At home or on the road, you can enjoy discounts on meals this month at cities across the nation, thanks to August 2016 Restaurant Weeks.
Whether it’s the iconic three-tiered silver tray with canapés and white-glove service or something fresh like al fresco iced brews and a “TeaJ” in lieu of a harp, afternoon tea is getting pinkies and thumbs up. Boston Public Library has even gone so far as to cancel its lunch service to make space for sippers all week long, and dads can get in on the game with boozy brews and heavier snacks like s’mores with maple-smoked bacon at another seaside hotel in that historic city. Blame it on an urge to celebrate British traditions with all of this Brexit talk — the union of savory and sweet in the afternoon will always win on this side of the pond at one of these top high tea restaurants.
The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts
Tea is just as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach at Boston Public Library, where the historic McKim Building, circa 1895, was declared a U.S. national historic landmark in 1986. The Courtyard Restaurant overlooks an open-air Italianate courtyard with a vaulted ceiling and ornate chandelier originally installed over a grand staircase in the 1950s, and the aesthetic was completed with the installation of a marble floor in the nineties. “Enjoying tea in the restaurant is transportive,” says manager Akiko Yamagata. “Sitting in the serene dining room in a historic building, one’s imagination takes hold, into a different time and its customs — just like reading a captivating novel.” The extensive menu — which changes several times a year — is just as captivating and features blends from Massachusetts-based outfit MEM Tea Imports, including the popular Wedding Blend, a fruity, flowery, and herbaceous green. Make a reservation at The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library.
Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
Pavilion at the Langham in Chicago, truly brings a tradition from across the pond to the shores of Lake Michigan with its Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood — which first debuted at the Langham in London in 1865. Sweet and savory bites like artichoke and melted leek quiche, a grilled asparagus sandwich with petite lettuce salad, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh ricotta, lemon-cherry scones with grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam, and chocolate verrine with dark chocolate brownie and milk chocolate mousse are served much the same way they were more than a century ago. The Pavilion serves up 25 blends including five blends exclusive to the Langham, including a fruity rhubarb for kids. Make a reservation at Pavilion at The Langham.
Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
It’s no surprise that being in British Columbia the folks at Butchart Gardens would honor the British tradition of teatime — but what is unique is the way in which they incorporate West Coast flair. Both executive chef Travis Hansen and pastry chef Keith Tran — both of whom have worked at the Gardens for more than 25 years each — pride themselves on signature items such as locally smoked wild salmon, curried Cowichan Valley chicken salad, and candied ginger scones from an old family recipe. Summer is an especially ideal time to visit the Gardens for another reason, says sommelier and dining room manager Dave Lane, who notes that the Backyard Flight program is a “must-try. We’re extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wineries and orchards that provide us with world-class wines, spirits, and liquors, and every year we pick the best to pair with our teas to showcase the terroir and character of the growing conditions. It’s a unique experience not found anywhere else.” Make a reservation at Butchart Gardens.
Modern Tea, Chicago, Illinois
A tradition gets a makeover at Modern Tea in Chicago, where the Radisson’s swanky lobby with couches and a gold-plated mirror puts a new spin on live music from a jazz or string quartet with a “TeaJ.” There are eight Rishi teas from which to choose (available over ice when the mercury climbs) and outside seating for al fresco dining featuring sweets from the hotel’s new pastry chef Caroline Kolaja. One of her specialties is a basil passion tart, though she also admits to having a penchant for cake batter ice cream — her first industry job was as a Ben & Jerry’s scooper in high school. Make a reservation at Modern Tea.
Pembroke Room, New York, New York
Good things come in threes at the Pembroke Room, which features three styles of service: the classic, the Pembroke Royal, and the Lowell Imperial. Each includes a selection of more than 20 Dammann Frères fine French tea varieties, classic finger sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber and watercress, lobster roll) a dill, egg, and cornichon salad, caviar blinis with goat cheese, scones, petit fours, and more. But the latter two options give you a chance to enhance your experience with a glass of rosé, port, or sherry as part of the Pembroke, and Champagne and caviar with the Lowell Imperial. Look for further enhancements starting in September, when the space will get a spruce-up with new furnishings, carpet, window treatments, and design elements meant to keep the spirit of the room while maintaining the tradition of classic elegance that’s been the setting for generations of bridal bashes and baby showers. Make a reservation at the Pembroke Room.
Those who’ve enjoyed the unforgettable white tablecloth experience at Menton or toasted with a craft cocktail at Drink may be surprised with the New England specialty that Boston chef Barbara Lynch kicks back with — anyone not from Boston, that is. The James Beard Award winner and sole female Relais & Châteaux grand chef in North America has stayed true to her humble roots while creating an empire for fine-dining and imbibing just a few miles down the road from where she grew up as one of seven kids and entered the hospitality industry as a waitress. Today, she has three kids of her own, six restaurants, the demonstration kitchen Stir, and a legacy that makes her a household name in one of the country’s most historic cities.
So a chef can’t eat four-course dinners every night. What’s your typical meal or favorite indulgence?
If I make something for myself quickly, it’s probably spicy hummus and cucumbers and lettuce. But I love fried clams and French fries.
Sounds like a true Bostonian! You were one of the first people to take the step and invest in the Seaport District and now it’s booming. But why take a chance when you did?
I just love being part of a community. A community strengthens your success in a way, and you’re always part of it. Fort Point had soul. Those old warehouses still had bones in them even though they were empty. It was desolate but I even knew as a kid that I wanted to be there. … I’m so glad I did three restaurants [Menton, Sportello, and Drink] instead of one at the same time. That would have been a $@*&ing temple sticking out down there, and you need the support and diversity. Now every two seconds there’s another building going up and it’s different than I envisioned — I thought it would be more of an urban environment with a school or a grocery store. But I’m still glad.
Why not branch out of Boston, and lend your name to like, a hotel restaurant in Vegas or something?
I don’t have partners, so I don’t just go in and do a turnkey. I don’t want to go in and sell a name. Not to say I wouldn’t with the right deal and that I feel my team is ready to move with me. It’s like giving birth and saying, ‘Oh, okay, I didn’t really like this kid, I’ll just give it away,’ and walk away. I can’t do it. It’s not me.
Did you know as a kid that you wanted to be a chef?
I was definitely around 12 or 13, and I was talking myself into ‘I’m a chef. I want to be a chef.’ I literally thought I was going to own a sub shop, though, not be where I am now. My pivotal moment was my first job on a boat [a Martha’s Vineyard dinner cruise]. It was a huge success, and I said, ‘Wow, this is fun!’ That’s the difference between our company and others. We’re here 90-plus hours a week, so you’ve got to just have fun with it. It’s going to be hard sometimes, but, most of all, it should be a great place to work.Continue Reading
Ah, the iconic shrimp cocktail. Especially popular in the 19th-century, one theory has it that the dish was served in a cocktail glass because of the ban on alcoholic drinks during the 1920’s Prohibition. Like Prohibition, the days of limp shrimp with a side glop of ketchup and a few tears of tasteless iceberg lettuce are long past. Today, the dish, which typically stars on appetizer menus, has evolved to eye-candy shrimp cocktails with sassy sauces and whimsical presentations. Here are 12 creative takes on shrimp cocktail that would make Forest Gump’s’ Bubba especially proud.
St. Elmo Steak House, Indianapolis, Indiana
Funny for a restaurant located in a landlocked state that it’s the shrimp cocktail that put this steakhouse on the map — in fact, it is the only appetizer on the menu. “People come from all over the world to have the shrimp cocktail,” says a restaurant spokeswoman. Named The World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail, it stars four jumbo shrimp served with the restaurant’s spicy, signature cocktail sauce. The local restaurant, which opened in 1902, shares its secret for what makes its shrimp cocktail so sought-after — pssst, it’s the shaved-daily horseradish (the restaurant typically goes through 5,760 pounds of horseradish a year, or 15 to 20 pounds per day). In fact, the shrimp cocktail has been deemed one of the world’s spiciest dishes. Pssst — another secret, you can now buy a bottle of the sassy sauce for bloodies at home. Make a reservation at St. Elmo Steak House.
Legal Harborside-Floor 2, Boston, Massachusetts
Time to chill. Legal Seafood’s flagship restaurant presents its Shrimp Cocktail in a hollow ice globe. A hole is poked in the orb so the succulent shellfish can be placed inside. The sphere eventually melts, of course — all good things must come to an end, after all. Make a reservation at Legal Harborside-Floor 2.
Todd English’s bluezoo, Orlando, Florida
Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel doesn’t Mickey Mouse around. The Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller is a “deconstructed shrimp cocktail served in a glass tube that is consumed by creating a vacuum with your hand and sucking the contents into your mouth.” Note: The dish isn’t on the current menu but it is offered at the hotel’s annual food and wine festival and will likely be offered on an upcoming menu, according to a spokesperson for the restaurant. Make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo.
Coasterra, San Diego, California
Order the Cóctel de Camarón and you’ll get a California twist on the classic Mexican shrimp cocktail — fresh Mexican white shrimp tossed with avocado, chopped romaine lettuce, and housemade Baja sangrita. The dish is served in a tumbler with a guajillo chile salt rim and accented with corn tortillas and cilantro garnish. Make a reservation at Coasterra.
Herons, Cary, North Carolina
Chef Steven Greene serves an elevated shrimp cocktail designed with chilled shrimp, mango salad, mint, and mango chili sauce. Greene sources shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, which are quickly poached in a court bouillon (broth of mirepoix, lemon, white wine, and bay leaf.) The mango salad is a mix of diced mango tossed with picked mint leaves, picked basil leaf, cilantro, lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, and scallion. And the mango chili sauce is a bewitching blend of mango puree and a Thai chili sauce. Make a reservation at Herons.
Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, Florida
Josh Thomsen, the executive chef of this five-star diamond resort restaurant, along with chef du cuisine Manlee Siu present a Poached Wild Florida Shrimp Cocktail on the menu, which stars lemon caviar, beet, and horseradish sauce. First, the shrimp is butterflied and gently poached in shrimp stock. Next, the shrimp are chilled, sliced, and topped with faux lemon caviar and garnished with a tomato-free beet ketchup-horseradish sauce. Make a reservation at Angle-Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa.