There might not be snow, but you’re surely dashing this holiday season. Unless you are one of the enviable ones doing all of your shopping online, you’re bound to need to head to Georgetown, or Union Market, or Pentagon City, or another shopping destination in the DMV. After you’ve jockeyed for a parking spot on the street or in the lot and braved the lines, the crowds, and the stuffiness, you deserve a treat.
The solution? Afternoon tea at one of the city’s tony hotels. Crumbly scones, crustless finger sandwiches and a pot of steaming deliciousness are just the antidote for the shopping-induced Grinch that can rear its ugly head this time of year.
Blue Duck Tavern
Reserve a glass-enclosed booth in the Tea Cellar at this New American cuisine inspired restaurant in the Park Hyatt Hotel in the city’s West End for its new three-course tableside tea service. The tea selection, curated by tea expert Christian Eck (also a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers) is stellar, with 37 selections in categories including tisanes, green, oolong, black and white. Any tea priced up to $14 is included in the price of the tea; for higher priced offerings, $14 is deducted from their price and you pay the difference. My server highly recommended the White Stars of China, a mildly caffeinated, rare, blooming tea typically reserved for diplomatic functions in China; it was delightfully heady, light and delicate.
The three-course event starts with scones and croissants served with house made lemon curd, raspberry jam, and Devonshire cream. But what’s most unique is the second, savory course, which eschews common finger sandwiches for rotating modern and eclectic savory bites served on a wooden board. The day we dined, a Roquefort quiche topped with a caramelized date was joined by a salami and cheese skewer, smoked salmon, blood orange and creme fraiche on rye bread, pickle-topped trout rillette over toast (my favorite bite out of the bunch), and a cabbage-wrapped chicken curry roll (a welcome departure from chicken salad on white bread). Pastries also change according to the whims of executive chef Franck Loquet and events chef de cuisine Andrew Kelminsky; we nibbled on cream puffs, opera cake, fruit tart, macarons and chocolate truffles. The setting, impeccable service and presentation definitely makes for a welcome respite after a harried day of shopping. “The Tea Cellar’s elegant, yet warm design makes you feel right at home with classic Thos. Moser furnishings--the perfect place to enjoy a savory and sweet afternoon tea menu..after a long day of holiday shopping,” says general manager Joseph Cerione. “You will be instantly transported to serenity.”
Details: Sunday afternoons, 3 - 4:30 p.m., $55 per adult and $30 per child (ages 6 to 12), tax and gratuity not included
“Our holiday afternoon tea in Empress Lounge, is meant to be enjoyed leisurely, providing guests with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect with friends and family,” says the director of food and beverage Philip Gahrmann. The afternoon begins with a choice of 12 black, green, herbal or white teas (trying the Jasmine Silver Needle or Flowering Osmanthus), served with sugar-topped cherry scones and apricot Madeleines. Dainty sandwiches for the savory mid-course may include organic egg salad, parmesan gougeres, pickled pearl onion smoked trout mousse, charred cucumber, and sourdough duck confit. For a sweet ending, pour another steaming cup of tea to enjoy alongside rhubarb blackberry clafoutis tart, whipped coconut strawberry and sakura roll or mini s’mores. If you really need a restorative boost, add a chilled flute of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne ($17) or a glass of Whispering Angel Rosé ($15).
Details: 2:30-4:30 p.m., Thursday through Sunday in December, $48 per adult and $38 per child 4-12 (under 4 free), tax and gratuity not included
With its Christmas tree, holiday decorations and live harp music, The Willard is an iconic spot for tea around the holidays, says the executive assistant manager of food and beverage Jason Deville. “Walking into The Willard after the mayhem of holiday shopping is the perfect escape,” he says.
Select one of 12 options from Ronnefeldt Teas (like Vanilla Rooibos or Orange Oolong), then nosh on tea sandwiches like egg and avocado mousse in a profiterole, French ham mousse in a pepper biscuit, or (new this year), pecan-smoked duck breast with fig compote on brioche. Cinnamon sugar and orange cranberry scones are served with apricot and raspberry jams, lemon curd, and nutmeg Devonshire cream, followed by sweets like brown butter tartelette, maple pots de creme and strawberry meringue kisses. Seasonal cocktails like a Maker’s Mark Bourbon and Port Fig Manhattan or an apple cider Mimosa (served n/a for the little ones) up the indulgence factor. “Families come year after year to see the new holiday decorations and take pictures in front of the tree,” notes Deville. “If only we knew how many family Christmas cards were made from our tree's pictures.”
Details: Holiday Afternoon Tea is offered every day in December except December 24, 25 and 31, not just on the weekends, 1-4 p.m., $52 per adult, $22 per child (aged 3-12), tax and gratuity not included