grace a sandwich, especially at teatime. And there was a substantial quantity of herbs on this sandwich as well as two thick slices of salmon! They did not skimp on ingredients here.

Pear and Gorgonzola

Pear and Gorgonzola

Finally, the pear and Gorgonzola proved what a pear and Gorgonzola sandwich should taste like. We were a little worried after the disappointment at the Langham, but this one was absolutely fantastic. In fact, when choosing our favorite sandwiches, Mom and I had to place the caveat of “aside from the pear and Gorgonzola” to make it fair. Trust me, this one should be your first pick. The great thing about this sandwich was that the flavors complemented each other 100%. You can taste each ingredient, both the flavor and the texture: creamy cheese, crisp pear, crunchy walnut, chewy cranberry, and soft bread.

Scones

Scarlet Cream, Lemon Curd, Red Fruit Jam

Scarlet Cream, Lemon Curd, Red Fruit Jam

Let’s start with the topping offerings. The signature “Scarlet Cream” was by far the most disappointing thing about this tea experience. It is a vanilla sweetened whipped cream that tastes like a buttercream frosting. The texture is nice and stiff, but the cream is just too sweet to top a scone with. The lemon curd was too tart, but the strawberry jam had a nicely robust strawberry flavor. Even so, these scones shone best when eaten plain.

Candied Ginger and Cranberry

Candied Ginger and Cranberry

The candied ginger scone had a strong ginger flavor that clashed with any topping, though it was wonderful on its own. A little spicy and a little sweet, the scone was unique and delicious. The cranberry was also yummy, and also best plain. Both scones melted in your mouth, but had the slightest crunch from a raw sugar topping. These were excellent scones.

Desserts

Berry Romanoff

Berry Romanoff

The three-course meal comes with fresh berries topped with the Scarlet Cream. Although too sweet to spread on a scone, the cream was quite lovely with the fresh fruit. It was a lighter dessert offering, but as the sandwiches were heartier than those at most other places, you really don’t have room for heavy desserts as well.

I did try their petit fours, but I thought they were overpriced for tiny squares of marzipan and chocolate marzipan. They can be skipped without missing out.

 

Extras

We used a coupon from TravelZoo for this tea. It was a two-for-one deal on their three-course tea menu that could only be used on a Tuesday. They do not sell any merchandise here, though they sell their loose leaf teas.

 

So far, this may have been my favorite tea place. The food was fantastic, our server was fantastic, and the atmosphere was pretty fantastic as well. There was very little we did not feel was worthy of a rave review.  If you only have one place to go in Pasadena, make this your first choice.

 

Visit The Scarlet Tea Room at 18 W. Green St., Pasadena, CA, 91105. (626) 577-0051. Cost per person : $27.00

 

Review: The Huntington Library Rose Garden Tea Room

Rose Garden Tea Room

Rose Garden Tea Room

The standard for tearooms in Pasadena and Los Angeles—according to the casual partaker of afternoon tea—seems to be the tearoom at The Huntington Library. When people discover that you are a tea aficionado and are trying all the tearooms you can find, they usually ask if you have gone to The Huntington yet. So at the behests of Once Upon an Afternoon Tea readers, I took the plunge and made reservations for this must-do afternoon tea.

 

Follow the Signs to Afternoon Tea

Follow the Signs to Afternoon Tea

First Impressions and Service

The first thing I noticed when we entered the one room restaurant was the noise, followed by the beehive of servers running around like rabid dogs were nipping at their heels. I understood that it was a Sunday and the place was full, but was it necessary to seem so panicked? A good server who is overwhelmed knows how to hide that from the customers. Server 101, Lesson 1: Your guests should never know that you can’t handle your section. Once seated, the server situation only felt worse.  No sooner had we sat then she ran over with a breadbasket of mini scones, rattled off the flavors, and pushed us into ordering the house tea. The entire hour we were there (and note most afternoon teas we do take between 90 minutes and two hours from start to finish) we felt like they wanted nothing more than for us to scarf down food, pay our check, and leave so they could flip our table to another party. It became an act of defiance to sit there and sip tea slowly. I personally would rather have an almost nonexistent server than one who overzealously tries to push me out the door.

 

Décor

IMG_4347The walls, curtains, and upholstery were all in shades of “old crazy cat lady” yellow, tan, and peach. The curtains were an ancient floral pattern in desperate need of updating. But the worst part of the décor came not from the paint or fabrics, but from the room’s arrangement. You are literally less than six inches from the nearest table with only the narrowest of walkways behind your chair for the mad servers to run behind. China is no china at all, but plain white porcelain? Whatever the material that typical restaurant plates and coffee cups are made out of? Nothing felt comfortable or inviting in the slightest. It was less a tearoom than a room that serves little sandwiches and desserts and whose only beverage is tea.

