First Takes: Tea for Sixty

Paseo Palms Bar & Grill

Janice Kleinschmidt. Arts & Entertainment

Christy Arvin, Rebecca Drue, and Susie Peat enjoy High Tea at Paseo Palms Bar & Grill
Robert Caldwell

Add another indulgence to the desert resorts scene: Paseo Palms Bar & Grill in Palm Desert began its first season by putting its own spin on the British tradition of high tea.

On Saturdays, from noon until 5 p.m., the restaurant serves three-tiered silver trays with finger sandwiches, petit fours, opera tortes (mini cakes with almond paste and liqueur, sponge cake, and chocolate ganache), muffins, clotted cream, hazelnut cookies, and chocolate-covered strawberries. To wash it all down, Paseo Palms brews 25 gourmet flavors of tea (including cranberry apple, apple blossom, and white tea), prepared individually to order. Live classical music sets the gracious mood.

The ritual quickly became so popular that the restaurant had to limit the number of guests to 60 (reservations are required by noon on Friday because of the time it takes to prepare the treats). “It’s very labor intensive,” says Executive Chef Eldon Pico, “but it’s something good to offer the public, and we get a lot of great feedback.” Pico created a repertoire of finger sandwiches, such as lemon and cucumber, wild mushroom paté, egg salad with thinly shaved ham, apple butter and rose petal jam, and prosciutto and melon.

The service also includes a fruit platter and, for those who order the “royal tea,” a deli platter.

Women have come in groups from two to 28, says co-owner Darrell Kelley, who describes the high tea as a touch of elegance and leisure and class. Men, he says, are “a definite minority” among the patrons. “It’s a time to sit and chat and have ladies’ time out.”