Dallas Does Cream Tea? Bad Mistake, Dallas.
Cream Tea. It's very important to British people. That's why I capitalized each of the two delightful words that make it up. It's also extremely straightforward. Upon possession of English Breakfast Tea (which we just call "tea") and acquisition of a scone (I'm not sure what level I need to be describing this to you, really, but it's like a sweeter "biscuit"), one opens one's scone, and applies FIRST strawberry jam (or "preserve" or "jelly," if you really must), THEN clotted cream.
Kiernan Maletsky Look at that. It is FILTHY.
I've managed to cover this entire concept in one sentence. Admittedly, the sentence contained an unnecessary amount of brackets, but those brackets were for the benefit of an American audience. A cream tea doesn't need explaining to British people. It's just what happens. Also, they get pretty upset when it's not right, as the four pages of comments on this article will attest.
It would appear that some places in Dallas offer special cream teas, for which one must book in advance, allowing the eatery to drum up the required amount of posh. Obviously, this being Texas for goodness' sakes, they are bound to get all manner of things wildly incorrect, and so here we are. It's the opposite of my usual barbecue gig. I am going to go around Dallas and express my outrage at egregious breaches of social norms perpetrated via the medium of self-creamed pastries and leaf-infused water. My quest is as noble as the proud British scone. I will be accompanied by my wife, who, when I asked her for comment on how dearly she holds the cream tea, said
"We welcome diversity in our communities; our schools and our cities and our cuisine are far richer for it, but if anyone should try to 'modernize' the cream tea, we will fucking break their legs."
She's a darling. Our first brave contestant is Maudee's on Lover's Lane. First appearances are very positive. A big wooden door, somewhat out of place among the strip malls of Lover's, gives way to a very quiet, very cultured dining room with scenic paintings and china teapots strewn around. Perfect. I was fearing some sort of relatively bare dining room with ghastly music, populated with either oiks or rapscallions. One cannot consume a cream tea surrounded by excessive noise or post-1900s décor. You might as well ask me to speak a second language. Obviously, our token American is late to join us, failing to understand the importance of punctuality. The server sees that we only have three of four people, and, in a pleasingly British manner, refuses to serve us until said American joins us. We all feign good humor while dying a little inside.
Gavin Cleaver English Breakfast Tea, or just "tea".
When Token American Kiernan finally does arrive, our server simply assumes we all want English Breakfast Tea, among all the bizarre and frankly illogical choices available to us, and brings that. This is a good move on his part. He is doing well. The tea is not perfect, but it is better than not having tea, I suppose. Then, the obligatory tower of cakes, and two glaring mistakes become clear. First, above the acceptable-quality scones, there appears to be a layer of muffins. Muffins have about as much to do with cream teas as I do with the ideals of the Insane Clown Posse. Second, and far worse, next to the expected containers of strawberry preserve and clotted cream, some rogue element appears to have placed lemon curd. Lemon curd? What is this absolute insanity? What aspect of my cream tea necessitates the presence of lemon curd? Are you seriously suggesting I put it on my scone? With what? Cream? This is an outrage.
Once we have all calmed down, except Kiernan, who is confused at our horror, we continue (on the proviso that no one touches, acknowledges, or looks at the lemon curd) and, after the blessed ritual of applying the jam to the scone and the cream to the jam-scone, it is apparent that really, this cream tea isn't bad at all. It's a pretty good effort. We have the holy trinity of tea, cream and jam (obviously there is a scone, but if anyone manages to fuck that up then really, I give up), our surroundings are pleasant, our service polite and unfussy, the conversation brisk but not over-familiar. Wonderful.
Gavin Cleaver Eee, this were right posh, this were.
There is still time for it to all go tits up, though (you're welcome to that phrase, it's magnificent). Upon requesting the teapot is refilled, we are brought a pot that contains what appears to be raspberry tea. Raspberry tea. I have never even considered such a thing might exist. Fury building within me, it takes me several attempts to politely attract the attention of the server, before our American on the scene strides into the back with the teapot, as we have all spent the last few minutes spluttering and threatening to phone the Queen. He is useful for something.
Nevertheless, this is a break with protocol so grave that, if this were Britain, the gallows would be too good. Our server, who is very sorry, tries to make it up to us with pink fairy cakes, a garish gesture that simply compounds the error in a shade of bright pink so at odds with the rest of the dining room, we may as well have been served a flaming torch draped in a bright American flag.
Maudee's -- seven raised pinkies out of 10. Atmosphere very good, cream tea itself very good, but some frankly outrageous breaches of common decency, and a couple of baffling accompanying choices. Some tweaks would make it perfect.
Apparently next week, someone is going to try to serve me mascarpone instead of clotted cream. May God have mercy on all of our souls.