How to Holiday High Tea in the Pacific Northwest

Maybe you already high tea annually during the holidays, or maybe you’re eager to try out this tradition. Either way, these spots offer both classic favorites and innovative twists that make for a festive — and filling! — holiday experience. Read on to find out where to enjoy holiday high tea in the Pacific Northwest.

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia
Seeking a side of glamour and grandeur with your tea? This is the place. Right smack in the middle of downtown, with a view of Vancouver’s skyline, the Fairmont’s Nutcracker Tea (December 20 + 21; $64 per person, $27 for children) includes delicate honey yogurt panna cotta, curried chicken finger sandwiches, crab cakes, and a live pianist playing favorites from the score of the ballet. And while you enjoy a glass of port, Prosecco, or wine, kids are treated to the Prince or Princess tea service with bubblegum tea, scones, and Black Forest ham and cheddar sandwiches — all in a building that genuinely looks like a castle. Someone cue the sugarplum fairies!

Holiday High Tea in the Pacific Northwest

Neverland Tea Salon, Vancouver, British Columbia
Neverland’s whole vibe is about whimsy, accessibility, and excellence. Accordingly, the High Tea service respects some traditions (the tea tower, small portions) and upends others (servers wear jeans and t-shirts and sport a relaxed attitude). Also central to the Neverland experience: food worth eating. “We’re not a place where the ambiance outshines what’s being served,” co-owner Terri Tatchell says. “Our food is actually worth indulging in.” To that end, the Holiday High Tea (offered through December 31, at $38 per person) features flank steak on focaccia with green peppercorn aioli, an insane macadamia and salted caramel brownie, and gooey sticky toffee bread pudding with brandied caramel sauce. Pots of tea are never-ending, and Neverland takes gluten- and dairy-free options seriously. In fact, the special order towers so closely resemble the standard ones that customers often think their requests haven’t been honored. “We want those with special needs to enjoy the full Neverland experience,” explains Tatchell. So while the ingredients have been tweaked, the taste is just as dreamy.

High Holiday Tea in the Pacific Northwest

The Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
Here, the setting’s the thing. There are 55 acres of lush gardens, plus the dining room is located in the Butchart family’s Craftsman-style former residence. Admission tickets to the garden are required for tea, but they’re worth it because they grant access to ice skating, strolling carolers, and a proper carousel. The traditional High Tea (served through December 22; $33.75 per person) features classics including egg salad sandwiches with watercress and Cornish pastry. But it’s the Flavours of Christmas High Tea from December 22-27 ($39.50 per person, $18.95 for children) that really screams happy holidays. Heavy on regionally sourced items such as Salt Spring Island goat cheese brioche and a Dungeness crab salad sandwich, the festive high tea can also be paired with wines from three Vancouver Island wineries to make it a hyper-local experience. Pro tip: Make a late afternoon reservation for tea, but arrive early. That way, you get to appreciate the garden during daylight hours and also see it dressed up at night.

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Vote for Canada’s Best New Restaurant

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 12.39.05 PMAirCanada’s enRoute invites you to choose the 2014 People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Best New Restaurant. Cast your vote and enter for your chance to win a trip to the gala event in November. Food writer Andrew Braithwaite will narrow down the list to his top 10 in the November issue of AirCanada enRoute magazine. Eligible restaurants must have opened between June 2013 and June 2014 to be considered for this year’s list, with intelligence gathered from a panel of the country’s leading food professionals.

The 30 nominees for Canada’s best new restaurants 2014 include:

Ayden Kitchen & Bar

Bar Buca

Black Pig Bistro

The Blacktail Florist

Byblos

The Chase

Cinara

Farmer’s Apprentice

Fat Pasha

Le Serpent

Luckee

Wolf in the Fog

Woodwork

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Uni

uni-slanted-door
The wild-caught uni at The Slanted Door in San Francisco.

Uni, or sea urchin, has typically been a staple on fine sushi menus, but it is fast becoming ubiquitous at restaurants serving all types of cuisines. Its rise in popularity, however, doesn’t mean it is beloved by all. In fact, uni can be downright divisive. Go ahead and ask your friends if they like uni. You’ll likely hear one of the following responses: “Love it!” or “Ugh!” or “Only if it’s fresh.” or “What *is* it?” That sums up much of what we heard when we asked the OpenTable Facebook community their opinions on uni. There are different grades of uni and a sole experience with a lesser grade could make you swear off the stuff forever; however, fresh (as in just-harvested from the sea urchin) uni is highly regarded by chefs and foodies alike and could make even the most cautious of diners into converts. Find out what your fellow OpenTable diners are saying about this rumored aphrodisiac in recent restaurant reviews.

* 15 East Restaurant, New York, New York: “The second course was the grilled gindara (koji sake-marinated black cod in uni sauce),  which was amazing!”

Arami, Chicago, Illinois: ” Don’t miss the uni shooters.”

Bestia, Los Angeles, California: “Outstanding meal. Diver scallops, veal tartare, calamari salad, and uni pasta were all unbelievably delicious. Making another reservation right now.”

* Chef Mavro, Honolulu, Hawaii: “Unbelievably food and wine pairings; appetizer was one of the best ever (basmati rice, raw ahi topped with uni sauce, and uni).”

JoLe, Calistoga, California: “Each dish had the right amount of flare and sauces to offset, complement, and highlight the flavor of the main ingredient. We chose the Kampachi with uni and olive tapenade, snapper with chilled mussels, the sweetbreads, and some veggies to share. All terrific.”

Kata Robata, Houston, Texas: “I would definitely come back for the live uni, ramen, and pork belly bun.”

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Tweet of the Week: Making Sure You Don’t Miss Out When You’re on Vacation

Going on vacations are super-fun. Planning them can be a little bit less fun! Sure, there’s happy anticipation, but there are also a lot of logistics. We’re glad we can help diners like you — and @MissMel_Mac — when you’re plotting your time away, helping to make sure your restaurant reservations are all in order. Happy travels, Melanie!