The Skinny: Dainty dining at The Tea Shoppe

By Wynter Holden

Sure, it's easy as fat-free pie to stick to your diet if you're at home weighing meat or eating entrees out of a box. Some dieters just give up altogether on eating out, but I say...screw that! So I'm looking for creative ways to help you stick to your diet while out on the town. In our culture, restaurants are about socializing, and I for one am not ready to become a reclusive old maid sitting at home with a cardboard dinner that makes an Army MRE look appealing.

How ironic then that I walked into The Tea Shoppe for brunch earlier this week. There I was, a rebellious tattooed thirtysomething in tight denim shorts and a low cut babydoll top, amongst lacy doilies, porcelain teacups and a dozen blue-haired women old enough to be my grandma. I thought about backing up slowly and walking out before the hostess saw me, but I'd skipped breakfast and my stomach was threatening to eat itself at this point.

The Tea Shoppe, 7005 N 58th Ave. in Glendale, is a quaint little eatery slash kitschy tea house; the kind of place Red Hat Society biddies drink Earl Grey and brag about their grandchildren. I sat alone at a tiny farmhouse table for two covered with a thick, faux lace tablecloth. Armed with camera and notebook, I was ready to test my first 'creative dieting' theory: It's hard to pig out when you're forced to be dainty.

The Tea Shoppe's daily specials were listed on an aging whiteboard in the front window. I opted for the quirkily misspelled 1/2 Sanwich and Strawberry Salad lunch combo (sans dressings) and a flavored unsweetened iced tea. I felt pretty good about my choice, but honestly, it was easy. The restaurant's small menu focuses on salads and basic sandwiches, so short of ordering the BLT with extra mayo and potato chips, I was pretty much stuck with a healthy lunch. Guess there's a reason why 90% of the folks there looked trim enough to fit back into their prom clothes. Me, on the other hand...well, let's not go there.

I barely had time to eavesdrop on the waitress cross-selling pie to another table when my food arrived, arranged neatly on a white china plate with a prissy floral border. Even the shiny silverware had fancy scrollwork on the handles. Now normally I chomp sandwiches much like I gnaw turkey legs at the ren faire -- two hands, three-point-five minutes and somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve napkins. This time, I used my fancy silverware to cut my half sandwich into four tiny tea sandwiches so I could eat them daintily off of my prissy dish. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, minus the hot red dress. But at least nothing went flying off my plate.

The strawberries on my side salad were so ripe and tart that I didn't need dressing, so that knocked out some calories. And I used low calorie, fat-free mustard as a dipping sauce for my tea sandwiches. Apparently, cutting up the ham and Swiss was also a brilliant plan, because it took me so long to eat that eventually I got full and only finished two of four bite-sized slices.

The verdict? Maybe it's time to take Grams out for lunch, 'cause dainty dishes and bite-sized morsels really do make a difference. I left a few sandwich bites and part of my salad behind -- and when my waitress dropped off the check, she didn't even bother trying to sell me a slice of pie.

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden