High Tea at High Noon

Oscar’s Tea Room Makes Tea an Event By Mary Damiano

Me and Mom at Oscar's Tea Room and Gift Shop on Mother's Day

Me and Mom at Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop on Mother’s Day

I hate coming up with an idea to make Mother’s Day special for my mom. Restaurants are crowded and she hates crowds, but cooking at home doesn’t feel special enough. This year, though, I had a secret weapon, a place that I knew would be perfect: Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop in Wilton Manors.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Oscar’s, but it is now programmed into my phone so I can make a reservation at a moment’s notice.  I first heard about it last year and took friends there to celebrate my best friend’s birthday in August. It came very highly recommended—friends said the service was great, the owners were a hoot, and the food was delicious. It surpassed all of those expectations.

OscarsSPOscar’s isn’t only for special occasions; Oscar’s is the special occasion. Proprietors Craig and Kevin are from Stoke-on-Trent, England. Kevin greets guests and Craig prepares the food. Guests are greeted warmly with hugs and kisses, and they’ll remember your name if you’ve been there before.  The couple has been together for more than 25 years and named the tea room for their late dog Oscar, who didn’t make it across the pond. The highlight at Oscar’s is High Tea, a variety of sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres, desserts and tea. It’s $25 per person and it’s worth every cent. Reservations should be made well in advance for weekends and holidays especially, because the room fills up fast.

Kevin and Craig are gregarious and are a big part of the High Tea experience. They encourage guests to relax and enjoy, and truly experience the restorative benefits of an unhurried tea.  They are experts at pampering their guests.  The shortest time I’ve spent at Oscar’s is two hours, the longest is four hours, a Friday tea when a friend and I had a lot of catching up to do.  Dawdling is encouraged. Each table is beautifully set with crisp linen and china. Kevin and Craig’s moms worked in the factory where the china was produced and hand-gilded this particular pattern. The tables feature crisp linens and a cheeky salt and pepper set of Queen Elizabeth and a beefeater, which is also for sale at the tea room, which doubles as a gift shop. (The gift shop is an Anglophile’s dream. The bathrooms are an Anglophile’s wet dream. Don’t miss experiencing that.) OscarsTeaSandwiches

The first course is a selection of tea sandwiches and nibbles—the selection changes but usually includes some combination of egg and mayonnaise, turkey with cranberry sauce, pate, cucumber, fruit, meat and cheeses, salmon, roast beef, ham and quiche. There is also homemade potato salad and cole slaw. Craig serves the food and explains what each item is and his gorgeous British accent makes the food sound as good as it tastes. It is served with a complementary tea—ours was a traditional English Breakfast Tea that Kevin suggested. (Take his suggestions. His taste is impeccable.)

After enjoying the first course, Kevin served my favorite tea, a yummy raspberry and pomegranate—its fruity flavor goes great with dessert. Craig served the dessert tray: Sunday’s selection included a lemon layer cake; Victoria cake; a confection of Rice Krispies, peanut butter, toffee and chocolate; grapes, blackberries, fresh pineapple; plain, apricot and cinnamon scones warm from the oven with butter, clotted cream and jam; and, special for Mother’s Day, chocolate covered strawberries and a chocolate tart. A personal note about the scones: I never understood scones—I always found them dry and crumbly. Then I went to Oscar’s and was served scones with clotted cream and jam. The world of scones suddenly made sense. oscarsDesserts

Oscar’s feeds both your body and your soul. Every bite was delicious, I always leave surprisingly sated—we weren’t hungry for the rest of the day.  But after our luxurious two hour High Tea, we also left feeling refreshed, relaxed, and stress-free.  It’s the food equivalent of a spa day. Kevin and Craig made every moment of our Mother’s Day celebration special. They even decorated the cheery shop with a Mother’s Day balloon at each table, and slipped each mom the gift of a lottery ticket. If Mom wins, High Tea is on her, because we’re already looking forward to our next trip to Oscar’s.

Oscar’s Tea Room and Gift Shop is located at 1201 NE 26th St. in Wilton Manors. Oscar’s is open Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m, to 7 p.m.; Friday and Staurday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information and to make reservations, call 954-537-6011.

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe: A Hidden Gem

My pre-theatre dinner last night, Lomo Saltado at The Chimney House

My pre-theatre dinner last night, Lomo Saltado at The Chimney House

Steps Away From Broward Center Lies Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Hidden Dining Gem

By Mary Damiano

The stretch of SW 2nd Avenue in Fort Lauderdale between Broward Center and the railroad tracks is always teeming with patrons at the many bars and restaurants lining those few blocks. But right behind Broward Center for the Performing Arts, at the corner of West Las Olas Boulevard and SW 7th Avenue, is The Chimney House Grill & Cafe, a hidden gem perfect for pre-theatre—or anytime—dining.

The Chimney House is named for the restored 1924 house, which has been transformed into a very cozy dining room. The original stone chimney and fireplace is the focal point of the room. There is also an outdoor seating area, far quieter than the sidewalk seating along SW 2nd.

I’ve been frequenting The Chimney House for a few years now. The menu is a mix of Latin and Spanish flavors, including classics like empanadas ($4) and Churrasco Chimichurri ($17). My favorite is the Lomo Saltado ($15) a stir-fry of tender steak, onions and french fries with chunks of tomato in a light, flavorful soy sauce and served with white rice, although you can substitute the yellow house rice. The Turkey Meatloaf ($14), which employs the owner’s mother’s recipe, is also a great choice. Portions are generous and the menu is thoughtful, not overloaded and bloated, a sure sign of the chef’s expertise.  There is also a selection of beer and wine and a special House Sangria.

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe

The Chimney House Grill & Cafe

Service is pleasant and personable. This is the kind of restaurant where the servers recognize you and are professional yet friendly, and the owner visits the table to make sure his guests are happy.

The Chimney House Grill & Café is located at 701 West Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.  It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and closed Mondays. Take-out is available, and the restaurant features free parking in its own lot.  For more information and reservations, call 954-900-5352, or visit TheChimneyHouse.net.