Second Helpings

Tea for Two: I had such a wonderful time doing afternoon teas at the Phoenician, Ritz-Carlton and Tessa's (see last week's Cafe column) that I couldn't resist taking another excursion.

This time it was to downtown Phoenix, at the Teeter House in Heritage Square, 622 East Adams.

It's one of the oldest buildings in town, built in 1899, and it's been charmingly restored. It looks like the kind of house Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth might have grown up in: lots of cozy little rooms; lace curtains and tablecloths; Victorian knickknacks everywhere; flowery wallpaper; a lovely enclosed porch; and an all-female staff dressed in frilly dresses.

If you get the feeling Teeter House's afternoon tea is aimed at women, you're right. The restaurant's promotional literature calls it "an age-old ceremony that the sisterhood of mankind has been enjoying for centuries."

Supremely confident in my manhood, I braved the estrogen-charged atmosphere and spent a delightful hour and a half wolfing down a three-course meal and several pots of tea.

Afternoon tea here may be pitched to ladies, but it's also pitched to hungry ones. You start off with a platter holding two ramekins of pates, spinach and liver, and a hunk of Brie. They're surrounded by enough crackers to feed every pigeon in Central Park for a week.

Next up are three kinds of canapes, nine little pastry cups, three each stuffed with crab salad, chicken salad and tuna salad. They're served with candied walnuts and a fruit bowl filled with fresh pineapple, honeydew and cantaloupe.

To close out the afternoon on a sweet note, you get to choose either raisin mini-scones, on which you can slather some excellent creme fraiche, or first-rate homemade shortbread, which comes with lemon curd.

Naturally, everything is washed down with vast quantities of tea. Teeter House offers a decent variety: English breakfast, Earl Grey, cinnamon and a house blend of souchong scented with jasmine blossoms. But, unfortunately, it's all teabag tea, which simply can't match loose tea for quality. And half the fun of afternoon tea is playing with the strainer, anyway.

The decision to have afternoon tea can't be made on the spur of the moment. You need to make reservations. Afternoon tea is served after 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and costs $11.95 per person. There's also a neat-sounding children's tea that features hot cocoa and kid-friendly sandwiches and cookies for $4.95. Call 252-4682.

Restaurant Update: Old Town Tortilla Factory (6910 East Main, Scottsdale, 945-4567) has recast its menu, and I found the refurbished list a tempting read. Gone are the "Around the World Burros" (Who'd order Italian sausage and cheese in a sun-dried tomato-basil tortilla?) and nonregional touches like pasta dishes.

The chef now labels his fare "Arizona cuisine." Among the more intriguing dishes: halibut in a sweet mole with a crab and pine nut tamale; trout, clams, scallions and juniper berries grilled in a banana leaf; and chicken breast in a tomatillo mole.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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