WHEATFIELD – This clinched it: Although I frequently indulge in iced teas of various stripes, I am most definitely not a “tea” person – at least, not in the hoity-toity, pinky-raising, finger-sandwich-eating sense. I’m more of a “Mr. T” person, I guess.
To that end, I pity the fool who thinks they can satisfy me with finger foods.
We didn’t actually set out with the intention of partaking in the “high tea” festivities at the White Linen Tea House, instead looking for a spot of lunch and, just perhaps, a few of those popular new pierogi they had debuted at the last Lewiston Jazz Festival. Alas, it was a Saturday afternoon, and the daily lunch menu had been eschewed in favor of the increasingly in-demand “afternoon (high) tea.” We had no idea, but went along with it anyway – having a couple of bona fide teetotalers in our midst and all.
Truth be told, we had serious second thoughts when we heard that high tea carried a rather royal price tag – to the tune of $24.95 per person. But the process was explained to us in some detail, and it sounded intriguing. That, plus the fact that we were already there, were plenty hungry and had little time to go looking for something else. So we decided to give it a shot.
The Tea House is set “out in the country” off Shawnee Road, in an old farmhouse that’s been done over and also houses a nice gift shop. An antiques barn is located next door. Weekdays, the Tea House offers a nice, affordable lunch. The menu isn’t extensive, but is interesting, offering things like grilled pear or salmon and asparagus salads, gourmet sandwiches and chicken a la king.
On Sunday, it’s “brunch” day. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., you can get homemade casseroles, crepes, French toast and the like for $19.95 per person (half that for age 10 and under). It sounds wonderful.
But Saturday, well, Saturday is reserved for high tea. The experience starts off with tea, strangely enough. A pot of tea, of your choice, for each reveler. There are oodles (is that an acceptable tea term?) to choose from, and you get a cute little timer so that yours steeps for just the right amount of time. I doubled my suggested time – tasted like vaguely flavored water prior to that.
My refinement level needs work, I think ...
Following was a salad, but not just any salad – the Tea House’s signature strawberry mandarin orange salad with cranberries and walnuts and a strawberry-raspberry vinaigrette. I have to admit, that was darned fine eating – a nice mixture of flavors that I really didn’t think would meld as well as they did. The dressing topped it perfectly. Only thing that would have made it better would have been a bigger helping.
Next came a three-tiered rack (two of them for the six of us) featuring two different flavored scones and fresh Devonshire cream; five assorted, homemade desserts; and a collection of “tea’’ sandwiches, including egg salad, chicken salad, white albacore tuna and cucumber with cream cheese and dill. At first glance, I thought the rack should have been just for me, but I realized that would have been “ungentlemanly”of me. So I shared.
Actually, I hoarded the tuna sandwiches. The crust had been thoughtfully removed (how “upper crust,” I thought), and the tuna was lightly mixed to a nice consistency and subtle taste. Others in the party considered it “too fishy,” but I know well the unique attraction of white albacore ... so I was happy to enjoy all of them.
Others raved about the cucumber sandwiches, saying that the cream cheese gave it a tasty and unusual texture. My assessment: OK. Nothing more. Didn’t particularly like the egg salad or the chicken salad, either, so I was happy to stay with the tuna.
The Devonshire cream was a big hit at our table – all smooth and lightly sweet, very high society, in my mind. I wondered whether Gene (the only other male in our party) was thinking the same thing. I took another swig of tea and watched as the females picked at the scones. Oh yeah, so prim and proper ... .
Finally, it was time for the desserts. I jumped right in, being sure to sample the pecan bar thing; the little, tiny cheesecake; the obligatory lemon cookie thing; the chocolate-and-peanut-butter ball thingy; and the marble brownie piece. Ahh, the common brownie, frowned upon by others in our group for its seeming ordinariness, but treasured by me for its moist, tender marble beauty. Oh, it was good! The others don’t know what they are missing ... their loss!.
We wrapped things up with some fresh fruit.
As advertised, we ended up taking some home – but not nearly as much as our waitress (tea mistress?) thought we would have when she was still selling us on the concept. Apparently true tea-types don’t eat nearly as much as we did.
Even though we took home enough desserts to open our own bakery, I couldn’t help but think that I had just paid $31 (including the required 18 percent gratuity) for a couple of tuna fish sandwiches. Sure, they were good, and all, but just how good can a tuna fish sandwich be?
The general consensus: a nice thing to do once, or perhaps on special occasions. We’d still like to try those pierogies, though ...