There aren't many places to while away a couple of hours at a formal tea accompanied by live music for less than $20. That's probably why cognoscenti make reservations for the 60-seat tearoom in the Mansion at Strathmore a month or so in advance.
There, in the walnut-paneled music room of the turn-of-the-century home, a two-course tea is served every Tuesday and Wednesday at 1 p.m.
The tradition of afternoon tea at the Strathmore mansion was initiated in 1985 by a group of volunteers who prepared the food, served it and recruited volunteer musicians. This winter, a new menu was created by the Music Center and Mansion's executive chef Bruce Barnes, who held the same position at the American Museum of Natural History before he came to Strathmore. Both facilities are catered by Restaurant Associates.
Apart from Barnes, tearoom manager Anne Mizoguchi relies on volunteers for just about everything -- collecting the china and silver on the table, making the tea cozies, serving. And professional musicians (pianists, harpists, guitarists) still volunteer their time.
The four rotating menus include updated versions of traditional tea sandwiches (curried chicken with apricot chutney; tomato, cucumber and radish with lemon mayonnaise); tarts (leek, onion and fontina; roasted tomato and mascarpone); fruit scones; fresh fruit and assorted pastries. The tea served is an aromatic, medium-body blend of Chinese and Indian black teas that was developed for Strathmore by tea blenders Harney & Sons.
The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike (Route 355) in North Bethesda, is accessible via the Grosvenor-Strathmore Station on Metro's Red Line. Parking is available. Tickets for tea are $17 plus tax. Specialty teas are $22 plus tax. For reservations, call 301-581-5108.
-- Judith Weinraub