Monday, October 20, 2008

Tea at the Heathman

I finally had the opportunity to check out the Heathman hotel's afternoon tea a couple of Saturdays ago. I have always been fascinated by old-school, continental-style luxury, partially because of all the complexities it stands for (or masks), and partially because it's fun and romantic when things are shamelessly, obviously elegant. I'm a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald for this reason; he does a good job of portraying both of these things in his stories.

Anyway, apparently tea at the Heathman is a Portland tradition; ladies bring their little girls for Christmas or Mothers' Day and everyone gets all dolled up and you get tiered platters with tiny crustless sandwiches. (I think there is even a special children's tea menu for finicky eaters - note the ants-on-a-log in the photo!) The tea room is full of brocade, velvet, 18th century-looking paintings in ornate frames, fresh flowers, gilt, and old woodwork. The table settings include tiny forks and cloth doilies.

They switch it up for holidays and special events, like last weekend, when Michael Recchiuti, an SF-based chocolatier, came in and chocolized the whole thing. (Michael also has a shop in SF's ferry building.)

Instead of tea we got a big cup of drinking chocolate (!!), and in addition to the deviled eggs, pate and scones there were all types of cocoa delights, like French-style macaroons made from cocoa nibs instead of almonds and an assortment of dark chocolates. The drinking chocolate was the best part, a Columbian varietal that had a surprising fruity brightness that balanced out the fatty richness for a very complex, full taste. I don't spend a lot of time tasting chocolates so I don't really know what I'm supposed to be looking for, but I could tell there was a lot going on in my cup.

With or without chocolate, the Heathman's fancy tea is a fantastic antidote to Saturday Sweatpants Syndrome, and all that sugar and caffeine are ample fuel for all kinds of additional frivolity.

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