I have never considered myself a girly girl. I like to wear a cute outfit, but I can travel for three weeks in a foreign country with a carry-on. I am not a shopper. I can spend money, but I don’t tend to wonder in and out of shops for hours on end just to look at things. I do love tea. I do love food and I do love unique experiences. That is how high tea at the Ritz Carlton ended up on my list of things I have always wanted to do.
I finally asked one of my best friends if she would like to go during my winter break this year. I was overjoyed when she said yes and we got a reservation for the day before New Year’s. We were going to make an entire day of the experience. We took the train in from the suburbs and right away we started talking about everything under the sun. We exchanged ideas on our favorite wines. We talked about life dreams and hopes. We shared our struggles with where we are at this point in our lives. The train ride flew by quickly.
We exited the train and started the 45 minute walk from Union Station to the Ritz Carlton, which is located around the corner from Water Tower Place off of Michigan Avenue. We continued to banter back and forth along the walk popping in to a shop here or there to take a peak at something.
At 2:00 we arrived at the Ritz. We both had contemplated what to wear, because afterall it is the Ritz. But we both knew we were taking the train, walking a great distance and all in Chicago winter weather. We were probably under dressed for the event, but no one cared when we announced ourselves for our reservations.
The Deca restaurant is beautiful. In the center is a giant sculpture of birds sitting in a pond. At this time of year, it was surrounded by loads of beautiful holiday decorations. The far end of the room is a wall of glass that looks down onto the bustling city streets. There was a more casual area near a beautiful Christmas tree. It was truly elegant.
We were seated in a quiet area on a raised level of the restaurant at a table for two. Tomas our server (although that seems like not a lovely enough title for him) arrived and asked us if we wanted to start off with a glass of Champaign. Normally we would have to decline, because of the drive. However, the train afforded us the opportunity to indulge. It was the perfect start to the afternoon. We had no idea what to expect. I was so excited when I had made the reservation that the chef would be able to accommodate a vegan. My friend usually gets the short end of the stick at restaurants. She is the MOST flexible person and she NEVER complains, but how many times can you eat pasta primavera?
Tomas brought out the selection of teas in a lovely case with 9 different teas. Each one was unique and lovely. We both chose the same tea- Festive Garden. I love tea, but this was by far the best I had ever tasted. The tasting notes said it had a flavor of cocoa and orange. It tasted like the most elegantly prepared chocolate orange truffle I could imagine. It was creamy and luxurious and just plain amazing. I had to look for it when I got home, because I wanted to order it for us. It is a bit pricey, but I might just splurge for a special occassion!
Our pots of tea arrived and we continued to chat. A short while later, Tomas came out with our first course. I was presented with a set of five finger sandwiches. My friend received a plate of beautiful vegan selections. My pieces ranged from a cucumber sandwich to a cream puff with chicken salad. Hers was hummus, vegetables, a gorgeous vegetable spring roll and other delectable delights! I don’t usually say that I wish I had ordered the vegan, but in this case I was jealous! When our food was brought out, Tomas apologized for the delay, because the chef was creating her selections.
In our society, we are so used to receiving huge portions of food in a restaurant. In many cases, if you don’t go home with multiple extra meals you might feel cheated out of something. So when our plates arrived with five simple bit sized nibbles of food, it forced us to eat very mindfully. We slowed down and enjoyed every morsel of food. We relished the flavors and did not rush to plow through the meal. It was amazing— not just the flavors, but the experiences. It is so hard to slow down every day life to experience it that way.
I could not believe that more food was brought out. Tomas delivered a beautiful tower of pastries that were distinctly NOT vegan friendly, yet there was two of each selection. Then he placed a beautiful platter of fresh fruits and sorbet on the table. Once again, the endeavored to enjoy a mindful eating experience. I LOVE sweets. I am 100% a sugar addict and this was paradise for me. As my friend slowly nibbled at her fruits and sorbet, I sampled each of the pieces of sweet and savory treats…each one better than the previous. Tomas kindly boxed up the extras and our time had come to an end. We had been there over two hours and most remarkably– we had felt like the only guests in the entire restaurant. In reality, the tables around us had filled in while we had been away in tea land.
The entire experience was magical and exactly what I had hoped for and more so exactly what I had needed. I would be lying if I said it was not pricey. I cannot even say it was a drawback, because part of what we paid for what the experience of luxury. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
May the rest of your day be filled with joy, laughter and love.