29
Jan
12

Afternoon tea, served 2 ways

That's a baby scone mounting a cupcake. "High Tea" cupcake from Red Velvet.

When I’m in Gallery Place, I feel compelled to cruise past Red Velvet Cupcakery to see what the special flavor is. They’re always coming up with incredibly creative concoctions, some of which deliver on flavor (like their Dark & Stormy, inspired by the drink) and some of which fall flat on execution (see their cheddar apple cupcake).

The current special flavor is called “High Tea.” It’s a cake with a ton of black tea baked in, orange cream-cheese frosting, and a tiny scone on top. Yes, that’s a tiny scone—not a piece of a scone, but a scone baked to be Smurf-size. While adorable to behold, the cake part tasted odd. Mr. X-sXe thought it was because they chose too smoky a black tea. I couldn’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about the cake part. All I knew is that it’s the sort of thing you consider interesting but aren’t dying to eat again.

While visiting my parents over the holidays, my mom and I went for afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, NC.  If I were a stay-at-home trophy wife, I’d make a point of going to afternoon tea every few months. It’s relaxing, fun, and something about the assortment of tiny goodies makes you feel like Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette. In reality, I go maybe once every couple of years. Point is, it’s kind of like the Melting Pot: a meal for a special occasion. You’ve gotta go with someone you can stand to stare at for a few hours, and definitely not on a first date. After all, it takes time for your body to acclimate to all that sugar. Plus, hot water refills for your teapot are free.

Washington Duke offers a fairly traditional tea service—cucumber sandwiches, tiny pastries, fancy chocolates. The best part is the freshly baked pecan scones with lemon curd, strawberry jam, and crème fraiche. So save a little room, if possible, because those come out last.

There were only a few other tables of afternoon tea diners. Most of them looked like tourists, not the genteel southern types in oversized hats that you’d expect. It didn’t make for good people-watching, but at least there’s plenty of food to keep you preoccupied.

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