December 03, 2013
Afternoon Tea: The Rittenhouse Mary Cassatt Tea Room
A few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea, the kind that is served in the middle of afternoon. I knew I would have a free afternoon in Philadelphia so made a reservation at the highly rated Mary Cassatt Tea Room at the Rittenhouse Hotel on Rittenhouse Square.
The tea room is long and narrow but its high ceilings and a long wall of French doors make it feel airy and light. The terrace was not open due to the low temperature. All the indoor seating face the garden so I had a restorative view during tea time. Another nice aspect of this tea room was the friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Of the 14 teas offered, I selected one of the three house blends, the Duchess' First Love. Have you ever heard of an Earl Grey-rooibos blend? Duchess' First Love combines a "creamy Earl Grey" with rooibos, and Wedding Chai, "a black tea blended with vanilla and whole cardamom pod." It was really quite good!
I ordered the signature tea which included canapes, sandwiches, scones, sweets, and petits fours. For dietary reasons, I did not eat the tuna and beef tartares and the chicken salad puff pastry but they were enjoyed by Rotea and his sidekick. The shrimp salad on endive was refreshing and the smoked salmon with goat cheese was deliciously creamy. The salmon is smoked daily, four hours before service. The egg salad was perfectly seasoned.
The scone recipe changes seasonally. During my visit I was served pumpkin cranberry scones. The scone was not served warm though scones are baked daily. I was offered a second scone which I asked to be warmed. The flavor was improved. The scones were served with Devonshire cream, jam, and lemon curd. The latter was fantastic.
The finale was the sweets and petits fours. The four petits fours were a macaroon, a cannele, a short bread, and a madeleine. The short bread (buttery goodness) and madeleine were my favorite petits fours.
The best of the sweets (and petits fours) was the passionfruit pannacotta! (The staff generously gave me one to take away.) The raspberry tart, mocha chocolate cake, and gianduja were also good.
I recommend reserving tea at the Mary Cassatt if you plan to spend time in Philadelphia.
P.S. The harpist is a classic touch!