Afternoon Delight: Top High Tea Restaurants

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.

High Tea Restaurants

 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.

High Tea Restaurants

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.

High Tea Restaurants

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.

High Tea Restaurants

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.

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Boozy Popsicles: 7 Alcohol-Amped, Adults-Only Frozen Treats

Torn between a fresh-from-the-freezer sweet treat or an ice-cold cocktail as the best way to cool down this summer? Now you don’t have to choose because clever bartenders are adding a hit of hooch to pops in a rainbow of colors. Here are 7 boozy popsicles guaranteed to give you a buzzy brain freeze.

Nacional 27, Chicago, Illinois
Are you more of a Crockett or a Tubbs? Ordering the Miami Vice paleta allows you to indulge your fantasy of being either one of the pastel-prone policeman. The vibrant pop is a mix of strawberry daiquiri and piña colada. Playing Jan Hammer’s iconic theme song to the show on your iPhone while you’re slurping one down is perfectly acceptable, but doing air drums is forbidden. Make a reservation at Nacional 27.

Boozy Popsicles

Gracias Madre, West Hollywood, California
Knock back too many of these boozy popsicles and you just may wake up to find yourself somewhere in Mexico wearing little more than a sombrero. The svelte-but-deadly cocktail on a stick is made with tequila blanco, roasted pineapple, and jalapeño to add a kick of capsaicin. If you do overindulge, make sure you take a selfie of yourself in that sombrero, as it would make an unforgettable Instagram profile pic. Make a reservation at Gracias Madre.

Boozy Popsicles

Cindy’s, Chicago, Illinois
Every Saturday, executive pastry chef Jove Hubbard sells popsicles out a takeaway window on Michigan Avenue. Call it a pop pop-up. There will always be one boozy selection, such as his piña colada enriched with Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum. Not included: a paper umbrella or slice of pineapple. Make a reservation at Cindy’s.

Boozy Popsicles

Del Frisco’s Grille, Washington, D.C.
How do you improve on sangria when it’s already the ideal summertime sipper? You turn it into an icy pop, that’s how. Made with pinot grigio, peach schnapps, strawberry puree, and peach chunks, it’s equally breezy and boozy. Make a reservation at Del Frisco’s Grille.

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You Say It’s Your Birthday? 5 Top Restaurants for Birthday Desserts

Any way you slice it, everyone needs cake (and all varieties of decadent desserts). Those ready for a break from all the clean eating. Anyone following the U.S. political campaigns. And, naturally, people celebrating birthdays. And birthday dinner-ending sweets are at their absolute best when they’re prepared with top-quality ingredients by professionals trained to make sure the last thing you eat at their restaurant is the best thing. So if you’re ready to indulge on your special day (or any day, really), check out one of these five top restaurants for birthday desserts.

Vespa, Westport, Connecticut
Know what makes a killer cake even better? Twelve (!) layers of buttermilk sponge cake baked thin, sliced even thinner, and then covered with a traditional bittersweet chocolate mousse made with 63% Valrhona cocoa powder. The chocolate semi- sweet chocolate ganache frosting doesn’t hurt either. Craving a different flavor? Then there’s carrot cake, made lighter by technique (the eggs and sugar are whipped) and better by using Mascarpone mousse and Italian buttercream vanilla frosting on top. And because pastry chef Susanne Berne believes it’s the best combination out there, she does a banana sponge cake layered with chocolate and peanut butter and covered with a dark chocolate glaze. On the side: “milk jam” (think caramel or dulce de leche) truffles. Because why not? Make a reservation at Vespa.

Top Restaurants for Birthday Desserts

Rye, Leawood, Kansas
If you’re craving an upscale-but-hearty meal to precede your cake, then this is the place. But don’t fill up entirely on the pan roasted salmon, the seared hanger steak, or chicken and dumplings because then you won’t have room for the peanut butter chocolate pie with French silk-style chocolate mousse on top. Or the new coconut cream cake, in which the cake is infused with buttermilk and coconut cream and then layered with pastry cream and topped with caramel sauce. Another word of caution: If you fill up on a side of mac ‘n cheese with crispy bacon or roasted cauliflower with lemon garlic butter, then you might be too full for the classic banana cream pie that has chocolate-covered crust and toffee crumble on top. And we haven’t even mentioned the lemon meringue pie with its creamy Swiss meringue that never rotates off the menu due to constant customer demand. Make a reservation at Rye.

Top Restaurants for Birthday Desserts

Tango, Seattle, Washington
The fact that the recipe for Tango’s El Diablo dessert is carefully guarded by the restaurant’s owners — and that the chefs are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the ingredients and cooking technique — are some pretty reliable clues that this dish is off-the-dial delicious. Owner Travis Rosenthal describes it as thicker than a mousse, but not quite a cake. It’s also gluten-free, has a hint of cayenne pepper, and comes with tequila caramel sauce. Do you really need more convincing? Make a reservation at Tango.

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Sweet Spring! 7 Desserts Celebrating Cherry Blossom Season in DC

The capital’s Tidal Basin erupts into a flurry of pink as the cherry blossoms bloom at the end of March and beginning of April. The rosy buds mark the start of spring in the region. To commemorate the return of warm weather, chefs work overtime to create sweet treats which draw inspiration from and pay homage to the much-Instagrammed floral display. Here are seven desserts that celebrate cherry blossom season in DC.

Wildfire
Sing it with us, “Tastes so good make a grown man cry/Sweet cherry pie, oh yeah!” Just to be clear, this sweet vee was inspired by the pies baked in Door County, Wisconsin, — not Warrant’s hair metal anthem. Each generously portioned wedge is packed with the red stone fruit swimming in a sticky filling. Vanilla ice cream is optional though we can’t imagine why you’d want a slice without a scoop. That’s sounds practically un-American to us. Make a reservation at Wildfire.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

Ted’s Bulletin–14th Street
There are fewer things that make our inner children happier than a pop tart. This seasonal, springtime-only version is packed with cherry filling and glazed pink. Pro tip one: ask the server to pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds, so it’s nice and warm. Pro tip two: Take a couple home, so your breakfast game will be on point the next morning. Make a reservation at Ted’s Bulletin.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

The Pig
The cherry trees speckling the Tidal Basin were originally gifted by the city of Tokyo in 1912. To evoke those roots, pastry chef Audrey Valero has created a Japanese-styled dessert: matcha pistachio cake topped with black sesame ganache. It’s accompanied by a quenelle of miso caramel ice cream. If that’s not enough, order an additional scoop of azuki bean ice cream. Make a reservation at the Pig.

Cherry Blossom Season in DC

Centrolina
Even the Easter Bunny is envious of this egg. The three-foot-tall chocolate treat decorated with cherry blossoms towers over anything you can buy in the CVS candy aisle. The oversized oeuf will be displayed in the West Wing of the White House over Easter weekend while smaller versions will be used as a part of the annual Easter Egg Roll. Make a reservation at Centrolina.

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