tea sandwiches at the Huntington Ritz-Carlton
Kathy contributes a report of a recent trip to visit two Pasadena restaurants: the newly opened La Maschera and the formal afternoon tea, a 99-year-old tradition, at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa.
La Maschera, opened earlier this year, is the latest addition to Old Town's Italian restaurant assemblage. Co-owner and chef Adnen Marouani adds Tunisian touches such as corn on the flatbread style pizza or tasty mini-lamb sliders with caramelized onion, spiced with cumin and coriander. At a recent eight course tasting dinner, paired with five Italian wines, we sat in the restaurant's attractive wine bar lined with cushioned wooden benches, softly lit by Moroccan sconces.
Movies are projected on the wall: that night it was "Casablanca" with French subtitles -- weird, but it worked. The wine list has more than 150 choices. We began with Le Carline, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, then the terrific crisp and organic Castello di Arcano Œ 04 Pinot Grigio from
Fuilli-Grave followed by an 03 Barbera and a elegant Super Tuscan.
Highlights included the lamb sliders, market-fresh greens topped with strawberries, dried prunes and a pear and orange zest dressing, the lasagne alla piemontese, the olive tapenade brushed rack of lamb accompanied by vegetarian couscous and the velvety tiramisu. There's a Happy Hour Monday through Thursdays from 5 pm to 7 pm with a seven reasonably priced appetizers, including those tasty lamb sliders ($3), and wine by the carafe or glass.
82 N. Fair Oaks Ave.
Afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa:
There wasn't a white-haired little old lady in sight, contrary to my expectations. Friday afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton however, was still a mostly feminine occasion. Spring dresses with flowery patterns were the outfit of choice. Tea is served at the end of the updated lobby bar: lots of mullioned windows with views to the lawn and upholstered chairs and settees to sink into. Although every table was filled, the tables are spaced far enough apart that other conversations don't intrude. There's a pianist and dulcet tones, so after sipping a spot of tea from Waterford china cups and partaking of the tea sandwich and pastry caddy, all worries evaporate.
There's no rushing here. I tried the Himalayan Peak Darjeeling Organic tea (bags, not loose tea -- not exactly traditional). In addition to the black teas, there's Japanese green tea served with popped rice (Genmaicha) as well as four tisanes. Among the precisely cut sandwiches, I liked the shrimp served on a round of sourdough with citrus cream, a sliver of Mandarin orange and micro-greens and the hard-boiled egg wheel on walnut rye. You can't escape the cream: there's caper, citrus, mini crème brulees and double clotted cream. I began with the currant scone, lathered with Devonshire cream. For my very last desert, after the assortment of pretty tarts and cookies, I finished with a tall glass of ripe strawberries, doused with Chambord, and of course, whipped cream. -- Kathy A. McDonald
The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa
1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave.