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One of the things I really wanted to do in Chicago was afternoon tea. Strange I know, but whenever I go somewhere I always check out the possibility of afternoon tea and when I checked out Chicago do you know what I found? There were a LOT of places that served afternoon tea. There might have been a ridiculously loud *squee* released all the options I had. It was a long shot, but I had a list of potential spots on my phone just in case. After exploring Lincoln Park, Andy and I had some time so with a quick call to The Allis, we were a short Uber away from tiny sandwiches and awesomeness.
The Allis was what I think Anthropologie would look like if it were a hotel restaurant. Initially I was a little worried because we were dressed fairly casually, but once we got there we saw everything from yoga pants to luxury label cocktail attire. We opted for the non “sparkle” option since, well, my love of sparkle aside, I can’t drink, but I can have chocolate and the “Chocolate Pu-erh” was the delicious love child of my beloved hot chocolate and really good tea. Andy ordered off menu, and got “Emperor Green” which was wonderful, but mine was better. I won at the game of tea. The only criticism, if it can be called that, that I read about this place was that their food options were “traditional” and.. .that may be true. However, not a single option on those three delightful tiers was anything less than exceptional. I mean the scones, the scones guys, I am usually okay sharing food with my husband, but damn if I didn’t want to smack his hand and take them both. The tiers were so treat laden that we ended up taking needing a to-go box, best left over breakfast ever let me tell you. We has such a wonderful time at this trip bonus. Yet another spot I could see myself frequenting if it wasn’t a three hour plane ride away. One of the best afternoon teas I’ve ever had.
One of the coolest things I got to do on my recent trip to Charlotte, NC was going to Christmas Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel with my college roommate Rebecca.
Had to do a quick selfie with my pretty dress and my festive flower crown on; you can’t see it here obviously, but I am also wearing a really kick ass pair of peep-toe booties from Poetic License. I’ve had them for years, but I hardly ever get the chance to wear them. The Ballantyne was holiday perfection, rich elegant seasonal pieces adorned most every surface, and the tea room, right off the lobby, was perfectly appointed yet cozy and inviting. While perusing the tea selection, we were offered celebratory class of cranberry accented champagne. I’ve been to plenty of afternoon teas of all shapes and sizes, and there has been some really great food, but this was without a doubt the best afternoon tea spread I’ve ever encountered. Everything we ate was delicious and left me wishing for just one more piece. Since there were two holiday inspired teas in addition to their usual offerings, we each selected one to try. Rebecca went with the cranberry tea, and I had the Christmas spice blend. Just to say we tried everything, we each sampled a cup of the other’s brew; the cranberry was poppy and wonderfully fruity, but it couldn’t hold a candle to spice blend. The only thing I can say to describe the spice blend was that is tasted like Christmas. It was dark, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with just a hint of citrus. I would drink it for the entire month of December, from now til forever if I could. I think this is how most people feel about the PSL. Oh yeah, and there was a harp player playing classics and Christmas carols. A. HARP. PLAYER. Does it get any fancier than that?
After finishing our tea, we took a leisurely stroll around the hotel to enjoy the decorations and check out the Gingerbread Lane contest they do every year. Meh on the gingerbread houses, but we decided that at least one of Rebecca’s daughters needed to get married there. Also, that she would need to start saving for that now.
One of the coolest things I got to do in Charleston was have Afternoon Tea. Not just any high tea, mind you; my traveling companion was vegan so we had vegan Afternoon Tea at Twenty Six Divine. For those of you who don’t know, afternoon tea is your tea blend of choice accompanied by small pastries and bite size sandwiches. It sounds pretty simple, but I’ve run into issues finding a place that can accommodate my vegetarian diet, let alone someone that calls for absolutely no dairy. When I was doing research for our trip, I noticed that Twenty Six Divine not only offered afternoon tea, they had a blurb at the bottom of the page saying that they could accommodate various allergies and dietary restrictions. A quick phone call later, we were booked and very excited to see how things would turn out.
We were the only people taking tea that afternoon, so we had the added luxury of having the place to ourselves. We felt pretty special, let me tell you, but the “special snowflake” special, not the “eat the paste” special. After learning that I was vegetarian not vegan like my dinning companion, our server brought me some of the fresh almond biscotti they had just made. Had I pockets, I would have filled them with smuggled biscotti. The food was incredible. There were so many different things that I can’t honestly remember them all. My savory favorites were the red pepper gazpacho and the eggplant and onion flat bread. As far as the sweets went, the house made cinnamon almonds and the raspberry and chocolate torte took the proverbial cake. It was a really great experience, even more so since Stefanie had figured her days of high tea had ended when she went fully vegan. I also came away with the conviction that I need to work even harder to incorporate recipes for people with restrictions into my repertoire. The crowning achievement would be throwing an afternoon tea for my friends that could accommodate vegan as well as gluten free. If I pulled it off, there might have to be a baking equivalent to a mike drop. Perhaps, a spatula drop, or better yet a whisk drop… I’ll figure it out and get back to you later.
This weekend Andy and I indulged in a tradition we started on our honeymoon, we went out for afternoon tea. Tea parties were fairly common place when I was growing up. For the longest time, my mom and I would enjoy a pot of tea together on Saturday morning before diving into whatever needed to be done. Fortunately, I found a man who enjoys scones and a proper cup of tea as much as I do and so we like to do things up right whenever the opportunity presents itself. Sadly, Tallahassee did not have a tea room until a few months ago, and I didn’t find out about it until a few weeks ago. But now I have and have to tell you, All Things Tea was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped.
We got there a bit early so we’d have a chance to poke around the shop before our tea time. I was in heaven. So many types of tea! Boxes, jars, beautiful tins; they had everything! They even had a delightful selection of tea accessories that ranged from practical to cheeky, but I digress. Now on to the important part, Afternoon Tea.
The nibbles were wonderful, and I was very impressed that they didn’t bat an eye when I requested a vegetarian menu. I was even more impressed that the food was so delicious. I would say it was even a cut above some of the “fancier” teas I’ve been to. Beverage wise, our tea was perfectly made, and our pot never ran dry. Our hostess offered us the opportunity to change up our tea flavor every time we finished our pot, but we’d gone with the Brian Edwards Winter White Earl Grey, and I was disinclined to stop drinking it. I am still kicking myself for not getting some to take home with me. All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful experience that was well worth the price. We are even planning on going back for the Sweethearts Tea they are doing next month in honor of Valentines Day.
* All About Tea also offers tea tasting classes and other tea tasting experiences. Make sure to check out their website to see what they have going on.