Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Afternoon Tea Obssession

Love it, love it, love it! I've always been one for snacks and munchies, and an official time cut out in between meals for elegant snackin' and munchin' is uber parfait.

My first real afternoon tea experience was at Claridge's in London February 2007, voted #1 by the Tea Guild in 2006.

The atmosphere was sophisticated yet comfortable. After trekking about London in our sweaters, jeans, and loafers, none of the staff glared at our unkempt appearance. Once we settled down in our seats and picked out our teas, finger sandwiches were promptly served.

From left to right: Dorrington ham with watercress, English mustard and redcurrant butter on milk bread; Hickory smoked Daylesford organic chicken with spring onion and honey mayonnaise on granary bread; Organic egg mayonnaise with tomato and mustard cress on brown bread; Organic cucumber and rocket with cream cheese on onion bread; (Not shown b/c we ate them) Scottish oak smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers on rye bread

Mum and I didn't have time for lunch that day so we helped ourselves to a second serving of these savory treats. Next, came the scones. I generally dislike scones because they're dry and hard. Oh, not these of course! They have a pleasant chewy texture, and coupled with the clotted cream and jelly? Heavenly.

Raisin and apple scones with Devonshire clotted cream and Marco Polo jelly

The pastries were nice, but did not garner many oos and ahs.

To be fair, we did hail from Paris, where desserts are almost incomparable save the pastries made in Japan...and we got the best of both worlds in Paris at La Petite Rose, opened by pastry chef Miyuki Watanabe (11, boulevard de Courcelles 75017 Metro : Villiers).

Millefeuille aux fraises et tarte aux poires avec amandes

Does good afternoon tea have to be some high-end, expensive affair? Of course not. I tried my hand at scrounging some stuff up just from whatever I can find in my pantry and fridge. I used 3 day old wheat bread that was sittin' pretty in my fridge for goodness sakes! I bought a bag of frozen Brazilian cheese rolls from Ana Brasil in Austin, which I decided could substitute as the savory "scone" dish. While that was baking in the oven, I collected all my opened jars of shmears, jams, and relishes, took out some ready to eat meats and veggies, and improvised my afternoon tea menu around the jasmine tea and chai shortbread cookies my brother gave me.

I started with the standard ham and cheese: wheat bread, Dijon mustard, smoked turkey, and a slice of Monterrey Jack. Next came the requisite cucumber sandwich: wheat bread, Dijon mustard, sliced cucumbers, dash of black pepper, and a dollop of orange maramlade (my favorite sandwich that day).

My last variation on the sandwich was with tuna: toasted wheat bread, orange marmalade, packaged mesquite grilled tuna, topped with sweet jalepeno relish.

And the end result? Mmm-mmm good!

The cheese roll did not disappoint. It tastes just like the rolls from Fogo de Chao with that wonderful pull best described in Taiwanese as "Q" or the closest Western equivalent al dente.

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