Monday, November 1, 2010

Sugar Cubes Tea Room

Sadly, the tea room I’m about to “review” no longer exists.  I had many a pleasant outing to this Bennington haunt, but early last year they closed their doors.  I saw on their website something about a move to Fremont, but then I checked back and that must have changed to simply “closed”. However, on their website they note that they still do catering for events.  So I’d recommend it if you have that option. 

I’d never been to a “tea room” prior to approximately 3 years ago.  Frankly, the idea never appealed to me.  It sounded to “frou-frou” for this “uptown” chick.  But the women’s ministry team from our church that I was working with at the time thought that might be a good location for a ladies outing, and I agreed.  We were trying to incorporate all types of venues into these outings.  So we set it up and I arrived, ready to be underwhelmed.  I was surprised.  The venue was cute: a little old house on Bennington’s main street, complete with a gazebo in the far back corner of the dining room.  (Yes, inside.)  There were several different seating areas and the place was packed with women from our church, excited about this kind of offering.  The service was good and the options were scrumptious.  I like tea, especially with milk & sugar.  (Thank you, Mandy Smith, for introducing me to this finer style.)  And Sugar Cubes had tea options galore.  I think I had the Tutti Fruiti, maybe.  I know I had that on one occasion, at least. 

Here is a sample menu from their website, which pretty accurately portrays the food you are served:

Fresh Fruit
Cool Cucumber Dip with Pita Chips
Scones and Welsh Cakes with Devonshire Cream and Jam
Rosemary Chicken Salad in Cucumber Cups
Salmon and Dill Quiche
Roasted Turkey and Spinach on Foccacia
Raspberry Truffle
Bread Pudding with caramel sauce
Choice of two teas.

Recognize that from the list above, only the desserts are options you have to choose from.  Otherwise, you get everything listed on that menu.  For about $15 a person, which isn’t cheap, but the food was good enough to command that every once in awhile, especially considering how much food you get for your money.  And did I mention it’s all good?  The Cool Cucumber Dip with Pita Chips was amazing – creamy yet tangy and light somehow.  This girl is not a fan of scones, as they’re usually the driest of the bread offerings around.  But the Devonshire Cream – some kind of rich, light exotic cream that combines the textures and tastes of cream cheese & sour cream – really makes the scones much more palatable.  I can usually do without rosemary.  I like the flavor, but the texture is much too close to grass in my experience.  So unless it’s chopped up finely or ground, you can skip it.  However, the Rosemary Chicken Salad in Cucumber Cups is a nice delicate offering.  I still take issue with the texture of rosemary in general, but find it less irritating in this dish than in some.  Every time I’ve gone to Sugar Cubes (approximately 4, perhaps), I’ve had a different kind of quiche.  And I’ve really liked them all.  I think my favorite was a bleu cheese quiche that at first was a bit off-putting.  I’m not always a huge fan of strong cheese and I don’t think I’d ever had bleu cheese prior.  But after several bites, I really enjoyed the strength of the cheese in relation to the mildness of the quiche.  And several months later I woke up really craving this, only to find out that the tea room had closed.  I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment. 

In any case, my favorite offering of their menu is probably the bread pudding.  And yes, I do not like bread.  I’d never had bread pudding before attempting it here.  I was very skeptical.  And very surprised.  I loved it!  It’s much more like a custard than bread.  (Due to the large amount of eggs added to it.)  And Sugar Cubes made their own caramel sauce that they drizzled over it.  So good!  A warm, tasty treat.  However, I ordered this on every occasion, and once – to my horror – they’d made it with raisins (apparently a traditional ingredient to bread pudding, but a tradition I believe should go the way of petticoats) and whole wheat bread.  I think that was also the time the cook burnt the caramel sauce.  So sad. 

The food was always good at Sugar Cubes.  However, the service was not.  The owner apparently had a difficult time of finding good help and keeping organized.  She didn’t always keep good record of reservations, or at least didn’t refer back to her records well.  At least twice she had waitresses not show up or call in sick when I was there.  And several times we waited (& waited & waited) for long periods of time to get our food.  I believe it took 2 ½ hours for our whole meal once.  Granted, this type of meal comes in many courses, so that 2 ½ hours was stretched across those courses.  But even given that, it was a long wait period at times.  I really felt for the owner, but she was clearly unorganized and contributed some to the mess of it all.  A most pleasant woman, though.  She did the cooking too.  And she was good.  I think if she’d had a manager and could just do the cooking, she’d have been well off.  But in this age of economic crisis, I’m sure a tea room in the little town of Bennington, Nebraska, just couldn’t make it for long, especially with some of the service issues.  Which is a shame.  I loved taking friends and family there.  It was always a fun time to get away, just us girls.  (The first time, with the women’s ministry ladies, was one of the best times I’ve had – us girls had some very lengthy conversations about topics we don’t normally discuss but that were meaningful and frank.  Maybe that’s why this place has such a warm place in my heart.)  I’d had plans to take my sister, my niece and my sister-in-law there.  Maybe we’ll have it catered instead. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the raisins. I also hadn't partaken in the bread pudding desert until moving out here. For some reason it seems to be more popular in these parts than where we grew up in Iowa. Raisins are a real spoiler though...