 

Tea Selection

What selection? If The Huntington had a tea selection, we had no knowledge of it. There is no tea menu (there is no menu at all) and our aforementioned pushy server immediately did a hard sell for the house tea. She never said anything about other options of tea, so we kind of assumed that there wasn’t another option until we heard her tell the table next to us—or rather on top of us—that if they weren’t going to succumb to her forcing the house tea on them, they could choose Earl Grey. By then we were almost done and the blackberry black tea was fine enough to drink. I wonder if she makes commission on how many tables order the blackberry tea?

Hope you like blackberry

Hope you like blackberry

On top of that, warming up the tea consisted of adding hot water to the tea already brewing and becoming bitter in our table’s teapot. I don’t understand how people really believe that adding hot water makes a difference in the bitterness of over-steeped tea, because it doesn’t. The tea is just as over-brewed with extra water as it was before the second pouring.

 

Food

The Huntington Tearoom does not do a traditional afternoon tea service, no matter what they claim on their website. Instead of the typical three-tiered stands with finger sandwiches, scones, and little desserts, they have a buffet in the middle of the room. IMG_0621While great for those with appetites that surpass a usual afternoon tea quantity, a buffet only serves to enhance the feeling of being rushed through like cattle for the rest of us. Note, however, that at the end of your meal the server will bring by a plastic bag for you to bag your scones to-go in, so eat your fill of the sandwiches and desserts and save the scones for later to get the most out of your money.

Take them away...literally

Take them away…literally

Sandwiches

The advantage of a buffet is that there are more options than most tearooms offer for finger sandwiches and if you like particular ones you can have more of those and not waste your stomach on those you dislike (no mayo for me! Extra smoked salmon!).

Grab only what you want to try :)

Grab only what you want to try :)

A debate between Mom and me arose with the Tarragon Chicken Sandwich (chicken, tarragon, mayo, walnuts, and celery on wheat bread): She tasted tarragon; I did not. I felt that there was too much of a mayonnaise and relish taste to the sandwich, but Mom still insists that there was tarragon mixed in with the nicely not pureed chicken salad. We did both agree that the bread tasted very fresh.

The Carrot Ginger Sandwich (chopped carrot and candied ginger with cream cheese on fig walnut bread) was definitely a new favorite that I want to recreate. It was sweet, more like a finger sandwich best served for breakfast than lunch, and the fig-walnut bread was a sophisticated take on cinnamon raisin bread. I had two of these!

Salmon Canape, Carrot-Ginger, Cucumber-Mint, Chicken-Tarragon

Salmon Canape, Carrot-Ginger, Cucumber-Mint, Chicken-Tarragon

Mom’s assessment of the egg salad on white bread was that the bread was once again soft and fresh, but that the salad needed more flavor. There was no seasoning or herb mixed in, so the egg sandwich literally taste like simply egg and bread.

The Cucumber Mint (freshly sliced cucumber and mint with cream cheese) fell victim to the not enough cucumber trap of cucumber sandwiches. Although the mint was strong and refreshing, without any cucumber for substance the sandwich was just too airy.

There is also an assortment of salads.

There is also an assortment of salads.

The smoked salmon (smoked salmon with cream cheese Dijon spread, dill dollop, and cucumber garnish on marble bread) was surprisingly good. I think dill is the best herb to pair with smoked salmon, but not enough places combine the two, choosing capers instead for that briny taste. But dill brings a touch of the pickled sourness of capers with a more refreshing note. This open-faced canapé was tangy, creamy, and worthy of seconds and maybe thirds.

Scones

Every table gets a breadbasket of mini scones in different flavors. The flavors are luck-of-the-oven, completely dependent on what the kitchen is churning out in mass quantities when you sit down. The table next to us received maple bacon scones and chocolate chip scones. We were given almond, cranberry, and apricot scones.

You can take them home.

You can take them home.

In hindsight, I don’t think it really matters what flavor you are brought, since they all sort of tasted the same. I liked how they were brought warm to the table, but since you should take them home anyway it doesn’t really make a difference. All the flavors were rather bland with only little pieces of their mix-ins for not much added flavor. When topped with jam and cream, they all taste the exact same. The texture was nice, particularly noteworthy since they were mini scones, which tend to end up over baked and dry.

