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Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Posted on: March 12th, 2012 by Amy Martin 2 Comments

Recently, I had a very exciting and long awaited visitor come to town: my cousin, Chelsie. Growing up, we were like inseparable sisters. Now that we live states away, our visits are far and few between. Knowing that I’d have her in my city for a whole week, I knew I had to show her a fabulous time during her first visit to Phoenix. I wanted her to fall in love with Arizona as much as I have… the pressure was on! One of our many girly traditions includes Afternoon Tea. I’m so lucky to live in a city with many tea room options, but rarely have someone to share it with. After carefully considering all of the tea spots with fantastic raves and reviews, I decided to book a reservation at Arizona Biltmore’s Tea Court for a traditional Afternoon Tea experience. The resort is lovely and full of Arizona history, so I knew we’d have a little fun playing dress up while taking in the beauty within the property. Our experience at the Biltmore was so incredible, I have to share it here…

So, on this special Saturday afternoon, we put on our dresses and heels and headed to the Arizona Biltmore for a bit of refinement. The Tea Court is just a step outside of the lobby area with oversized tables set with fine China (you’ll need the space for all of the sandwiches, scones and desserts you’ll be experiencing), and billowy chairs.

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Our  Tea Court table midway through the meal

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Surrounding tables in the Tea Court

The Court’s windows look out onto the front lawn, letting some sunshine seep in.

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Our view

We arrived for the seating at noon (Afternoon Tea is offered at only two seatings: noon and 2pm) and were lucky to find out that we were the only table booked for the timeslot (however, 2pm was completely full. It’s imperative that you call ahead for reservations)… which made it feel even more special as we could ‘Oooh’ and ‘Ahhh’ without disturbing any neighbors. We found our reserved table for two and were greeted immediately by Tea Sommelier Kevin Michael Doyle. I can’t say enough good things about this man; what a gentleman! The Biltmore absolutely could not have chosen a better sommelier for the program. Kevin’s knowledge of the history of High Tea, the tea menu, and his mouthwatering descriptions were half the experience of this priceless afternoon.

Kevin began with an overview of the format and a tease of the menu, explaining that the Afternoon Tea includes bites of everything listed on the foldout placed before us. Our only job was to choose tea pairings for each “course.” Truth be told, I’m no tea genius. Knowing that it’s almost always better to let the experts choose for me, we asked Kevin to select our teas for us. He promised us a black, herbal, and a white for the afternoon.

To couple with the first course, Kevin chose a rich, black tea: the sweet Black Currant infused with black currants and blackberry leaves. Chelsie and I adored this tea and quickly learned that Kevin could do no wrong. I was a tad skeptical at first, thinking this would just be an average black tea as the description wasn’t overly wow-worthy and its average black color fools you, but the minute we got a whiff… OMG.  Slightly sweet on its own, but deep enough to complement the first course.

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Tea China

Speaking of… the first course: a platter of tea sandwiches (bigger than the size of our heads) presented itself on our table with seven variations, two ‘bites’ of each sandwich per person.

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Platter of tea sandwiches

The platter included:

  • Smoked Salmon with crème fraiche and cucumber on pumpernickel bread, my personal favorite of the bunch. I loved the smokiness of the salmon against the dark and heavy toasted pumpernickel and welcomed the added crunch from the crisp cucumbers. A tiny dollop of crème fraiche and garnish of scallion completed its perfection.
  • Egg Salad with sea salt tomatoes and Bibb lettuce on egg brioche… and as Kevin prefaced, a tea party just wouldn’t be complete without an egg salad sandwich. Not usually a fan of the traditional sandwich, I could appreciate this one. Perhaps it was because of the rich and tender egg brioche.
  • Lobster Dill Salad on profiterole. Chelsie shocked me when she declared this as one of her favorites. It really was a lovely combo with chunks of lobster, fresh dill, and a spicy bite from the red onion, anchored on a delicate and airy profiterole. But, you must know, my cousin isn’t much of a seafood lover. Her praise speaks volumes!
  • The House Roasted Turkey with Arizona orange marmalade on cranberry bread was a sweet treat among the platter with its bright and tart marmalade and the cranberries baked in to its sweet bread. It easily won my approval.
  • The Smoked Chicken Fig with goat cheese on pecan-raisin bread stood out as an immediate favorite. Loved the pecan-raisin bread. I could have had 10 more of these little bites.
  • Lending a bit of Italian flavor, the Tomato Confit with broccoli-walnut pesto and house pulled buffalo mozzarella on caramelized onion focaccia caught my eye for its presentation. The concentrated flavor of the slow cooked tomatoes was perfectly rounded out by the creamy, fresh mozzarella. And the focaccia? Yum.
  • Prosciutto Melon Lollipops were skewered with honeydew melon balls and a raspberry – a classic savory treat.

After we caught our breath from demolishing that sandwich platter (promise, we were ladylike about it), Kevin continued the experience with our second tea pairing: an herbal infusion to complement the scones and pound cake that were about to makes its way to our table. He chose the African Solstice, a South African rooibos with wild berries, vanilla and rose petals, high in antioxidants, with a nutty and naturally sweet flavor. Its sweet scent of vanilla carried around our table for the entire course. We had several cups… in fact, if it’s possible to be “tea drunk”, we definitely were. I remember him asking if he could take away our pot to prepare for the last tea pairing of the day and we were quite territorial over our rooibos! The tea was the perfect partner for what was to come:

Honey-Cherry Snap Scones and Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake. The scones arrived warm while the pound cake was chilled and accompanied by these:

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Honey-Cherry Snap Scones and Strawberry Swirl Pound Cake

Strawberry Preserves, Raspberry Preserves, Lemon Curd and Devonshire Cream (don’t be shy with here. Take an extra dollop… mix and match too!).

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Strawberry Preserves, Raspberry Preserves, Lemon Curd, and Devonshire Cream

As much as I loved the sandwich platter, I wish I hadn’t enjoyed them so much so that I could have delighted in the scones more (lesson learned for my next visit). They were absolutely delicious and outshined the pound cake. My cousin, the queen of desserts, even agreed. Save room for the scones!

As if we hadn’t had enough deliciousness at this point, it was time for dessert. The final tea pairing was a white tea: Ginger & Pear, a quietly exotic and alluring blend of white tea and pear, balanced with a note of ginger. Meant to act as a palate cleanser, the tea was refreshing after we indulged in the Pastry Tower set before us:

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Gorgeous Pastry Tower

The tower included two each of the following:

  • Dark Chocolate Mousse Swan, the dessert that really “wowed.” Such a light, delicate pastry filled with such a sinful dark chocolate mousse. More, please.
  • White Chocolate Love Strawberry: One might think, “Oh it’s just another chocolate covered strawberry,” but this was one sweet, perfectly ripe and quite lovely.
Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

White Chocolate Love Strawberry

  • The Heart Shaped Shortbread Cookie was offered in the month of February (during our visit) as a special treat for Valentine’s Day.
Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Heart Shaped Shortbread Cookie

  • The spongy Pistachio Macaroons were to die for… the overall favorite of both of ours.
Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Pistachio Macaroons

  • A dark chocolate Raspberry Truffle, a lovely bite for chocolate lovers.
Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Raspberry Truffle

  • And, a gorgeous Vanilla Bean Brulee… another sweet standout amongst the selections.
Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Vanilla Bean Brulee

After such an impressionable lunch, there was nothing to be said but glowing raves. We took a quick walk around the property while I showed off the Biltmore’s pool and some of the resort’s features. Can you believe this pool photo was taken with my phone? It was gorgeous out there.

Lunching like royalty: Afternoon Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

Pool at the Arizona Biltmore

Throughout the rest of my cousin’s visit and even the weeks after, we are still talking about our tea experience. Of all the places I took her to show off my city, this afternoon was her favorite (and mine too). My only wish is that I would have visited the Biltmore sooner for Afternoon Tea.

For all that we had, the experience is priced at $36 per person for all three courses and well worth it. You may also opt for the Royal Tea which includes a Kir Royal or Mimosa for $46 per person if you want to step it up even more.

To learn more about the Arizona Biltmore and its Afternoon Tea experience, visit arizonabiltmore.com.

About the Author - Amy Martin

Author of Her Plate, Amy's love of food, cooking and all things culinary keeps her endlessly plotting what her next meal will be. Her pastimes include creating in (i.e. demolishing) her own kitchen and baking far more sweets than her tiny family could ever eat.

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2 Responses

  1. Posey says:


  2. Bonnie Jansson says:

    I have done high Tea at the Biltmore with a group of ladies for the past 3 years around Christmas time and will do it again this year, only this time we will do it in Nov. The bonus at Christmas, of course is the decorated tree outside as we’ll as inside!
    This is a wonderful,pampering experience.

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