Sometimes a brisket-loving expatriate Brit just needs a taste of home, so we've sent our Englishman in BBQ Sauce on a trek to sample Dallas' version of cream tea. We hope Anglo-American relations will withstand the stress.
Deep down, I knew that Maudee's, with its understanding of appropriate tea and a vague idea of what should go on a scone (or indeed what a scone might look like) was the very tip of this hellish quest I now find myself on. I knew it. In retrospect, they should have won an award for that cream tea. This week, I went to Eden. Not Eden like the mythical garden where everything is wonderful. Eden like the place on Lover's Lane that has to be someone's house, and that serves a tea that is basically fraudulent.
See also: - Dallas Does Cream Tea? Bad Mistake, Dallas.
Now, before I turn both barrels on this tea, I should point out that this was not marketed as a cream tea. It is a "high tea." While that is quite different, a high tea should not only feature the holy trinity of things necessary for a cream tea (jam, clotted cream, English breakfast tea. Competence of scones is assumed), it then also requires several courses of cakes and cucumber sandwiches. We know how to live it up in Britain. We live it up with cucumbers and pastries.
We arrived, into what must be described as extremely pleasant surroundings on a glorious Dallas afternoon, to be greeted with a tea menu that listed more than a dozen teas, and no English breakfast tea. The tea that a large part of the world just calls "tea." They left it out. I could get cinnamon tea, or wild raspberry tea, or even Earl Grey, but tea? No sir. We don't do that here.
Thankfully, we had prepared for this in advance. We had scoped the place out, doubting its Britishness. What we did was bring our own tea. That's right. We brought our own teabags to a tea place. However, as is our custom, we felt bad about this. We had actually created the most British paradox ever. We desired our tea, but to insist on our tea would be rude. How can we thrust our tea into the faces of people in this woebegotten place? Isn't that what caused all the issues with America in the first place? So, we compromised with ourselves. We would grudgingly accept whatever they assumed passed for "tea" for the first course, and by the second course work up the wherewithal to insist on actual tea, especially as the second course contained the fabled scones.
The first course was confusing, mainly because it was a sandwich in which the filling was partially on top. When the Earl of Sandwich visualized his most brilliant invention, the sandwich, he did not think that, many centuries later, someone in Dallas would so utterly misunderstand the nature of the sandwich as to put part of the filling on top of one, thus completely bypassing the functionality and usefulness of the invention. He would have been appalled, even though there was a cucumber sandwich (WITH CUCUMBER ON TOP OF IT I ASK YOU), and these sandwiches, especially the salmon, were quite delicious. We accompanied this with Earl Grey. It was clear that today was going to be a bad day.
Nothing could have prepared us for the second course. A variety of pastries and cakes were brought out, and until our server identified what she called a "scone" we were bereft of ideas. Some sort of triangular blueberry cake was what we were faced with, and apparently, to create our normally very-easy-to-achieve cream tea, we had been supplied with strawberry preserve (accurate) and mascarpone (WHAT). Is this flavorless cheese spread a substitute for clotted cream, we wondered, and suddenly we found the gumption to thrust our teabags into their faces (chortle).
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Cheese on a blueberry cake? Are you quite insane? If this was Britain, this place would have been on fire within minutes of opening time. A polite fire, caused by an irate tea devotee asking if the proprietor would mind terribly if he stuck his flaming torch right in the goddamn mascarpone, but a fire nonetheless.
Bonus joke of the week: What's the best cheese for disguising a small horse? Mascarpone. That joke only works with the British pronunciation of mascarpone. You're welcome.
Comforting my wife, who, upon taking one bite of her "scone" had broken into a quiet sob, we soldiered through this course, which also saw such heretic baked goods as small muffins and zucchini bread, whatever the hell that is. Let's review. For a proper tea, we require a) tea (we had to bring our own or suffer flavoured tea) b) clotted cream (let us never speak of what happened at this place again) c) strawberry jam (present, but of average quality). The scone is assumed, which apparently was a misstep, because a triangular blueberry cake is not a scone. Who can cock up a scone? America.
The third course featured the most delightfully tiny chocolate cake imaginable, but given that we were minutes removed from an event neither I nor my wife will ever forget, and not in a good way, we don't really remember anything about it. Suffice to say, my wife has not eaten since, and spends her evenings holding her knees and openly weeping. Whether this is down to the tea or to being married to me, I cannot say. Next week, I have promised her, next week things will improve. They'd better, or this marriage will be over before you can say "Why the fuck do I have cheese on a blueberry cake?"