REVISIT: Holiday High Tea at the Drake

Over my holiday vacation, I revisited Palm Court at the Drake to enjoy their high tea service with my Mom, sister Lauren (who was in town from New York), and sister-in-law, Melissa.

We met at the Drake on a chilly winter afternoon. It was very crowded, but luckily they were waiting for us, and we were seated at a nice round table in a quieter area of the grand room. I ordered “my usual” (chamomile citrus), while the girls ordered an assortment of black teas.

I’ve shared with you the menu of assorted breads, sandwiches, and pastries before, so be sure to check out the photos below as the offerings were slightly different than before, especially the desserts (the spiced cheesecake with the cute little gingerbread chocolate was my fave). It was fun to just relax from the busy holiday season to enjoy time with the ladies in my family.

It was extra special for us to have time with Lauren, who has three adorable small children (two hilarious girls and a sweet baby boy), which means she’s usually pretty busy, as you can imagine. Thank you for organizing, Melissa!

Palm Court at The Drake
140 East Walton Place

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I Heart Eataly Chicago

I love Mario Batali for many reasons. Here are just a few:

1. First and foremost, he is an amazingly talented chef on the Food Network.
2. Mario has red hair, like my handsome husband.
3. His wife’s family owns a dairy goat farm (I have a current obsession with goat farms after meeting Gretta of Gretta’s Goats).
4. Mario is a Midwestern man during the summer; he has a home in Michigan.
5. He—and his lovely business partners—gave me Eataly Chicago.

I know I go to a lot of restaurants, but this one is oh-so-different. The first time I went (and, I confess, I’ve been back since!), I was like a kid in a candy store—except my candy includes cured meats, cow’s milk-alternative cheeses, fresh pasta, a Nutella bar, and made-to-order sheep’s milk cannoli.

Eataly takes up at least a city block, and it’s a sensory overload from the moment you walk in. It’s two floors that consist of a fine Italian market, restaurant, brewery, and more, all in one. Because it’s a bit overwhelming, I’ve developed a system to navigate the space: walk counterclockwise around the perimeter of the store. It hasn’t failed me yet!

My first visit to Eataly was with my good friend, Lindsey. I took the subway from my office and arrived in 10 minutes (dangerously close). We wondered around the first floor, wide-eyed. It’s there you’ll find the information desk, produce, a Panini bar, a coffee bar, Nutella bar, gelato bar, sweets bar, housewares, packaged sweets, jams and jellies, and packaged dairy (milk, butter, yogurt, and eggs too).

We walked up to the second floor, where we were greeted by a fried food bar to our left, cheese and cured meats to our right, and a wine bar directly in front of us. We opted for wine first: Prosecco for me and red for Lindsey. One of the many good things about Eataly: you can drink and shop. Mario, you’re one smart cookie.

We then decided to stop at the cured meats and cheese bar. Because I try not to have cow’s milk cheese in January—call it a New Year’s cleanse, of sorts—we ordered a wooden board of delicious cured meats. I found out when I went with Hope (in February, post-cleanse) that when you order the meat and cheese platter, you get sweet jams and honey on the side, too. I dare you to try both!

Next, we wandered around, passing the rotisserie bar, peeked in the brewery, and made our way to the refrigerated cured meat and cheese section. I was in heaven. Friends, take note: Eataly is the best place to build the perfect gift basket.

Past the fish and butcher stations, you’ll pass the fresh pastas. During my first visit, I brought home some fresh pasta, as it was part of their weekly special. Yes, every week, there’s a new deal on everything from pasta to fish (Branzino this week!) to toothpaste to pasta sauce. What a great way to sample some of Eataly’s finest!

If you’ve ever wanted to see endless varieties of dried pastas, faro, risotto, sauces, pestos, olives—this is where you want to go. Then, comes the best part of Eataly: the pizza and pasta restaurant. I’ve sampled the pizzas with buffalo mozzarella (apparently I’m not allergic to buffalo milk!), and had a fresh pasta dish (with mushrooms) and a dried pasta dish (with pork, parsley, and pecorino) from their menu. Not a bad meal yet; although, during my visit with Hope, I was completely stuffed because of my lack of self-control around mouth-watering carbs. Whatever you do at Eataly, you need to eat at this restaurant.

After the carb fest, the rest gets blurry. I blame it on the food coma. There’s a bountiful wine section (as you would imagine), fresh breads (watch the bread makers—they’ll toss flour at you!), beauty products, and lots and lots of olive oil.

Each time I’ve been, I have been too full for dessert; however, why not bring some home for my hubby? First, fresh cannoli, and then a rich semifreddo sweet with a blackberry on top, both packaged to perfection.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: go to Eataly. I haven’t even begun to share all of the elements I love about this place, but you have to discover them for yourself. Mangia and salute!

Eataly Chicago
43 East Ohio
Streeterville

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WEEK #19 – Traditional Afternoon Tea at the Drake

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all of the mothers out there! I need to give a special shout out to my extraordinary mother. She has taught me to love many things, but one thing that always brought us together was our late night cups of tea. So where better to bring her than for tea at the Drake?

My sister-in-law, Melissa, rounded out our reservation for three for tea. We arrived to the open and airy room that was surprisingly loud. I always imagined ladies who tea to be dainty and quiet, but the acoustics just carried the sound. Plus, tea is a popular spot for parties and tourists alike (we saw both), so I guess I shouldn’t be that shocked.

We sat at a nice table near the entrance, and had a nice little corner to ourselves. We combed through the pages of tea, and decided on:

  • Mom: Earl GreyWith organic cold pressed Italian Bergamot Oil, a rare variety of Citrus
  • Stephanie: Chamomile CitrusMade with Soothing Egyptian Chamomile flowers and subtle slices of citrus fruit, this vibrant blend will rejuvenate the spirit
  • Melissa: Wild Blossoms & BerriesBlackberry and black currant, infused with lemongrass, hibiscus, chamomile, mint, licorice root and spices – its best without milk.

All of the teas are served loose. You get your own tea pot with the loose tea and hot water inside, and then you must strain the tea when serving. (We kept forgetting this part!) I thought my tea was delicious, until I tasted my Mom’s…it was awesome. I had a second sample of hers it was so good. What’s so great about the tea service is that the waiters keep coming around with hot water, so the tea is endless!

The “bottomless” tea pairs well with the three tiers of charming breads, scones, finger sandwiches, and decadent desserts. Even though I requested extra egg salad sandwiches (who knew I liked egg salad?), I would say the pastries were my favorite. There was one that tasted like a peach pie–I will dream about that little bite of heaven until I return!

We stayed for awhile and chatted, never feeling rushed. The service was excellent, with not having to wait long to be seated and, like I said, the hot water was flowing. Ha.

Oh, and the harpist—when she wasn’t playing “Happy Birthday” for different groups—was a nice touch. There’s something about a harp that’s so soothing, don’t you think?

I think my mom enjoyed herself…I know I did. Do I smell a new tradition?

I love you, Mom. Thanks for being my confidant, my advisor, and one of my best friends. I hope that one day I have a daughter, and she loves me just as much as I love you. XO

Tea at Palm Court, The Drake
140 East Walton Place
Gold Coast

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