Teabag Party: High Tea at The Phoenician vs. The Ritz
Here at New Times, we're not exactly the tea-and-scones crowd. You're more likely to spot a tattoo or a death metal t-shirt than a frilly floral dress on one of our contributors -- and ninety percent of us have no clue which fork to use when or that Miss Manners strictly forbids twirling spaghetti with a fork (What are we supposed to do, suck it up whole ala Lady and the Tramp?).
Still, there's something alluring about high tea. Call us old-fashioned, but we're fans of anything that gives you permission to lounge your afternoon away nibbling tea sandwiches and scones while being waited on hand and foot. I indulged in two local afternoon tea services in hopes of finding one that will make you feel like a queen (or king).
In One Corner: The Phoenician
6000 E. Camelback Rd. in Scottsdale
|High tea at the Phoenician is an elegant affair.|
The Phoenician is like the Audrey Hepburn of local boutique hotels -- classy, refined and elegant enough to always be in style. Everything is bathed in shades of neutral ivory, from the
Armed with a mystery novel and a camera, I arrived fifteen minutes prior to my scheduled appointment and was immediately seated. Score one for The Phoenician: no waiting. The hostess seated me at a small table for one. Yes, the second oversized armchair was removed, making it glaringly obvious that I was alooooone. Sympathetic glances passed back and forth between the two large birthday party tables that I was sandwiched between, making me the creamy white center in a giant Pity Oreo. "I should've worn cream so I would blend into the furniture," I thought.
From the large tea menu I selected a berry white blend, which arrived in a lovely floral patterned china teapot a few minutes later. My server must've assumed I'd know through past experience or intuition to use the tea strainer. Instead, I experienced the joy of learning by doing it wrong the first time and ended up with a mouthful of tea leaves.
|There's no teabagging allowed at The Phoenician.|
The server came around with a tray of two-bite finger sandwiches in five traditional varieties including smoked salmon, egg salad and cucumber with cream cheese. Chicken salad on marble rye was a little heavy on the mayo, but the egg salad was fresh and the cucumber atop the cream cheese and white bread round crisp and pure. The smoked salmon was my least favorite, the sharp flavor of the salmon giving the sandwich an artificial taste that was too much like cleaning fluid for my palate.
Another issue was the pace at which the sandwiches were served. I was barely a page or two into my book when a server showed up with another sandwich tray in hand. The second I'd finish a sandwich, the tray would show up and I'd lose my place in the novel. And my stomach had no time to settle before the next course landed on my table.
Already feeling stuffed from the scones, barely ten pages into my book, the dessert tray showed up and two requested pastries were plopped on my plate. Stop this thing, can my stomach get off??!! It was worth the boa-constrictor-pants feeling to indulge in a glazed doughnut-like pastry with Bavarian cream filling, and the decadent chocolate round with chocolate ganache was mouthwateringly bittersweet, with a hint of hazelnut.
"Take your time," my server said when she delivered the check. It was the only time I didn't feel rushed during the one-hour meal.