Fancy desserts -- fancy everything -- is fast going out of style during this economic climate. Newsweek is reporting that fine dining establishments around the world are cutting out frills. The frills might include tablecloths and fresh flowers... and amuse-bouches.
The Intercontinental Hotel Kansas City is keeping a few frills for its Oak Room, including a formal afternoon tea. It's by reservation only and the hotel prefers to offer the tea service on Fridays and Saturdays (although, one manager told me, they will make exceptions) from 2 to 4 p.m. If you're feeling flush, the tea is priced at $21 per person.
I'm not exactly a high tea sort of guy, but my elegant friend Lauren insisted that I join her and a few friends -- including a handsome British-born gentleman who clearly knew what a formal tea was supposed to be all about -- for the experience last week.
The Oak Room offers a choice of eight different teas, herbal and traditional, served in pre-warmed white china pots. Lauren and the others had a bit of champagne before the tea was served and noshed on fresh strawberries marinated in Grand Marnier and fluffy spoonfuls of Devonshire cream.
I felt as if I had stepped into a Merchant & Ivory film when the dainty little tea treats arrived: miniature sandwiches prepared with crabmeat or roasted vegetables, a plate of fresh scones and sweetbreads, and another plate laden with jewel-like pastries. After guiltily eating two fondant-covered petit fours, I really felt as if I should speaking with a British accent. Luckily, that idea passed quickly.
The server, an articulate young man with an encyclopedic knowledge of tea and pastries, fussed over our group as if he were the head butler at Kensington Palace.
After a modest assortment of those itsy-bitsy little sandwiches and teeny-weeny little cakes, I went home and ate a real, normal-sized sandwich.
The revolution is here: Let them eat bread!