Americans' astonishing infatuation with all things Downton Abbey (season 5 premiered January 5th) continues. Genteel and aspirational, the British show’s popularity reveals an underlying yearning for manners and the desire to unplug from the modern world, filled with ceaseless device-ification.
One of England and Downton's great cultural gifts to the world is the strict adherence to teatime — a moment in the middle of the day to stop everything and savor a bite of something sweet, a scone perhaps. Los Angeles offers many opportunities to indulge, whether true U.K. confections, or, as is our want, scones bursting with liberties.
Below are some great options to have your scone and eat it too — preferably while watching Lady Mary canoodle with a suitor.
Ye Olde King’s Head
The British-est of all – Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica — took on Gary Bernard, the baker from the now defunct Tudor House across the street, becoming a U.K.-lover’s trifecta, with the pub, shoppe and bake shop. Not only are the classic raisin scones perfect teatime delights, the adjoining shop(pe) sells all the fixin’s (consider them fascinators for your pastry), like clotted cream and a seemingly limitless variety of jellies and jams, like Victoria plum and rhubarb with ginger. The bakery also has meat pies, Cornish pasties, trifle, treacle tarts and any number of sweet and savory munchies. Add a few cucumber sandwiches with a daub of cream cheese and you are good to binge on both telly and treats. You can even buy a miniature British flag or Dr. Who Dalek keychain torch (British for "flashlight") while you’re there. 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-393-6869.
Buttercelli Bakeshop keeps it interesting with over 50 rotating flavors of scones to choose from, delivered daily by Charmed Scones. Small and heart-shaped, these buttery delights come in unique flavors, like cherry Danish (augmented with almond goodness imparting a marzipan afterglow) and more traditional versions, like ginger. The maple scones, slathered in maple frosting – really cunning iced cakes — just beg for a formal tea party, bedecked with silk gloves and veiled hats. For those with food restrictions, Buttercelli sells gluten-free, vegan and gluten-free vegan options, too. 13722 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-387-8538.
Tucked snugly inside the Brentwood Country Mart, Farmshop caters to all needs with its variety of goods, from Lamill tea to Massey honey, ideal for putting together a gorgeous afternoon tea (more of a snack) or high tea (make it a meal!). Farmshop offers three kinds of scones: cranberry citrus, bacon cheddar chive and chocolate. All three are large, fluffy and packed with flavor, with many of the ingredients specifically sourced. For example, the applewood-smoked, dry cured bacon comes from Zoe’s Meats in Petaluma and the aged, smoked cheddar cheese comes from Fiscalini Farms in Modesto. The two sweet scones work well with clotted cream and jam. 225 26th St., Santa Monica; 310-566-2400.
The plethora of scones made daily at Rockenwager make it hard to choose just one. So don’t! Sold in regular or mini sizes, the bakery’s blends will please just about everyone. The seasonal triangle pumpkin scone conjures up autumn and coziness, perfect for a rustic tea, like English Breakfast. The raisin scone with lemon frosting will please your inner child with visions of tea parties long gone. With blueberry, ginger, raspberry, tri-berry, chocolate chip and even bacon to pick from, you can mix and match to your heart’s content. Oh, and if you’re pretending to be healthy, try the five grain or granola scone. You could probably whip up some cashew cream and sugarless jam and make it a California high tea. 1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 310-399-6504, 12835 W. Washington Blvd. Mar Vista; 310-577-0747.
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The American Tea Room
The dainty crème fraiche scones at The American Tea Room are the perfect blank slate for slathering on clotted cream and jam. With just a hint of lemon zest and the tang of the crème fraiche for flavor, they balance out the sweetness of any topping. While there, pick up some tea to balance your palate. An astonishing number of teas are available, from Rooibos to oolong and everything in between. You can buy it loose, organic and in bags. Even though it’s not traditional, the Genmaicha green tea is a good choice for those who like their tea without milk and sugar. The toasty, popcorn flavor complements almost anything sweet. 401 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-271-7922.