AN ELABORATE VICTORIAN TEA
What we’re planning: An afternoon at the Hotel du Pont’s Victorian Tea.
Where/when: The Green Room at the Hotel du Pont, on Market Street across from Rodney Square, with seatings at 3pm and 3:30pm just about every day that's not a major holiday.
Tea? Really?: Look, we have some time off over the next couple of weeks and we don’t want to spend that time doing anything productive. Taking an entire afternoon to drink champagne and tea with scones and finger sandwiches is the very DEFINITON of unproductive. And at $40, the elaborate Victorian Tea at the hotel is an affordable luxury and a walk back in time to a world where specialty tea blends are accompanied by plates of tea sandwiches, scones (including a chocolate brownie scone) and then an array of desserts, all by the inestimable Executive Pastry Chef Michele Mitchell.
About Michele: “This is my 20th year at the hotel. It doesn't feel like that long. When I started here, I had it in my mind to stay about six years. But things were always changing. We started making all our own bread from scratch. I was able to get our general manager to buy us this French bread oven. And then they bought some chocolate equipment so we could start our own line of chocolates. So things kept evolving and changing and getting new and exciting over and over, and it kinda just snowballed to 20 years."
Pastry Chef Confidential: “There are some standard, classic things that work. It doesn't matter, really, what chocolate dessert we put on the menu, it's going to be the number one seller. We got criticized for it a couple years ago, when a majority of our desserts at one point had chocolate in them. It's hard for us to hold back and not put chocolate in our desserts. So we have to really control ourselves.”
We asked Michele to give us a rundown on what’s on the Victorian Tea menu this month.
To be crystal clear: You don’t choose among these. You get all these.
Raspberry Bakewell Tart
“So that's a classic English pastry that my mom started making when I was little and I've made it ever since. I brought it here when we did out very first Victorian Tea for Christmas. It's just a tart with raspberry jam at the bottom, it has frangipane and fondant icing with a glacé cherry. Very traditional, very classic.”
Mocha Almond Opera Torte Slice
“Every chef, I think, has their own version of Opera Torte. We do a version that's three layers, starts off with the opera cake -- which is the almond cake soaked in Kahlúa – and then melted chocolate which gives it that crunch, then we have mocha butter cream, and then ganache. Then we repeat the process, so its three layers high. But it's very petite and small.”
Egg Nog Mousse Cup
“It's a chocolate cup shell. We make a white chocolate egg nog mousse and we pipe that into the chocolate cup. So, that's a little lighter.”
“Victorian again. We went back to what was served back in the 1900s, and shortbread was always in there. It's just a classic, buttery, rich shortbread.”
Whiskey Fruit Cake Slice
"So, a lot of Victorian families would have a tea bread, what we would call a slice of pound cake. We did a play on that. English love their fruitcake. Americans have an ... aversion to fruit cake, but it's actually quite good.” [Interviewer’s observation: Americans do not have an aversion to whiskey.] “Exactly.”
Chocolate Dipped Hotel du Pont Macaroons
“At any of our teas, we always have one of the Hotel du Pont macaroons on it. And we do change it up. Sometimes it will just be a plain macaroon. During the spring, we had a white chocolate-dipped macaroon with cocoa stencil on the back that had flowers on it, to make it festive. But the chocolate dipped is one of our number one sellers.”