High Tea at Heidi's?

I've been meaning to host a little get-together and was leaning towards doing a casual, boozy-brunch on a random Sunday. Then (one random Sunday) flipping through channels, I stopped on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" on The Food Network. I like this show for two reasons: One, I play the same "What's the best [insert ingredient] dish you ever had?" game either by myself or with others. Two, I get excited when there's any mention of a New York location that I can go and check out the next day.

This episode was about finger foods. I was saddened that I may never try the sacrilegious Bacon-Wrapped Matzo Balls from The Gorbals in LA now that it's shut its doors, but at least I have the recipe. I cheered up quickly when Kerry Vincent started talking about high tea at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Those little sandwiches, tea cakes and scones are so adorable. I want to make and eat each and every one of them so I'm now considering replacing my boozy brunch with a tea party (maybe a boozy tea party).

Luckily, I have a number of great bakeries in my neighborhood that I can rely on for two-bite sweets like macrons, mini-scones and pastries, so I can focus on making the sandwiches. Delicate little finger sandwiches with barely-there fillings like smoked salmon, cucumber and egg salad are classic. Each sandwich seems to have at least one ingredient that acts as the glue that keeps everything together, especially when trying to achieve uniform little bites with super-clean, precise edges. I wanted to try fillings that were a little more unique, starting with the “glue” and pairing it with different accompanying ingredients and breads.

For the Glue

  • Soft cheeses like brie, Saint-André, mascarpone, Boursin and ricotta

  • Smooth pâtés and mousses

  • Vegetable-based spreads like hummus, tapenade, baba ghanoush, green pea puree

  • Rich salads like chicken, shrimp, lobster and egg salad

  • Sweet fruit pastes, marmalades and chutneys

For the Filling

  • Smoked or cured meats such as prosciutto or sopressata

  • Milder meats like chicken, turkey and roast beef

  • Delicate, peppery greens like arugula and watercress

  • Paper-thin slices of cucumber, carrot, radish and other crisp vegetables

  • Slivers of firm fruits like pear and apple

For the Bread

  • Thin-sliced white and whole-wheat hold their shape well after careful trimming with a knife

  • Pumpernickel for added color and flavor

  • Seeded and grained breads provide a variation in texture

  • Miniature croissants pair well with mayonnaise-based fillings like chicken salad

Time to mix and match; here’s what I went with:

Brie with Smoked Turkey & Cranberry Mayonnaise

Blue Cheese & Pear with Candied Pecans

Tarragon Chicken Salad with Shaved Fennel

Roast Beef & Pate with Mushroom Duxelle

Smoked Whitefish Salad with Avocado & Dill

Spinach Hummus with Feta & Cucumber