IMG_4346The whipped cream is very sweet and fluffy (which I don’t like, see my clotted cream rants). I can’t comment on the marmalade because as I discovered at one of my first tea places, I really don’t like marmalade. These two toppings set me up for disappointment with the watery jam, but I actually was surprised at how tasty the raspberry jam was. It had a great flavor, not too sweet and not too tart, and its only problem was consistency.

Desserts

Dessert Buffet

Dessert Buffet

The brownie and the chocolate mousse cup were laughably polar opposites. While the brownie was rich, thick, and basically a block of fudge (nothing wrong with that 😉 ), the mousse cup was light and airy and shatters in one bit. Talk about dessert antithesis.

The fruit tart’s custard was rather bland, no strong vanilla flavor like so many excellent fruit tarts have, so it tasted more like a raspberry topped cookie than a fruit tart. I will say, though, the fruit they used was wonderfully ripe and fresh. You can taste that it was made that day and not defrosted from mass baking earlier in the week. The nature of a buffet probably makes a difference with that aspect as the food turnover is high.

IMG_0631The pecan bar was a disappointment, especially as I just recently learned at my job that I like pecan bars. Maybe that liking only applies to the pecan bars at work? This one was heavy on the pecan, but there was something about the filling that just didn’t work. I don’t know ingredients of pecan bars yet so I couldn’t put my finger on where it went wrong. And my crust fell off which is always sad.

Grab extras of the tea cookies. They are nice and crumbly like Russian Tea Cakes without all the powdered sugar and if you sneak a couple extras into your scone basket before the plastic bag comes, they’ll blend right in and you’ll have dessert to go.

Tea Cookies

Tea Cookies

On the dessert side was also an assortment of fresh fruit and cheeses. I like the addition of fruit because it allows me to trick myself into thinking that afternoon tea is healthy.

 

Extras

Stroll around the gardens before and then again after your afternoon tea. The Huntington has the most beautiful themed gardens and right now the roses are in bloom. And since you have to pay for admission to the Library in addition to your tea, you may as well get your money’s worth.

Untitled

I can officially say that all those who rave about The Huntington Tea Room need to try some of the other places I’ve reviewed. A few food items stood out as good offerings, but between the buffet style service and the being rushed and pushed throughout the whole meal, this place no where near lives up to its reputation as a must-do tearoom. With so many better tearooms minutes away in Old Town Pasadena, unless you are coming for the gardens, The Huntington can be skipped at no loss.

 

Visit The Huntington’s Rose Garden Tea Room at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA, 91108. (626) 683-8131. Closed Tuesday. Cost per person $29.50 plus cost of admission to The Huntington Library.

 

Review: The Langham Huntington, Pasadena

IMG_0212Today we take our first step away from the quaint and “Mom and Pop” tearooms and branch out to a whole new field of tea service: the high end hotel afternoon tea. Some of the most famous afternoon teas are served at hotels, like The Ritz-Carlton and The Waldorf in New York and The Claridge in London. These teas focus less on tradition and originality and more on…swanky. So attending tea at The Langham was guaranteed to be a different experience than we’ve had thus far, but in no way less enjoyable.

 

First Impressions and Service

We drove up to the valet and were immediately surprised and impressed by the employees. Although the hotel is quite upscale, the employees were not snooty but rather the epitome of friendliness. That may not sound all that shocking, until you learn that we were driving a Honda Odyssey that has seen nearly a decade go by. But always remember, you can never judge a family by the outside of their car.

An upcoming tea event

An upcoming tea event

Once inside we made our way to the tearoom and lounge, as always early for our reservation. So far every place we’ve been to has been able to accommodate us showing up half an hour early to our seating, and here was no exception. But we did have to wait until the lounge opened at 1:00 so until then we relaxed in chairs in the garden and courtyard. I could have lived in this garden. I wish I did. Can I?

Langham Gardens

The waitress inside the lounge was nothing special but nothing terrible. Her tea recommendations were obviously those of someone uneducated in tea, but hotel teas do not focus on knowledge of tea, they are all about the upscale experience. We never had to wait long and our cups were never empty, though we felt a little self-conscious pouring our own tea when occasionally she would do it for us. Sorry, but tea waits for no waitress!

 

Décor

Table Setting

Table Setting

Think swanky: open, airy, white tablecloths, silver utensils, floor-to-ceiling bay windows, perfectly landscaped courtyards. I was half surprised that there wasn’t a harpist or pianist in the corner. Every piece of furnishing, from the lounge area to the tea settings, was crisp and clean, with an obvious show of wealth. The room was so open that you could just drink in huge gulps of air. As many tearooms are cramped and trying to fit as many customers and flowers into one space as possible, the immense free space felt like quite the luxury.

