Martha Green's Rustic Tea
The Eating Room
Redlands, Ca

It's called Martha's Rustic Tea, but there was nothing rustic about the delicacies served during teatime at Martha's Eating Room in Redlands. I was treated to an array of gourmet finger sandwiches, a quiche, pastries, and desserts, all arranged as delicious eye-candy for a food lover.

Known throughout the Inland Empire as a special place for breakfast and lunch, Martha's Eating Room is a delight. With their spacious eating areas complete with a full bakery as well as a specialized cake bakery, the red and yellow walls decorated with flowers, roosters, and the bric-a-brac you'd expect in a big country kitchen, the Eating Room is a treat to the senses. If the decorations don't give you the warm fuzzies, the aromas of freshly baked bread, a hint of sweet cake batter, soup, and other good things bubbling on the stove will.

While their breakfast menu includes temptations such as cinnamon French toast, waffles, and Eggs Benedict, and lunch offers unique choices such as Kayte's Sesame Crusted Chicken Salad, Cranberry Mandarin Orange Salad, and Nik's South Carolina Salad with butter lettuce, apples, pears, currants, walnuts, feta cheese and onion with tangy dressing, I was there for tea.

I'd read about teas and had seen them in movies and on TV, but I'd never been to one. Restaurants that serve them are hard to find, probably because of the time and effort involved in preparing the unique sandwiches and pastries associated with teas.

Tea at Martha Green's Eating Room begins at 4pm, Thursday through Saturday. First the server delivers a red pot of tea to your table, and then a 3-tier serving dish along with the sides that can?t fit onto the dish.

The day I was there, the top tray held orange-cranberry scones made with cran-raisins, and a side of butter and preserves. The second tier held an assortment of finger sandwiches: chicken curry salad on walnut current bread; cucumber sandwich on a special grainy white bread with a touch of their own cheese spread and a dab of ranch dressing; a miniature pulled-pork sandwich on a freshly-baked bun. The pork is simmered all day, Laura Leyvas, the manager told me, and served with garlic mayo. Egg salad in pita bread was another sandwich, and two others, I believe.  I didn't note all of them; I simply enjoyed the unique mixture of flavors. Laura shared the tea with me, as it's planned for two. Not only is everything made fresh, but the breads are baked on-site as well. 

The bottom tray was a decadent plunge into a dessert-lover's delight. Walnut caramel bars; cheesecake with caramel topping and dipped in chocolate; raspberry layer cake with fresh raspberries, then dipped in white chocolate; Russian shortbread tea cookies with pecans and powdered sugar, and one of my favorites, lemon bars with lemon curd and icing. I'm sure I've forgotten some, as the bottom tray was crowded with wondrous things. One of the sides was a Mandarin orange cake in the shape of a cupcake, but I'd never had a cupcake like that one. Made with an orangey pound cake, lemon mousse, Mandarin oranges, orange whipped cream and topped with white chocolate, it was smooth, rich, and creamy. Even the container was decorated with an orange fruito - similar to the salt on a margarita, Laura told me, only theirs was orange.

Another of the sides that didn't fit on the tray was a small vegetable quiche. Now I love quiche, it's but rare to find a good one. While several restaurants offer them, I'm usually disappointed. I enjoy a good filling, but for me, the crust tells all, and baking a good one takes a rare talent.

When the quiche was served, I tasted it first. The filling was light and cheesy, with bits of spinach, cheese, and mushrooms, but the crust was the ultimate. Baked to just that golden-brown color without burnt edges, it was buttery and flaky, just like my Southern grandmother made. I ate every bite and eyed Laura's as well.

And talk about my grandmother's cooking, I was reminded of her when I bit into the orange-cranberry scone. My grandmother never made scones, but she made biscuits from scratch every day for breakfast and lunch. Martha's scones had that flaky, home-baked taste that I love so well.

Each week, the tea offers different selections, even strawberries, when they're in season, dipped in chocolate.

Reba, the bakery manager, brought out a sample of one of the specialty items they created for a customer, a series of six smaller cakes, each topped with a letter, which, when together, spell a name. 

The day I was there, two women were preparing party favors for a bridal shower tea the next week. Martha Green, originally from South Carolina, offers Southern graciousness, hospitality, and ideas for larger parties on those special occasions, and her cooks and bakers listen to their customer's ideas and will do everything they can to bring them to life.

In addition to the restaurant and bakery, Martha hosts a radio cooking show on KVCR 91.9 FM, offers cooking classes, was a finalists for the 2008 Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards, has released a new cookbook, hosts the annual Bonnes Meres auction benefiting the Children's Fund, and, she's also a real estate agent.

Laura urges at least a 24 hour reservation for the teas, with 48 hours as the more favorable so the night bakers have time to prepare. From someone who loved the experience, I can tell you that it's well-worth the wait.

Martha Green's The Eating Room
Monday - Friday 7:00 am - 3:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 8:00 am - 3:00 pm
Lunch served 10:30 am - 3:00 pm

The Rustic Tea
Thursday ? Saturday 4 pm - 6 pm
$25 per person
Reservations required
Casual dress
107 E. Citrus Avenue
Redlands 909-792-5400