The Biltmore opened in 1929. That's modern history to the Brits, given that the custom of afternoon tea dates to the 19th century, but for us, anything before 1950 is downright ancient; in fact, the Biltmore claims to be the state's first resort. We love any reason to skulk into the lobby and hang among the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture, taking in the tasteful décor (not to mention the hotel guests they're great for people-watching) but we'd clocked so much time at the lobby bar we figured it was high time to get some tea.
We were glad we did. So that you don't interrupt that lobby bar buzz, may we suggest the Biltmore Royal Tea, which includes tea sandwiches, scones, French pastries and a Kir Royal alongside your tea. We sampled the Bombay Chai, while our companion (a real Brit herself) insisted, as always, on the Original English Breakfast. "Breakfast" was served with the aforementioned salmon sandwich, as well as an assortment including beef tenderloin, ham and watercress, and cambolza cheese with wild berry compote in a coupelle tart. (Try saying that three times fast, after a Kir Royal!)
The sandwiches were followed by spiced currant and apricot scones, as well as banana bread. And then, dessert, which included pistachio truffles, bittersweet chocolate dipped strawberries and (our favorite) a pot of gold peppermint mousse.
After our afternoon tea, we were ready for an afternoon nap, but alas, we had to head back to the office. We did so feeling much more civilized, thank you very much.
Maybe it was because we'd cleared our head and our palate, but we've got to tell you, this is the best tea we've ever tasted. Full-bodied, but not too strong, we drank cup after cup and wondered how this place gets by with just one loo.
Good thing there's Mamma Mia, a fast, friendly pizzeria with just a handful of seats and a small counter in front of the brick oven.
Of course, they have whole pizzas, subs, strombolis and pastas, too, but we can't think of a better place for a cheap, tasty slice when we're in a hurry.
Run by New Jersey natives, Mamma Mia serves up an exemplary piece of pizza, with a thin, crisp crust, primo sauce with a bit of tomatoey sweetness, and just the right amount of cheese, all bubbly and lightly browned. Every neighborhood should have a spot like this.