 

The Lounge

The Lounge

Tea Selection

There are a fair number of teas and very descriptive tasting notes below each tea’s name to help you make a decision. The bar area is topped with all the teas in glass jars, which is a fun way to display them all.

New Idea...A Tea Bar Perhaps?

New Idea…A Tea Bar Perhaps?

But seeing the teas won’t help you make a selection. As always we went with one pot of the Earl Grey (The Langham’s is organic). The server—whether by experience, customer opinions, or employer’s policy—recommended we taste the Langham House Blend. This blend is a combination Assam and Darjeeling Black, and it was a good standard black tea that was very smooth thanks to the Darjeeling, but for Earl Grey lovers it still didn’t steal away the tea crown. For those who usually choose an English Breakfast or other plain black tea, even I recommend trying the Langham Blend. It is a worthy black tea (though how could it not as a Darjeeling blend?). The Earl Grey was a great choice as well.

IMG_0221All their teas are brewed loose leaf, and then the pot is topped up with more water once your second cup is poured. Apparently this is supposed to make it less bitter? We didn’t trust that, so poor Jenny bless her heart had to suffer some confusion. What did we mean that we wanted our teabags taken out of our tea? Did we want her to brew a new pot? She was a little unsure of what we wanted, but she did her best to accommodate what seemed like a weird request to her. The pots were nice and thick to keep the tea warm and she did brew us another pot once one became too lukewarm.

Earl Grey and House Blend

Earl Grey and House Blend

 

Food

Afternoon tea comes as a set menu, the only difference between the two options being an upgrade to a glass of champagne and strawberries with whipped cream.IMG_0233 We were already not starving, so we went with the lower of the two services consisting of only sandwiches, scones, and dessert.

Tiffin Afternoon Tea

Tiffin Afternoon Tea

And even then there was more than enough food, particularly the desserts. Everything was a wonderful gourmet twist on traditional offerings with some unique additions that I wish we could have every time.

Sandwiches

My biggest confusion on the sandwiches came from the menu description seemingly not matching the actual sandwich. Some ingredients were missing, I swear, or else were so minimal that they added no flavor and were only listed in order to increase the ingredient list and gourmet sound. But they were almost all fantastic, and oddly all open faced so the presentation was great.

Sandwiches, beautiful presentation

Sandwiches, beautiful presentation

The cucumber watercress had the thinnest slices of cucumber that I have ever seen on a sandwich. The “mascarpone mousse” topping the delicious squaw bread tasted more like plain cream cheese than mascarpone. And there did not seem to be any watercress nor crispy shallots as promised on the menu. This one was a bit of a disappointment based solely on the menu description, but taken as is was mildly refreshing.

Caribbean Shrimp

Caribbean Shrimp

My favorite sandwich was an amazing pesto shrimp on herb garlic bread. The herb combinations of watercress pesto, cilantro, and lemon zest really brought out the intended Caribbean flavor. And the herb garlic bread? Let me tell you it was probably some of the best bread I have ever tasted. Everything tasted fresh and refreshing. Absolutely fantastic in my eyes.

 

Egg and Proscuitto

Egg and Proscuitto

Mom’s favorite, on the ironic contrary, was the egg. Unlike most egg sandwiches, this one was not egg salad with mayonnaise but rather a hardboiled egg slice over a prosciutto slice on a potato peppercorn bread. As Mom said: anything is better on potato bread. But her favorite element was the addition of a green onion and a red pepper slice. She loved the different taste and texture it brought. “It all complements each other,” she said.

Salmon Sushi?

Salmon Sushi?

Much like I refuse to eat egg, Mom refuses to eat smoked salmon, so tasting this profiterole topped with “caramelized shallot caper cream” that tasted exactly like the “mascarpone mousse” as on the cucumber sandwich (making me think that both are simply plain cream cheese), smoked salmon, and caviar fell to only me. It kind of looked like a bread-based version of sushi. The profiterole part was crazy light and the salmon wasn’t overly fishy like some are. It was a disappointment though based on what was promised on the menu.

Last and pretty much least was the Asian pear and raspberry on pistachio bread. The bread was excellent. The pear not so much. Like the cucumber, it was sliced too thin to bring flavor rather than texture and the blue cheese mousse was nothing more than a little dollop on top of…more plain cream cheese. The half a raspberry was only part of one bite so it didn’t do much.

