Out to Lunch: Nothing disastrous about Titanic tea at the Paris Apartment

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By Bethel Poston

My previous “Out To Lunch” article mentioned that my wife, Carol, and I share the same birthday — plus, we got married on our birthday.

Our son Barry, and wife Judy treated us for the celebration lunch that I wrote about in the article.

This “Out to Lunch” was another birthday/anniversary celebration treat by Carol’s sister, Jean Miller. We also invited our son, Buddy, and his wife, Faye, to join us. They all live in Knoxville.

I suggested we visit The Paris Apartment Boutique & Tea Room, which last July moved from Sweetwater to Knoxville in the Shops at Western Plaza at 4461 Kingston Pike.

I wrote about the Sweetwater location last June. I enjoyed the food there so much that I wanted to try it again.

Owner, Debbie Owen, outfitted in a Victorian dress with a bustle, greeted us with, “Welcome aboard the Titanic for a formal afternoon high tea.”

The day of our visit was a reservation special event with a fashion show and a speaker.

Servers were also in Victorian attire. Many of the large number of Norris Dames (formerly Red Hats) attendees were wearing hats and dresses from a previous era.

Because she recognized me from my Sweetwater visit, Debbie arranged a choice table for our group, in a Titanic survivor section near the entrance.

Everyone was being served the same three-course presentation, and none of us knew what to expect.

Buddy and I were the only men in the fully occupied dining room. He had an unusual expression on his face. I probably did, too.

“Our menu features European and American bistro and tea room specialties,” reads The Paris Apartment’s website, theparisapartmentboutique.com.

“We serve lunch (yes hearty enough for the gentlemen) Monday through Saturday.”

Debbie assured Buddy and me that we could order from the regular menu if we weren’t happy with the finger-food delicacies.

The first course was a fresh spinach salad topped with glazed walnuts, strawberries, thin slices of miniature pears, and Italian Gorgonzola cheese drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

There was also a freshly baked orange-and-cranberry scone.

I would never have ordered this salad, but Buddy and I were the first to clean our plates.

It so delicious that I would put it on my list to order again.

I even drank hot tea served from a colorful china teapot.

We were told on our previous visit, “The beautiful china is Wedgwood, Spode, Fostoria and Lenox. The tables are pre-set as though our guests are coming to our home for a lovely luncheon. We clear the plates when guests place their order and return them filled with their food choice.”

For the second course, a tiered tray, filled with small finger-food sandwiches and delicacies, was placed in the center of each table.

We had petite sandwiches of crab with smoked salmon; pencil roll, thinly sliced roast beef with horseradish sauce; herbed cucumber; harlequin ribbon; and boiled egg salad with watercress.

There was also quiche,  skewered cherry tomatoes and cheese, plus some I’ve missed.

I almost overate until I thought about dessert and slowed down.

Buddy added a grilled panini of honey-roasted ham and Swiss cheese on whole-wheat bread. The sandwich is also available with sourdough bread.

Buddy also passed on fresh coleslaw and had kettle chips.

The menu offers other paninis of grilled roasted turkey and Swiss, plus grilled Caprese of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil drizzled in olive oil.

You’ll find sandwiches like Italian tuna salad and capers with a lemon-dill mayonnaise dressing plus lettuce and tomato served on sourdough or whole-wheat bread.

There are also egg-salad and BLT sandwiches.

The third course was a Pavlova dessert of a beautiful baked meringue  with a crisp crust and a soft inside, covered with sweetened whipped cream and garnished with fresh kiwi, blueberries and strawberries.

Our desserts were consumed instantly.

“I don’t usually eat this much,” Jean said. “I’m so full, I probably won’t eat much this evening.”

During our lunch (tea time) we enjoyed hearing Penelope Carlevato, dressed in Victorian attire, tell us about life on the Titanic.

She lives in Colorado and is the author of “Tea on The Titanic.”

“Why the name The Paris Apartment?” Debbie writes on the website. “I enjoyed a friendship with wonderful woman who lived in England. She also had an apartment in Paris, where she would escape every few weeks.”

She adds, “She also invited friends for a weekend escape to The Paris Apartment. It just seemed perfect to call our little escape destination The Paris Apartment!”

Paris Apartment’s menu is expanding, but everything we ordered then is still on the menu. Crepes are soon to be available.

Our Kingston friends, Jimmy and Luci Bell, went with us on the prior Sweetwater visit.

Luci ordered the salad sampler trio, which is described on the menu as “chicken-artichoke, Italian tuna and coronation chicken — served atop fresh greens.”

She swapped egg salad for the coronation chicken and chose dill vinaigrette as her dressing. Raspberry iced tea was her beverage choice.

Luci told me while I was writing this article that she has already eaten at the Knoxville location with her granddaughter, Sophie Willborn.

Carol selected a panini of fresh baby spinach, red peppers and mozzarella cheese with herbs drizzled in garlic infused olive oil and served on sourdough bread.

Jimmy went for half of a chicken-artichoke salad sandwich with a bowl of freshly made potato soup.

The sandwich had rosemary roasted chicken, artichoke hearts and pecans with Dijon mayonnaise dressing served on sourdough bread.

I ordered last, waiting for everyone else, hoping each order was different for my writing purposes.

Still on the Sweetwater visit, in respect to Queen Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary coronation celebration (happening at the time), I had the coronation chicken wrap.

It was filled with roasted chicken, celery, onion and pecans with a curried mayonnaise dressing and wrapped in an herbed flat wrap.

I chose kettle chips over fresh coleslaw and added a cup of potato soup, which was soup of the day.

On the Sweetwater visit to The Paris Apartment, I ordered a dessert panini.

It was a serving of European chocolate, hazelnut chocolate and fresh strawberries, grilled panini style, then topped with whipped cream and strawberries, with four forks for our table to share.

It was a delicacy that I recommend you try.

The Norris Dames’ attire added to the Titanic theme. Norris residents Ann Deatherage and Doris Dunn made the arrangements for the Dames’ visit.

As I have found, if you visit with people enough, you’ll find you have something in common.

Ann and I both graduated from Oak Ridge High School. I was in the third grade at Highland View School in Oak Ridge when she started kindergarten there.

We didn’t remember or recognize each other, since we’ve changed some since then.

The Paris Apartment is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. It’s also open for Sunday brunch.

Visitors will want to allow ample time to wander in the expanded boutique.

After Thanksgiving, an afternoon Victorian Christmas tea will be offered each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Call 766-5511 for more information and reservations.

I overheard Anne Baker Furrow say they were celebrating the fifth birthday of her granddaughter, Lee Belle Tolsman, the prettiest lady in the restaurant.

Her husband, Sam, owns Sam Furrow Auction in Knoxville.

Ann told me Sam is from the Paint Rock community in Roane County, near Sweetwater.
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Bethel Poston is a Roane County businessman and entrepreneur who writes about places of interest in our area. E-mail suggestions and comments to postonplace@bellsouth.net.