Not many things can entice me out of our warm home on a cold Sunday afternoon, but the promise of a chocolate-filled afternoon at the Langham Hotel (the Huntington-Sheraton of our youth and more recently a Ritz-Carlton) was too much for even a homebody like me to resist.
If any activity is worth switching out of jeans and an old sweater for more refined attire, it’s tea in the old hotel’s Lobby Lounge. So when the invitation came to be a guest at the inaugural “Chocolate Tea” last Sunday I wasted no time in rsvp-ing.
Picture it: all items on the tea menu had elements of chocolate in them. There was a buffet-style pastry presentation (16 different chocolate confections) that took up a good portion of the room, and a large station in the adjoining area with a chocolate fountain into which one might dip peppermint marshmallows, lemon marshmallows, nougats, assorted fruits and cakes. We could choose from six types of tea, three of which had chocolate notes.
My cohort in this decadent experience was our 24-year-old daughter, Kae, who also recognizes a good opportunity when she hears of it. She laid out the plan: we would be the first to arrive so we could be seated quietly to ourselves (all the better to enjoy the goodies without anyone else witnessing exactly how much we were inhaling).
We arrived early, told the staff we were there for the tea, and were asked to wait a few moments while they finished setting up. Not wanting to risk being forgotten, we stationed ourselves just a few feet from the reservation desk. While waiting we speculated about whether or not this would be a full-on tea with sandwiches, or just a dessert tea. Neither of us had eaten beforehand, so we were hoping we’d be fully sated. Kae cautioned me that if there were no sandwiches involved, I’d be driving her through the nearest Burger King on the way home, because she didn’t plan to miss lunch. I heartily agreed.
Well, that turned out to be needless worrying. We were soon seated, blissfully alone at the edge of the tearoom with full view of the spectacularly blossoming pink trumpet trees outside, our tea order was taken (Kae ordered the Mayan Truffle and I the Pear Caramel) and a three-tiered tray of sandwiches was delivered to our table. Happily, sparkling wine also appeared in two fluted glasses.
The sandwiches were so rich that it was a challenge after devouring them to haul our bodies over to the pastry buffet. Once there, being a model of restraint, I put only five desserts on my plate. Kae, I think, took three. My favorite was the white chocolate green tea panna cotta; hers was the chocolate raspberry gateau.
Neither of us made it over to the chocolate fountain. It would have been just too much. I started looking around, trying to figure out how to signal we were finished and ready to be rolled out the door, when we were approached by one of the hostesses who asked if she could order us the final touch: a demitasse cup filled with our choice of three different kinds of hot chocolate. Not wanting to seem rude, I found the strength to nod my head slightly and groan out the words, “We’ll take the chocolate mint, please.”
Since last Sunday was the first time for the service, the staffers were asking everyone how they enjoyed it. I heard that one woman replied that she was so energized by all the chocolate that she was ready to go home and vacuum her entire house. For myself, I wouldn’t use the word “energized.” It felt more like I was stumbling away from a chocolate-infused Thanksgiving dinner table. But boy, was I ever in a good mood afterward — and it’s lasted all week. Sweet!
CAROL CORMACI is editor of the Valley Sun. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.