Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble gobble

The holidays can officially begin, and for the first time in many years, I am very excited for them. It feels odd to not be working long hours in a bakery, mass producing cream pies and planning for the onslaught of Christmas orders, but being outside of the industry is allowing me a deeper appreciation of the season. Do I miss it? Yes, and no.

I am very appreciative of all of the people in my life, and am grateful for the new ones that I have met in the past year, including one clever writer, Valerie Moloney. She's the Chicago editor for, and we have quickly bonded over our mutual love of food. In the short time I've known her, she has been very generous with invitations to join her at restaurants and events around town. Yesterday, she treated me to High Tea at Chicago's long-famed Palmer House Hotel.

High Tea is a ritual of uppity downtown shoppers, of ladies who lunch, and of tourists hoping to pass as such. The theory behind it is grand: take a leisurely break in the middle of the day to restore yourself with finger sandwiches, scones, and petit fours, and linger over a pot of hot tea. In the lobby of the recently restored Palmer House, one of Chicago's oldest and most traditional hotels, Valerie and I lounged and ate, drank and chatted, and watched and passers-by gawked at us. There were several, and it's not difficult to understand why.

On a high-backed, deep leather love seat, we sat behind a three-tiered array of nibbles, individual teapots, and glasses of champagne. The lobby was already completely decked out for the holidays, and a huge Christmas tree adorned in gold and red loomed over us. Very few hotel guests walked by without a lingering look, and a couple even commented about the luxury if it all.

With the state of the world today, and with so many people struggling to make ends meet, the concept of high tea seems utterly frivolous. The Palmer House charges $35 per guest for tea service, $45 with a flute of champagne, making it a luxury in my mind. Valerie's invitation allowed me to partake in a ritual that I had never experienced, and I appreciate that, but what I appreciate even more is her company. We spent over an hour-and-a-half getting to know each other better. When we were nearly finished, Valerie commented about how much High Tea reminds her of Ireland, her husband's native country, where there is nothing to do but sit and get to know people.

Good conversation and good friends are priceless. Regardless of how you choose to spend your money, give thanks for your loved ones. Spend time together celebrating the season, and celebrating your relationships. They're far more important than any tea service or present, and will last much longer.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends and family. The photo is of an apple pie that I made for today, which is the same recipe entered into the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest, which obviously I did not win, or you would have heard about it! Even though it wasn't a contest winner, it's a damn good pie; easily the best I've ever produced. The crust is perfectly flaky and the filling is composed of three different types of apples that are not overly sweetened. I would type out the recipe, but I'm too lazy right now. It is a holiday, after all! I'm happy to share if it you shoot me an email or leave a comment. Enjoy your turkey!

1 comment:

the agnostic servant said...

if i may, i'd like to give my review of the palmer house...

the P hizzy was established in 1871. in a stroke of luck, it was burned to the ground a few weeks later in the great chicago fire. sadly, potter palmer rebuilt the stinking old behemoth while embers were still smoldering. like most piles of dung, this incarnation of man's blight on hotels was soon unfit for habitation, and the sad excuse for a place to lay your head you see today was finished up in about 1926. you may have heard the rumors that holabird and roche - the esteemed architects responsible for $300 hotel rooms that offer a view of a brick wall in the fold of its own building just 4 feet away - were cast in to the 8th ring of hell for thrusting such a hulking piece of shit upon civilization, but such rumors remain to be verified. the assholes breathing life into said piece of shit to the tune of a $200 million renovation will be able to confirm or deny soon enough.

the palmer house today quite possibly the best hotel in the wabash and adams "quatier", if not the only, a stupendous location known by locals as the "Bum Capital of the World". whether it's a streetwise you're after, a steamy J&J fish sandwich, a pigeon with the bubonic plague, or just a $29 10 button metallic purple pinstriped zoot suit with matching fedora - the palmer house is the hotel for you. while some traditionalist are understandably rankled by the addition of such 20th century addendums as banana republic and macdonalds, their old world spirits are bouyed by the salvation of such loop institutions as beef and brandy, that one wig shop around the corner, and the wheelchair bound bum outside miller's pub that insults conservative country bumpkin homemaker tourists from debuque, iowa until they are coerced into giving him $.25.

as previously mentioned, the dull, lifeless patina of years past is being fully restored in what the palmer house has labeled "Operation What the Fuck Were We Thinking Dropping 200 Mil in this Cocksucking Economy and Godforsaken Location?" Do pop in to relive memories of the palmer house's illustrious past, like two urine and sweat soaked offensive linemen sasquatches sucking face and sniffing armpit during the International Mr. Leather convention, or just see monroe street renowned bellman Kenny Lee for bootleg dvds, rubbers, or newport menthols.

the palmer house hilton - the hotel the world knows best, and regrets the most.