Sunday, March 16, 2008

Birthday Tea in Cincinnati

The family took me to tea at the Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel on Saturday in celebration of my birthday. Afternoon tea is served in the elegant Palm Court. The hotel, a French Art Deco structure built in 1931, is listed in Historic Hotels of America. We voted it as the best “hotel tea” we have experienced. The price was a real bargain at $27 (inclusive) per person. The tea sandwiches, scones and pastries were delicious and the service was excellent. Our server, Michael, was knowledgeable about the selection of teas offered and the set menu being served. He provided friendly, excellent service and answered all our questions.

The tea selection included 10 loose-leaf teas. We each selected a tea which was prepared and served in 2-cup teapots and refilled with hot water as needed. The first course of savories was served at each guest’s plate on mini 2 tier servers and consisted of 5 sandwiches, Egg Salad with Dill, Smoked Salmon with Crème Fraiche and Capers, Cucumber with Cream Cheese and Tomato, Duck Breast with Apricot Chutney, Prosciutto on Crostini with Dijon Mustard and a pastry shell with Chicken Salad with Curry and Cranberry. Next, a large 3 tier server, loaded with pastries and sweets made by Pastry Chef Kathleen Kessler was set in the middle of the table. The top tier was filled with cranberry scones, black current scones, mini blueberry muffins, banana bread and orange cranberry bread accompanied by REAL Devonshire cream and a selection of preserves. On the middle tier were lemon tarts with berries, delicious pecan bars, chocolate dipped macaroons, petit fours and a raspberry spice bar. The bottom tier had Russian teacakes, chocolate cookies, sesame lemon cookies, madeleines, mini bundt cakes, a mini pyramid garnished with chocolate and dried apricot, strawberry mousse in chocolate shells and chocolate dipped strawberries. At this point we were lost on the details of the descriptions. The food was so plentiful we brought the entire last tier of sweets home in “to go boxes” with the exception of the strawberries which were devoured by our 8 year old!

The excellent service, décor and classical guitar added to the ambiance and enjoyment of this tea experience. Tea at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Palm Court is served on Saturdays, October – May, with sittings at 2 and 3 PM. Reservations are suggested. The family enjoyed it so much they voted to return in December for our annual family Christmas tea! We will confirm there is no parade scheduled in downtown Cincinnati on that day!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Afternoon Tea

My family planned afternoon tea in Cincinnati on Saturday in celebration of my birthday but did not realize the St. Patrick’s Day parade was being held at tea time! Many streets and intersections were blocked. Therefore, we could only drive around a couple of blocks in circles! GJ, who worked in downtown Cincinnati, for several years, was convinced we would not make it to tea at 2:00 PM when he stopped and told a police officer of our situation. At the time, the officer and another were in the process of issuing a parking violation citation. The very nice officer said it would be too difficult to give directions around the blocked streets but for us to follow him and he would take us to the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel. A personal police escort certainly added a bit of excitement to our afternoon tea experience! After winding around the outskirts of downtown to avoid the parade and a construction detour (and running a few traffic lights) we made it to the hotel at exactly 2:00 p.m. We thanked the officer, whom I will not identify, and after valet parking, we were only 10 minutes late for tea. We were certainly impressed with this officer and member Cincinnati’s finest!!

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