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Tastier than the mall, less scary than Santa

Restaurant of the Week: Heathman Hotel and Tea Court
by: DENISE FARWELL, Lemonade and hot cocoa taste good to the last drop — especially if served in teacups — as shown by Beatrice Gorsuch, 7 (right), and friends Natalie Galbraith, 5 (middle), and her sister Olivia, 3. The tiny sandwiches, cakes and crackers also disappear quickly.

Tea at the Heathman Hotel is usually the preserve of the Ladies Who Shop, but this time of year they can share a table with their little darlings.

The Peter Rabbit Tea for Little Sippers is a $10.95 special designed for kids to ditch their mall manners and swank it up in their holiday drag. Cocoa or chocolate milk comes with a plate of tiny sandwiches, minicakes and that old standby, Goldfish crackers.

It's all in the presentation. Our waitress was indulgent enough to list and explain all menu items to our group of two adults and two 3-year-old girls in their finery, providing individual teapots and tea strainers for the cocoa.

Plates come on a tier, one of those wire racks that make it possible to offer three levels of delicacies on a crowded table. Peeping through the gaps ranks up there with the sense of abundance when it comes to thrills.

Details like this loom large in the preschooler consciousness. As does the giant Christmas tree in the corner of the room, with its oversize baubles and fake presents, which had to be inspected periodically.

It's not clear if the estate of Beatrix Potter is getting any royalties from the use of Peter Rabbit's name, but rest assured the branding effort ends at the menu. There was certainly no 6-foot plushie in a blue jacket roaming the room to scare the kids.

Each child gets a plate holding two peanut butter and honey sandwiches, a snickerdoodle cookie, a coconut haupia (the fluffy Hawaiian cake with the nutritional credibility of Spam), a devil's food cupcake, cubes of uncontroversial cheese, fresh fruit (melon and cantaloupe) and Ants on a Log, done here with chocolate chips instead of raisins.

Even our picky eater was happy with all that, and both soon assumed the glassy-eyed countenance of happy addicts.

For $24.95 the adult afternoon tea is more savory but not two-and-half times the size. However, the smoked-salmon Napoleon, crostini of goat cheese, pork pâté with Roquefort and pistachios were all fine.

Sweets included a tiny slice of fruitcake, Parisian opera cake and lemon bars, all of which reached the Heathman's high standards.

Naturally, the shorties at my table showed no interest in our food, and any thoughts that Goldfish crackers are a bit too close to Cheerios in the kid food spectrum were rendered moot by the fact that the kids devoured them first.

Children should be seen and not heard. Until, of course, they've been mainlining sugar, in which case it's time to pull them out from under their under-the-table den and hasten them toward their five-point harnesses.

A good time was had by all, the memory of which will endure for decades.

- Joseph Gallivan

11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily through Dec. 30, Heathman Hotel Tea Court, 1001 S.W. Broadway, 503-790-7752, www.heathmanhotel.com