Thursday, November 27, 2008
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 Citysearch.com, 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!