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CHEAP EATS

My stop at Murphy Orchards in Burt was intended to be short. There was just enough time to check out the jams in the barn shop and the old hole-in-the-floor hideout for ex-slaves. But one look at the empty porch table at the red brick farmhouse's tea rooms and my friend and I were helpless to resist lunch.

The urgency of the trip to Olcott Beach faded as a waitress smoothed a lacey covering over the table. We settled in, pleased by the sounds that interrupted the quiet: Someone yelled out the back door for more greens, leaves rustled and a hummingbird buzzed by more than once.

The menu tempted with tea for two, $16. Finger sandwiches of egg and cress and ham salad, plus pastries and scones, homemade whipped cream and jam.

Another dessert of vanilla ice cream with lilac jelly sauce sounded too exotic to miss, but proper eating order steered us in favor of a savory start. As we waited for our order to arrive, a pitcher of garden roses was set before us, charming for its old-fashioned class. Then came a plate of steaming biscuits with strawberry jam and butter. The lemonade, tart as fresh-squeezed should be. The iced tea had lemon and a mint leaf. All this was included in the lunch price.

My friend's hot cream of asparagus soup was nicely salted and tasted as if the asparagus had been pureed that morning. At $7.95, it came with a whole-grain sandwich piled with ham and Swiss.

My $8.95 "Welcome Summer Special" sandwich of chicken salad was chunky without too much mayo and nicely shredded green lettuce made for easy biting. The baked beans tasted fine with a touch of molasses. The creamy potato salad had mustard, light mayo and tasted extremely homemade. The fruit compote's strawberries, apples, blueberries and grapes were swimming nicely in their own juices.

By the end, I had no more room left for a $3.95 dessert, with or without lilac jelly sauce. My companion, having gorged herself on the cream of asparagus soup, was in a similar fix.

We had atmosphere for dessert instead. The friend lifted her arm in a sweep across the garden, the old smokehouse converted into outhouse, pine trees, strawberry pickers leaning over their baskets and said, "There's no prettier place in the world."

The Orchard Tea Rooms are open all year from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Not wheelchair accessible: Farmhouse front door has five stairs.

"There's no prettier place in the world."
The Orchard Tea Rooms at Murphy Orchards

2402 McClew Road, Burt

Review: 4 pennies (Out of 4)

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