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Best High Tea

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
7000 N. Resort Drive

STAFF PICK: Hedonistic Anglophiles take note: There is probably not a more perfect way to spend a late afternoon than at Ventana Canyon Resort for high tea. Served in the Cascade Lounge--a huge, airy, rocky, elegant space--high tea is not a quick beverage break, but rather a pleasure-packed meal and mini-vacation in one. From the crisp white linens to the silver and Limoges, Ventana's high tea follows the British tradition to the letter. Once seated, you're offered a pot of tea from the selection on the tea cart. Your server will then pour fresh water over the leaves of your choice.

As your cup steeps, three finger sandwiches are proffered, usually along the lines of an egg salad on soft wheat, smoked salmon and creme freche on pumpernickel, and cucumber and sweet butter on rye. After a couple of cups of tea, sparkling conversation with your friends, and the delicate sandwiches, your server will return to refresh your teapots and serve the perfect scones (perfect as in light, multi-layered but not flaky) with butter, jam and Devonshire cream. At this point your tea and sugar buzz has kicked in, leaving everyone and everything around you looking glittery and magical. The third course arrives on an elongated sterling dessert tray: Choose from such lovely and decadent treats as raspberry linzer torte, lemon curd tarts, and creme puffs shaped like swans-a-swimming.

After an hour of this, fantasies of moving to Europe (or at the very least making out with the cabana boy at the gorgeous pool just visible over the hedge) are likely to take hold. To cap it all off, the arrival of the bill (a modest $12.95 per person) is sweetened by a rich, chocolate and champagne truffle. High tea is served from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Reservations are recommended.

CLUE IN: For a low-key high tea, try Tohono Chul Park Tea Room, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Located in lovely Tohono Chul Park, the Tea Room's rustic brick hacienda feel is enhanced by fresh flowers and a trickling fountain. Tea can be ordered hot or iced, with the usual condiments--cream, sugar and lemon. Apricot-flavored tea is the most popular choice. Once beverage selections have been made, your server will arrive with two plates per person, one with finger sandwiches and pastries, the other with a large scone with jam and butter. Because all of these things are served at once rather than in the British custom of separate courses, there's a decidedly casual feel. From a refreshment and ambiance standpoint, the $8.50 high tea at Tohono Chul is a perfect way to enjoy an afternoon with friends.

CLUE IN: If you prefer the elegance of Ventana Canyon but the ambiance of Tohono Chul, then try afternoon tea at the Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St. Located in a spectacular University-area hotel that just oozes old money cowboy-style, afternoon tea is served buffet style in the Inn's library. This treat is only available November through May, but at $10.50 per person, it's an affordable and delicious way to rub elbows with uptown ladies and downtown couples, and to enjoy the charm of one of Tucson's timeless landmarks.

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