During the holidays, it's hard to miss Miss Tami's Cottage and Tearoom on Main Street in downtown Meridian.
The gingerbread house-esque design and profusion of Christmas decorations draw much attention to this popular tearoom.
Miss Tami's started out in 1989 as a gift shop. In 1993, owners Tami and Jamison Shoemaker added a tearoom that serves light continental fare. But English-style full afternoon tea service reigns supreme here.
Just inside the front door (next to the espresso machine where Dawson Taylor drinks get made) are rooms and alcoves packed with gift items, like Victorian-influenced tea sets and decorative Christmas ornaments.
The tucked-away dining room boasts floral (high-backed) Queen Anne chairs and lots of ornately set tables with china teapots, cups and saucers.
Not many places in the valley (if any, besides Miss Tami's) offer full afternoon tea service.
For $21.50 per person (with 24 hours' notice), Miss Tami's prepares a full afternoon tea in the elegant "low tea" style of an upscale British tearoom. Servers even wear Victorian-style servants' garb.
Full afternoon tea has its roots in Great Britain, where most hotels offer some sort of tea and pastry spreads — some more elaborate than others.
Funny hats are expected at teatime. My wife forgot hers (I always wear funny hats), but this was not a problem, because Miss Tami's has plenty of loaner hats, from classic derbies to more frilly offerings.
After picking a hat, which looked like a black-veiled funeral top described in an Oscar Wilde story, we were immediately comforted by hot pots of Earl Grey and orange spice, made with loose-leaf tea, no less.
Next up was a parfait glass brimming with chilled fruit — chopped pear, apple, mango, pineapple and mandarin orange — topped with silky Devonshire cream. It was a delicious fruit cup, thankfully sans maraschino cherries.
The second course, per tradition, was a three-tiered wire rack layered with scones, savories and sweets.
"The Friendship of Tea" etiquette suggests that patrons serve each other. And it's recommended to start at the bottom and work your way up to the sweet stuff.
So that's exactly what we did.
The cinnamon-dusted scones were fluffy and dense, enhanced by liberal dollops of fresh whipped cream.
The second level was an array of mini savories, including cucumber sandwiches, butternut squash quiches, pitas stuffed with creamy chicken, almonds and cranberries and cinnamon-spiked wraps rolled tightly around smoky ham and cream cheese.
We saved the veggie wraps for last. The crunchy cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, tomato and carrot properly cleansed our palates for the top tier, a selection of sugary goodies.
Up top, we indulged in spicy gingerbread, lemon-poppy seed cake, sugar-dusted lemon cookies, thick-frosted espresso brownies and petit fours (mini cakes) ornately decorated with Christmas trees and candy canes.
The third and final course was a ceramic cappuccino cup overflowing with warm and spongy chocolate lava pudding cake, flocked with powdered sugar.
What a decadent way to end the afternoon.
Miss Tami's also serves an a la carte lunch menu Monday through Saturday, as well as a Saturday brunch buffet.
During a lunch visit we were enamored by the sweet and sour cashew-chicken salad ($7.99) and Monte Cristo ($8.50) — an egg-battered, pan-fried sandwich (think French toast) stuffed with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, finished with powdered sugar. A creamy herb pasta salad accompanied the sandwich.
We enjoyed the mixed greens topped with diced chicken breast, pineapple, sweet bell pepper and toasted cashews, splashed with sweet and sour dressing. It was simple and delicious.
Miss Tami's is a great option for those looking for a quintessential British tea experience. And don't worry if you forget your funny hat.
James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at email@example.com.