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Number 74: Canadian High Tea at Zoe’s

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While I like to celebrate in the company of great friends and family, I seem to have established a tradition of treating myself to a lunch of local cheeses and charcuterie for my birthday. It started three years ago with my return visit to Rendez-vous des Saveurs de L’Outaouais (it is called Rendez-vous des Saveurs de Gatineau now). Then, the annual exhibition, to showcase food and wine, fine dining eateries, and culinary schools from the Outaouais region, was held in Gatineau’s Maison du Citoyen (City Hall). A colleague had invited me and Jenn to go with him a year before. Like the Ottawa Food and Wine Show, Rendez-vous des Saveurs is ticket based and allows you to sample food and drink from a large number of exhibitors. Even with the event now being held at the Casino du Lac-Leamy and this year becoming the first year that it charged for entrance, Rendez-vous des Saveurs is a great way to partake of a tapas-style meal for a relatively low price. To me, it is an opportunity to try great Quebec cheeses, sausage, pâté (including cretons or rilletes), terrines, and salt or smoke cured game meats and fish, all artesanal and locally made. That year’s favourite was lamb cretons, the quality of which, I have yet to taste again.

A year later, my better half decided to treat me to a traditional English Afternoon Tea at Zoe’s in the Chateau Laurier (1 Rideau Street), a Fairmont Hotel.

Chateau Laurier

Chateau Laurier

Zoe's Afternoon Tea Menu

Zoe’s Afternoon Tea Menu

Until then, I had only read about the ritual.

Before we dive into the Canadian High Tea Jenn ordered for me, which happens to be Number 74 in the Ottawa Magazine’s “101 Tastes to Try Before You Die” List, published September 2009, we must discuss etiquette. English Afternoon Tea is a very sophisticated affair.

Table Setting for English Afternoon Tea

Table Setting for English Afternoon Tea

Sugar, Only to be Added to Tea After Milk

Sugar, Only to be Added to Tea After Milk

There are rules for how to hold a tea cup (when standing, when sitting, and with or without the saucer), how to sip tea, how to “make” a pot of tea, how to pour one’s tea, and even how to eat a scone. Unfortunately, I have not found a definitive list. There seems to be no standard, but the following best practices from the “entertaining” section of the Suite101 website suffices.

  • It is rude to loop fingers through the handle. To hold a teacup with grace and avoid spillage, place your fingers to the front and back of the handle.
  • It is rude to draw large mouthfuls of tea. Tea should be sipped sweetly and with elegance.
  • It is rude to stir one’s tea in wide circular motions. Tea should only be stirred gently when it is poured, and with a economy of movement.
  • It is rude to leave a teaspoon in the tea cup. When not in use, it should be placed on the right side of the saucer.
  • It is rude to add milk to your tea after adding sugar.
  • It is improper to add lemon juice or cream to tea. Lemon juice may cause the milk to curdle. Cream may mask the taste of the tea.
  • It is rude to split a scone vertically. Split it horizontally and top with jam, if desired. If Devonshire cream is served, then it should be dolloped by spoonful on top of the jam.
  • It is rude to take large bites of tea sandwiches or pastries. They should be eaten with small and delicate bites.
  • It is rude to set cutlery down on the table. Forks should be set on the side of the plate.

Source: suite101.com

With such precise etiquette, why on earth would anyone partake of such of the ritual? Because it’s worth it! Besides being sophisticated, British Afternoon Tea is a multi-course meal, made up of many snack-size dishes.

Here is what a “Traditional Afternoon Tea” (then $27) at Zoe’s consists of:

  • Afternoon Tea Cake
  • Fruit Tartelettes
  • Cranberry Scones with Devonshire Cream and Strawberry Jam
  • “Dainty” Finger Sandwiches
    • English Cucumber and Onion Sprouts
    • Turkey Salad, Mayonnaise and Green Onions
    • Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese
  • Choice of Fairmont Tea

Traditional Afternoon Tea

Traditional Afternoon Tea

Regarding the Fairmont Tea, a very large tea cart wanders the lounge with a variety of foreign and domestic loose-leaf teas. It is impossibly burdened with everything from cisterns of hot water to extra teapots, tea leaf strainers and event he odd tea bag. When it arrives at a newly seated table, the people operating it graciously explain how English Afternoon Tea works and are very knowledgeable when helping you to choose a tea.

Here is what “Canadian High Tea” (then $37) consists of:

  • Port Marinated Peaches with Whipped Cream
  • Maple Mouse and Maple Tuile
  • Nanaimo Bar
  • Cranberry Scones with Devonshire Cream and Strawberry Jam
  • Open Face Sandwiches
    • Nova Scotia Lox and Bagel
    • Ontario Goat Cheese Mousseline and Fig Chutney
    • Smoked Quebec Duck Breast with Clementine Marmalade
  • Canadian Cheese Board
    • Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska
    • Aged Balderson Cheddar
    • Ontario Borgonzola
  • Choice of Fairmont Tea

Canadian High Tea

Canadian High Tea

To accompany my Canadian High Tea, I chose a maple infused black tea.

Maple Tea

Maple Tea


And, here is what I thought of my dishes:

Marinated Peaches

Marinated Peaches

My peaches tasted rather strongly of port, something I am not used to. It overpowered the peach flavour so the sweetened whipped cream had no fruit to pair itself with.

Canadian Cheese Plate

Canadian Cheese Plate

My haphazardly stacked cheeses, clockwise from top Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska, cheddar, and borgonzola, were fine artesanal cheeses. The Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska was soft, almost runny, and fruity. The cheddar, firm and sharp. The borgonzola, soft and mild tasting. Of course, these cheese smelled somewhat strongly, making my better half’s nose wrinkle a little. Me, I actually had a gastronomic high from eating the cheese board to myself, pairing bites with fruit and crackers.

Smoked Quebec Duck Breast with Clementine Marmalade and Nova Scotia Lox

Smoked Quebec Duck Breast with Clementine Marmalade and Nova Scotia Lox

Ontario Goat Cheese Mousseline with Fig Chutney

Ontario Goat Cheese Mousseline with Fig Chutney

The first two open faced sandwiches were topped with wonderful salt cured duck and smoked salmon. The bread beneath however seemed to have been left out too long. It had hardened and tasted stale. The goat cheese mousseline, while sharp flavorful and wonderfully paired with a honey sweet chutney, was definitely best eaten daintily. I did not, and overloaded my tongue with too large a bite, my eyes watered a little.

Cranberry Scones with Strawberry Jam and Devonshire Cream

Cranberry Scones with Strawberry Jam and Devonshire Cream

The cranberry scones were freshly baked, light, and buttery, a perfect foundation on which to spread jam and Devonshire cream. Devonshire cream is thick, very rich, and fatty (55-60 percent fat). As a “clotted” cream, it actually has so much fat that it does not need to be whipped. Its luxurious flavour and sweetness pairs well with a tart strawberry or raspberry jam. I would recommend heavily against eating more than two scones spread with jam and Devonshire cream on any occasion. They are extremely calorie-rich.

Nanaimo Bar and not a Maple Mouse on or in a Maple Tuile

Nanaimo Bar and not a Maple Mouse on or in a Maple Tuile

The nanaimo bar tasted as all nanaimo bars taste to me, something you buy at Costco that is impossible to finish. What came with it, was neither Maple Mouse nor Maple Tuile. It was an opera-style cake with alternating layers of thick egg-based custard and cake sponge, topped with a caramelized frosting. I had but a bite of each, no more.

For reference, Jenn’s desserts were even less inspiring.

Fruit Tartelette and Afternoon Tea Cake

Fruit Tartelette and Afternoon Tea Cake

The single tartellete’s fruit was somewhat watery and heavily over glazed. The tea cake was dry and somewhat crumbly.

In fact, the bread for her finger sandwiches had also gone dry. Like my open faced sandwiches, it too had hardened and tasted stale.

Save for the sandwiches and desserts, British Afternoon Tea at Zoe’s was a good experience. Mine was a tour of Canadian-sourced high end foods, the most enjoyable of which was the cheese board. My favourite, the Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska.

Soft, Fruity, and Memorable

Soft, Fruity, and Memorable

Total cost: $64 (before taxes or tip). According to the September 2009 issue of the Ottawa Magazine, Canadian High Tea at Zoe’s now costs $1 more.

As for my birthday tradition, I kept it alive this year by brunching at Murray Street Kitchen, Charcuterie, and Wine (110 Murray Street). There, I partook of selections from Murray Street’s legendary Charcuterie Bar, but I will leave that for another blog.

Particulars:
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
1 Rideau Street
(613)241-1414
Zoe's Lounge on Urbanspoon

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.

Comments

yannick

Impressive spread for a relatively reasonable price! I can't believe you didn't eat the nanaimo bar...

For the record the costco size servings of nanaimo bars are very much finishable if I am in the room, but then pretty much everything is ;)

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