Scones

Blueberry and Cranberry Scones

Blueberry and Cranberry Scones

The cranberry and blueberry scones didn’t taste like a cookie, and didn’t taste like a pound cake! Revelation to American scone makers everywhere! Scones are a flavor not a shape! Both had the correct texture and stayed together well when dollops of cream and lemon curd were added. But neither needed a topping to enhance the taste.

Whipped Devonshire Cream

Whipped Devonshire Cream

We just used the cream because it tasted like clotted cream should taste, only was more whipped, and the lemon curd was so good that I’d be entirely happy to have it injected into my veins via an IV drip.

Might be the best lemon curd ever.

Might be the best lemon curd ever.

It was lemony and creamy, almost like a lemon cheesecake, but better because it goes on a scone. The preserves offered were Bonne Maman, basically guaranteeing that the jam was going to be good even though it wasn’t homemade. The lemon curd on the other hand…

IMG_0238Oh and speaking of pound cake. On the same tier as the scones was a Cranberry Orange Tea Cake, which did taste like a dried out pound cake. Pass on that.

Desserts

I have never seen so many desserts on one afternoon tea plate before. If this review breaks the 2000 word mark, it will be because of the numerous dessert options. Come here on a day that you have a massive sweet tooth to get the fullest experience.

A LOT of desserts

A LOT of desserts

The ice cream cone look alike was the best dessert. It was a vanilla cone filled with passion fruit mousse. The mousse was then topped with a dried apricot compote and edible gold leaf. The cone stays nice and crispy because you scarf it down so fast, but then you wish you had slowed down and savored it because there is only one golden cone on this stuffed plate.

Apricot Passion Cone

Apricot Passion Cone

The Strawberry Pistachio Gateau has a good layering of the flavors. You get a hit of strawberry flavor followed by true pistachio (not the ice cream pistachio that tastes nothing like the nut) followed again by strawberry and so on. The strawberry is more mousse and the pistachio is more cake and the whole thing is more deliciousness.

Chocolate Raspberry Financier Cupcake

Chocolate Raspberry Financier Cupcake

The chocolate raspberry financier cupcake was the weakest link here. My best description is a glob of sticky raspberry jelly in a mini cupcake liner, topped with a decent chocolate brownie, and a swirl of raspberry buttercream. Remove the raspberry jam and rename it to a Raspberry Frosted Brownie and it may redeem itself.

The crème brulee tart is fantastic for anyone who loves the taste of burnt sugar. Anyone? Hands raised? Hmm. Because it is such a small tartlet, the primary flavors are butter, flour, and burnt sugar. There is basically no taste of the crème part of crème brulee. Sometimes mini may be cuter, but full sized tastes better.

Cute, isn't it?

Cute, isn’t it?

The checkerboard chocolate and vanilla cookie may not have had an overwhelmingly strong flavor beyond plain shortbread, but it was too cute not to gush over.

French Macarons! One of my all time favorite desserts, and this coffee macaron was almost a perfect one. In terms of taste it was excellent. The coffee wasn’t overdone and the cacao nibs brought a nice bitter note to contrast the sweetness. The execution wasn’t the best as the macaron cookie dome was hollow. Bad batches can’t always be avoided, even by the best of bakers.

Finally, the white café torte was my second favorite dessert and I would’ve eaten two of them had I not been stuffed and seconds away from a sugar overdose. Take a tiramisu and combine it with a subtle spice coffee cake and give it the perfect texture and taste balance. That was this dessert. Heavenly for any tiramisu or spice cake lover, I promise.

 

Extras

There really weren’t any extras here to speak of, no merchandise or florists shop attached, the usual loose leaf tea available for sale. All I can say is skip the jam on your scones since they don’t need them and pocket the little jars of jam and honey for later use on your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—or your scones with cream and jam—since you definitely paid enough for them.

IMG_0227

The most important thing to be aware of when attending the Tiffin Afternoon Tea at The Langham is that this is not a tearoom, not a teahouse, not a bakery, but a fancy hotel with a dress code and a valet. If you anticipate an experience in line with its reality, then you are in for a delightful afternoon. Strolling through their little garden makes it wonderful, particularly if the weather is nice. But you will be sorely disappointed if you are looking for a place with expert tea brewers and homestyle fare. The Langham is decadent and stunning, but that is after all what you are paying for. And it is an investment well worth making.

 

Visit The Langham Huntington Hotel, Pasadena at 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue, Pasadena, CA, 91106. (626) 588-3900. Reservations required. Upscale casual dress. Cost per person: $39.00

 

    %d bloggers like this: