If you ever want to experience high society afternoon tea, you will look no further than the Ritz Carlton Phoenix, AZ. This luxury hotel boasts Bistro 24, The Lobby Lounge and Club Bar all available to accommodate your many gluten free culinary desires. We recently experienced this for ourselves at the award-winning afternoon tea with Jeffrey Hattrick, The Ritz-Carlton Tea Maitre d’. Words cannot sufficiently describe the memories we made, but I will do my best to give you a glimpse into this one of a kind afternoon tea experience.
Our experience began with the entrance into the lovely Lobby Lounge. The beauty and sparkle of many crystal chandeliers along with the most beautiful music being played by 12 year long Ritz-Carlton pianist, Nicole Pesce, invited us into a serene and calm world of traditional English afternoon tea. We quickly realized that this traditional English style afternoon tea presentation blended perfectly with the modern flare necessary to capture a younger generation and put to rest the old imagery of stuffy afternoon tea. Everything was already set for afternoon tea when we arrived which offered an even more inviting atmosphere. Upon being shown to our table we were greeted by the one and only, Jeffrey Hattrick, The Ritz-Carlton Tea Maitre d’. His Humphrey Bogart, classy presentation was a lovely addition to our experience. With his white suit coat and blue bow tie along with his genuine smile, we were swept away into the 1940′s and reminded of the cool, sophistication a true gentlemen portrays.
We began our experience by admiring the exquisite menu that uses Jeffrey’s Signature Blends and the talent of a custom paper maker to create a hand-pressed, tea-infused paper stock which is used for the menu covers. This alone shows the cutting edge innovation The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix prides itself in. Inside the menu we were enlightened by a little history of afternoon tea as well as the evolution of it. This was a lovely addition to the already amazing menu. We learned that the tea menu rotates with the seasons. This alone made me want to return quarterly! We went on to choose the tea we would be enjoying throughout our meal. With 24 different Rishi Tea selections including rare white and oolong teas and Jeffrey’s Signature Blends, there was a tea for every taste. I chose the Bergamot Sage, a lovely mood-boosting sage tea with notes of citrus and pine that are intended to work together to create a sublime blend. This was absolutely the case. My mother in-law chose the Red Ginseng Recharge, a rich blend of cinnamon, figs and roasted roots designed to invigorate. She said it was the best tea she has ever enjoyed. She cozies up to a relaxing cup of herbal tea every night and is very familiar with different flavors so this was a very sincere compliment.
As cooking with tea has become very popular in the recent years, The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix Culinary Team made sure that their menu best highlighted this technique by marrying the perfect tea with just the right savory or sweet edible creation. We began the meal with a gorgeous presentation of finger “sandwiches”. For those on a gluten free diet, the kitchen creates a lovely vessel using a fruit or vegetable that best fits the theme of each individual sandwich. Our first was the Cucumber boat with Jeffrey’s Signature Spring tea, Chrysanthemum Blossom Oolong, infused cream cheese. It was so lovely and fresh as if just picked from a meadow garden. Shrimp salad lightly poached in a turmeric ginger tea and served in a fresh, plump cherry tomato was next. The shrimp was buttery and rich with just the right amount of sweet Indian spice from the turmeric. It was amazing! Classic Ritz-Carlton egg salad in a hard-boiled egg infused with Serene Dream botanical blend tea was one of my favorite savories with the rich caviar and sea salt. I was in culinary Heaven. Goat cheese mousse infused with raspberry green tea and topped with a candied walnut all atop a juicy strawberry was the perfect balance of sweet and savory. The goat cheese was so smooth and delicious while the candied walnut was sweet and crunchy creating the perfect textural balance. Our final savory was the blackcurrant chicken salad with bergamot sage cream served in a crisp butter lettuce cup and garnished with a sprig of dill. This was truly the most flavorful chicken salad I have ever eaten. The tea infusion of each savory really set them apart from the traditional versions of these dishes. I was so impressed by the unique and distinct flavor profiles of each. Not one was similar to another, which was amazing.
About this point in our meal we were honored to be in the presence of a live serenade given to a long standing guest to afternoon tea by Jeffrey Hattrick himself accompanied by pianist, Nicole Pesce, who didn’t stop smiling the entire time we were at the Ritz which was so nice. Jeffrey sang his version of the Frank Sinatra classic, Isn’t She Lovely with style and grace. It was so enjoyable watching him smile so genuinely throughout the entire song. All we could think of was how much he must love what he does because he portrays it so well. After speaking with Jeffrey, we learned that he does love what he does and that includes singing. He sings every Friday night at Carefree Resort as well as at the Herberger Theater. His next performance there will be with Nicole Pesce on December 12, 2011 and titled, Spirit of The Season. Jeffrey has had the opportunity to perform with many amazing casts including the cast of Mary Poppins. Some of the other lovely songs we also heard from Nicole, on the piano, included Over the Rainbow, Somewhere We Love, The Way You Look Tonight, and Conte by Andre Bocelli. All were played with perfect precision.
Our next course was the gluten free scones made in-house (in a separate area) by the lovely Ritz-Carlton chefs who were not only knowledgeable about gluten free needs but were not intimidated by them. In fact, they are always looking to expand their knowledge and now offer vegan options for their diners as well. The classic buttermilk scone was delicious with the sweeter preserves and lemon curd. While the Summer Provence tea infused scone was a little sweeter and was excellent with just a little Devonshire cream. The lemon curd, Devonshire cream and fruit preserves were all served in an edible chocolate flower cup. Each was so wonderful in taste and presentation. The lemon curd was reminiscent of lemon meringue pie which I loved. The Devonshire cream was light and fluffy with just a touch of sweetness.
Our final course was the sweets course. We were presented with a lovely tear of mouth watering desserts that were as delicious as they were beautiful. We chose to eat top to bottom, so began with the White chocolate mousse infused with hibiscus berry blend in a chocolate macaroon. The crunchy chocolate shell filled with smooth, creamy mousse was the perfect balance of textures while surprisingly, not being too sweet. The presentation was absolutely gorgeous and showed the talent of the pastry chef. Next was the modern fruit tart with wild berry tea pastry cream. The tart was buttery and crumbly just as I would want from a dessert tart. The sweetness was balanced again, very well. Roasted banana panna cotta with crushed coconut oolong tea and topped with roasted pineapple sauce was a sweet delicacy. It was amazing in every way from presentation to taste. The tropical notes were especially enjoyable. The white tea peach infused shortbread was so delicious. With its crunchy shortbread topping and chewy center it was the perfect balance in taste and texture. The peach tea infusion made it a little piece of culinary whimsy. Our final sweet was a plump, juicy, chocolate dipped strawberry. The milk chocolate was smooth and creamy while the strawberry was fresh and naturally sweet.
Nothing was missing from this meal or this experience. It truly was one of the most lovely memories I have made with my mother in-law. I absolutely credit the great company I was in as well as the exceptional service we received to this one of a kind afternoon tea experience. We were there two and one-half hours and could have easily made it more. We loved that in no way were we rushed or hurried, but instead encouraged to relax and enjoy our time there. The Ritz-Carlton prides itself on being on the cutting edge in trends while also offering style and elegance. This afternoon tea shows that without blemish. The fact that gluten free can be done so beautifully is a testament to how amazing this resort and those working in it are. I have already referred many to this experience and will continue to do so. With tea being infused into every aspect of the experience all of our senses were awakened. Exclusive Jeffrey’s Tea blends, tea-infused vodka cocktails and seasonal Tea-tinis, menu offerings and even the tea-infused menu show that tea truly can be the star.
Afternoon Tea is offered at 12pm or 3pm Wednesday through Saturday in the lobby lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. The cost is $36 per person with Royal tea being an additional $15. Reservations are required and may be made by calling (602) 468-0700. Upcoming December tea events include the following.
Visit Jeffrey’s Tea to learn more about Jeffrey Hattrick, The Ritz-Carlton Tea Maitre d’, and his great accomplishments.
**This company provided me with sample product for review purposes on this website. I was not paid or compensated in any other way for my reviews nor was I required to write a positive review. These are my opinions and my opinions alone.
*We do not take any responsibility for the gluten free dining experience of others. As always, eat at your own risk as this is not a dedicated gluten free facility.